Carla Gerardu-Low

Passing on a little family history to the next generation

My Opa’s Experience as a POW – Part 1 — May 3, 2019

My Opa’s Experience as a POW – Part 1

It was after I read the book Unbroken, by Laura Hillebrand, that I started to wonder about my grandfather’s experience in a “concentration camp” during World War II. I knew that he was in a camp, but it was something he never talked about with anyone.

Then shortly after I published my last post, A Pivotal Moment for a Young Soldier, Comité ereschuld Onderscheidingen contacted me to inquire if my grandfather, Johannes H.T. Gerardu (aka Hubert), was a POW. This simple inquiry pushed my genealogical research forward twenty years and made me curious as to what had really happened to him during his time away from his family.

This is the story of my grandfather’s time as a POW based on information I was able to glean from his Stamboek (military record), internment card (see below), some extensive research done by Henk Beekhuis about the POW camps in Indonesia, and other sources. It is most definitely a watered-down version of the reality of his experience.

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A Pivotal Moment for a Young Soldier — July 3, 2018

A Pivotal Moment for a Young Soldier

My Opa – Johannes Hubertus Theodorus Gerardu

Continuing the story from my previous post – A Very Long Trip – Rotterdam to Tanjung Priok

When someone decides to make a momentous change in location, one must ponder the pros and cons of such a decision. In this case, the pros were the adventure, advancement opportunities, and financial gain, whereas the con was moving away from everything he knew. It is hard to prove what Hubert considered an adventure, but I do have his military record documenting his compensation history, which may give us a peek into this aspect of his life.

J.H. Gerardu ~1921
Johannes Hubertus Theodorus Gerardu in 1921 prior to his departure from the Netherlands to the Dutch Indies

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A Very Long Trip – Rotterdam to Tanjung Priok — May 17, 2018

A Very Long Trip – Rotterdam to Tanjung Priok

My Opa – Johannes Hubertus Theodorus Gerardu

Continuing the story from my previous post – 1921: The Decision to Join KNIL

This young Dutchman began a new chapter in his life on March 6, 1921, when he boarded the S.S. Wilis, destination Batavia, Dutch East Indies.

However, before I go there, in an effort to imagine what life was like when he left the Netherlands, I found this video that gives a peek into city life in Groningen. While this is not where Hubert lived, it gives you an idea of what he was leaving behind.

Stamboek Entry: 3/6/1921 Geembarkeered te Rotterdam a.b.as. “Wilis”

Fifty-five days. At sea. In 3rd class or steerage. Now that’s a long trip!

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1921: The Decision to Join KNIL — April 16, 2018

1921: The Decision to Join KNIL

My Opa – Johannes Hubertus Theodorus Gerardu

He did it. Even though his father did not want him to. He did it anyway. “What right does he have to have a say in my life?”, he thinks.” He hasn’t acted as a father since I was seven.” That was when his mother died. She was forty-three. As solace, his father turned to the bottle. It must have been too much to bear. How does a man support and raise seven children on his own? Yes, the bottle helped avoid this reality. This wasn’t the way it was supposed to be. Hubert essentially lost his mother, Maria Catharina van Engelshoven (21 Jan 1865, Maastricht, NL) and his father, Servatius Gerardu (29 Jan 1865, Maastricht, NL) that year. It was 1908.

Shortly after the death of his mother, Johannes Hubertus Theodorus Gerardu, better known as Hubert and his two brothers moved in with Servatius’s youngest brother Jos (Hubertus Johannes Josephus Gerardu, 25 Aug 1877). Jos and Elizabeth (Elizabeth van Eijsden, 18 Mar 1878) had five children of their own, so now there were eight. Imagine how loud and crazy it must have been! [Update: Only Hubert went to live with his uncle Jos; one of his younger brothers went to live with another uncle and one to an aunt.]

~1909 Class Photo
~1909 Class Photo in Maastricht, NL

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