Guess this means no blue blood in my family history

1714_Anna van Dooren_birth_smaller_sh

Isn’t technology amazing? Here I sit at my laptop in New Zealand, able to transport myself halfway round the world to the small town of Weert in the Netherlands, and back three centuries to the year 1714, to view the actual handwritten record that mentions my great[x7]-grandparents on my mother’s side, Joannes Dooren and Maria Engelen (right-hand page, third entry down).

1714_Anna van Dooren_birth_extract

No blue blood, though – they’re shown in Latin as extranei pauperis mendicantus (‘poor beggars from outside the area’)! And if my Latin is correct, I even think it says that they ‘pretend’ to have been married!

I bet these poor beggars could never have envisaged that three centuries later a descendant would be reading about them from his home in Terra Incognita!

Part 3: My father’s Dutch war service

Dad'sd photos 2_A

I’ve posted before about my Dad’s service record in the Dutch army during WW2 (see Part 1 and Part 2). Now let’s carry the story on to the late 1940s, and his part in the conflict in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia).

But first, some background. According to Wikipedia, the Indonesian War of Independence was an armed conflict and diplomatic struggle between Indonesia and the Dutch Empire, and an internal social revolution. It took place between Indonesia’s declaration of independence in 1945 and the Netherlands’ recognition of Indonesia’s independence at the end of 1949.

Dutch forces were not able to prevail over the Indonesians, but were strong enough to resist being expelled. Thus, the Republic of Indonesia ultimately prevailed as much through international diplomacy as it did through Indonesian determination in the armed conflicts on Java and other islands.

Dad's service record 1

As you can see in his service record, after the war Dad came back from “groot verlof” (long leave) in 1946. Although long leave sounds leisurely,  in fact much of this ‘leave’ was after the 1940 surrender of the Dutch army and included his captivity in Germany as a forced worker. He was back in his hometown by April 1945, working as a radio technician.

Dad's conscription 2

Like many returning servicemen he was never officially demobilised from the Dutch army. So in March 1946 he received a letter calling him back up as a medical sergeant, and requiring him to report to the barracks of the Stoottroepen (shock troops) at Corrnputkazeren in Steenwijk.

stoottroepen rocker

The Stoottroepen were founded by order of Prince Bernhard on 21 September 1944, originating from the resistance against the German occupation during WW2. They were initially a very rag-tag force, lacking weapons and equipment and not trained as combat units. In March 1945 Queen Wilhelmina expressed her wish that the Stoottroepen would continue to exist for ever. The ‘Stoters’ went on to serve in the Dutch East Indies, Korea, New Guinea, Bosnia, Cyprus, Kosovo and Afghanistan.

kota baroe

In the late 1940s four battalions of volunteer Stoottroepen went to fight in the Dutch East Indies, later followed by five battalions of drafted men (including my Dad). He set sail on 23 July 1946 on board the Kota Baroe, crossing the equator in August, and disembarking at Tandjong Priok later that same month. He was based for a month at Meester Cornelis (a sub-district of East Jakarta, named after  one Cornelis Senen, a 17th century Calvinist schoolmaster, preacher and local  landholder – it is now known as Jatinegara).

On 28 September 1946 Dad left Meester Cornelis for Denpassar (Bali), where he was temporarily posted to the medical service of Y Brigade. ‘Y’ Brigade had been formed two months before by combining a number of Dutch units. The ‘Y’ Brigade badge depicted a demon’s head  because the Brigade was established on Bali, nicknamed “Demon Island”.


On 24 October 1946 the brigade embarked for Palembang, initially by landing craft and then transferred to the ship Boissevain. In his souvenir booklet, Dad pinpointed himself in a photo of a mass of soldiers on board landing craft N205. He used the word ‘Saja’ in the photo caption – as his initials were S.A.J., and he was a sergeant, I wonder if Saja was his nickname?

Dad's army souvenir booklet pic

My research shows that when  ‘Y’ Brigade got to Palembang, they took over from the British 1st Burma Regiment. On New Year’s Eve the battle of Palembang began and heavy fighting continued for nearly a week. A truce and the demarcation line was established on 5 January. I have no knowledge of any role my father might have played in this battle.

Dad'sd photos 1_A

Dad's reference from army

The next item in my folder is a note dated 4 March 1949 from the HQ of the Medical Service of South Sumatra,  praising Sergeant Hermans for ‘organising the administration of the Medical Service for the whole territory of South Sumatra in an excellent manner’. The note went on to say that he always excelled through his ‘very good zeal, ambition and skills’,  and he was ‘very favourably reported always and everywhere’.

