This takes place at the war memorial ‘Sailor on the lookout’ at de Kop van Java Island. More and more residents from the Oostelijk Havengebied area attend this commemoration with children and grandchildren.
Until 1970, Java Island was the heart of Dutch colonial shipping. The Stoomvaart Maatschappij Nederland was the largest shipowner on the island. After the outbreak of World War II, all Dutch merchant ships started sailing for the Allies. SMN merchant ships transported troops, weapons, oil and other raw materials under the most dangerous conditions. Many Dutch ships in particular were sunk by German U-Boats. Over 600 personnel, foreign crew members and gunners perished on SMN ships.
– During the commemoration, speeches will be made by former colleagues of the SMN and the Amsterdam East District Council. The Ukrainian national anthem will also be played.
The musical accompaniment will be provided by the Waterlandse Harmonie.
– Then there will be two minutes of silence, after which the national anthem will be played.
– Once the anthem has been played, participants will be given a white rose which can be placed at the monument.
– Afterwards, there is the opportunity to chat in hotel Jakarta. Coffee is provided by the city district.
The commemoration is organised in cooperation with the Preparatory Committee Java Island, Stadsdeel Oost, Politie Amsterdam, Waterlandse Harmonie and Hotel Jakarta.
When commemorating the victims of World War II, many think mainly of the fallen civilians and soldiers, the resistance fighters and the millions of deported and murdered Jews. It is often forgotten that sailors also fought at sea for freedom and final victory, and that many lost their lives doing so. One of the most striking war memorials in Amsterdam commemorates these victims who fell at sea. The memorial can be found at the head of the Javakade. The statue can be found high atop a column, featuring a sailor peering into the distance, dressed in a buttoned-up oilskin coat and wearing a sou’wester. ‘The Sailor on the Lookout’, tilts slightly forward. He looks in vain for ships that do not return. The statue seems to exude determination: through all weathers and winds, he stands his ground. The monument was erected by the Stoomvaart Maatschappij Nederland (SMN), which had its home port in Amsterdam and sailed large passenger ships like the ‘Oranje’ to the Dutch East Indies. The shipping company lost a total of 24 ships in the years 1940-1945. The names of 321 perished Dutch sailors of the SMN are chiselled at the bottom of the memorial’s pedestal. However, the memorial – as recent research has shown – is missing the names of more than 300 others, mostly those from the Dutch East Indies who fell.
On 4th May every year, relatives, former colleagues and other interested parties commemorate the fallen sailors at the memorial, which stands on the spot where the ships departed and moored at the time of the war. It recalls the crucial contribution that Dutch merchant shipping made to the Allied war effort. On the day of the German invasion, 10 May 1940, the vast majority of the Dutch merchant fleet and numerous other ships were at sea or in foreign ports. There was a motley collection of vessels: large passenger ships, cargo ships, tankers, coasters, tugs, in short, anything seaworthy. Although barely armed, the ships were used to transport Allied troops and supplies or to serve as hospital ships. More than 18,000 sailors were forced to stay on board in the interests of the Allied war effort. Nazi Germany was not the only enemy. The ships were also deployed in Indian waters, fighting Japan. In the end, 3,400 sailors lost their lives during the war years. more than 400 out of more than 850 merchant ships were lost.
The monument ‘Seaman on the lookout’ has always been very dear to the SMN staff. The metre-high memorial is like a beacon, looking out over the IJ to the North Sea Canal, and is the first thing that home port sailors see when returning from a distant voyage. When the SMN left for Vlothaven in 1968, the statue moved with it. In 1988, the SMN merged with Royal Nedlloyd. Former employees felt responsible for the memorial and found a new spot for it on the Ruyterkade. But the ten-metre-high monument was never really at home there, as it was specially made for the head of the Javakade. Around the turn of the century, the Eastern Docklands were gradually transformed into a new residential area and the western tip of the peninsula came back into the picture as a potential site. In 2003, the time finally came when the memorial was returned to its historic place. Since then, ‘The Sailor on the Lookout’ has continued to keep watch for the ships that will never return.