Interview with Adriaan Kannegieter
Name & Surname: Adriaan Kannegieter
City of Birth & Country: Rotterdam, the Netherlands
Rank in the Royal Dutch Navy in 1942: Sailor Second Class
[This interview with Mr. Adriaan Kannegieter was done in July 2000 via e-mail and is posted here by his kind permission.]
• Adriaan, could you tell us a little about your background.
Adriaan Kannegieter's book about his wartime experiences
I was born in Rotterdam on 23 June 1926. I had an older sister and 5 younger brothers.
• Why did you join Koninklijke Marine ?
Because there was a financial crissis with very much unemployment.
• Could you briefly describe how the Dutch Navy trained its recruits in pre-war time?
Seeing photos from your book, it seems that you had also some
naval infantry training. Is this correct ?
All kind of sailors work even a soldiers training for possible landings with small boats.
• Was your ship ever attacked by any German planes in May 1940?
You soon left for England, leaving Holland and your families behind. How did
this influence at the crew morale aboard RNN Sumatra and did you ever had any homesickness?
The first day, May 10th, 1940, we were bombed and machine-guned the whole day.
The second day early in the morning we went to Britain.
There certainly were some homesick but there was a heavy war wath of 6
hours on and 6 hours off and between the time off gun and mitrailleur
training, cleaning and painting the ship and even time to sleep. So we
were too very tired for thinking.
• Probably one of the ''proudest hours'' in the history of RNN cruiser Sumatra was the
time when you brought Dutch Royal Family to Canada. Do you still
remember the young princesses Irene, Beatrix and Juliana aboard the
ship during the voyage through Atlantic Ocean ? Were you during the
voyage attacked at any time by any enemy planes or U-boats ?
Yes, I do it still very much as they spended much time on the
command deck just under the deck of my war wath by the 40 mm
mitrailleurs. Once we had alarm in the night when I was sleeping
because theis was seen gun fire lights in the horizon and in the air
hanging light bullets. Later it seemed to be training British warships
during a convoy.
• Was RNN Sumatra updated with any new weapons (perhaps AA guns) while being in various British or Canadian ports ?
No! We only got in England a cable against magnetic mines.
• What assigments were you assigned after bringing Dutch Royal Family to
Canada ? Convoy escorts ? Were you attacked during this time by any
German U-boats ?
Escorting a trooper with soldies bount for Jamaica ans Curacao and
hunting after raiders between Cuba and Miami (USA). Pittyfull we never
met a ship of the enemy.
• You have been among other places also in the Netherlands Antilles, Curacao Island if I am
not mistaken. How would you describe the life on these islands in 1940,
when you arrived ? Was there at that time a lot of white (Dutch)
population-colonists on Curacao Island ? I guess you achored at Parera
Naval Base, correct ? There has been a big difficulties for WWII
researchers to find out more about Dutch garrisons in the Netherlands
Antilles and Dutch Guyana (also known as Suriname) in World War Two. Do
you recall if Royal Dutch Navy had any warships and any troops in
1940-1941 on Curacao Island ?
As we were only short times on the Islans Bermuda, Jamaica, Curacao
and Mauritius I cannot give an impression. We were only warned that
Jamaica and Mauritius were dangerous islands for robbery. In Curacao
the usual Dutch population were mostly employees of the Shell Oil
Plant. We anchored in the Anna Bay. As far as know some Dutch officers
and Marines led inland police. Another Dutch warship Hr.Ms. Van
Kinsbergen was already based there before the war.
• When RNN Sumatra sailed to Dutch East Indies ?
We left Curacao in the night of 7-8 of August 1940.
• How would you describe the Dutch East Indies islands and the population,
looking from nowdays perspective ? People often says that there was a
strong resemblence between the Dutch and native population, which
showed when the Japanese occupied Java and when natives often betrayed
the Dutch and other Allied soldiers hiding in the jungle. How did you
see the situation at that time ?
I was there from 9-10-1940 until 7-3-1942 so one and a half year as
free man and most time sailing. I am sure there was no strong
resemblence. There was no fear. For instance: In the night I drove with
my bicycle about 10 km from my family to the navel base through a
rather dark Soerabaja. When I was with my family with holiday in the
mountains we, my cousine and me walked hours and hours passing kampongs
and drank cocowater with a man of a kampong climbing in a palm dropped
for us and we payed for. When there was any hate they had killed us.
Today many former Dutch militairies visited Indonesia and crossed all
around. The Indonesian people still are happy to meet any Dutchman as
the said that they had more to spend and better live in colonial time.
Never Dutch people had became in his vacantion some trouble. I think
this all speaks for itselves.
