M.S. Bloemfontein (2) 1934 to 1959 & M.S. Jagersfontein (2) 1934 to 1942

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Please Note: All ssMaritime and other related maritime sites are 100% non-commercial and privately owned, thus ssmaritime is NOT associated with any shipping company or any other organisation! Although the author has worked and been involved in the passenger shipping industry for well over 60 years, but due to his old age and poor health, he was forced to retire. Yet, he has completed well over 1,435 Classic Liners, Passenger-Cargo Liners as well as humble converted C3 converted Migrant Liners, which has transported countless thousands of folk to the new world, as well on vacations’. I trust the features online will continue to provide Classic Liner and Ship enthusiasts both the information they are seeking, but more so provide a great deal of pleasure and relive many happy memories!


The painting above shows the M.S. Bloemfontein after her WW2 refit


Please Note: Postcards, photographs & other images are either from the author’s private collection or from my supporters.

Thus a very special thank you to five very special ssmaritime supporters for sending me their wonderful

Photographs & images for I could not have completed this feature to this point.


I am sorry but some of the images shown may not be of the highest quality, but they are the best that are available.


The “V.N.S.” Logo

Also known as: “Holland Afrika Lijn” or “Holland Africa Line”


Brief Introduction to a Great Dutch Shipping Company:

For interest, the company was originally formed in 1919 as the “Nederlandsche Zuid-Africaansche Scheepvaart Maatschappij” - (NZASM). However in 1932 NZASM’s interests were completely taken over by the “Vereenigde Nederlandsche Scheepvaartmaatschappij” - VNS (“United Netherlands Steamship Company”), which was officially founded in April 1920 as a unique partnership of eight of the major Dutch Shipping Companies. The VNS grew into a major shipping company with many large freight and passenger cargo ships in operation. This made it one of the largest European shipping companies.

However, the original (NZASM) then VNS traded under the popular name of “Holland Afrika Lijn” and their ships were given a new livery of black hulls with a red boot topping and a distinctive dark orange band on their black funnels.

In 1929 the 6,280 GRT (Gross Registered Ton) S.S. Nieuwkerk was built, with a traditional bow, however in 1934 she was considerably rebuilt with the following changes, 1, for her to become a passenger ship with accommodations for 80 First Class passengers, and 2, the former cargo ship was lengthened by about 20 m, and 3, she was fitted with a Maierform-bow (named after its inventor Mr. F. F. Maier, 1844-1926), and 4, she had become a motor ship having had her engines replaced to cut costs. When completed she was renamed the “Boschfontein” and she was reregistered as being 7,139 GRT. Both versions of this ship can be seen below.  She joined the new ships on the VNS African passenger services.

The 1929 completed S.S. Nieuwkerk (New Church) seen as built


And here she is again as the rebuilt M.S. Boschfontein with a Maierform bow

The Maierform-bow became the very latest vogue at the time, especially on Scandinavian ships as well as a number of VNS ‘fontein’ ships, for it certainly improved and reduced a ship’s movement through the water.

Two New Larger Sister Ships:

The company adopted a go-ahead policy despite the depression VSN ordered two new larger Passenger-Cargo motor Liners of over 10,000 GRT to be completed by 1934. They would be named “Bloemfontein” (2) and the “Jagersfontein” (2).

The Bloemfontein had the novel distinction of being the first Dutch ship to be launched by radio signal by Mrs. J. B. M. Hertzog the wife of the Prime Minister of South Africa, from her home City of Pretoria. And yes, the same was done for the “Jagersfontein”, but she was launched by General Hertzog himself from Pretoria.

Both these new ships would accommodate 81 First Class and 32 Third Class passengers on their respective services to and from Africa. And of course they would feature the distinctive Maierform-bows, which all of the company’s new ships would feature for a period of time. But let us now get into their construction details, and their histories, etc.

The “Bloemfontein” (2) is featured in Part One, and the “Jagersfontein” (2) in Part Two as their stories are very different.


Part One

M.S. Bloemfontein (2):

Here is a fine aerial photograph of the M.S. “Bloemfontein” at sea seen after her post war refit

With plans laid and both ships having been ordered to be built by the “Nederlandsche Scheepsbouw Mij, NV” (“Netherlands Shipbuilding Company”), Amsterdam, the Bloemfontein” was laid down in yard No 288 on August 26, 1933, and work on her went forward on a very good pace.

Her hull was well on the way early in 1934

It would be just ten months later that she was well and truly ready to be launched, and unlike the usual launching, this was far from the norm, as this was like nothing like anything else before it, for there was nothing normal about this launching as we will soon discover!

