NNPC was founded in 1937 by a group of captain-owners from the north of the Netherlands who said: “We are going to set up our own insurance club.” They couldn’t possibly have known back then that within a matter of years their coastal ships were either going to be abandoned or confiscated by the Germans en masse during the Second World War. Thanks to the award-winning database of Stichting Koopvaardijpersoneel 40-45 you can now find out more about these confiscated ships.
Engelandvaarders – Nickname for Dutch men and women who fled to England by sea after the Germans occupied the Netherlands to continue the battle against the invaders.
Dutch history around the Second World War runs parallel to that of NNPC. When war broke out, Dutch coastal shipping numbered 506 ships, of which at least 357 belonged to the province of Groningen (where the P&I club was founded). We wrote about this in a glossy we published in 2012 for our 75th anniversary: “Some of these coastal ships helped evacuate the Allies from Dunkirk and subsequently remained in England. Some of these ships helped the British Navy during the war years. In June 1944, for example, Dutch coasters were used in the Normandy landings, where they served well due to their shallow draught. In all, around forty Dutch coasters took part in the various Allied operations.”
However, some of the coastal ships were stuck in our country after the occupation. These vessels were confiscated and either used to ship cargo in the Baltic Sea or used by the German navy. After the war, the NNPC managed to recover the ships that were stolen at the time.
Awarded at the Maritime Awards Gala
A familiar history, in other words. Yet it turns out that new details continue to emerge. The Stichting Koopvaardijpersoneel 40-45, founded back in 1966, which aims to raise awareness of the role of Dutch merchant shipping during the Second World War, recently launched a database. And not just any old database as the Koopvaardijpersoneel 1945-1945 Database won the Maritime Achievement Award 2023 at the last Maritime Awards Gala. In the words of the jury it is an “initiative which in the past year has greatly raised public awareness of maritime history”.
Our ships from the Second World War
As the main sponsor of the gala NNPC is keen to focus on this topic especially as it is directly related to our own history. Indeed, as the name suggests, this is a database of ships, personnel and incidents that took place within Dutch merchant shipping during the Second World War. For each ship, name or incident, you can look up what took place and who was involved, insofar as this is known, of course. This information is constantly being updated whenever new facts and details emerge.
We, of course, immediately looked up some ships from our history. The motor freighter Wilhelmina, for example, which left the Netherlands and was subsequently used to transport cargo around the British Isles. The sources do not contain any further information on it apart from a mysterious ‘incident’ in 1941. We are dying to find out more! Or take the Cornelia B, which managed to escape to England in the May of 1940. From there it was sent on a mission to France where it fell into the hands of the German occupiers. For the rest of the war, it would serve as a training ship in Kiel.
Taking a look at the merchant shipping of yesteryear
In the coming period we will be delving deeper into these archives and will publish several articles on the stories of ‘our’ fleet of yesteryear. What heroic deeds were performed, which vessels were unfortunate enough to go down. If you can’t wait to see and experience what happened to our merchant ships during those war years take a look at the award-winning Koopvaardijpersoneel 1940-1945 Database.
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