Dad'sd photos 5

So whilst he wasn’t in the front line (at least, that I know), I’m sure his service as a medical sergeant helped save the lives of his fellow soldiers and civilians in South Sumatra.

Rank insignia for medical sergeant.

I suspect Dad returned to the Netherlands in 1949, because his souvenir booklet is inscribed on the cover in his own hand with the dates 1946 to 1949.

Dad's army souvenir booklet

On his return to his small home-town of Swalmen, he received a heavy bronze plaque from the ‘Swalmen Home Front’, commemorating his service in  the Dutch East Indies. This plaque has looked over all my hobby interests since I was a child, because it hung unremarked in our garage workshop where I did all my model soldier painting during my teens (often used as a heavy weight to clamp models whilst the glue was drying!). It eventually passed to me in my adulthood, and now hangs in pride of place over my study desk.

bronze plaque

Finally, if you’re interested in following my family’s military history, make sure you read about about my great-great-great-grand-dad who was a dragoon trumpeter in Napoleon’s army!

Pictures of badges in this article are from:

Dad’s wartime album: invasion of Holland

Dad'sd photos 1_C

My father was a Dutch solider during WW2 and later in Indonesia. I still have a box of his photos and papers, and so from time to time I’ll post the occasional item here on my blog.  

The first photo from my Dad’s album is this picture of crashed Junkers JU52 transport planes lining a Dutch road (click the picture to enlarge).

From my research (Dad never talked much about his time in the war), I gather these are transports that were involved in the German invasion of the Netherlands in 1940.  The road is the main highway between Rotterdam and the Hague.

Apparently a lot of the Junkers 52s used by the Germans in the airborne invasion to transport their paratroopers were shot down. But in this photo, because of the amount of planes (you can see more in the distance), they look more like they crash-landed whilst using they used this wide four-lane road as a landing strip. 

Dad was in the Dutch army that faced the invaders (read here and here for more about his war service).

Detail from above photo
My father  before the German invasion of the Netherlands in 1940.

Finally completed – my family tree book

Over the last year I’ve been working on the second edition of  a booklet depicting my family tree on both my father’s ( Hermans) and my mother’s (van Dooren) sides.  In 2006 I wrote the first edition of Double Dutch, the history of the ancestors of Stephanus Hermans and Anne-Marie van Dooren, who migrated from the Netherlands to New Zealand in the early 1950s.

This second edition, Double Dutch 2, corrects some errors in the first edition and adds new information that takes the story of my families further back into history.   My aim has been to carry my two direct family lines as far back as I can, and I must say I am pleasantly surprised how far back I’ve now been able to take them (the Hermans family to the late 1500s, and the van Doorens to the late 1600s).

This edition was spurred by my making contact over the internet with several genealogy enthusiasts.   Most of my information for the last two centuries came from the very comprehensive Dutch birth, death and marriage records that date back to the time of Napoleon, and now freely available online at .  The most common sources for births in the earlier years of this history were church christening records.

One challenge was the way that the same names repeat across the generations and across different branches of the family, leading to much confusion.  My ancestors’ names were usually registered in Latin, but the ‘call-names’ they actually used in day-to-day life were often Frenchified forms of one of these registered names.  On the other hand, the sensible Dutch custom of the wife keeping her maiden name at least made that part of the research so much easier!

Here’s the page showing my earliest known Hermans ancestors.  As you can see, I also made a fascinating detour into the world of maps,  which I think help us to understand a little more about the surroundings our ancestors lived in.

I had as much fun with the design of the booklet as the research. I wanted something that would be appealing enough to my children, nephews, nieces, uncles and aunts to enjoy browsing through, but that also recorded the data and sources.  For various reasons, I had to use MS Word for my design (graphic designers would throw their arms up in horror at this), and I think I have eked the most out of Word design-wise that I could.

This page features one of my favourite ancestors, Napoleonic dragoon trumpeter Pierre van Dooren.  I’ve posted about him previously here on my blog.

And this page features photos from my Dad’s life.  Again, I’ve posted a bit about him previously.  By the way, the headings in the booklet are based on my children’s generation’s point of view – so my father is shown as ‘Grandfather’.

Unfortunately I can’t publish this book, as there are several images in it that I have not got permission for, and it also contains some current data in it that could be prone to identity theft.  But if anyone does want a copy emailed to them privately, please send me an email to rolydothermansatgmaildotcom. 

