Geschiedenis van de Nederlandse Koopvaardij in de Tweede Wereldoorlog

Title The Fourth Ally: The Dutch forces in Australia in WWII.
Rating Excellent
Author K.W.L. Bezemer
Publisher Elsevier, Amsterdam<
Year first published 1987
Series -
Binding Paperback
Content Volume 1: 747 pages, Volume 2: 699 pages, many black & white photos, index, footnotes, bibliography.

Pros: Very readable, accurate and well-researched.
Cons: Nothing major.

K.W.L. Bezemer is a Dutch maritime author, held in high regard for his works on the exploits of the Royal Netherlands Navy during World War II. First, his book "Zij vochten op de Zeven Zee├źn" was published, followed by the sequal "Verdreven doch niet verslagen". He then went on to write "Geschiedenis van de Nederlandse Koopvaardij in de Tweede Wereldoorlog", which can be translated as "History of the Dutch merchant navy in the Second World War".

To narrate the wartime history of the Dutch merchant navy seemed a logical next step, and his two-volume book can be described to be of the same high quality as his previous works. The volumes cover some 1400 pages of research, based upon the masters' reports, Admiralty records, interviews and many secondary sources. It not only includes shipping losses, but also histories of famous and less famous merchant ships (such as the trooper "Nieuw Amsterdam"), political background information, military campaigns and new techologies.

The chapters are more or less ordered chronically, and volume 1 starts with the pre-war years, the neutrality period, followed by the first two years on the Atlantic. Chapters about the working conditions for the men who served aboard the ships, the wartime control of the fleet, the fight against U-boats in the Carribean and the conquest of the NEI by the Japanese can also be found here. Especially interesting is the chapter about the German surface raiders.

The chapters in volume 2 cover the defeat of the U-boats, the American advance in the Pacific and the wars in the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean. Footnotes for both volumes, describing for each chapter where information was found complete the narrative.

Taking the size in account, there are relatively few errors to be found. The ones that are there can be easily spotted by the more experienced reader. There are however a few downsides I feel I have to mention. First, it is a mistake to think that all ship losses have been described into detail; although 90% of these have indeed found a place in this book, there are a number which, for unknown reasons, have not been included. Second, the frequent omission of important data (total number of crewmen and geographical positions for example) can be annoying for someone who wants to get to the bottom of things.

But don't let these small comments bother you. In all, the author has reached his objective: to give a detailed account of the wartime exploits of the merchant fleet. I can safely say that it's currently the best on this particular subject.

Review by the webmaster, January 13, 2002

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