I served as radio officer on two Dutch ships during the Second World War. The first of these, the New Holland was a large Dutch liner, previously registered in Indonesia but during the war was partly manned by Dutchmen and served the allies as a troopship. The second was a petrol tanker Magdala, owned by Anglo-Saxon Petroleum and employed in carrying high octane aviation spirit on the North Atlantic convoys between New Jersey and Glasgow. I had by now been promoted to second sparks. Both ships had a small handful of British sailors to make up the crew.
Most of the Dutchmen’s families were in German occupied Holland. One of the crew had a wind-up portable HMV record player and it was in great demand. Their great generosity introduced me to classical music. Friendships were formed, and I became aware that they lived mostly for the day when we would have victory in Europe and they would return home. From the conversations I became closely aware of their intense feeling about their family lives and their desperate longing for an early victory in Europe.
Subsequently finding myself hospitalised after a particularly arduous convoy fringing the arctic I discovered on my discharge that the Magdala had sailed without me. It was some time after VE Day that I discovered that the ship had been sunk with all hands.