Letters sent to William ~ the Webmaster of this Site

    Received May 2004

Dear William John

I'm excited to hear from you and don't know where to begin! Yes, I live in the Netherlands (Nederlands) and I was a ten year old passenger on the Johan van Oldenbarnevelt on route to Melbourne in April 1958 at the time of the Skaubryn tragedy. What I then heard and saw made a lifetime impression on me.

The first I heard of the Skaubryn was at sea on the JVO in the straits of Gibraltar. My parents knew about the fire and eventual sinking of the Skaubryn in the Indian ocean earlier (while still in the Netherlands) but told us children nothing in case it would frighten us. On board the JVO it became common knowledge and captain de Groot let it be known that we were to pick up survivors at Aden and transport these unfortunates to the first Australian Port (Fremantle) where the Australian Red Cross would be waiting.

I also have a few pictures (not many) let me know if you have further interest.

PS, Postma is a typical FRISIAN name from Friesland (Fryslan) The Friesian language is related to the old Gallic of Scotland. My father always claimed he could understand this language.

Ken Postma.


Rec 29-5-04 ~~ plus 2 pics

Dear William,

To answer your question of that fateful time in March 1958
I was a passenger (then ten years old) on the Johan van Oldenbarnevelt travelling with my parents from the port of Amsterdam to Melbourne. The ships passengers at Amsterdam only occupied a quater of the ships capacity, 500 people instead of the possible 1500 and it was even a question if it would sail to Australia at al at the time. It did ...and capacity problems to the good of the ship changed of course after Aden where it picked up survivors from the Skaubryn.

For a ten year old impressionable child it was a BIG adventure travelling to these then very distant places. Seeing these people come onboard the JVO at for me a dirty exotic place like Aden. Since my parent's spoke fluent German and had plenty of time on hand they spoke extensively with what I as a child thought were al German migrants.

It was at Aden, ( I also have a great recollection of detail) that I saw some of these people come on board literally in pyjamas ...and asked my father why this was so. I was told that these unfortunates, beside their life, owned nothing except the clothes they wore at the time of the sinking. It was then that I recall my father saying, "if you would offer these Germans passage back to where they came from the majority would take it". Now they would start their new life as immigrant ( its core truth always a life remaining tragedy) far away in Australia, with absolute nothing but the clothes on their backs.

Soon we knew the whole story of the sinking of the Skaubryn. My parents made friends with a young German couple and tried to help where possible. This couple's aim in life was to start a new in Melbourne, he as a photographer. I heard these people (through father) tell of especially expensive camera equipment bought in Germany for this purpose that was now forever lost laying at the bottom of the ocean. These were sad and scared people at the time. Only just married, they told about a uninsured Skaubryn, the many practice calls to the sloop decks as if a pre monition by the captain of what was to come. A crew consisting of twenty different nationalities that could not converse with each other ...but that ultimately had to save the ships complement.

World war two and all it's Nazi horrors still fresh in my parent's mind I could not help but overhear, " the cards are truly turned for these Germans". Ironically as I was to learn latter this nationality, the Germans, that tried to bomb Malta unsuccessfully into submission and now if only for a minute in history had to face each other in their common goal.

In 2004 I have a son aged ten and just as lively and inquisitive as I was at that same aged. Now I have to answer his many questions and of course he is learning that the future is not for us to see. I have time to think back of things past and of "Australia the best country in the world".

So in 2002 after being absent for 34 years I took my family to see this great continent. Two months of travelling extensively in four States in this new world to discover it anew.

The two pictures are :
1. Good bye Netherlands- saying good bye to relatives on the Amsterdam docks in 1958 and about to board the Johan van Oldenbarneveld on route to Australia.
I'm the ten year old on the left.

2. 2003 near Uluru after being absent for 34 years and trying to rediscover Australia.."the greatest country in the world".

Can I humbly ask you William to send a reply. I would like to know a little of your history. Of Melbourne.. your parent's life in Australia and your's and how you became a Australian.

Ken Postma.


26-2-04 rec 26-2-04

Hi William,

Thank you for returning my email. I had a quick chat with my grandmother over the phone yesterday and she seems a little reluctant to talk too much about the Skaubryn since the death of my grandfather, which is quite understandable as it was a time of extreme hardship which they endured together. My mother (Nazzarenu and Georgina's Daughter) and my three aunties were aboard also, however they were quite young at the time and dont remember a great deal about what happened.

I will be seeing her in person on this coming Monday and hope to talk more to her, maybe she will open up a little when we are face to face. I do know that they lost everything they owned except for one small suitcase, the contents of which I am unsure of.

Anyway, as I said, I will chat to her more on Monday and see if there is anything at all I can tell you if she would like to talk.