A promotional poster featuring “THE NEW BLOEMFONTEIN” - but in Dutch of course!

Just for interest, the Dutch word ‘Bloem’ means flower & ‘fontein’ is fountain, and it does seem to be a rather strange name for a ship. However, it happens to be the name of one of the three beautiful Capital Cities in South Africa, thus she had a very good reason for using this excellent name!

Bloemfontein’s” Remarkable Launching:

In mid May 1934 “Nederlandsche Scheepsbouw Mij NV” had been advised the date that she would be able to be launched and that was on June 16, 1934, thus they sent out a beautifully printed invitation booklet to a large number of VIP’s, including of course many official’s including Government and City officials and the Media, etc, to this unique and very special launching ceremony. In addition a good number of those VIP’s would also be invited to join her when she would undertake her deep Sea Trials later in October.

Cover of the Invitation booklet

The day had arrived, and it was going to be a huge day. Not just in the Netherlands. But also in South Africa, as we are about to discover!

She was named in Holland, but the Bloemfontein had the novel distinction of being launched by radio signal by Mrs. J. B. M. Hertzog the wife of the Prime Minister of South Africa General Hertzog from her home city of Pretoria, although the General would also be present. He himself would launch the Jagersfontein on July 21, 1934

As we were not given the precise details of how this worked, however I do have the information of how it worked for her sister ship the “Jagersfontein” just under a month later, and she was launched by the General Herzog himself. Thus all the details will be found in Part Two when I will cover the “Jagersfontein”.

As can be seen, there was a huge crowd at the launching of the “Bloemfontein” in Amsterdam



Above & below: Mrs. Hertzog and her husband General Hertzog and a special family member are

seen arriving at the chosen location in Pretoria, South Africa, and there is also a large crowd




The link had been pressed in South Africa and it has gone via several locations in

England to Holland and the Bloemfontein slides down the slipway into the river IJ



Above & below: As the Bloemfontein slowly slid into the water and soon tugs took her

in tow and she headed to the ship-yard’s Fit-out berth, where she would be completed.


During her fit-out she still had to go into dry-dock as her propellers were to yet to be fitted, which was done on July 19.

A view taken on July 19, 1934 of her twin three bladed screws and her sister’s very unusual rudder’s

Before her being launched they just had to secure the rudders, for as she hits the water in reverse they could be damaged

Her Sea Trials:

She was completed on October 18, 1934, and two days later on the 20th she headed out on her Sea Trials, with a host of VIP guests on board.

M.S. Bloemfontein is seen heading down the ‘Noordzeekanaal’ (North Sea Canal) out to sea and undertake her Sea Trials


This photograph was taken from the Crows Nest looking aft, taken during her Sea Trials whilst on the North Sea


A lifeboat was swung out being one of the trials undertaken during her Sea Trial

Her trial was successful having attained a maximum speed of 17.3 knots, and when her Sea Trials was officially over she was then officially handed over by the builder to her owner as well as a handshake with the Captain, taking Command of the Ship officially and the Builders flag was lowered and the VSN – Orange, White & Blue House Flag was officially raised.

The VNS funnel and official House Flag



Above & below: We see the builder’s flag come down on the right and the VNS flag go up the mast

Then with the shake of the hands with the CEO and the Captain the handover is officially sealed


Thereafter it is time to have a drink and have some of those tasty snacks prepared in the Galley and celebrate the occasion as the ship heads for Amsterdam arriving later that afternoon.

The “Bloemfontein” arrives at her berth in Amsterdam

Maiden Voyage:

In Amsterdam she would be made ready for her maiden voyage in seven days. She would be fully crewed, stocked up, and of course her passenger quarters had to be completely prepared and be made ready as it had to be perfect in every detail, in addition cargoes had to be loaded and closer to departure fresh food needed to be stored, especially those items that required to be placed in refrigerated or in cool rooms etc.

Then came the big day all was ready and all her passengers had boarded and were standing along the railings with family and friends ashore, with the band playing, it is always an emotional moment as the ship is about to sail as many on board are leaving for a new home and may not be returning, whilst others are going to visit relatives, or are on a vacation. The “Bloemfontein” departed later in the afternoon on October 27, 1934; she headed for South Africa and Mozambique.

