The Saba Islander

by Will Johnson

WINDS OF WAR

Winds of War

By Will Johnson

In former times the Island Administrators were obliged to keep a Journal of the important events taking place on their islands.

A pity that some of them were lazy in this regard and did not bother to mention anything in the Journals. Some of them went over to keeping the Journal in Dutch, others in English.

I have found just parts of a few of these journals. For this article I want to show events leading up to the Second World War and the number of warships cruising in this then unimportant part of the world.

Some of the schooners mentioned here may have had English registry or United States registry but they were owned by Sabans and traded throughout the West Indies. To the article I will attach some photo’s to make it more interesting to the reader.

Starting with May 22nd 1936 we will present some of that which is written in the parts of the Journals of which I have copies.

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Florence M. Douglas going down river in Guyana

22 May 1936; ‘Florence M. Douglas’ English three Master schooner left with 10 passengers to Barbados.

30 May 1936; ‘Shipped out 11 (eleven) bulls to Curacao with the S.S. ‘Baralt’.

20 June 1936; English schooner ‘Marion Belle Wolfe’ arrived from St. Maarten with 1

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Marion Belle Wolfe here with a house in tow after a tidal wave in Canada

passenger. Left on June 22nd for St. Thomas with no passengers.

November 12th 1936. Dutch schooner ‘Esther Anita’ from St. Maarten with 4 passengers.

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‘Ester Anita’ here docked up in Manhattan close to the Brooklyn bridge. This was when we had regular schooner trade with New York.

Left November 13th with 2 passengers for Barbados via St. Eustatius.

1937.

January 9th, Kenneth Bolles returns to Saba.

March 23rd 1937: Vice Lt. Governor went for a walk to Mary’s Point and became lost. He and his party were found at 11pm and arrived back in The Bottom at 3am after a search party of locals located them. He records in his diary that approximately around 8.30 pm he saw five Man-of-Wars in a line passing by in a West-South-West direction.  (Kaiser Sorton informed me that the British fleet used to pass the island regularly on their way to Jamaica).

7 May 1937. English schooner ‘Nanette’ left for Bird Island with 4 passengers and returned on the 18th. (They used to go there to fish and to catch turtles, birds etc.) The ‘Nanette’ left

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Aves or Bird Island which at one time was claimed by Holland as Sabans  used to fish there. My grandfather James Horton Simmons and a group of men would row a boat to Statia. From there they would take a course and after twelve hours of rowing they would turn back and try to make it to Statia. In 1865 or so Venezuela won a case against Holland claiming they had inherited Bird Island from Spain and they won!

on the 20th to St. Eustatius without passengers. They had completed their fishing trip.

June 10th, 1937. Arrived from Curacao H.M. Submarine 014 and left in the night for St. Martin.

August 20th, 1937.  Plus/Minus 160 mm or 6.5 inches of rain fell during the night.

November 27th. 1937. Vice Lt. Governor A.H.M. van Weel passed over to the sub Act. Lt. Governor G.P. Jansen’

December 20th, 1937 ELECTIONS.

A.R.W.G. Brouwer received 12 votes and Cl.R. Plantz 3 votes.

This election was for the colonial council. Brouwer was the son of Governor A.J.C. Brouwer and was born on Saba, but Plantz who was born on St. Thomas of a German father and a mother from St. Eustatius won on the other two islands. He was also the preferred candidate of the Roman Catholic Church at the time.

January 7th, 1938. Arriving from Barbados the U.S. registered schooner ‘Marion Belle Wolfe’ with 10 passengers and departed for Anguilla with 1 passenger.

March 5th, 1938 H.M. ship Jan van Brakel arrived with the Governor General on Board.

November 16th, 1938 A.H.M. van Weel first to St. Maarten and then transferred to Curacao. G.P. Jansen took over the office of Vice Lt. Governor.

December 24, 1938 English registered yacht ‘Roavia’ with members of the ‘Lord Moyne Commission’ and some guests on board, among which Mrs. Winston Churchill. They were received by Vice Lt. Governor G.P. Jansen. Because of the short time available they were only able to visit The Bottom.

December 30th, 1938. Arrived from Antigua the Belgian trading ship ‘Mercator’ and later in the day continued on to ‘La Guairá’.

January 18th, 1939 Mr. Xavier H.C.M. Krugers took over as Onder Gezaghebber.