Part 2: My father’s Dutch war service

In May 2010 I posted Part 1 of my late father’s war story, who was a Dutch soldier during the German invasion of the Netherlands in 1940. At the time of writing that post, I knew very little about his war service. Some knowledgable readers of this blog added comments to that post that filled in some holes. But a lot remained unknown.

My father is on the left of this picture, in the front row. Note the red cross emblem on his collar, showing his service in the Medical Troops.

Little did I know that some of the answers were just a couple of kilometres away, hidden in a drawer in my mother’s apartment. When I told her what I had been finding out here on the blog, she suddenly remembered a sheaf of papers that had belonged to Dad. When she pulled them out, lo and behold, there was his official war service record, as well as records relating to his service in Indonesia after the war.

At the top of this form, you can see that it dates from the post-war period, when Dad was in the Stoottroepen (Shock Troops) of the Netherlands army in the East Indies (Indonesia) … but that is another story. I’ll do a separate posting in a few weeks about Dad’s Indonesian service.

The information that relates to Dad’s WW2 service lies in the ‘Staat van Dienst’ section of the form. It shows that in September 1939, Dad was conscripted from the municipality of Swalmen (the village where he lived) into the Depot Battalion of the Medical Troops in Amsterdam (see my previous posting on this subject). Only a few months later, in January 1940, he was made up to corporal, and then three months after that to sergeant. He had therefore  been a sergeant for only a month when the Germans invaded on 10 May 1940.

What happened over those days, we don’t know. Dad never told us anything about the actual events of 1940. My mother believes he was in Rotterdam, which was badly bombed, though as a conscript from the southern province of Limburg, it was also possible he was stationed there.

After the capitulation of the Dutch, like many other soldiers Dad returned to his home. So you can see that for the remainder of the war he is shown as on “groot verlof”, or long furlough.

My father went back to Swalmen and worked for the radio firm he had been training with before the war. A couple of years later he was caught when the Germans wanted more men as forced workers in Germany (or, as a reader has suggested, when Dutch soldiers were called up again in 1943 to be put into POW camps). A lot of men went into hiding, including Dad. But he was caught. There were two men in the house at the time. One hid in roof, while Dad hid under couch. Somebody said there was a man on the roof, but by the time the Germans investigated, that man had disappeared. But Dad was still under the couch and got caught.

Dad ended up as a forced worker in Germany and was placed in a sausage factory, possibly in Wuppertal according to my mother, though I vaguely recall my Dad saying something about Cologne. Of course, he was then on the receiving end of the Allied bombing raids, which must have been harrowing for him.

Dad’s one story from that time was how they tried some basic sabotage. When making the sausages in big vat, they would throw in a gall bladder to make the meat very bitter. There were spot tests to taste the sausage, and if caught the punishment was very severe.

After the war he came back and finished his training, and set up radio repair business with a friend. Lots of radios had been hidden in war, so quite a lot of repairs needed. For a while the business looked promising, but then he was called up by the army  again when there were not enough volunteers to fight in the growing conflict in Indonesia. The last two entries in the ‘Staat van Dienst’ section show his return from long furlough to begin his post-war service in 1946 – but, as I said, that will be a tale for another time.

Go to Part 3 of my Dad’s war story.

Part 1: My father’s Dutch war service

The 10th of May 2010 marked 70 years since the Germans invaded the Netherlands in 1940. This was particularly meaningful for me, because my father was in the Dutch army at that time.

I know very little about my father’s service before and during the invasion. I recall being told that he was in the medical corps, and that he was in Rotterdam at the time it was bombed. But that’s about it – he seldom spoke of those times. All I have as a record are the couple of photographs shown below (click to enlarge).

My father's unit (2)
This is a postcard of my father and his room-mates, sent to his family from Amsterdam in 1939. In the inscription on the back, Dad says they are wearing “werkpakjes” (working clothes).

Detail picture (my father on the right)
This detail of the above postcard shows my father (far right). The name board held by the man on the left reads: “Kamer 19, Sectie I, 5-10-39” (Room 19, Section I, 5 Oct 1939)

The reverse of the postcard. The sender address is hard to make out (are there any Dutch readers who can help?), but appears to say: “afz. dpl (?) S Hermans, Depot Geneesh (?) Troepen, I Companie, Amsterdam”.

My father's unit
This is another photo of my father’s unit. There is no inscription at all on this one. Note the shako worn by the officer in the centre.

Detail from above photo
This is a close-up of my father from the group photo. He is wearing a greatcoat and sidecap, and is carrying a haversack over his shoulder and a pack on his back. He also wears gloves, unlike his comrades.