M.S. Bloemfontein is seen departing Amsterdam on her maiden voyage bound for South Africa

The building behind her is the Central Railway Station, and the traffic is rolling off one of the Ferries crossing the River IJ


Here we see the M.S. Boschfontein operating on the African service along with the two sisters

The Ship’s Schedule:

Amsterdam, Antwerp - Belgium, Dover, *Cape Town, *Mossel Bay, *Port Elizabeth, *East London, *Durban - *South Africa, ^Lourenço Marques (Maputo), ^Beira - ^Mozambique Returning from; Beira, Durban, East London, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town, Southampton Antwerp, Amsterdam.

The “Bloemfontein” is seen at anchor having made a rare visit to an Irish port

Her Services Over the Next Years:

She continued her voyages successfully, except during her return voyage from Africa, when arriving early on thick foggy morning at Antwerp on March 6, 1936, she collided with an English steamship on the River Scheldt. The “Bloemfontein” suffered some light damage, but at midnight she did continue to Amsterdam.

She is seen here in 1938 and soon her days would change completely

Her passengers enjoyed their time on her, as she and her sister became very popular ships, as the service and the cuisine on board proved to be simply excellent.

The “Bloemfontein” is seen with her neutral livery, as the Netherlands was officially a Neutral Country

But that did not matter to a madman like the worst murderer the world has ever known - Hitler”!

Thus even though she would join the “Java Pacific Line” for a short time, that would end all too soon as sadly she would soon become a ship of war.


Interiors of both the Bloemfontein and the Jagersfontein:

Internally both ships were almost identical, except for slight differences when it came to paintings and images on board, but all public venues and accommodations were identical.

I will commence with several items of “Holland Africa Lines” promotional material.

An image from one of their early brochures

Topside forward there is the most important location of the ship being the Bridge, for it is the location that keeps the ship heading in the right direction, here also is the Chart room as well as the Radio room, whilst the Captain quarters and the First and second officers rooms will be very close by!

Here we see the Captain keeping an eye on what is ahead, whilst his helmsman will be keeping the ship on course

First Class:

Although I will not be mentioning decks in this feature as I have been unable to locate a Deck Plan, but I do know from the aerial ship photographs that aft on what would be Boat Deck there was a separate a reasonably spacious Sports deck with all the facilities required for whatever sport the guests desire to play. This area could be covered or be open pending the weather.

One deck down there was a Lounge and on the starboard side just aft there was the Bar, whilst on portside was a combined Writing and Reading Room, whilst aft on was the beautifully timbered Smoking Room. Outside there was an excellent wide U shape Promenade Deck.

Please note: Some of the coloured photographs below are from the “Bloemfontein” and they were taken after the World War Two and her refit. Sadly, the “Jagersfontein” did not survive the war as we will discover in Part Two.

A small corner of the Main Lounge


A Mural found in the Main Stairwell


Here we see the ships Bar (post war)


A de-luxe twin outside Cabin No 1 (post war) with a bath & WC on A Deck forward on the starboard side


The elegant Smoke Room aft

Cabins in First Class were extremely well appointed, having comfortable bedding with the finest mattresses, each cabin had a sofa, a coffee table and a dressing table and a comfortable chair, as well as ample wardrobes. In addition all Cabins were outside and had a window or a porthole.

A twin bedded cabin and although sinks were located in the cabins

the majority of cabins did have a private bathroom with a WC


This was a standard twin cabin without private facilities, but there were excellent spotless public facilities


A light and bright Dining Room


This where all the delicious food comes from, the ships Galley


The Barber shop

Third Class:

I am sorry I have not been able to locate anything much in regard to Third Class, but their Public venues and accommodations were located in the aft section of the ship and there was a pleasant Lounge with its own Promenade as well as on a deck lower was their Dining Room and their cabins located on two decks, again all had portholes and all these accommodations had typically Dutch spotlessly clean public bathrooms and facilities close by!


World War Two:

Shortly after the outbreak of the World War Two in September 1939, “Holland Africa Line” decided to withdraw their passenger ships from the treacherous Western European waters and to deploy them on the Java-Pacific line. But late in 1941 something happened and she somehow joined an America major Convoy named “Pensacola”, which would take her as far as Australia. Below is the official story in full.

The Pensacola Convoy:

The name of this convoy was a colloquialism for an American military shipping convoy that took place in late 1941 as the Pacific War commenced. The name was derived from that of its primary escort ship, the heavy cruiser U.S.S. Pensacola (CA-24). She was officially designated as “Task Group 15.5” and Army sources may use the term ‘Republic convoy’ for the senior convoy vessel.

