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Commemorating

The 75th Anniversary of the voyage of the Zeemanshoop

BOAT PEOPLE IN THE ENGLISH CHANNEL

Scheveningen Thursday 14 May 2015


Bill Forster, Scheveningen, 14 May 2015On the 14 May 2015 one hundred men and women  from three continents met at Scheveningen to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the voyage of the Dutch lifeboat Zeemanshoop on the night the Netherlands surrendered to German forces. They were the families of the four students and 42 passengers who left behind everything to save themselves from death in a Nazi concentration camp or to continue the fight against the occupier of their country from the island sanctuary of England. Many would not have been born had the voyage of the Zeemanshoop ended in disaster.

After standing all night on the deck of the Dutch lifeboat they were picked up the following afternoon by HMS Venomous and landed at Dover that evening. They were mostly Jews. The Dutch were welcomed as allies and helped by the Netherlands Emergency Committee but the Germans, refugees for a second time, were interned as enemy aliens on the Isle of Man. The daughter of one of them is today a member of the House of Lords.

I was inspired by the photographs of the well dressed men and women on the deck of HMS Venomous to trace their families and tell their stories on my web site about the elderly V & W Class destroyer on which my father served in the war. The story of the Zeemanshoop is well known in the Netherlands but with a few notable exceptions the lives of the men and women saved were only known to their families. Their names were recorded during the voyage on the back of a chart of the Dutch coast and with a great deal of help from people in the Netherlands I succeeded in tracing most of them. Karel Dahmen, a member of the student crew, and Loet Velmans, a seventeen year old high school student are alive today and spoke at the reunion.

Lis Drew, grand daughter iof Joop van der LaanLis Drew, the granddaughter of Jozef Jacob (Joop) van der Laan, first suggested organising a reunion on the 75th anniversary of their escape when we met in London in 2012. In May 2014 I met Lucas Ligtenberg and Wybe van der Wal at Scheveningen to enlist their help. Lis Drew in Australia and Radboud Hack, son of the "captain" of the student crew, joined the planning committee. The Royal Navy offered its support by agreeing to send HMS Trumpeter, the training vessel of the Cambridge University Royal Navy Unit to the event with university students from Cambridge and five sea cadets from TS Venomous at Loughborough. The ninety year old Zeemanshoop was bought by the Neeltje Jacoba 1929 Foundation and Jaap Boersma undertook to restore it to its appearance in 1940 and bring it to Scheveningen. A Dutch journalist, Danny Verbaan, began writing a book about the voyage for publication on the anniversary and asked for my assistance.

The huge interest presented major organisational problems. The Scheveningen branch of the KNRM, the Dutch Lifeboat Association, and the Scheveningen Museum were also planning events and a local committee was formed with Robert Louzada, a cousin of Lis Drew and grandson of one of the passengers representing the families. Without his diplomacy, organising ability and discrete event management the reunion would not have been the success it was. From 1970-2 Robert Louzada was an officer in the Naval Intelligence Service of the Royal Netherlands Navy (Koninklijke Marine), intercepting and translating Russian naval signals in the North Atlantic while serving on the cruiser Michiel de Ruyter.

The event was held in the first floor "Kantine" of the Visafslag (fish auction hall) overlooking the pontoon where the passengers embarked on the Zeemanshoop on the 14 May 1940 and where the present lifeboat is berthed. Guest speakers included the Mayor of The Hague and the British Ambassador.    

The photographs (above) are by Amke.nl ©

Bill Forster

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HMS Trumpeter, the training vessel for the Cambridge University Royal Naval Unit (Cambridge URNU) enter harbour at 17.30 on the 13 May 2015 -

HMS Trumpeter arrives at Scheveningen, 13 May 2015HMS Trumpeter enters harbour
Restored ZEEMANSHOOP at sea on 13 May 2015Zeemanshoop alongside the Kantine Versflag on the evening of the 13 May 2015 where the meeting was held
Top: HMS Trumpeter enters the harbour at Scheveningen at 17.30 on Monday 13 May 2015 (Photographed by Bill Forster)
Bottom: The Zeemanshoop approaches Scheveningen (left) and nside the outer harbour near where the families met (photographed by Arie Verbaan, KNRM)


As the families of the men and women who escaped on the Zeemanshoop sat down for dinner in the Carlton Beach Club on the evening of Tuesday 13 May the newly restored ninety year old Dutch lifeboat Zeemanshoop was entering harbour after successfully completing the voyage from the shipyard at Zaandam to the North Sea at Ijmuiden and along the coast to Scheveningen.

