Lambertus Veltman (big Opa)

The internment cards clearly show that my grandfather (left)

and father (right) were captured on the same day.

A (just above the M of “Malang”) is the Drost Camp

Father and mother in Arnhem with Bep, Joop, Rib and Irma

With grandma and grandpa in Den Bosch

My mother (far left) and her half-sister Ollie next to her

In April 1943 thousands of Dutch and British prisoners of war were taken in five ships from Java to the South Moluccas for the construction of Japanese airfields near Liang on Ambon, Palao on Haruku and Amehei on Ceram. 

My father, who was called "the white one" in the Indies because of his skin colour, was taken to Camp Tantoei on the island of Ambon. Camp Tantoei was a military camp and in the period from the 3rd of February 1942 to the 10th of September 1945 a prisoner of war camp. 

The camp was located on the coast north of the city of Ambon and was on the site of the former coconut oil factory. The camp was housed in new wooden barracks and surrounded by barbed wire fences.

On Ambon in particular, the conditions under which work had to be carried out were extremely difficult.

My father was forced to work on the construction of the Liang airfield. This airfield was located about 12 km southwest of the main city of Ambon. Those who were not transferred remained at Ambon throughout the occupation and were permanently employed in cleaning and repair work after allied air raids. My father witnessed an Allied air raid on the 15th of February 1943 in which several dozen prisoners of war were killed.

I know that father was also on the island of Saparua or Haruku, probably in order to be forced to work on the construction of an airfield, but apart from the fact that the locals gave him Bagia, a Moluccan delicacy, I have no further details.

After this he was transported by train to Thailand and put to work on the Burma-Siam railway line.

The construction of the Burma-Siam railway is one of the most painful events of the Second World War. Very many prisoners of war were used by the Japanese as forced labourers and many died a horrible death. The idea was to have a railway built by prisoners of war to link Non Pladuk in Thailand (formerly Siam) to Thanbuyuzayat in Burma (now Myanmar). The aim was to facilitate the supply of Japanese troops and materials to the Burmese front and this railway was mainly strategically placed. 17990 Dutch prisoners of war worked on this railway line. Of these prisoners of war, 15% did not survive. This was a relatively small percentage and there is speculation that, this was because most of the prisoners were born in the Dutch East Indies or had lived there for a long time and were better able to cope with the diseases and the climate.

Both my father and grandfather were eventually liberated in Singapore and returned to the Dutch East Indies in 1945.

So it was only after the war (in 1945) that my father was reunited with his wife and firstborn, an encounter that my sister found very disappointing. My mother had always told her, that when Dad came back he would bring her shoes as a present. Back from the war, he only came with two cloth bunnies for her, which, according to my sister, was not what she had been promised.

My mother spent the entire war with my sister and grandmother in Malang and after the capitulation they went to Batavia.

On the 17th of June 1947, a second child, a boy, was born in Medan on the island of Sumatra and was given the name Joop.

A neighbour of my grandfather's, in St. Jan Baptist, had also worked for the PTT in the East Indies, just like my grandmother and made comments to my mother that my mother did not understand. One of the remarks was: "someone is searching for you"...

Recently my mother told me that she has always known the following but I am telling the story here as it stands:

At one point she decided to take the bull by the horns and asked this lady what she actually meant. The answer made my mother very quiet. It turned out that my mother was not an only child and that grandmother had had a daughter before my mother was born.

 This daughter named Ollie was most likely conceived by another man than my mother's father (more about this later). At that time, such things were kept very secret and that is probably why she gave Ollie up for adoption to her boss at the PTT, a single woman with the surname Kilian.

I know that Ollie was married to an Indonesian from Yogyakarta. From this marriage 5 children were born, one daughter named Julia and 4 sons, Johnny, Tito, Harry and Boesye. Unfortunately the sons all died but my niece still lives in Jakarta. My husband visited our niece on a trip to Ambon via Jakarta and since then a warm contact has been established.

The story isn't finished yet because after this intriguing turn of events another one followed.

When, in the year 2000, my father's health was deteriorating (he was 81 by now) and ended up in hospital, he suddenly started telling us that our (maternal) grandfather (named little grandfather) is not the father of our mother. As I wrote there was a relationship with a man from whom the half-sister Ollie was born and what turned out is that a second relationship of my grandmother with a Mr. Kleine who seems to be the biological father of my mother.