The U.S.S. Pensacola (CA-24)

The convoy, dispatched in peacetime, and it was intended to reinforce the US Army Forces - Far East (USAFFE), created to defend the U.S. Commonwealth of the Philippines and it was commanded by General Douglas MacArthur, with artillery, aircraft, munitions and fuel, as the threat of war with Japan loomed. Then after the war broke out, and Japanese forces attacked the Philippines, the convoy was diverted to Brisbane, Australia.

U.S.S. Pensacola's convoy included the following ships; the gunboat U.S.S. Niagara; the U.S. Navy transports vessels U.S.S. Republic and U.S.S. Chaumont; and U.S. Army troopships U.S.A.T. Willard A. Holbrook and U.S.A.T. Meigs as well as American merchant ships “Admiral Halstead” and the “Coast Farmer” and a remarkable Dutch merchant ship the M.S. “Bloemfontein”.

The convoy was carrying a provisional brigade from the U.S. Field Artillery Corps, made up of 2,000 National Guard troops:

The 2nd Battalion, 131st Field Artillery Regiment (Texas National Guard), and the1st and 2nd Battalions, 147th Field Artillery Regiment (South Dakota National Guard), 1st Battalion and the 148th Field Artillery Regiment (Idaho National Guard).

In addition some 2,600 U.S. Army Air Forces personnel were also on board, along with aircraft shipped fully disassembled in crates: such as fifty-two Douglas A-24 dive bombers of the 27th Bombardment Group (Light) sent on the Meigs, on the Bloemfonteinwere eighteen crated Curtiss P-40 fighter planes of the 35th Pursuit Group (Interceptor).

Here is one of the Curtiss P-40 fighter planes carried by the “Bloemfontein

Whilst forty eight pursuit pilots of the 35th PG travelled on the Republic and thirty-nine newly graduated but unassigned pilots were aboard the Holbrook.

Material transported included: 20.75 mm field artillery pieces, AA ammunition, 2,000 500-lb bombs, 3,000 30-lb bombs, 340 motor vehicles, 9,000 barrels of aviation fuel, 500,000 rounds of .50 calibre ammunition and 9,600 rounds of 37 mm anti-aircraft shells.

At 0800 hours on December 23, 1941, S.S. Coast Farmer stood in and was moored. At 0923 hours on December 23, 1941, U.S.S. Pensacola left Newstead Wharf and she was moored port side to Hamilton Wharf. At 0925 hours the M.S. Bloemfontein was moored at Hamilton. At 1020 hours U.S.A.T Willard A. Holbrook stood in and moored. At 1157 hours U.S.S. Pensacola hoisted in the two search aircraft. At 1250 hours U.S.S. Republic (AP 33) stood in and moored at Hamilton Wharf at 1331 hours and began disembarking the troops aboard at 1450 hours and soon began unloading cargo as well. This was not completed until Christmas Day.

M.S. Bloemfontein at Hamilton Wharf Brisbane on December 24, 1941, note the gun placement on her stern

With thanks to www.awm.gov.au

The “Bloemfontein” was reloaded in Australia and she together with the rest of the transport had been part of the Pensacola Convoy and had left Brisbane December 30, 1941 with Army reinforcements composed of the 26th Field Artillery Brigade and Headquarters Battery, the 1st Battalion, 131st Field Artillery and supplies from that convoy destined for Java. The “Bloemfontein” arrived Surabaya, Java, with personnel, field artillery, equipment and cargo on January 5, 1942.

A stern view of the “Bloemfontein” in Java early in January 1942, but soon her look would completely change

As she had been such a useful ship in so Many ways, the “Bloemfontein” was chartered by the WSA the (U.S. “War Shipping Administration”) early in 1942 and she was rapidly converted into a troopship at a shipyard in San Francisco. Then when completed on April 13 of that year, she commenced in her new capacity as a trooper.

Now looking at a very different ship, “Bloemfontein” the Troopship is seen in May 1942


A good view of her sun placements these were two 105 mm stern guns

I was unable to locate any details of any of the other armaments on board

The “Bloemfontein” operated throughout the war in the Pacific and during the many voyages, she sailed a total of 340,000 nautical miles. The “Bloemfontein” was under the Command of the excellent Captain M.J.H.G. Corten and his all Dutch crew carried more than 54,000 soldiers.

Her gun placements are clearly seen on this photograph

On December 11, 1945, the “Bloemfontein” departed Norfolk for the Dutch East Indies with Dutch Marines who had been trained in the United States.

Bloemfontein” is seen loading Dutch Marines heading to today’s Indonesia

Her Post War Duties:

After having arrived in Rotterdam from the above voyage, the “Bloemfontein” was officially returned to the Dutch Government on April 10, 1946, and the American charter was officially terminated.

