The Job and the Tools

Title The Job and the Tools.
Rating Good
Author Hubert V. Quispel
Publisher Wyt, Rotterdam (for the Netherlands United Shipbuilding Bureau)
Year first published 1960
Series -
Binding Paperback
Content 184 pages, 21 black & white photos, 1 map, 12 line drawings of ships.

This book is one of only two books in English concerning the Royal Netherlands Navy (RNeN) during World War II that I am aware of. The other, H.T. Lenton's Royal Netherlands Navy (New York: Doubleday, 1968) describes the design and construction of the various ships of the RNeN and gives their fates but offers minimal information about their operational history.

Author H.V. Quispel is a graduate of the naval academy at Willemsoord and retired as a lieutenant in 1935. He later served in the naval reserve as a lieutenant commander from 1941-1945, heading the Netherlands Indies Government Information Service at Melbourne, Australia. The Job and the Tools was published by a consortium of Dutch shipbuilding companies to commemorate the ships produced shortly before the war by the members of the consortium.

The book is organized into thirteen short chapters. Chapters 1 and 2 concern Dutch naval planning between the world wars, and the escape to Britain or destruction of ships under construction in May 1940. Each of chapters 3-10 concerns a specific ship built from 1938-1940 including the light cruisers Tromp and Jacob van Heemskerck, destroyer Isaac Sweers, submarines O-19, O-21, O-23, O-24, gunboat/gunnery training ship Van Kinsbergen, and minelayers Jan Van Brakel and Willem van der Zaan. Chapter 11 describes the organization of the Dutch shipbuilding industry and its pre-war attempts to win foreign contracts. This chapter includes a line drawing for the Dutch-built submarines Orzel and Sep of the Polish Navy. Chapter 12 concerns the ships built 1945-1960 for the RNeN, including the Dolfijn class submarines. A very short chapter 13 highlights the role of Dutch shipbuilding in the affairs of the Netherlands.

Each chapter about a ship includes a description of the design (displacement, hull measurements, machinery, speed, armament, etc.) and a general operational history. By general operation history I mean which theater the ship was stationed in, the most important missions assigned to the ship, and noteworthy actions. Details normally found in traditional naval histories such as units the ship was assigned to, names of commanding officers, and ports visited are minimal. Each chapter has one or more black and white photographs and a detailed line drawing of the ship. The chapters on Jacob van Heemskerck (completed in Britain to a different design than Tromp) and Willem van der Zaan lack the line drawing.

The book is easy reading because the information is presented in a story-like form. The photos are clear and give a good sense of the ship's design. The line drawings are superb, both in the large scale and the inclusion of plans for each deck of the surface ships. These drawings are much better than any drawings I have seen in reference books like wartime editions of Jane's Fighting Ships.

The book has several drawbacks. First, when the book was written in 1960, much information about the RNeN was likely to be still classified. This would necessitate a more general account of the navy's operations so a great amount of information about these ships is lacking. Second, additional maps would have aided the reader in understanding where the ships were deployed and/or lost. Third, the book does not provide citations for facts or arguments and does not include a bibliography of sources.

The Job and the Tools is a good introduction to the RNeN during World War II for those who cannot read the Dutch language. Given the general nature of the account and the focus on just those few ships built in the last few years before the German invasion of the Netherlands, the story of the RNeN as presented here is incomplete. What is needed is an English translation of Ph.M. Bosscher's three volume series De Koninklijke Marine in de Tweede Wereldoorlog (Franeker: T. Wever, 1984-1990), each volume of which has an English summary at the end.

Reviewed January 2002 by

Mark C. Jones
St. Luke's School
New Canaan, Connecticut

Back Home