Mr Kleine came from Amsterdam and he worked in the Baliran sugar factory which went bankrupt in 1933. After this he grounded a weaving mill in Yogyakarta on the Gondomanan, next to the Chinese church. He was married to an African woman with whom he had no children. He wanted a divorce but his wife did not want to separate and he broke off the relationship with my grandmother.

My grandfather probably met my grandmother when she was already pregnant with my mother and raised my mother as his own daughter. Mr. Kleine always took his responsibility and came to visit my mother regularly. He also paid child support. The visits stopped when my grandfather was transferred to Malang after which contact was also lost.

My mother doesn't know if he survived the war and/or returned to the Netherlands. None of this was a secret for my grandparents at the time, but after their repatriation to the Netherlands they never talked about it again.

The search for my mother started by the Kilian family, after my cousin Johnny (a son of Ollie) told them that his mother also carries the surname Kilian. This is also what my grandfather's neighbour meant by "someone is searching for you".

My mother is still alive and well at the age of 97 and I am fortunate that this story could come about with her help.


Ank Patty, October 2020

Photo taken during the wedding of Grandma Melie and Grandpa Sjaak (far right), of the other two gentlemen are unknown

Wedding picture father and mother Decmeber 19th  1941

The family lived close to their father's parents in Arnhem and here another son Rob was born on the 31st of March 1951 and a daughter Irma on the 27th of March 1953.

Life in the Netherlands at that time was not always easy, but there was no choice, they had to adapt because there was no way back to the so beloved Dutch East Indies.

In 1955 the family with now 4 children moved to Den Bosch after which I was born on the 15th of March 1955 and after me my brother Paul on the 17th of January 1957, Eric on the 17th of June 1959 and Frank on the 11th of November 1964.

So in the end the family consisted of father, mother and 8 children.

 At the end of the 70's my grandmother moved to the nursing home De Herven in Den Bosch. Grandma was unfortunately suffering from dementia, but grandpa was too good in spirit and while waiting for a place in the nursing home St. Jan Baptist (now De Grevelingen) in Den Bosch, where he died on the 14th of September 1986, lived with my father and mother for a while.

There were six old age homes where the elderly from the Dutch East Indies could spend their old age. After the sovereignty of Indonesia, many people left their fatherland to flee the Sukarno regime.

They came uprooted and had problems adapting in the chilly Dutch climate. Many spoke little or no Dutch and retreated with their families into their own world. Many of them were of Indian/Dutch descent and had earned their living as civil servants or KNIL soldiers. One of these houses was the St. Jan Baptist in Den Bosch where my grandfather ended up.

Far left: Kolonel K. Drost

Kamp Tantoei on Ambon

Bagia, a kind of red cake, a Moluccan delicacy

Construction of the Birma Railway

A moment to rest  in Birma


On the right Mr. Kleine, my mother's biological father

Top: five children of Ollie and her husband, bottom: three children of a previous marriage of her husband

Birth register of  Jacobus Johannes (Sjaak) Vervoort

My father was a member of the KNIL and both he and my grandfather were made prisoners of war shortly after the arrival of the Japanese in March 1942 and thus before the birth of my sister Bep in Surabaya.

They were taken to Malang to the barracks of the 10th Battalion. The camp, called Drost Camp 1, was about 1 km east of the station. The camp was housed in wooden barracks and outbuildings of a new military encampment, fenced with barbed wire.

The camp was guarded by Japanese and Korean soldiers and under the camp leadership of Lieutenant Colonel K. Drost. 

When the internees entered the city, to be taken to the barracks, my mother was on the side of the road and father was able to hand her a pack of tobacco containing 200 guilders.

He had received this money from the supplies officer. The supplies officer, who usually had the rank of non-commissioned officer, is responsible for storing and distributing equipment and supplies.

During the internment of my father and grandfather in the Malang camp, the women were allowed to go and visit there freely, but this was abolished after some time. 

My grandmother, mother and eldest sister were so-called outdoor campers. These are the (Indo)-Europeans who were not interned during the Japanese occupation of the Dutch East Indies, but stayed outside the camps. On Java most people of mixed Dutch-Indonesian descent remained outside the camps, but outside Java they were usually interned.                        


