From Dutch to Indo the story of the Nobbe Family
Although I have not yet found any proof, but given the history of the whole Nobbe family it is likely that Albert Nobbe (my great-grandfather) enlisted in the army and at some point, left for the Dutch East Indies.
He married at the age of 40 (which is quite late for that time) on 15.09.1881 in Ambarawa (Semarang) with the Christian native woman Charlotte Wilhelmina Louisa Louis (source: roosjeroos.nl)
From this marriage 9 children were born:
Of at least 3 sons, the military logbook number and affiliation with the KNIL have been found. So, it was a long line of KNIL soldiers starting with my great-grandfather Albert.
My grandfather Evert Nobbe was accepted as a ten-year-old boy, according to the logbook at the War Department, on 21 January 1891, "at the corps pupil, pursuant to order of the War Department dated 31 December 1890, I section Nr. 8 being from Semarang". He is 1.61 m tall, has an oval face, brown eyes, black hair, pointed chin, high forehead and a birthmark on the chest. According to the calculation, he has 50% Dutch and 50% native blood, called an Indo European or Indo. On 6 October 1897, by then 16 years old, he is enlisted in the army for 6 years. He receives a bonus of 25 guilders for this and is placed as a fusilier with the substitute cadet in Batavia. See #2185 logbook corps pupils
Militairy logbook #47666 Evert Nobbe
Militairy logbook #2185 Evert Nobbe
On 16.03.1902 Evert marries in Meester Cornelis a native woman by the name of Tjot. Unfortunately, I could not find a birth date or more information about Tjot but since this is a living website and information can always be added as it becomes available, I will try to find out more.
On 25 September 1909, he was granted a passport stating C.V.G. (certificate of good conduct) and on 6 October 1909, this was issued in Batavia.
Evert Nobbe and his wife Tjot have 6 children.
Since his father Evert is an Indo European and his mother a native woman, the ratio of Dutch to Indo is now 25% Dutch blood and 75% Indo. This is especially important for Francis to know.
True to tradition, my father Benjamin Nicodemus Nobbe followed in the footsteps of his father Evert, uncles and great uncles, and on "27 March 1926 in Meester Cornelis was temporarily attached for three years as fusilier (recommended soldier) and placed at the cadet school in Mangelang". On 19 March 1928, he is awarded the title Infantryman 1e class Brigadier titular and on 16 September 1929 he becomes Sergeant and 24.10.1929 Fourier.
Father meets his first wife, Emmy Eysma. Emmy Eysma is a woman born in the Dutch East Indies (from what I have been able to find and probably native 50/50 or more).
Benjamin and Emmy married on 27.08.1930 at Buitenzorg.
In 1933, Benjamin was awarded the Bronze Medal, which was usually given for "order and loyalty".
On 6 September 1934, a few months after Yvonne's death, Benjamin received the rank of Sergeant-Major Administrator.
3. On 07.08.1938 the first son was born in Sintang on the island of Borneo, he was given the name Rudi Benjamin and died at the age of 64 in Zwijndrecht on 14.11.2002.
In 1939, Benjamin was awarded the Silver Medal for 'courage and loyalty'.
4. On 01.01.1941 another son was born and was given the name George Richard in Tilatjap on the island of Java.
On 08.03.1942, after the invasion and occupation by the Japanese, Benjamin became a prisoner of war and ended up in a Japanese camp. He then belongs to the VI e infantry depot in Tjimahi and is still married to Emmy who also lives in Tjimahi and is preganant again.
5. On 04.09.1942, during the occupation of the Japanese, the last son Nicodemus Bernard was born in Tjimahi.
Even before Benjamin Nicodemus is freed, he is awarded the Silver Buckle, a sign for war achievements.
On 15.08.1945, Benjamin was liberated and on 17.09.1946 he re-entered the army and became temporary Assistant Petty Officer Administrator. On 13.11.1948 the temporary rank of Adjutant-Commander-Administrator was made effective.
Benjamin and Emmy's marriage did not last and a divorce was pronounced. The date of the divorce is not known, but since Benjamin later took the four living children with him to the Netherlands, I suspect that Emmy was indeed a native woman without rights. Benjamin did send money to the East Indies from the Netherlands for many years.