Karel Dahmen (left) and Loet Vlmans (right) on 13 May 2015Karel Dahmen (left) and Bill Forster (right) on 13 May 2015
Sunset at 9 pm on 13 May 2015
Karel Dahmen and Loet Velmans (left) and Karel Dahmen and Bill Forster (right) at the dinner in Carlton Beach Club on the 13 May
Courtesy of Vic van den Broek d’Obrenan


I sat between Baroness Henig and 95 year old Karel Dahmen and as the sun set at 22.00 and darkness fell we discussed whether this was the time when the Zeemanshoop powered by a single cylinder of its Kromhout engine set off for England. Kurt Munzer had told his daughters that it was dark when they left the harbour and Karel Dahmen agreed that they left at dusk.


The reunion of the families in the Kantine Visafslag

The following morning when the families and guests climbed the external staircase to the Kantine they could see the restored Zeemanshoop berthed immediately below and close by the lifeboat from Breskens, the Zeemanshoop 2, a RIB built with a bequest from Wim Belinfante, a Jewish lawyer in the Netherlands Ministry of Justice who escaped on the Zeemanshoop with his sister.

Robert Louzada (right) and Paul de Kiviet,Museum DirectorRobert Louzada (left) and Karel Dahmen (right)
Emile and Robert Louzada in front of museum display (left) and Robert Louzada adjusts the microphone for Karel Dahmen (right)
Photographs Amke.nl ©

Paul de Kievit, Director of the Scheveningen Museum, had organised a small display which included the chart on which the names of the 42 passengers and four crew members were recorded with the time the Zeemanshoop left the harbour. On close examination I could see that Karel Dahmen and Ruth Henig's father were right. The time recorded by a crew member, probably Lou Meijers, was 9 pm (22.00 summer time) - plus or minus - and not 19.40 as I had thought when I looked at a poor quality scan of a printed copy of the chart.

Lis Drew welcomed us and explained how plans were made for the reunion. In his talk Bill Forster explained why an Englishman who spoke no Dutch was interested in the voyage of the Zeemanshoop and the lives of her crew and passengers.  He described how he set about tracing the families and the help he received from people in the Netherlands but with almost a third of the names on the "passenger list" not traced it seemed unlikely that his search would ever end. The rescue of the men and women on the Zeemanshoop was, of course, a minor incident in the context of the fast moving events of May and June 1940 and he used the photographs taken by Lt Peter Kershaw RNVR on HMS Venomous to tell the story of that dramatic period in the history of this elderly Royal Navy destroyer as documented elsewhere on this web site. The son and daughter of Lt Cdr John McBeath RN, the CO of HMS Venomous in 1940, were in the audience. Captain John Rodgaard USN (Ret), lead author of the second edition of A Hard Fought Ship: the Story of HMS Venomous, had come over from his home in Washington, USA.

Karel Dahmen, Scheveningen, 14 May 2015Loet Velmans, Scheveningen, 14 May 2015.
Karel Dahmen on left and Loet Velmans on right
Photographed by Michelle Henning at Scheveningen on the 14 May 2015
Courtesy of Michelle Henning


The two men who were there, 95 year old Karel Dahmen and 92 year old Loet Velmans, gave their own personal  memories of that time. Karel Dahmen lived at Roermond near the border with Germany and described how everything changed after the National Socialists came to power in Germany and he realised that Europe faced a grim future. He recalled the many lives lost when young men attempted to escape by sea to England and the work of the Genootschap Engelandvaarders (Society of England Travelers). Loet Velmans told us of his consternation when having set off on his great adventure with his cousin they were joined by his formidable Mother and her relatives who arrived at the last minute by taxi. On arrival in London they sought the assistance of an influential family friend, the Minister of Water Supply in the exiled Dutch government, and were given a grant to take their son to the Dutch East Indies to resume his interrupted education with the disastrous consequences told in his book, The long Way Back from the River Kwai (Arcade Publishing, 2003).

