Saba’s World War II Victims Commemorated

Acting Island Governor Amelia Nicholson gives a short speech during the solemn ceremony to commemorate the World War II victims at the monument in The Bottom. Photo: Government of Saba

Eleven Saba seafarers died on sunken oil tankers

The Bottom, Saba -On Saturday, May 4 the victims of World War II were remembered at the war monument at The Bunk in The Bottom. On the monument are the names of 129 persons of the Netherlands Antilles, including 11 Sabans, who perished during the 1940-1945 war.

Acting Island Governor Amelia Nicholson, Island Secretary Tim Muller, Member of the Island Council Hemmie van Xanten and Mark Dodds of the Saba Comprehensive School (SCS) laid wreaths in the presence of Police Chief Gert Geerdink, police officers, a member of the Royal Dutch Marechaussee, and a few residents who came to pay their respect to the war victims.

Before the laying of the wreaths and the one-minute silence, Nicholson gave a short speech in which she mentioned bravery, heroism and freedom. “Bravery is the capacity to perform properly even when we are scared half to death. True heroism is remarkably sober, undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost,” she stated.

Being a hero, Nicholson remarked, takes courage and determination to conquer difficulties. A hero believes that there still exists a right and wrong, and that decency will somehow triumph in the end. “On this Memorial Day, let us spare a moment to think about our heroes who died fighting for our freedom and the peace that we all enjoy today.”

The victims of WWII were commemorated at the war monuments throughout the Dutch Caribbean. The 129 victims whose names are engraved on the identical plaques, which were installed in 1957 on all six islands, include merchant navy personnel, persecuted people, civil and resistance victims, and military. The majority of the Antillean victims were seafarers who worked on oil tankers. The oil refineries in Aruba and Curaçao supplied fuel for the allied forces.

Greatest loss

The greatest loss for Saba took place on February 16, 1942 when eight Sabans working on three transport tankers, the Padernales, Oranjestad and Tia Juana, perished after their ships were torpedoed and sunk by German submarines. Sailor James Stewart Cornet (born Saba on August 29, 1904) died when the British oil tanker Padernales was sunk just outside the San Nicholas harbor. Four other Antillean crew members on the same ship perished.

Apprentice fireman Anthony Dudley Granger (born Saba on March 21, 1905), steward Eric Norbert Linzey (born Saba on April 7, 1923), sailor Darcey Kenneth Lynch (born Saba on December 25, 1909), stoker Clifford Achilles Wilson (born Saba August 5, 1910) worked on the British oil tanker Oranjestad when it was torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine in Aruba waters. A total of 11 Antilleans died on Oranjestad, four of them from Saba.

The third tanker that was hit by a German U-boat that same dark day in February 1942 was the Tia Juana in the Gulf of Venezuela. Three Sabans worked on the British oil tanker: quartermaster John William Dunlock (born Saba on February 3, 1905), stoker John Wilson (born Saba on July 14, 1913) and stoker Walter Allen Winfield (born Saba on August 10, 1912). All three died.

Tankers collide

On September 18, 1944, three more Sabans lost their lives when the British oil tanker that they worked on, the Punta Gorda, collided near Cabo San Roman with the much larger Belgian tanker Ampetco II which didn’t have its lights on due to the war.

Sailor James Andrew Maxwell (born Saba on January 6, 1913), quartermaster Antonio Duran Woods (born Saba on December 13, 1916) and quartermaster Henry Swinton Woods (born Saba on January 17, 1912) perished in the fierce fire that resulted from the collision between the two tankers on that September 18, 1944. Henry Swinton Woods had survived the attack and sinking of the tanker San Nicolas in Aruba on February 16, 1942.

More Saba victims

There are more victims from Saba who died during WWII who are not on the plaque of the war memorial monument, but who are mentioned on a later completed list of Antillean war victims. Reginald Gordon (born Saba on November 28, 1919) was a second cook on the large British tanker La Carriere which was torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine on February 25, 1942 near Puerto Rico.

Carl Aloysius Simmons (born Saba on February 1, 1910) was a steward on the Norwegian oil tanker Ferncastle when it was hit by German torpedoes off Western-Australia in June 1943. Simmons, together with some other crew members, managed to escape on a life boat, but he died a few weeks later in July of lack of food and water.

Theophilus Wilson (born Saba on November 3, 1910) was a sailor on the British oil tanker Hermes when he died in Haifa, Israel in December 1941. He is buried in Israel. He is the only Saban seafarer who was buried. All the others have a sea grave.

Then there was also female apprentice nurse Thelma Esther Polak. The daughter of a Surinam Jewish doctor who worked on the island, she was born on Saba on December 19, 1920. Thelma Esther Polak died in concentration camp Sobibor in March 1943.

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