On 26.07.1950, he was transferred to the Royal Land Forces where he was eventually sent back to the Netherlands due to a reorganisation. There is an entry on his military log of "end of service". On 01.09.1950 he, accompanied by his four surviving children, boarded the ship Fair Sea in Tandjong Priok for the crossing to the Netherlands. The journey lasted one month and on 27.09.1950 they arrived in Rotterdam. The children adored their mother Emmy but they had to say goodbye to her in the Indies. How they experienced this and if they ever had contact with her again is as yet unknown.
On 26.05.1952, a decision is made by the Royal Army that Benjamin is entitled to a pension with a service in the KNIL of 23 years, 3 months and 28 days.
Life in the Netherlands as an active soldier is not easy and he needs help with his four children. He seeks this help at the Green Cross Foundation in Alblasserdam, where he lives, and meets Francisca Hermine Commu, who works there.
A year after Benjamin arrived in the Netherlands with his four children, he married Francisca Hermina Commu (my mother), who was 23 years younger and born in Utrecht on 20 November 1929.
Benjamin and Francisca have the same background and although Benjamin was born in the Dutch East Indies and Francisca in Utrecht, Francisca moved with her parents to the East Indies at the age of 4, to join her parents and other siblings. She spent her whole youth there and finally returned to Amsterdam at the age of 18 with the remaining siblings on the ms Boissevain on 25.03.1947. Francisca's background has more similarities than can be seen at first sight and I will come back to this later in my mother's story.
From this marriage 6 children were born:
The fact that father had been in the KNIL was very much alive in his daily routines and the family is anything but warm and loving. Father has a large pension but this is not noticeable in our daily family life. "He was hot-tempered and full of hate and aggression”. Francisca is no better and a real witch to the older children from father’s first marriage. Benjamin has a better relationship with his mother-in-law than his own wife. It is even suggested, but so far not proven, that his second wife, Francisca, who was also more than 20 years younger than him, had a relationship with Ruud (Rudi Benjamin), who was only nine years younger than Francisca and was a child from her husband's first marriage (and her stepson).
It is therefore quite possible that the three youngest children, but almost certainly Esmeralda, are the descendants of Ruud and not of father Benjamin, which can only be confirmed by a DNA test.
Mother also has her traces from the past and talked very little about this, especially about her period in the Japanese internment camp. The only thing she ever said was that she had been bayoneted. Mother was also violent and often hit the children. There has been no trauma processing and this family is reminiscent of and similar to the stories in Adriaan van Dis's books.
Life in Alblasserdam is not a pleasant memory I like to remember. The street and the neighbourhood where we lived was like a ghetto with the toko that drove through the streets once a week and where you could do your shopping. Mother also put all the children to work and we were used to do all kinds of odd jobs to earn extra money while there was actually enough money available.
Father probably sent money to the East Indies and this was probably arranged with Emmy, his first wife, at the time of the divorce as a kind of compensation for taking the children to the Netherlands. Furthermore, mother and father were very stingy and there was never any money for new clothes or other things that we needed. I remember very well that my clothes were hand-me-downs from other Indo children in the neighbourhood.
An anecdote about my sister, which I will never forget, is that she was colouring and irritated my father. He called my mother, who stepped on the colouring pens in a vicious manner so that she could not continue to colour.
If my brother had done something that Mother did not like, she would call me or one of the other children to get the bamboo stick or any other object with a stick to beat him. If I or any other brother or sister refused, we too would be hit with the same stick. At the age of 16, I decided to leave home and travel to Switzerland with my boyfriend, who has been my husband for more than 35 years. Here in Switzerland, I tried to put life and the traumas I experienced as a child behind me.
Francisca Hermina Commu (my mother)
Although I have no good memories of my mother and am not really interested in her background, Tilly thought it important to find out about it. It is necessary to find out whether I am Dutch or Indo or what proportion of the two I am. Much can be traced back and the genes also play a role here. As my ancestors on my father's side were all KNIL-military, so are those of my mother and I will elaborate on this below. What we can conclude from this is that children of KNIL soldiers who marry children of KNIL soldiers have inherited a piece of trauma for which there was no therapy in those days. Mixed with the forced departure from the country of their origin, this has turned out to be a true cocktail, in my case, for aggression and hatred. The origin of Francisca's trauma will become clear from the story of her father.
As in my father's story, Tilly chose to go back to my great-great-grandparents.
