Johanus "John" Schryvers

Merchant Marine

    I, Johanus Schryvers, was on the Motor Vessel "Poelav Bras" as a member of the Dutch Merchant Marines. In May of 1940 when the Germans occupied Holland, I was was on my ship in New York. This ship was built in Scotland in 1928 for the Netherland Steamship Company (Royal Dutch Mail). A Freighter, she also had passenger accommodations for 120. It was powered by Schulzer Diesel Engines. After Holland was occupied, the Poelav Bras ran from the West coast of the United States to Hawaii then the Philipines, British Malaya and the Persion Gulf. The main cargo was Rubber for use in making tires for the military as well as palm oil tea and pepper.

     Ours was the last ship leaving the Dutch East Indies with the military men and family members enroute to Australia. On March the 7th, 1942 our ship the "Poelav Bras" was sunk by ten Japanese Navy O's in the Indian Ocean off Sumatra Indonesia. The ship had a total of 22 lifeboats. The Japanese dive bombers strafed the lifeboats. These were the same Japanese 0 dive bombers that sunk the Poelav Bras. We were in open life boats for ten days. Of the 2800 people on ship, only 114 reached land in Sumatra. One of the members of my life raft was William H McDougall,Jr. a United Press War correspondent who was the author of "Six Bells Off Java - A narrative of One Man's Miracle" published by Charles Scribner's Sons, New York in 1948. This book talks of much of the time spent after we were sunk and some of the days spent in the Concentration Camp. After 6 weeks in the bush, we fell in the hands of the Japanese and were transported to various Concentration camps and used for slave labour. I was situated at "Palembang" (1st Camp) with members of the US Battleship HMS Houston sunk on the 1st of March and the Australian Battleship HMS Perth and the Dutch Battleship HMS Java and a number of British Fregatts. All of these ships were sunk in the battle of the Java Sea. During the three and a half years that I spent in-prisonment I was in a total of 11 different camps, finally ending up in British Malaya and the last camp was Changi-Jail in Sinapore were we were liberated on the 19th of August 1945 by the Australian and RAF and United States Paratroopers. My weight at this time was 69 lbs. I returned to England in November 1945 and finally to my home Country of Holland on Dec 1st 1945. I was later married on November 16th, 1949 and moved to Vancouver British Columbia, Canada on March the 8th,1952.

     Though the years have past, the memories still stay very clear as though it was yesterday.

     In closing, I welcome any inquiries or contact with fellow members.

     Lest we Forget!!!!!

     Johannus (John) Schryvers at


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