She is seen here at Amsterdam, with her black hull returned, but still looking like a troopship after the war

Later in 1947, the “Bloemfontein” was placed in the ship-yard of the “Nederlandsche Dok & Scheepsbouw Maatschappij” (“Netherlands Dock & Shipbuilding Company”) in Amsterdam, where she was going to be refitted and returned back into a fine Passenger-Cargo Liner. Her Bridge and Promenade Deck were extended and her passenger accommodations were also greatly improved. When she was completed her tonnage was now registered as being, 10,473 GRT tons.

The refitted M.S. Bloemfontein is seen in Amsterdam ready to resume her civil career

M.S. Bloemfontein returned to her original services, which commenced on September 13, 1947, but she would be now departing Amsterdam and would be sailing via Hamburg, etc;

New Schedule: Amsterdam, Hamburg, Antwerp, Amsterdam, Southampton, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London, Durban, Lourenço Marques, Beira.

Return voyages: Beira, Durban, East London, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town, Southampton, Antwerp, Amsterdam.

The fully laden with cargo Post War “Bloemfontein” is seen departing Cape Town

She continued these voyages without any problems, except for the changes in the cargo industry, for huge changes was taking place within the industry and better and newer ships were required for both cargo and passengers for that matter.

She is still a fine looking ship even towards the very end of her career

Finally in February 1959, the “Bloemfontein” was sold to Hong Kong Company and on August 8, she arrived in Hong Kong and she was handed over to “Patt, Manfield & Co.” being a ship breaker and dismantling of the Bloemfontein commenced in September 1959. 


Part Two

M.S. Jagersfontein:

The “Jagersfontein” was laid down at the same shipyard just a little under two months later than her sister on October 17, 1933 in yard 229, and her construction was equally as fast.

The laying of the keel on October 17, 1933


Her hull is well on the way by April 30, 1934


And by late May her three deck superstructure up and finished, except for her bridge beck, and aft sections

Her Remarkable Launching:

This event took place on July 21, 1934, and there was a massive crowd of people at hand to witness this event as well as the countless numbers of company and other officials, etc.

Here we see the stern of the ship as the last of the workers leave the vessel

And of course here we see her twin unusual rudders, which are in a locked position for the launch

The naming of the “Jagersfontein” was going to be performed by Mrs E. W. Dijkstra-Viruly, who was wife of one of the VNS Directors at the shipyard in Amsterdam.

Here we see Mrs. Dijkstra-Viruly officially naming the “Bloemfontein

After the naming, the actual launching was done in the same manner as her sister a little earlier, and this time it would be done by the means of a recording made by the Prime Minister of South Africa, General J. B. M. Hertzog KC in Pretoria.

Thus the entire ceremony was being held at two locations, the naming in the Netherlands and the actual launching in South Africa.

According to “Schip en Werf” (Ship and Wharf) a magazine published in 1934 about shipbuilding, etc, they gave a full description of how it all came together and it is certainly very fascinating; and the following is a translation of it;

“This was something very unusual: for a gramophone record had been produced, which produced just one sustained tone. This was connected, by means of an electric pick-up, to the same telephone line by which General Hertzog’s speech was transmitted from Pretoria to a radio station in Cape Town. The gramophone record was then ‘switched on’ by pressing a button. The special tone heard through the loudspeakers on the wharf was transmitted along the telephone line to Cape Town, broadcast by the radio transmitter in the air, and received at Dorchester, on the south coast of England. The tone was carried over London to the wharf along a telephone line and there it was made suitable by means of an amplifier to operate a so-called “relay.” An electric switch was actuated by this relay, which energized a set of magnets; one of the magnets pulled away a catch, which until that moment held up a silver hammer hanging over an axe. As the hammer fell, the axe cut a cord through which the bottle of champagne with which the christening was performed was smashed against the hull of the ship. A second magnet actuated the mechanism, which removed the last impediments to the ship sliding into the water, and down the slipway she went”.

Now that is how to launch a ship from the other side of the globe


Once in the River she was taken in tow and taken to the shipyards Fit-out berth to be completed

At the builders wharf the Jagersfontein was rapidly finished, with her funnel and masts fitted, and all her exteriors completed. Her engines made ready and she entered dry-dock to have her propellers fitted. And by December 16, 1934, she was completed and looking very good indeed. Invitations had long been sent out to VSN company directors and other VIP’s and media to join the ship on her Sea Trials in two days time.