Jaap BoersmaHenk GrootveldHenk Grootveld (Left, Amke.nl ©) of the KNRM described the history of the lifeboat station at Scheveningen and the service of the Zeemanshoop while stationed there before the war. Then, quite dramatically, the crew of the present life boat appeared as if by magic standing in a long row behind him, each wearing identical heavy woolen jumpers bearing the letters KNRM on their chests.
 
Jaap Boersma
(Right, Amke.nl ©) was still unshaven after yesterday's voyage of the Zeemanshoop along the Dutch coast, powered by the seventy year old two cylinder Kromhout engine and escorted by the Neeltje Jacoba.  His friend, Theo de Boer, was given five years to live in his early forties and asked Jaap's advice on a boat to buy. Jaap recommended a decommissioned Dutch lifeboat and Theo bought the Zeemanshoop. He fitted a six cylinder Volvo Penta diesel engine and high cabin changing its appearance completely and spent his final years on long voyages, sometimes alone and sometimes with his young family. He went as far afield as Gothenburg and when he died in 2009 his ashes were scattered at sea from the Zeemanshoop.

The Zeemanshoop was on the market for several years before Jaap negotiated its purchase by the Neeltje Jacoba 1929 Foundation in February 2015. Jaap had already restored the famous Dutch lifeboat Neeltje Jacoba and now took on the task of restoring the Zeemanshoop and making her the eye-catcher of the lifeboat museum on the Frisian island of Ameland. The Foundation received large grants from local government but despite much of the work being done by unpaid enthusiasts they needed to have a substantial amount of work done at Kramers shipyard at Zaandam in order to bring the Zeemanshoop to Scheveningen on the anniversary of her voyage to England. You can read about the restoring of the Zeemanshoop here.



Visiting the Zeemanshoop in the harbour

An informal buffet lunch was served in the Kantine but most of us made a quick dash for the external staircase leading to the pontoon where the Zeemanshoop was berthed with the modern RIB lifeboat from Breskens moored on the opposite side. Karel Dahmen and Loet Velmans were filmed by a television crew as well as facing a battery of cameras belonging to family members. The slow drumbeat of the Kromhout engine rolled out again and quickened as Jaap Boersma took the Zeemanshoop to the point where the original protective moles ended and then returned with Karel Dahmen at the helm just as he was 75 years ago. A further short excursion was made with the deck almost as crowded as it was in 1940.

Zeemanshoop - the bowZeemanshoop - the cabin
Zeemanshoop and Zeemanshoop 2 (Breskens) sat Scheveningen

Top: The bow and cabin of the newly restored Zeemanshoop with the hatch into the engine compartment. Courtesy of Vic van den Broek d’Obrenan
Bottom: The Zeemanshoop built in 1925 (right) is dwarfed by the Zeemanshoop 2, the lifeboat at Breskens on the Scheldt estuary opposite Vlissingen (Flushing)  Courtesy of Bill Forster

Karel Dahmen and Loet Velmans on the ZeemanshoopKsrel Dahmen & Loet Velmans on bow of the Zeemanshoop
Karel Dahmen and Jaap BroesmaKarel Dahmen at the wheel of the Zeemanshoop
Karel Dahmen and Loet Velmans are filmed on the Zeemanshoop (top left) and on the bow of the Zeemanshoop (top right)
Karel Dahmen talking to Jaap Boersma the man who restored the Zeemanshoop (bottom left) and at the wheel of the Zeemanshoop

Courtesy of Michelle Henning and (bottom left) Bill Forster

Ruth Henig was photographed with three generations of her family, the youngest having been let off school on condition they wrote an essay on the voyage of the Zeemanshoop and what it meant to them. "Why I was born in England" occurred to me as a suitable title. And then Loet Velmans, a seventeen year high school student in 1940 but now a 92 year old great grand-father, was photographed with his family.