JANUARY 26TH, 1939; Report of two Man-of-Wars, probably torpedo chasers as far as could be observed, with numbers D15 and D 17 and without flag sailing in the direction of St. Eustatius. Probably 2 units of the American fleet, which are now holding manoeuvers in this area.

February 26th, 1939. Sunday. ‘A report from Hell’s Gate that a plane had crashed in the sea about 8 miles away and had burnt as they saw plenty smoke. A similar incident took place during the period when I functioned here before and it turned out to be a plane of the British Marine. ‘No further particulars concerning the plane have been heard also nothing on the radio because it was probably a Marine plane.

April 19th; what seemed a Man-of-War signaling from the Spring Bay was not confirmed.

April 20th, 1939. An English Man-of-War sighted off St. Eustatius going in the direction of St. Kitts.

September 23rd, 1939. Around 12 o’clock close to the coast estimated between 2 and 300 meters from the Ladder Bay to the Fort Bay an American light cruiser marked in the 2nd smokestack “E”. With several planes on board and headed in the direction of St. Eustatius.

November 21 1939, a strange cruiser passed here about 5 miles from the coast and 2 planes circled several times over the island, could not determine the nationality.

December 6th, 1939; The vice Lt. Governor Xavier Krugers today passed over temporarily the Administration of this island to Dr. D.R. de La Fuente and left at 3pm with the S.S.

MV "Batalt" 1930's

THe S.S. Baralt at Fort Bay.

Baralt to St. Eustatius.

December 12th, 1939. At some distance from St. Eustatius saw a Man-of-War which did not seem to be moving ahead and probably was lying at anchor. In the Windward Side it is reported that around 7.45 am a large Man-of-War passed very close to Saba and headed in the direction of St. Eustatius.

December 13th 1939. Around 6.30 pm a steamship passed close to the Fort Bay headed west. Supposedly a Man-of-War. With search lights signals were given from which could be decoded was “Good night Saba.”

December 18th, 1939 at around 2pm a tanker and a Man-of-War passed along the Fort Bay in a Westerly direction, the latter was flying a British flag according to reports. From Hell’s Gate it was reported that a French Man-of-War had passed the island.

January 11th, 1940 in the morning a French airplane with the identification NEC5666 across The Bottom. Sometime later it was reported from Windward Side that around 2.5 miles from the coast a Man-of-War unknown nationality had intercepted a tanker whereby hoses had been connected to the warship from the tanker and after some time they both went their way.

January 31st 1940. Mr. Halmberg arrived here. He is the representative of the KLM. His intention was to check on a location for the eventual building of an airport. He checked out

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No room for an airport but the first helicopter did land at St. John’s.

property on St. John’s.

Additional notations;

Average rainfall on Saba 1200 mm per year.

Rainfall recorded for the year 1939 was 955 mm.

May 31st, 1949; there are almost daily flights of two French planes over Saba these past weeks.

June 28th, 1940. Although the collection from The Bottom for Dutch victims of war is not known yet the collection from the entire island is nearly fls. 1.250.—this is very special for such a small impoverished island.

Journal ends July 10th, 1940.

A great pity that these journals were not maintained on a regular basis. That is the very least which the then Vice Lt. Governors could have done. However in going through the minutes of the meetings of the Council of Policy much more can be found covering that period when there was general concern about events in Europe. Especially after the occupation of The Netherlands by the German Army Saba was cast adrift. St. Kitts and Barbados were part of the British Empire and were fighting the Germans. Curacao, and Aruba were first occupied by the British army to defend the oil refineries and then the United States took over. For trading purposes Saba could at least depend on St. Thomas but the Second World War was a period of want. A good thing that our people could farm in the mountain area and elsewhere and could depend on their livestock and fishing on the Saba

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During the war flour was a scarce commodity. Here are some donkeys with Gold Medal Flour for Miss Helena Peterson-Every’s bakery in Windward Side.

Bank and on the rocks and in the cliffs around the island.

Interesting from these tidbits gleaned from the Governor’s Journals is that Mrs. Winston Churchill and the Moyne Commission visited Saba. Also that the KLM representative Mr. Halmberg had inspected St. John’s for the possibility of building an airport there. St. John’s??? A good thing that Mr. Remy de Haenen saw the possibility of Flat Point or else we would still be taking the boat to the surrounding islands.

Now that there is so much instability in the world anything can happen so it is good to know how things were in the years leading up to the second World War.

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