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Mandatory sailing for Queen and Country

Time period: 1930-1950



Realisation project:

ZIGMA ©; Goert Giltay (cineast); Drs. Tineke de Danschutter (research, interviews)


Timeframe: 1930-1950
Location: Nederland
Number of interviews: 9


Thematic collection: Erfgoed van de Oorlog



Interviews can be seen via:


At the outbreak of the Second World War, countless Dutch merchant vessels were in international waters or in ports of the allied powers. Under the Sailing Duty (June 1940 – February 1946) merchant crews were put at the disposal of the allied forces, thus becoming a kind of frontline soldiers from one day to the next. Until the end of the Sailing Duty, merchant mariners contributed to Allied warfare by shipping troops, weapons, oil and other raw materials under the most dangerous conditions.


The Dutch sailors, who were involved in various military invasions as stokers, sailors or officers, were almost constantly exposed to the threat of German and Japanese torpedoes and bombers. More than 400 Dutch ships were sunk, killing some 3,500 Dutch sailors. In addition, for years they remained uncertain about the fate of their families in occupied Holland.

In order not to lose the special war experiences of the merchant navy veterans, interviews were conducted with nine representatives of this group in 2009. Numerous subjects were discussed: the relationships with NSB-supporting crew members, the fear and powerlessness on board, and the consequences of enemy bombardments. Some veterans regret that after the war, there was hardly any official recognition of the merchant navy’s part in the Allied victory.