December 18, filled with many guests she departed and headed down the ‘Noordzeekanaal’ and out to the North Sea and undertake her Sea Trials, which was of course very successful.

 The “Jagersfontein” is seen on her Sea Trials

Her trials were of very successful and she attained a maximum speed of 17.3 knots, just like her sister, and when her Sea Trials was officially completed, she was then officially handed over by the builders to VSN with drinks of course. Thereafter, the builder’s flag was lowered and the VSN - Orange, White & Blue House Flag was officially raised, and it was completed with a handshake with the Captain the taking Command of the Ship officially completed.


Above & below: Events all part of the festivities of the official handover of the ship from the yard to her owners


Her Maiden Voyage and Schedules:

Later in the afternoon she arrived in Amsterdam and as with all ships, she was made ready, crewed up, fully stocked, and accommodations made up to perfection for her passengers on her big day when she will depart on her maiden voyage.

M.S. Jagersfontein heads for Amsterdam via the ‘Noordzeekanaal’ after her trials

The day finally arrived when her excited passengers had all boarded, and their guests had a good look around the lounges, and their cabins, etc, and had a drink in the lounge, but then came the final announcement: “This is the final call, all visitors please go ashore now the ship is about to depart!” One the gangways were lifted, she departed late in the afternoon of December 24, 1934 and headed for South Africa and Mozambique.

She is seen at Cape Town

Her schedule; Amsterdam, Antwerp, Dover, Cape Town, Mossel Bay, Port Elizabeth, East London, Durban, Lourenço Marques, Beira. Returning as follows; Beira, Durban, East London, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town, Southampton Antwerp, Amsterdam.

A good stern view of the “Jagersfontein”

As we all know after just four short years of her at sea, things started to get out of hand in Europe as the Second World War was about to break out.

The M.S. Jagersfontein is seen here in 1939 and is seen with her Dutch neutrality signage

World War Two and Her services:

The Netherlands had to act, even though it was a neutral country in 1939 and the merchant navy could not escape this either. The US Authorities requisitioned the M.S. Jagersfontein, and armed the ship with a 105 mm gun as well as anti-aircraft guns; they placed 18 gunners on board and deployed the ship on the line San Francisco - Java service.

On July 10, 1941, the Jagersfontein departed San Francisco bound for Burma sailing via Pearl Harbor and Singapore. On board were 123 *A.V.G. passengers who carried passports that listing them as being missionaries, farmers, salesmen, students, acrobats–anything but what they were, well trained men who were embarking on one of the most unusual military missions in American history. Though Major General Claire Lee Chennault had told them all “this mission is considered secret,” he had further noted, “it won’t be secret for long.” And it certainly was not!

*But the A.V.G. Passengers – who were they?: They were the First “American Volunteer Group” (A.V.G.) of the Republic of China Air Force, nicknamed the ‘Flying Tigers’, who were formed to help to oppose the Japanese invasion of China. They operated during 1941 and 1942; it was composed of pilots from 1, the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC), 2, Navy (USN), and 3, Marine Corps (USMC), and was commanded by Claire Lee Chennault, who won the following Distinguished Medals; ‘Distinguished Service Medal’ (DSM), ‘Navy Distinguished Service Medal’, ‘Legion of Merit’ (LOM), 2 x ‘Distinguished Flying Cross’ (DFC)

Even as she passed beneath the Golden Gate Bridge ‘Radio Tokyo’ announced that the “Jagersfontein” would be sunk before she would ever reached the Far East. The pseudo-secrecy and manipulation of the status of these American citizens were actually little more than a routine of political expediency. Since Japan had never declared war on China, despite waging years of combat against the Chinese people, the arrival of these American civilians did not violate any sense of neutrality in the ongoing conflict.

In spite of ‘Radio Tokyo’s’ threat, M.S. Jagersfontein reached Rangoon very safely, where the volunteers boarded an very old train for a long seven-hour journey of 160 miles to central Burma

M.S. Jagersfontein continued to fulfil her duties in what could be called operating in very calm waters indeed! Well that was until December 1941 when she really entered the war-zone hard to say the very least, and I do mean she was now in the very heart of it!

Then There Was Hell in Paradise:

It was Sunday, December 7, 1941, and Captain Walter Bahr a pilot from Honolulu, could not believe his eyes of those clouds of anti-aircraft fire over Pearl Harbor just some miles behind him, he had boarded his pilot boat just after 0800 hours. One of the guards on the pier said to him “The navy must be practicing again”.

