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Note -- The story of this page was written by Marinus (Mac) Traas and he has given me permission to use it on my website. Mr. Traas was part of the 1e bat. 1 Reg. Stoottroepen and came over on the same ship as my daddy and I feel that while it is Mr. Traas that is telling me the story it is my daddy's story as well and belongs on this site like all the stories from the other wonderful veterans who have helped me. Thank you Mr. Traas.

THE ALCANTARA

Every time this name is mentioned, a derisive laugh sounds through the battalion. This is the name of the rust bucket that transported us in 1945 from Liverpool to Malacca, now Malaysia.

This was the troopship, run by the British, also known as the hunger ship, and in some circles as floating Dachau. The "Attention please! Attention please!" sounded incessantly through the hulk, telling us of some regulations or another.

Three thousand independent-minded young Dutchmen, from 1 and 3 R.S., 13 and 11 R.I. will wander over many oceans for forty days before they are finally allowed to find a piece of land where they may step on terra firma.

We are now a part of the South East Asia Command, the British responsibility in the Far East, and as such, subject to British authority. No government has yet been able to adjust to the unexpected sudden capitulation of Japan. Exhausted Britain is really not able to take on that responsibility with any kind of a cohesive plan, and we are orphans planted in a foster family.

The troops react to the British type of discipline for the lower ranks, not in unwillingness, but in silent derision with which they had treated the krauts such a short time ago.

The Brits also will finally declare defeat and confess at the last day they had us aboard to being glad to be rid of us.

The unending nitpicking that the Brits called discipline was very wearisome.

We slept in hammocks that we had to hang up every night in the dining room over the top of the dining room tables. They were great to sleep in, since they would sway with the motion of the ship, but they had to be taken down every morning and stowed in the Royal Navy prescribed manner in the morning. Beware that everything be stowed in the precise manner.

The extremely poor food situation came to a head one day when we were fed fish that literally stank. I am not fond of seafood anyway, and luckily did not partake of this feast. This feast resulted in food poisoning for thousands of men. The result of this brought out the shortage of washroom facilities. The sanitation on board became terrible as sick men tried to rid themselves of the poison in inadequate facilities. Healthy men were given fire hoses and brooms and buckets to clean as much as possible.

The positive result of this fiasco was that from then on our own officers controlled the food situation.

Another intolerable situation was the censuring of our mail. I still have letters that have been cut to ribbons to delete something that the recipient was not suppose to know. This stopped as soon as we became independent Dutch troops again.

Port Said became a major milestone in our trip. The heavy battle dress was exchanged for tropical uniforms and shorts. Theory and diverse training was now done on deck to the accommodating long swells of tropical seas. We used the kapok lifejackets that we had to have with us at all times for soft pillows, to be used for a seat anyplace on deck. We even got some ginger ale in the afternoon. Hurray for the Brits, we are starting to live the life of Reilly.

Everything is new and exciting. Sailing through the Suez Canal, we see camel caravans plodding along the side of the Canal. Another strange sight we see as we pass, a group of workmen along the Canal suddenly, as on command, they all lift their caftans and start waving their dicks at us. The next day we are informed that this is the highest form of insult that can be bestowed on a hated opponent. They had surmised that we were British. Come to think of it, maybe I cannot blame them.

We come to Aden, where the little peddler boats do business by hoisting baskets on a rope to exchange the money and merchandise. The insurance for honest dealing is some of our boys standing by with a fire hose. The Arab merchants are very conscious of the fact that we can swamp their little boats in minutes.

On to Trincomalee, where apparently nobody knows where we are to go, but after three days we are again on our way, direction Batavia, now Jakarta, past Singapore.

November 8, 1945 we are at the meridian. Then back to Swettenham, waiting. Again southward to Port Dickson.

We are loaded in Landing Craft Tanks and dropped on Charley Beach on the East Coast of Malacca, south of Port Dickson. An army banned to a lost land?

Charley Beach is a beautiful beach with abandoned rich men's homes fronting the bay.

As we look back after jumping out of the L.C.T. onto Charley Beach, we see the Alcantara weighing anchor and heading back.

It makes the saying "Parting is such sweet sorrow" a mockery.
© Marinus (Mac) Traas

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