Three generations of Ruth Henig's family on the Zeemanshoop
Baroness Henig (centre) with the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Kurt and Freda Munzer
Courtesy of Michelle Henning


Loet Velmans and his family, Scheveningen, 14 May 2015
Loet Velmans and his family
Photograph Amke.nl ©


The afternoon session in the Kantine

Baroness Ruth Henig, Member of the House of Lords
(Photograph Amke.nl ©)

Baroness Henig
Baroness Henig spoke about how her parents, Kurt and Freda Munzer, came to be on Scheveningen beach on the fateful evening of 14 May.  They were German Jews who had been forced to leave Germany in the mid 1930s, and they met and then married in Enschede in 1939. By 1940 they were living in The Hague and her mother was four months` pregnant.  When news came of the Nazi invasion of Holland, she became hysterical and begged that they try to escape as soon as possible, hence their attempt on 14 May to find a boat to take them to safety.

On arrival in England, they were separated, imprisoned for three weeks in London on suspicion of being Nazi spies, and then sent to internment camps on the Isle of Man.  They were not reunited for over a year, during which time Baroness Henig`s elder sister Evi was born on the Island. Some time before the birth, her father wrote to Queen Wilhelmina via the exiled Dutch Government in London, telling her that he and his wife had been forced to flee from Holland with only the clothes and possessions they had on them, and, with a baby on the way, had no baby clothes or blankets available.  Within a short time, parcels of clothes arrived on the Isle of Man, including beautiful baby outfits and blankets.  As a result, Evi was the best dressed baby on the Island, and Baroness Henig`s parents never forgot the kindness and generosity of the Dutch Royal family. As a result, when she herself was born, three years later, she was given the middle name Beatrice, after the Dutch princess Beatrix.


Radboud Hack


Radboud HackRadboud is the son of Harry Hack who took on the role of "captain" of the Zeemanshoop. Harry Hack was studying marine engineering and had been an apprentice engineer on a voyage to the Dutch East Indies. He was confident that if he could find a boat he could get it to England even without  a crew but  had not expected the 42 passengers who clambered aboard while he was working on the engine but coped with the situation and deserves most of the credit for the success of the voyage.

Radboud trained as a marine architect and is well qualified to discuss the controversy over whether "to go on or to go back". The sea was calm but if it changed any sudden movement on the part of the passengers to one side or other of the lifeboat would have led to a capsize with the tragic consequences we have seen recently with the "Boat People" in the Mediterranean.

He set the crew and passengers tasks to keep them occupied and prevent them worrying during the long night at sea and when HMS Venomous was sighted the following afternoon he brought her safely alongside so that his passengers could clamber up the scrambling nets.

The story would have had a different ending had they not been sighted by HMS Venomous or if she had ignored their distress signals. If they had spent a second night at sea the likelihood is that even if the weather had remained calm the passengers would have become agitated and any attempt on their part to change position or enter the small cabin would have led to a capsise and the death of all onboard.

Radboud ended his talk by thanking the Royal Navy for their rescue. You can read Radboud's detailed resume of his talk in English and Dutch.


Mayor of The Hague 2015Sir Geoffrey Adams, British Ambassador to the NetherlandsJozias van Aartsen, Mayor of The Hague (Photograph left Amke.nl ©)

The Mayor began his talk with these words: "Never before was the term ‘lifeboat’ more appropriate. And never before the phrase ‘hijacked’ less so." He mentioned the similarities between Loet Velman's story and that of the Dutch poet Leo Vroman who also escaped from Sheveningen in May 1940 only to become a POW of the Japanese in the Dutch East Indies and died last year in Fort Worth, USA, aged 98. Many of these passengers on the Zeemanshoop came from The Hague, "where the international community holds to account those who violate international law and human rights". He ended by hoping "that 'De Zeemanshoop’ will continue to serve as a reminder for us – and the city of The Hague – that we should never stop working towards peace, safety and justice in our world. Both today and in the future." You can read his full speech here.