Out at sea he boarded the “Jagersfontein” at 0900 hours, which was under the command of Captain Brouwer, and she had just arrived from the west coast of the US laden with beer. However, as soon as they arrived Honolulu bombs started to fall all around the ship and sprays of water spew up high along the “Jagersfontein”. Pilot Bahr recounted that the Dutch crew immediately opened fire with their 105 millimetre gun mounted on her stern as well their gunners got busy on the anti-aircraft guns and pounded these Japanese planes. Therefore, the Netherlands became the very first allied nation to get involved in this Battle.

Captain Brouwer who was without a doubt a brilliant and a shrewd man somehow managed to get his ship safely to the appointed dock and all passengers were taken off as quickly as possible. With all those bombs falling so close to her it was amazing that she survived and was not destroyed and was sunk. Afterwards, if they had not done enough, all the crew as well as all the ships passengers donated desperately needed blood for the many wounded Americans, the captain had gone to see the passengers and requested if they would be so kind and assist as there was a great need, and everyone single one did! When American officers later complimented him on all of his actions, he simply said, “Well, that’s my job”.

An envelope postmarked on board the “Jagersfontein” on January 27, 1940

Thus although she operated for military and passenger purposes, she remained a civilian ship

On December 20 the M.S. Jagersfontein left Honolulu to continue her duties. The consul for the Netherlands, Mr. C. A. Mackintosh made an extensive report to the Dutch Government of the heroism of the Captain and his remarkable crew. His three page Report is located on Page Two, the Link is at the bottom of the page at the VNS Index.

Amazingly, on February 27, 1942, the “Jagersfontein” escaped another disaster for she could have been sunk again. Whilst a battle in the Java Sea was in full swing the “Jagersfontein” managed to escape the Japanese, whilst she was in a convoy of 23 ships. But sadly, 12 of these ships were lost and 11 of them, including the “Jagersfontein”, arrived at their destinations in one piece. This was her second time, but could she possibly be three time lucky? Sadly I have to tell you that the answerer is NO - but there is some good new though!

The Jagersfontein’s Tragic Final Curtain:

On Thursday June 18, 1942 the “Jagersfontein” under the Command of Captain M. A. van der Est departed Galveston U.S.A. and she was bound for Liverpool U.K. Onboard was a complement of 220 persons, and she was carrying  a general cargo of 9,000 tons, which included lead, copper, resins, cotton and timber.

Eight days later on Friday June 26, 1942 at 0930 hours the unescorted “Jagersfontein” did not know she was being stalked by a German Boat the U-107, and suddenly she was suddenly struck by one of two torpedoes, which had been fired when she was around 500 miles east of Bermuda.

The first torpedo struck her on the portside between holds 4 and 5 and destroyed the bulkhead. The explosion was weakened somewhat by the cotton in the hold, although distress signals were sent immediately and the master attempted to reach Bermuda. But the U-boat’s Captain, ‘Harald Gelhaus’ was not going to have that for he wanted a complete KILL, and thus he chased the “Jagersfontein” on the surface, but he was forced to submerge again as the crew of the “Jagersfontein” opened fire on this piece of Nazi filth as they were ready for him with their 105 millimetre guns.

But sadly, soon her rudder jammed as the ship commenced to sink slowly by the stern and then her engines broke down at 1215 hours. Thus the Captain decided that the ship had to be abandoned by the 98 passengers, 108 Dutch crew members, 14 gunners and (86 U.S. Army officers and 12 civilians, among them women and children) in four lifeboats.

Passengers and all the crew have abandoned the “Jagersfontein” as she is so badly damaged that she will sink


As we can see she is now so low in the water that her hold deck is level with the ocean

Then those evil Krauts in their Nazi U-boat decided at 14.59 hours, decided to fire a coup de grace, hitting the “Jagersfontein” underneath the bridge, which caused her to sink by the stern within minutes.

The beautiful Jagersfontein is going down by the stern at 32°02N/54°53W

Those on the lifeboats saw the U-boat surfacing before it disappeared on a westerly course. One of the lifeboats had a transmitter, which led the 4,260 GRT Swiss S.S. St. Cergue to them the next day, Saturday June 27.

The 4,260 GRT - S.S. St. Cergue

Later on the same day, U.S.S. Bernadou (DD 153) with Lt. Cdr. Robert. Edgar. Braddy, Jr., USN in Command arrived on the scene and they took on board the 86 American officers and the 13 gunners off the Swiss ship and departed and landed them at Bermuda on June 28.