Thanks again for returning my email, I share your interest of the Skaubryn disaster as I could only imagine what it would have been like for my dear mother and her family to go through something like that as she was only 10 years old when she came to Australia. I will be in touch with you next week sometime.

Sincere Regards,

IAN (NSW Australia)


Date 30th Nov. 2005

The messages shown below are from correspondence that was carried out during July 2005 in ROOTSWEB.COM
This can be viewed if you visit the Site ** HERE **


On 21/07/2005, Denyse Bonnney wrote:

Could anyone tell me the arrival dates of all the voyages the MS Skaubryn made to Australia, please? (They were all between 1950-1958)

Denyse Bonney in Townsville, Qld

Date: Thu, 21 Jul 2005 12:58:14 +1000
From: Lois Carrington
Subject: Re: [AUS-IMM-SHIPS] Skaubryn arrival dates, please

Denise, Skaubryn departed Bremerhaven 23.5.1951, on her maiden voyage, discharging her migrants 25 June at Mebourne. She returned empty to Bremerhafen, and most future voyages terminated at Sydney.
Most of her voyages were to bring migrants to Australia. On the voyage beginning 14.3.1958, a fire broke out while she was crossing the Indian Ocean. Passengers were transferred to other vessels - despite strong efforts, she sank on 6 April. see Peter Plowman:

Emigrant ships to luxury liners, pp.146-147 for two photos of Skaubryn and more details of her "career". There are passing rferences to Skaubryn in my own book on adult migrant education. I do not hold arrival data, but you could obtain it from National Archives of Australia, in Canberra, who hold the passenger lists.


Date: Thu, 21 Jul 2005
From: "Leanne Baulch"
Subject: Re Skaubryn

Hi Denyse,

I don't know whether my list got through to the Immigration site but I have some dates of arrivals of Skaubryn for you

April 2 -- 1951 > Melb. Vic.
May 23 -- 1951 > Fremantle WA
July 2 -- 1951 > Fremantle WA
Nov 12 -- 1951 >Melb. Vic.
Feb 18 -- 1952 > Fremantle WA
Nov 25 -- 1953 > Melb. Vic.
? 1954 > Aust.
Feb 17 -- 1954 > Melb. Vic.
May 13 -- 1954 > Melb. Vic.
July 3 -- 1955 > Melb. Vic.
May 4 -- 1957 > Melb. Vic.
Jan 21 -- 1958 > Melb. Vic.

These are the only dates I have. I hope they help.

Kind regards.
Leanne Baulch ~ Canberra

Date sent: Friday, July 22, 2005
Judy of BC Canada
----- Original Message -----
From: "Denyse Bonnney"
Subject: [AUS-IMM-SHIPS] Thanks Re Skaubryn

Date: Sat, 23 Jul 2005
From: "Denyse Bonnney"
Subject: Thanks Re Skaubryn

Thank you Lois & Leeanne,
I'm the editor of our local German Australian Club magazine & in the next issue I'm doing a story on the voyages aboard the Skaubryn by several of our members.

I wondered how many voyages she made between 1951-1958 & the arrival dates because each of these people came on different voyages.

Denyse Bonney in Townsville, Qld.

Date: Sat, 23 Jul 2005
From: Lois Carrington
Subject: Re: [AUS-IMM-SHIPS] Thanks Re Skaubryn

Hello, Denyse - cannot supply you with any other info aside from what I have already suggested. If you have not got access to the book, tell me and I'll photocopy and send those two pages to you (address please). Are you associated with James Cook University? Somewhere there is Lisl Mathew, a lady of mature years who like me taught English on board ships and in camps etc etc.

Lisl might be a great help to you! She was still teaching German last Christmas...
possibly Extension Classes - I don't really know.

Best wishes – Lois

Date: Sat, 23 Jul 2005
From: "haldrup"
Subject: Re: [AUS-IMM-SHIPS] Thanks Re Skaubryn

Thought I had to give my two-bits worth on the Skaubryn. I travelled to England on this ship in early 1957, boarding at Sydney in April or May. We had to travel via the Cape as the Suez Canal was closed at that time due to troubles between Egypt and England. Disappointment No. 1. Horribly seasick. We lost engine power crossing the Indian Ocean more than once.

Entering Table Bay we were grounded on a sandbank and lost 12 hours shore stay. The one highlight of the trip was our overnight stay in the Canary Islands. We were supposed to dock at London but due a strike had to disembark at Bournemouth or Plymouth. A memorable trip in more ways than one. I was not surprised when I heard that she had caught fire and sunk in the Indian Ocean soon after. One saving factor - the food and service was excellent.

Regards. “haldrup”

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