Sir Geoffrey Adams, British Ambassador to The Netherlands (Photograph right  Amke.nl ©)

The British Ambassador talked about the enduring values of the human spirit, manifested in the resourcefulness and courage shown by the students and their "passengers" in seizing the opportunity to escape and dealing with the problems faced during the voyage, and how these qualities are needed today to cope with the problems of the modern world.

Lt Chris Chew RN, CO of HMS Trumpeter, 14 May 2015, Scheveningen, NLWeg! Book CoverDanny Verbaan, author of "Weh!", the story of the Zeemanshoop (Scriptum, May 2015)
Lt Chris Chew RN, CO of HMS Trumpeter RN with Radboud Hack, the son of "Captain" Harry Hack of the Zeemanshoop being filmed by Laurelle Bakker for a video of the anniversary (left)
Danny Verbaan talking about his book Weg! on the voyage of the Zeemanshoop (right)
Photographed by of Bill Forster


Danny Verbaan, Dutch journalist and author, talked about Weg! his book on the voyage of the Zeemanshoop which was completed just in time to be launched at the reunion on the anniversary of the voyage. The Scheveningen branch of the KNRM told the German occupiers that the Zeemanshoop had been seized by soldiers, either a deliberate misrepresentation of the facts to avoid trouble or, perhaps, based on a rifle being fired by the sergeant in the Meerchaussen to discourage further people climbing aboard.  He expressed regret that Tinus Rog, the young fisherman who helped start the Kromhout engine was not there today to see the book launch. Tinus Rog lived in Scheveningen but had died in February. He thanked Bill Forster for helping him with research and copies of his book were presented to Karel Dahmen, Loet Velmans and Bill. His publisher was there to sell the book and Danny was kept busy signing copies.

The formal proceedings ended with the presentation of plaques recording the voyage of the Zeemanshoop seventy five years ago. A large plaque which will be placed on the new KNRM boathouse in Scheveningen when opened in 2017. Reduced size plaques were presented to Jaap Boersma for the restored Zeemanshoop, and to Karel Dahmen and Loet Velmans. Finally, a small plaque with the inscription in English was presented  to Lt Chris Chew RN, the CO of HMS Trumpeter, for display aboard the training ship of the Cambridge University Royal Navy Unit, a fitting end to the day since the Zeemanshoop was crewed by Dutch students and Trumpeter brought two students from Cambridge University to Scheveningen for the reunion of the families of the 46 men and women whose lives were saved when they were taken aboard HMS Venomous on the 15 May 1940.

     May 14th 1940 – May 14th 2015
                            In commemoration of the escape from Scheveningen
               of those on board the lifeboat "Zeemanshoop" on May 14th 1940
 
During their dangerous passage the 46 refugees were taken on board HMS Venomous
      and carried to safety in England,  thus escaping the occupation of The Netherlands
 
                           Presented to HMS Trumpeter in gratitude to the Royal Navy
                           by and in the name of the voyagers, their families and friends



HMS Trumpeter

HMS Trumpeter berthed in the inner harbour to make it easier for older visitors to come aboard. They were greeted by her CO, Lt Chris Chew RN, and shown round the ship by Sub Lieutenant Louis Jones RN and the two students from Cambridge University and a student from London University.