Lambert Joseph Schreuder born on 06.03.1852 in Maastricht (the father of my great grandfather) marries Odilia Leenders, born in Limburg on 08.10.1873, also in Maastricht on 11.01.1952. This is Odilia's first marriage and she will experience a lot of grief because a lot of her 11 children die at a very young age. Below the 11 children she has with Lambert Joseph:
Lambert Joseph Schreuder died on 01.10.1892 after which Odilia, now a widow, became pregnant by Augustus Benoit, more than 12 years older and born in Limburg on 1.1.1840. Their first and only daughter but Odilia's 12e child Elisabeth was born in Maastricht on 21.01.1896. It takes another 5 years before Odilia marries her second husband Augustus Benoit on 16.01.1901 in Maastricht. Augustus does acknowledge Elisabeth completely as his own daughter and so she gets the surname Benoit. This second marriage lasted only about 5 years because Augustus Benoit died on 15.12.1906. Ten years later Odilia also died on 26.12.1916.
Gerrit Commu born 29.12.1861 in Vianen with profession Head of Police (the father of my great-grandmother) marries on 24.12.1883 in Utrecht, Allegonda Mulder born on 07.12.1863 in Utrecht. Just like the parents of my great-grandfather a lot of children were born into this family and also some died at a very young age.
A total of 15 children are born:
My great-great-grandmother Mina Schreuder - Kartodikromo
My great grandfather Albert Nobbe
My grandfather Evert Nobbe 23.02.1881 - 29.01.1975
My grandfather Evert and father Benjamin Nicodemus Nobbe
My father Benjamin with his first wife Emmy Eysma
That is me (Francis)
From left to right: Rudy Joke, Gijs, Inge and baby Linda
My father Benjamin Nicodemus Nobbe
From left to right: Rudy, sitting Elly with little George on her lap.
These are three of my father's 5 children from his first marriage
It is rare that I start a story where so little information is known in advance. I know Francis through the Facebook group Dutchmen in Switzerland and we got to talking about the Indische Verhalentafel. Through research I learned a lot about the background of the Nobbe family. This search was sometimes intense but also very enlightening for those involved. This is the search of Francis Nobbe and the truths as she experienced them. Thanks to Francis for the trust in De Indische Verhalentafel where in this case the family ties were re-established, strengthened and the process had a healing effect.
Tilly van Coevorden, July 2022
Benjamin Nicodemus Nobbe (my father)
When you start a search for relatives, it is important to know the past history as well. Together with Tilly, I dived into the past, but limited myself to my great-great-grandparents. Here is their story:
Benne Albert Nobbe was born in Bellingwolde, Groningen on 18 January 1803. From various documents I have learned that Benne Alberts Nobbe had a relationship with Menke Pathuis who was born in 1808, but married on 19 June 1835 with Hillechien Everts Zuur, also born in Bellingwolde and born on 23 November 1811.
From this marriage 5 children were born:
Willem Frederik, my maternal grandfather (100% Dutch blood), enlisted on 7 July 1921 as an aspiring non-commissioned officer for seven years in the colonial forces both in and outside Europe. For this he receives a bonus of 50fl after he completes his training as a soldier. A further bonus of 50fl after promotion to corporal. In the studbook we find the note that he gave his brother Hermanus Hendrikus, living Eemnesseweg 74 in Hilversum, as his contact.
On 19.02.1921, Willem Frederik was promoted to soldier and received his first premium of 50fl.
On 17.06.1922 he was promoted to Brigadier and on 30.12.1922 to Sergeant 1e
Instead of the second premium of 50fl being paid, it is deducted from the cost of a 1e
On 27.01.1923 Willem Frederik left for the Dutch East Indies on the ss Nias where he arrived in Batavia on 04.03.1923.
Willem Frederik eventually received the title Sergeant Workman Artillery.
From the age of 50 onwards, my background, particularly that of the Indies, began to play a very important role for me. The main question here was: am I Dutch by birth or an Indo? Fortunately, after intensive research by Tilly, this question and many others was answered and I can proudly say that I am 50% Dutch and 50% Indo and I hope that I can now give the past a place and close that period.