The Dutch army laid down arms on 14 May after the city of Rotterdam was bombed, and formally capitulated the next day. Resistance continued in  Zeeland, until the bombardment of Middelburg on May 17. Dad apparently remained in the Netherlands after the army was demobilised. Later in the war he was sent as a forced worked to Germany, where he worked in a sausage factory, possibly in Wuppertal.

When the war ended, Dad’s military service was not yet over. He sailed to the Dutch East Indies and was involved in the hostilities there. I have a few photos from that period, too, but they can remain for another posting.

I would love to know more about Dad’s war service, so I have written to the Dutch Ministry of Defence to see if there is any way to obtain a copy of his war records. If anyone else has any other leads I can follow up, please do let me know. In the meantime, I’ll think some quiet thoughts about what life must’ve been like for my Dad in those awful days four or five days from 10 May 1940.

For those who want to read an excellent English-language website on the invasion of the Netherlands, visit the War Over Holland website.

Go to Part 2 of my Dad’s war story

Trumpeting on about my forebear

One of my other hobbies is family history.  Although I was born in New Zealand, my parents both hailed from the Netherlands, so my research has taken me back through the history of Europe.  One particularly interesting character I found was my direct great-great-great-great-grandfather,  who was the staff trumpeter in Napoleon’s 12th Dragoons.

Petrus (‘Pierre’) Cornelis van Dooren, son of Michael van Dooren and Joanna Maria van Meijel, was christened in Weert (Netherlands) on 13 February 1787.  He married Marie Raemakers, a servant, who was born on 14 December 1785 at Beegden. They were married in Weert on 9 November 1814.

Pierre van Dooren
My great-great-great-great-grandfather, Pierre van Dooren.

During the Napoleonic Wars, Pierre was conscripted into the French Grande Armée, enlisting on 3 March 1807 into the 12th Regiment of Dragoons, where he soon became a trumpeter. Pierre served in Germany from 1807 to 1809, and in Spain from 1810 to 1813, before taking part in the final battles in north-eastern France in 1814. He was wounded in March 1814 and was recovering in the hospital of Angers at the time Napoleon abdicated.

Pierre was discharged from the French army in April 1814 and returned home to Weert.  Here is a transcription of his Congé Absolu (discharge papers):

We the undersigned, administrative council of the 12th Dragoons, grant this certificate of ‘Congé Absolu’ to Pierre van Dooren, trumpeter of the 1st Company of the 2nd Battalion, born 13 February 1787 in Weert, Department of the Meuse Inferieur. Height 170cms, brown hair, blue eyes, round forehead, broad nose, large mouth, no beard, round face, passbook number 1447.

Colonel-President Binach, Chef de Brigade Delacpeine, Captain Ribet Versailles – 22.4.1814.

He did not rejoin either the French or Dutch armies during Napoleon’s return and eventual defeat at Waterloo in 1815.

With his military music experience from the Napoleonic Wars, Pierre established a musical band in Weert, beginning the long association that the van Doorens were to have through the following generations with the Weert town band (the Stedelijke Harmonie St Antonius).

Uniform of a trumpetter of the 12th Draggons

Over the generations, Pierre has become part of van Dooren family folk-lore. Family historian Joep van Dooren recalls his grandmother telling him stories about Pierre:

‘When he marched from Maastricht to Weert he played the trumpet the whole way, among other tunes the March of Austerlitz’.

‘He was wounded, shot in his right buttocks during the campaign of Paris. We thought we must feel ashamed because Pierre took to his heels, but we were told that the trumpeter always stood with his back to the enemy to send his signals to the troops!’

 ‘It was said that he was very proud of his period in the French army, and he liked to show everyone the flag from his trumpet.’

 ‘He threw a three-pronged fork at the customs officers, because they laughed at the defeat of Napoleon. The fork stuck in the door of the customs house. He was let off because of age.’

 ‘The most interesting story: when Napoleon marched through Weert, he saw Petrus standing on the bridge over the canal, and called at him, ‘Allo, Pierre, ça va?’ (‘Hello, Pierre, how’s it going?’) When I told my grandmother that the canal was built after the death of Napoleon, she said perhaps the bridge was already there!’

Pierre was buried at Weert on 13 May 1873 at the age of 86.

Of course, I just had to paint up a dragoon trumpeter in my French army as Pierre.   But, who knows, maybe one day a manufacturer can be induced to sculpt his face from the portrait onto a model!

Front Rank trumpeter painted as Pierre van Dooren.