John Rodgaard, Judy Pearson asnd Lt Chris Chew RNPlaque - English for HMS Trumpeter
Karel Dahmen on HMS TrumpeterKarel Dahmen on HMS Trumpeter

Top: Lt Chris Chew RN with Capt John Rodgaard USN (Ret), author of A Hard Fought Ship and his wife, Dr Judy Pearson (left)  Courtesy of Rosemary McBeath
Lower: Karel Dahmen served in the Royal Netherlands Navy during the war and was given a guided tour of HMS
Trumpeter by Sub Lieutenant Louis Jones RN  Courtesy of Michelle Henning


It was a wonderful day but there was one disappointment. The CO of HMS Venomous in May 1940 was Lt Cdr John McBeath RN who joined the Royal Navy as a boy sailor and became the Honorary Commodore of the Sea Cadets after his retirement as Rear Admiral and the author of the first edition of A Hard Fought Ship, the book I published on HMS Venomous was Bob Moore, the CO of TS Venomous at Loughborough. Lt Chris Chew RN, the CO of HMS Trumpeter,  invited five Sea Cadets and a member of staff of TS Venomous in Loughborough to join Trumpeter for the short voyage from Harwich to Scheveningen because of this link between the destroyer which rescued the passengers and crew of the Zeemanshoop and the Sea Cadets. Sadly, the Head Office of the Sea Cadet Corp would not give consent, a disappointment for the cadets and for the son and daughter of John McBeath who attended the reunion.



Take a trip around the harbour at Scheveningen on the Zeemanshoop
and enjoy the hypnotic repetitive drum beat of its Kromhout engine while listening to Loet Velmans and Karel Dahmen
being interviewed - in Dutch -  on these short video clips made on the 14 May 2015, the 75th anniversary of her voyage
Uploaded by Stadsdeeljournaal Scheveningen
Uploaded by jaco roeleveld


At a time when HMS Bulwark is picking up boat people in the Mediterranean it is fitting to recall that the Royal Navy performed similar acts of mercy in the dark days of 1940.
But one has to wonder where the families of the men and women saved by HMS Bulwark will be in 75 years?
And whether they will meet to commemorate their escape?



THE LATEST NEWS FROM 1940!

I went on a cycling holiday in the Netherlands with my wife and within a few days received an e-mail from a Jenny Goldschmidt who had read a full page article about the reunion in the Volkskrant and was disappointed and upset not to have received an invitation "as next of kin of not less than 7 (seven) of the passengers":

"My parents Werner Goldschmidt and Inès Goldschmidt-Daniels, my grandparents Gustav Goldschmidt and Gertrud Goldschmidt-Arnheim, my grandmother Charlotte Daniels-Nachmann, my aunt and her husband: Irene Fischer-Goldschmidt, and Wolfgang Fischer."

Dr Goldschmidt is a recently retired Professor Emeritus in the Law Department of the University of Utrecht. Her family was an assimilated Jewish (social-democratic) family in Berlin, mostly lawyers. When Hitler came to power in 1933 her grandfather lost his job and since her father, a law student, was active in the Socialist Youth Movement they thought it advisable to move to the Netherlands where her father restarted his legal studies - in Dutch - at Leiden University.


O
n arrival in England they were interned as enemy aliens on the Isle of Man and, tragically, her grandfather who was badly treated and "unable to face the fact that Hitler has not only been able to take over Germany, but also Holland" took his own life. They were released within a year and both her parents worked for Wim Belinfante at the Dutch Ministry of Justice in London. They returned to the Netherlands after the war and her father restarted his law practice with a new partner (his pre-war partners had died in the Camps). Her aunt, Irene Fischer-Goldschmidt, was still alive aged 98 but suffered from dementia and had no memory of her past. When she died on the 17 April 2016 she was 99 years of age.
You can read their stories by clicking on their names above.



This discovery not only accounts for the names of the two Goldschmidt families but also for "Mrs Daniels" and for "Fischer and wife" leaving only ten persons on the "passenger list" to be traced:
Jacob Meier ("a koopman in London"), Meuleman and wife, Singer, the "Arnheim" (or Stroheim) family of three women and one man, the Czech P. Zajíček (P. Bunny in English) and Van Wezel.

 


return to the home page for the

Story of the voyage of the Zeemanshoop
 and the lives of its passengers and crew


The story of HMS Venomous is told by Bob Moore and Captain John Rodgaard USN (Ret) in
A Hard Fought Ship
  Buy the new hardback edition online for £29 post free in the UK
Take a look at the Contents Page and List of Illustrations
 


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