New exhibition National Tugboat Museum Maassluis

by Hans | May 10th, 2011

Desastrous Goldtransport by Nico J.Ouwehand

In May 1940 the Second World War began. Among the first victims was part of the crew of a Rotterdam pilotcutter. Stoomloodsvaartuig no 19 was given orders to take a cargo of gold, owned by the Netherlands Bank, from Rotterdam to Hook of Holland. The purpose was to tranship the 937 bars of gold into a British warship that would take the valuable cases in which the gold was packed, to Engeland in order to prevent the Germans to seize the precious metal.

On her way between Vlaardingen and Maassluis the pilotship struck a German mine. 16 crewmembers died in the enormous explosion that followed, among them three English soldiers who were on board. On the 11th May it is exactly 71 years ago that this dreadful event happened.  Three days later the centre of Rotterdam was almost completely destroyed by bombs. In the battle between the Dutch and the Germans, marines played an important role.

The Dutch warships Z5 and TM51 prevented a walk over. Destroyer Van Galen was ordered from Den Helder to Rotterdam in order to help. However, in the New Waterway between then North Sea and Rotterdam she was attacked by German Stuka-planes. Although no bomb hit the ship directly, the near misses caused so much damage that before reaching the battlescene at the Rotterdam Meusebridges, the destroyer fled into the Merwehaven where she slowly sank.

The ship was later on raised and towed to scrapyard. Two brandnew destroyers, almost completed at the Rotterdam Drydock Company, were sunk on purpose by the Dutch Navy and yardpersonnel. They also had to be raised. One of the ships could be used by the Germans some years later. Two Dutch tugs were mined during the first months of the war, however Zwarte Zee managed to take destroyer Isaac Sweers from Flushing to England where she was handed over to the allied forces.

All these events are shown in the new exhibition “Desastrous Goldtransport”, which can be visited from 11th May until 11th September next. The fate of the pilotcutter is the main issue of the exhibition, however, the other events are not of less importance for sure. War is certainly not a computergame that’s one of the goals of the exhibition!

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