The S.S. St. Cergue proceeded with the remaining survivors to Gibraltar where they arrived on July 7. But thankfully no one was lost in this incident, which I am sure would have disappointed Captain, ‘Harald Gelhaus’ and all those evil murderous Nazis!

In Conclusion:

Although the wonderful “Jagersfontein” (2) had just a relatively short life of almost 6½ years at sea before she was so tragically destroyed by that U-Boat, but there are countless of her passengers who so fondly remember her as a wonderful, friendly and a fine ship, that provided them with a wonderful happy voyage to South Africa or back to Europe, whilst visiting so many interesting ports of call, as well as the excellent service and the amazing cuisine they received during their voyage. She remained greatly loved and I over the years received many emails from family members and even from those who actually sailed on her who had nothing but praise of the “Jagersfontein”, as well as the “Bloemfontein” of course!

She and her sister served her country well!



Specifications & Details of These two fine Ships:


1:                               Is the Bloemfontein.

2:                               Is the Jagersfontein.

No number means:        It applies to both ships.

Owner:                        Holland Africa Line (VNS) The Hague.

Built by:                       Nederlandsche Scheepsbouw Mij NV, Amsterdam.

Laid Down:                   1. August 26, 1933.

.                                 2. October 17, 1933.

Yard No:                      1. 228.

.                                 2. 229.

Registered at:               The Hague.

ID:                              1. 1007.

.                                 2. 3122.

Call Sign:                     1. PDDV.

.                                 2. PEYW.

Type:                          Passenger-Cargo Ship.

Hull:                            Steel.

Launched:                    1. June 16, 1934.

.                                 2. July 21, 1934.

Completed:                  1. October 18, 1934.

.                                 2. December 16, 1934.

Sea Trial:                     1. October 20, 1934.

.                                 2. December 18, 1934.

Maiden Voyage:            1. October 27, 1934.

.                                 2. December 24, 1935.

Tonnage:                     1. 10,075 GRT,

1938:                          1. 10,081 GRT.

1947:                          1. 10,473 GRT.      

Tonnage:                     2. 10,077 GRT, 6,164 NET, 10,515 DWT.

1938:                          2. 10,083 GRT.

Length:                        487.20 ft - 148.5 m.

Breadth:                      63.25 ft - 19.28 m.

Draught:                      30.83 ft - 9.4 m.

Engines:                      2-stroke single-acting Stork Diesel’s.

.                                 12 cylinders 8300 BHP.

Additional Info:             Two 6-cylAEG Hesselman Diesels.

Propellers:                    2.

Speed:                         16 Knots service speed, 17.3 Knots Maximum.

Accommodations:         81 First Class and 32 Third Class.

Crew:                          157.

Fate:                           1. The “Bloemfontein” was sold in 1959 to a Hong Kong Company, and on August 8, she arrived in Hong Kong and she was handed over to “Patt, Manfield & Co.” being a ship breaker and dismantling of the “Bloemfontein” commenced in September 1959.

.                                 2. On June 26, 1942 the “Jagersfontein” was torpedoed by a U-Boat, U-107 which saw her sink by the stern, all on board took to the lifeboats and were rescued by a Swiss vessel and an American Destroyer.                           


Holland Afrika Lijn INDEX:

Page One …                       M.S. Bloemfontein (2) and the M.S. Jagersfontein (2) of 1934 (this page).

Page Two …                       The extensive report to the Dutch Government of the heroism of the Captain and his crew at Pearl Harbor. Also Brochures & Memorabilia, etc.

Also visit:                          M.S. Klipfontein (2) 1939 - 1953, Jagersfontein (3) 1940 - 1967, and the M.S. Oranjefontein 1940 - 1967, and also the M.S. Randfontein (2) 1958 - 1971.

Three Fontein Ships …    History of the M.S. Klipfontein and her sister ships.

Visser Family Voyage … To South Africa on the “Jagersfontein” (3) in 1965.

M.S. Randfontein (2) …   Of 1958 page.

Fontein Photo Page …     And memorabilia and brochures, etc.

Also Read                        V.N.S. Freighters from 4 to 12 passengers.

SS Abbekerk …                 The delightful V.N.S. 8,336-ton passenger-cargo ships.


Remembering the Memorable
M.S. Bloemfontein & Jagersfontein of 1934

A delightful artist version of the M.S. Bloemfontein after her post war refit

This excellent panting was done by a Fred but I cannot read the surname

If anyone can assist with this fine artists name I would greatly appreciate it

The image was sent to me by a supporter, but without details



“Blue Water Liners sailing to the distant shores.
I watched them come, I watched them go and I watched them die.


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