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Royal Netherlands Navy Deserters in 1910 - Australia

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  • Royal Netherlands Navy Deserters in 1910 - Australia

    Hello all

    In 1910, a squadron of 3 Royal Netherlands Navy Ships visited Australia, calling at Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart, Adelaide, and finally at Fremantle in Western Australia. There were a total of about 1,000 seamen on the 3 ships. The ships were the De Ruyter, Hertog Hendrik and Koningin Regentes.
    A report in a newspaper in Western Australia published just after the departure of the ships to Sourabaya , Netherlands East Indies on 11 November 1910, stated that many seamen had deserted at ports in Australia as follows:

    Brisbane - 3 men
    Sydney - 17 men
    Melbourne - 24 men
    Hobart - 6 men
    Adelaide - 60 men
    Fremantle - 40 men (between November 4 - 11)

    The newspaper further stated that as dserters, the men would always have to remain in exile because immediately a seaman returned to the Netherlands, the seaman would be arrested and court martialled. In addition, all property he had an interest in would be confiscated, whilst any moneys or property left to him by relatives would also be forfeited.

    Could anyone please tell me if there would be any lists of the names of these seamen who deserted?
    Perhaps there would be the official navy records, or their names were published in a police gazette or a navy gazette?

    Thank you very much.


  • #2
    Hello Neil,

    Here's a picture of the squadron in Melbourne, 30 September 1910. Various crimps of local gold mines tried to get the Dutch sailors to work for them, offering them a weeks pay of sixty Dutch guilders. An able seaman earned about one guilder a week, so it's not a big surprise so many of them deserted.

    To find the names of the deserted sailors, you'll need to get in touch with the National Archive in The Hague ( Here you'll find the ship logs of most Dutch navy ships. The names of the deserters are mentionned in the logs. I'm not sure the archive personnel will search the names for you. If not, you'll have to come to The Hague yourself.

    Best regards, Leon.
    Daily flogging will continue until the crew's morale improves...!


    • #3
      Deserters 1910 in Australia


      The Naval Yearbook 1910-1911 has a complete report of the trip from 15th aug. till 18th Nov.
      There is no single word about deserters! Only fron the statistics of the native sailors and the
      Europeans you draw some conclusions.
      Natve sailors: deserted 48, returned 58 (incl. from earlier years). I don't think that they should
      desert in Australia.
      Interesting are the numbers of European deserters: 186, of which 96 were Sailor 2nd class.
      In 1909 87, in 1911 88 (totals).
      The report is very interesting, I found only the visits rather long:
      Brisbane 10 - 14 Sept.
      Sydney 16 - 27 Sept.
      Melbourne 30 Sept. - 11 Oct.
      Hobart 13 - 19 Oct.
      Adelaïde 22 - 29 Oct.
      Fremantle 4 - 11 Nov.


      Rob B


      • #4
        In May 1979 another visit to Australia was made, during the "Far East - Australia Cruise" with HNLMS Tromp, Kortenaer, Drenthe and Poolster. We stayed in Fremantle for some three weeks for a number of reasons. First, a well-deserved R&R period after "Dirk Hartogh", a joint exercise with/against the RAN. Second, festivities concering the 150th aniversary of Western Australia and third, the 350th anniversary of the wrecking of Batavia, a ship of the (in)famous Dutch East Indies Company, off Cape Leeuwin. I cannot remember any true desertions but the local press made an attempt to hijack HNLMS Poolster, as can be derived from a letter to the editor, that was quoted in a ships' newsletter "Bestevaer's Trompet" I still have in my collection:


        Seamen J. FRIELE and A. VISSCHER, HNLMS Poolster, Fremantle Port:
        It is with great concern that we read your report (May 19) featuring the visit of the Royal Netherlands Navy. The accompanying picture shows two of our warships at the North Wharf with HMAS Perth in the background.
        We must reveal to your readers that the 'background' is in fact HNLMS Poolster, support ship of our task force.
        While we sympathise with WA's local defence problems we feel that stealing one of our ships is not the way to solve it. This plot cannot succeed. Our Admiral carefully counted our ships when we entered harbour and will count them again when we leave. In any case, the big Dutch flag on the stern of the Poolster is a real 'give-away'.
        While we admire your efforts to increase your navy we think your methods may prove more succesful with the U.S. fleet.
        The trip and this visit to Fremantle still bring back some very fond memories to me. It was the only occasion I was ever really *tempted* to desert. The reason was a very nice girl, Grace, and her father who was a Dutch emigrant who had done very well for himself as by 1979 he was the proud owner of a big taxi company with a fleet of some 80 cabs. He was looking for someone to take care of the mobile radio systems in these cabs and I would qualify for the job. Also as Grace was his only child he didn't have a son to take over from him when he would retire. Grace and I liked each other quite well so you can imagine my predicament: I still was under my original 6 years' contract with the RNLN and I had a girl friend back home. The latter is now my wife for over 25 years but I still wonder what might have happened to me if I would have stayed in Fremantle...
        "Try and leave this world a little better than you found it" [Baden Powell]
        "Verbeter de wereld, begin bij jezelf"... [algemeen]
        ..."maar stop daarna niet en help ook een ander op weg!" [Paul Joosten]