Francis Nobbe, juni 2022
Aunt Hilda with her husband Willem Bennik and child
Wedding anouncement 07.01.1951 Nieuw Utrechts Dagblad
Francisca Hermina Nobbe - Commu
My mother Friancisca Hermina Commu
From left to right: Rudy: Rob (Everardus), Francis (me) and Linda (Esmeralda)
It must have been around 1925 that Willem met Johanna Hendrica, who was born in the Indies. She is the daughter of Franciscus Schreuder (see above) and a native woman by the name of Elisabeth Minah Kartodikromo. Mina was born on 16.01.1884 in Batavia. Johanna has 50% Dutch and 50% Indian blood. Johanna Hendrica was born on 11.03.1906 in Batavia but it is not clear when exactly they married. Documents show that 11 children were born from this marriage:
On 11 June 1929 Willem signs on for 6 years as Sergeant Workman Artillery. Although this date is mentioned in the studbook, he must have signed before this date because on this date he was already on leave for Holland, accompanied by his wife Johanna who was heavily pregnant. It is likely that the other three children will also accompany him on this trip. The alternative is that the three younger children stayed behind with their grandparents in the East Indies. They travelled on the ss Grotius and arrived in Amsterdam on 04.07.1929.
About 4 months later, on 20.11.1929, their third daughter and my mother Francisca Hermina was born in Utrecht. My mother has by calculation 75% Dutch and 25% Indian blood.
On 05.02.1930, my grandfather Willem returned to the East Indies, leaving his wife and child(ren) behind in the Netherlands.
Somewhere between the date of 05.02.1930 and 22.08.1931 Johanna also returns to the East Indies, for a 5e child, again a son, is born in Batavia on 22.08.1931.
As my mother has always said that she left for the Dutch East Indies only when she was four years old, it is likely that she lived with her grandparents in Utrecht between the date that her mother went back to the Dutch East Indies to give birth to her son and the date that she herself went to the Dutch East Indies. This could also explain her distant attitude and behaviour in later life.
On 11.07.1934 Willem signed another contract for 3 years and 21 days as Sergeant Major Workman Artillery and in 1936 he got leave to go to the Netherlands again. This time he went aboard the ss Christian Huygens and arrived in Amsterdam on 21.04.1936, the ship on which he returned to the East Indies on 21.10.1936.
On 06.03.1938, he re-committed himself for 3 years as Sergeant Major Workman Artillery.
On 08.03.1942 Willem, who was living in Jogjakarta at the time, was made a prisoner of war. He ended up in the Java POW camp on 15.08.1942. At a later date he was moved to three more camps, namely No 2 Java POW camp # 4336, No 1 Java POW camp # 24619 and the main Java POW camp # 16353. All this can be read on the internment card I found.
On 20.06.1944 Willem was transported from Takao, on the southwest coast of Taiwan, to Japan. He was transported together with a total of 772 prisoners of war and a load of copper ore by Tamahoko Maru, a ship weighing 6'780". The ship sailed in a convoy of 12 ships, including two corvettes and a minelayer. There were also 500 Japanese soldiers and a cargo of sugar and rice on board. The prisoners of war had been taken over from the Miyo Maru, which had been caught in a typhoon on its way from Manila to Takao and had suffered so much damage that it could not continue its journey to Japan. How it ended up in Manila I have not been able to find out.
On 25.06.1944, 5 days after leaving Takao and about 60 km south-west of Nagasaki, the ship was torpedoed by the USS Tang and sank in only a few minutes. The escorting Japanese ships took Japanese survivors on board but left the POWs floating in the sea to their fate. The next morning a small whaler appeared and managed to take on board 211 more drowned people, who were brought ashore in Nagasaki. That same afternoon they were taken to camp Fukuoka 14b in Nagasaki.
The remaining 560 prisoners of war, 35 crew members and an unknown number of Japanese soldiers died, including my grandfather Willem Frederik Commu.
In 1949 there is an official report of death and his brother Johannes Hermanus is listed as a family member and lives in Djokja. My grandmother Johanna Hendrica has already been repatriated on 25 March 1947 with the Boissevain to Amsterdam. On board she is with Allegonda (A.H Commu), Willy (W.H Commu), Francisca (F.H Commu), Gijsbert (G. Commu), Fredrik (F.G Commu), Willem (W. Commu), Karel (K.Commu), Hilda (H.Commu) source: 30days at sea. There are 2 others with the surname of Commu on the same ship, J.T Commu and, E.R Commu. I think these two are still children or relatives of whom I have not been able to find out any information.
Johanna was given temporary shelter in Rustenhoven, a large country house where Dutch soldiers were quartered at the beginning of 1940 and where, after the liberation, it was first requisitioned by the internal armed forces and the Canadians and then later served as a shelter for returnees from the Dutch East Indies.
Willem Frederik Commu will be posthumously awarded the Mobilisation War Cross.
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