My mother (Dientje Vervoort) was born in 1923 in Yogjakarta on the Island of Java, as the only child of my grandmother Suzanna Emelia (Melie) Velthuizen (born in Surabaya 1901) and my grandfather Jacobus Johannes (Sjaak) Vervoort (born 26-01-1900 in Princenhage near Breda).

My grandmother Melie worked at the PTT, first in Cheribon, after which she was transferred to Yogjakarta at her own request, more about this later.

My grandfather (Sjaak) was a soldier with the KNIL and with the 1st squadron of the Cavalry in Yogyakarta.

My grandparents lived in Yogyakarta until my grandfather was transferred to Malang (East Java) in December 1941.

By colonial standards my grandparents lived modestly, because after all he was just an ordinary soldier. Grandma did have a Baboe in the house, but she took care of the other household tasks herself.

On the the 19th of December 1941 my mother married Joseph Veltman in Malang. My father Joseph Veltman was born on the 6th of January 1919 in Rheden, son of Lambertus Veltman and Berendina Zweers. He voluntarily went to the Dutch East Indies as a soldier and joined the KNIL.

Out of this union my eldest sister Berendina (Bep) Veltman was born in Malang on th 23rd of August 1942, named after my paternal grandmother.

Both Saparua and Haruku are islands in the Indonesian island group the Moluccas.

At the end of November 1943 the first transport left for Java, in August and September 1944 three more groups left for Java and at the beginning of October 1944 the last group left. Because of the hardship, disease, hunger and exhaustion many died during the journey. It is known that almost one in three prisoners of war who embarked in Surabaya in April 1943 had died.

After returning to Surabaya, my father was transported from the port of Tanjung Perak by the Japanese on a so-called Japanese Hell Ship to Singapore, where he spent the rest of the war in a camp.

A Japanese Hell-ship was a ship belonging to the Japanese merchant navy that the Japanese army used during the Second World War to transport prisoners of war and Asian forced labourers. The ships were known for the very poor conditions on board and the cruel way in which the prisoners of war were treated. These prisoners of war were transported from the Indonesian archipelago to Burma, Siam, Sumatra, Moluccas and Singapore to be forced to work there.

My grandfather is known to have been made a prisoner of war from 1942-1945 (written on the internment card). After being in the same POW camp in Malang as my father, he was probably transported to Singapore in January 1943 on a Japanese Hell Ship from Java. 

After being packed like herrings in a barrel with more than 1200 prisoners of war, he was most likely housed in the Changi Camp, like many prisoners of war immediately upon arrival in Singapore.

My parents went on big leave to the Netherlands in 1949 with their 2 children. My mother, shortly after arriving in the Netherlands, gave birth to a 3rd child, a son named Rudie. Shortly after his birth it was established that his lungs were not fully grown and he died.

During this leave it was decided that my father would only go back to the Dutch East Indies because he was still employed by the KNIL. My mother went to live with the children with her parents-in-law in Arnhem.

In 1950 granddad, grandmother and my father came back to the Netherlands. My father travelled with the ss Volendam, from the Holland America Line on the 19th of December 1950 from Tanjung Priok (the port of Jakarta) via Port Said to Rotterdam, the ship docked in the port of Rotterdam on the 17th of January 1951.

There were 1056 passengers on board including 664 KNIL soldiers. The intention was to demobilise most of the soldiers, but people were worried about whether or not they would find a job, since the economic situation was not optimal in the period of 1950-1951 due to the outbreak of the Korean war. In Port Said, demobilisation officers came on board to provide information about possible training and finding work. It was also made clear to relatives of the returning soldiers that they were not welcome on the quay in Rotterdam. Buses were waiting at the harbour to take them home.

My grandparents travelled back with the ms Sibajak in 1950. Due to a lack of housing and because it was thought that their stay in the Netherlands would be temporary, they were housed in the Schattenberg residence in Camp Westerbork, which had served as a transit and concentration camp for the German occupiers during the war. Since my mother was already living in Arnhem, my father went to join her after returning in 1950 and joined the local army.

Jacobus Johannes (Sjaak) Vervoort