• You have served during your time in NEI aboard some RNN warships (RNN destroyer
Banckert for instance). How were you preparing for war with Imperial
Japanese Navy ? In fact have you and your colleagues - sailors ever
spoked about the possibility of war to broke up soon ? Have you
performed any military exercises in case of war against Imperial Japan
and if so where exactly ?
As every navy in the world we were always prepared for a war and to do our duty, no more and no less.
• Do you remember where were you when you were told that the war has begun ?
Were you and Royal Dutch Navy confident/sure about defending Dutch East
Indies ? Certainly you have to know that you are facing the third
largest fleet in the world, having 10 carriers with 600 planes on and
10 more or less modern battleships, while Dutch East Navy could resist
to this powerful forces with just four light cruisers, all desperately
needing some repairs and dozen of destroyers and submarines, also most
of them (with exception of few submarines) quite obsolete at that time.
What have the Navy told you about the Japanese Navy and Army ? In fact
how well were you informed about the Japanese Armed Forces ?
I was aboard aboard of the minesweeper Hr Ms Pieter de Bitter” on
7-12-1941, the day the Japanese bombed the American base "Pearl
Harbour" and our Gouvernment daclared the war to Japan. There was no
reason to be confidential. Moreover the Japanese shopholders, fishermen
and so on were Japanese officers and they knew more then we. My
personal opinion is that there wat no any change to overwin. The better
could withdraw to Australia. As all over the world lower crew were not
• What was your worst experience you have to go through the Dutch East Indies Campaign between December 1941-March 1942 ?
The convooi of the KPM merchantship van Lansbergen. We were some
hours attacted by Japanese dive bombers by witch the Lansbergen sunk
and the Japanese bombers severel times mitrailled the crew swimming and
wounded drifting in the water. That we had to sunk our lovely Pieter de
• How would you describe last days on
Java Island before the Japanese occupation ? Was there any panic among
Dutch civilian population and military personnel ? Have you took part
in any combat actions against the Japanese forces, which landed on Java
The most Dutch civilian were ordered to went to the south coast
place Tjilitjap were ships were waiting for evacuating. After we had
let sunk our ship we were set in near a bridge to defend Soerabaja with
rifles (don’t laugh please).
• Do you still remember the day when you were captured by the Japanese troops ?
Do you remember where ? What was your first impression about Japanese
soldiers and what kind of feelings have you had coming into captivity ?
As the day of today when we got order to withdraw to a
cloister/church to hand over our wapons. This company had a former
shopowner as commander and he was friendly to his former customers and
so I think he has ordered his soldiers. Terrible!
• You have gone through various POW camps on Java Island before arriving in
Thailand to work on (in)famous ''Burma Railway''. You were also held
for a while in Changi POW camp, Singapore Island. There has been
sometimes debates about the behaviour of Indian camp guards with Allied
POWs. How would you describe them ? Some people even compared them with
Korean camp guards.
They were watching outside the the barbwire of Changi area. They
never shoot in my time someone who creeped under the babwire to sreel
parafin out of the former British forts. The Indian guards were only in
Singapore outside the babwire were I was some months. I think you are
changing the Indians with the Koreans. Beasts witnout any moral.
•Escapes. Have any Allied POWs tried to escape from the POW camps ? What
has happen to them ? Anyone made a sucessfull escape by reaching
British frontlines or Burmanese partisans in Burma ? Have you ever
discussed in the camp about the escapes ? Have you ever thought to
I only know that some POW’s who were escaped after some time by the Kempai Tai were cutted of their head.
• Some ex-POWs often said that Japanese camp commanders were quite clear and
serious when they told them that they will execute all Allied POWs in
case of Japan defeat. Have you also heard such rumours in your camp or
were told this directly by your Japanese camp commander ?
No never. But the treatment was equal.
• Did you have any contact with your family during POW time ? Do you remember
the day and place where you were liberated from the Japanese captivity ?
No. About three weeks after the Atomic bomb fell I was in a small
wood-cutters camp far away in the jugle close to the border between
Siam and Burma. They put us on a open wagon of a train and after two
days traveling. The two escorting Japanese soldiers hand us over to the
Japanese commander of a collective basic camp. I was total loss and
there we heard that the war was over already some weeks. Between two
Dutch naval petty officers I had been brougt to a hut and more I cannot
remenber as I felt asleep I think for hours. I was skin over bone and
• You have stayed in the navy after the war for a while, but soon returned to your civilian life ? Why ?
I was disapointed about the promotion regulation.
• Adriaan, you have also writen a book about your wartime experiences as a sailor
and POW. Could you tell us a few words about your book ?
Much more as I told here above but the longest chapter about the
construction, without any mechanical power of the Burma Railroad to
know 414 km ready in only 8 months yes you read it correct; in only 8
months. Unbelievable but true.