Netherland Line MS Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, sold to become the TSMS Lakonia

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With Reuben Goossens

Maritime Historian, Author, Cruise‘n’Ship Reviewer and Maritime Lecturer

Please Note: All ssMaritime and other related maritime/cruise sites are 100% non-commercial and privately owned. Be assured that I am NOT associated with any shipping or cruise companies or any travel/cruise agencies or any other organisations! Although the author has been in the passenger shipping industry since 1960, although is now retired but having completed well over 700 Classic Liners and Cargo-Passengers Ships features I trust these will continue to provide classic ship enthusiasts the information they are seeking, but above all a great deal of pleasure!

“Memories of the JVO

m.s. Johan van Oldenbarnevelt

The William Hamlyn Story


MS Johan van Oldenbarnevelt seen as a British trooper managed & operated by Orient Line

But retaining an all Dutch crew

On 5 November 2009 I received an email from a Vivienne Pearson who had read and typed out an account of Mr William Hamlyn’s wartime voyage on the MS Johan van Oldenbarnevelt from India to England after the World War II had concluded in 1945. William had served with the Royal Signals in India. The following is an (slightly edited) excerpt from the diary of Mr William Hamlyn.

The story begins

October 10, 1945.

As usual the routine is altered and only 50% of the lads know about it, reveille was at 0300 hours, still I just made it and marched to the siding. It was only two miles this time, thus not too bad at that time of the morning as it was cool and fresh after last night’s rainstorm, got into a coach with about 10 in and made ourselves comfortable and generally speaking had quite a decent ride and arrived at Bombay Victoria at 1300 hours, detrained and surprising as it may seem we were given a hot cup of ‘char.’ My kit was certainly heavy – F.S.MQO and a very full kitbag, but after identity checks at the gangway we were directed to our deck F.6 the usual 18 to a table and very overcrowded, a crowd of Nursing Sisters, Officers and their families with loads of kiddies came on board.

The ship by the way is called the MS Johan Van Oldenbarnevelt a Dutch passenger liner built and registered in Amsterdam in 1930 and about the 20,000 tons and looked as though she can keep up a fair speed.

Have been told we can write home and say that we are sailing on Friday and will arrive in Southampton on November 1.

I am now waiting for dinner and everybody is getting restive, as the regular cabin passengers must be fed first.

After dinner I shall write a few letters, well this completes stage three so on to stage four.

October 11, 1945.

Not a bad night and although I slept on a table, it was quite comfortable, was washed & shaved before 0600 hours and I took a walk round the deck. The breakfast was haddock the first I’ve had in years, and then to the Sgts Lounge for the rest of the morning where I played bridge, also played all afternoon and evening.

October 12, 1945.

Today is the big day played bridge again in the morning and we set sail away from the docks at 1217 hours and left Bombay at 1345 out to the open sea, Aden will most likely be our first port of call, it is a marvellous afternoon and the sun is beautifully, warm with a fresh smell of the sea and a strong breeze blowing, the evening was nice and cool and after more bridge chatted out on deck until about 2300 hours. It seems very strange to be able to smoke and see all the lights of the ship turned on.

October 29, 1945.

The storm kept up all night and we were just rolled and rocked and thrown about all over the ocean by the feel of it, and it is a very cold and damp morning, the sea is a little calmer though now we have entered the Channel, although we have run into several rainstorms during the morning, it finally cleared up as we passed Portland Bill, the first sight of England was at 1600 hours.

It is very calm now and we are hardly moving, hope to get off the ship early tomorrow, by 1815 hours we were being piloted up the Solent and on completion of the longest but by no means the worst stage No. 4.

Hope to see the RMS Queen Mary tomorrow morning.

Have not yet heard anything about our disembarkation perhaps later, must have made good time as we cruised slowly into Southampton harbour at1230 hours passing the Queen Mary on the starboard side and we were docked at 2100 hours the Mauritania is across our bows about 500 yards away.

A band was out to greet us and a message from the King & Queen was read out by the senior Army officer aboard, the lord Mayor of Southampton came on board and spoke over the PA system, the weather is very mild and no overcoats are needed.

October 30, 1945.

Very cold this morning, foggy and wet, but it’s a grand change, overcoat weather this morning definitely, still nothing about disembarkation, maybe tomorrow – I hope not. Most of the baggage has been taken off during the night. Have been hanging about the ship all day and my draft does not disembark until 0215 hours on Wednesday rather a bright time since we have been in dock over 24 hours now, more information says we disembark at 0015 hours sounds a little better.

October 31, 1945.

Eventually disembarked at 0140 hours so end of stage 4, we went straight to the Customs Sheds and after about 15 minutes we boarded the special train waiting in the station, no customs at all.

Left Southampton at 0300 hours and arrived at Oxford at 0640 hours straight onto an Army truck and taken to Slade Camp, there I was drafted to Hut 71 to sort out a kit and then to breakfast, told to be ready to leave at 1100 hours for Northampton not York as previously arranged due to York being overcrowded.

After a good wash and shave etc and some documentation we left Slade Camp at 1145 hours and through Oxford again this time to the LMS station and got on to the train at 1210 hours. This will be the first chance to see the English countryside.

Left Oxford at1220 hours arrived Northampton after a good run at 1500 hours straight onto army lorries again and away to the dispersal unit where we put our kitbags into the cloakroom and off to a smashing dinner, into the NAFFI 1, which led to the documentation Office and through the R.T.O on to the Clothing Depot and out of the Army except for leave pending discharge at 1900 hours – just 19 hours and 20 minutes from leaving the Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, so much has happened that the ship seems weeks ago.

Leave Northampton at 2045 hours and have to change at Wellingborough and Kettering arriving at Nottingham at 2355 hours.

This ends stage 5 and so on to the 6th and final stage.

Just made all the connections and arrived at 0145 hours at Nottingham.


Having told his story William wanted to know more about the ship he sailed on and Vivienne Pearson did a search on the Johan van Oldenbarnevelt and came up with the JVO pages on, which gave him all the information he required.

Over the years William has cruised on quite a few other ships/liners, but is now unable to do so considering he is aged 96. However William maintains a keen interest and has a sharp memory of all his journeys!

I am most grateful to both Vivienne, but especially William Hamlyn for providing his story for I am sure that many will enjoy reading it and that it will bring back memories for other returned soldiers and ex-pat’s!

JVO finally returns to her Homeport, Amsterdam, on 13 February 1946

Also read Chapter 2: JVO the Trooper.

Read all about - Laszlo Pal’s voyage to Canada


Or to the - JVO Index



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