The Dutch Victory Ships - S.S. Zuiderkruis, Groote Beer & Waterman

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With Reuben Goossens

Maritime Historian, Cruise‘n’Ship Reviewer, Author & Lecturer

Please Note: All ssmaritime as well as my other related maritime & cruise sites are 100% non-commercial and privately owned sites. Be assured that I am NOT associated with any shipping or cruise companies or agencies or any other organisations! The author has been in the passenger shipping industry since May 1960, but although retired and unwell, I occasionally attempt to write an article now and then, in order to bring enjoyment and pleasure to ship enthusiasts past passengers and crew.

 

“The Dutch Victory Trio”

S.S. Zuiderkruis - Groote Beer & Waterman

 

S.S. Zuiderkruis seen at anchor in 1962

 

Please Note: Photographs are either from the author’s private collection, or from those as stated or other sources.

Three Victory Class ships, S.S. Cranston Victory, S.S. Costa Rica Victory and the S.S. La Grande Victory, were built for the “United War Shipping Administration” as troop and cargo ships. Their war time duties were short lived as they were soon sold to the Dutch Government for the use as troop transport ships and Migrant ship to the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

These three ships were built toward the end of World War II, and were part of the new larger improved version of the famed “Liberty” ships. Each ship had strengthened hulls for them to go into the war zone, but by the time they were completed the war was coming to an end.

There were ninety seven Victory troop transport ships built, each able to transport up to 1600 troops. Unlike the Liberty ships, all accommodation was fully ventilated and heated. There was the usual meagre style troop bunks, a hospital, galleys, washrooms and even a several public rooms.

 1944 US Victory class-freighter

The first of the trio, S.S. Cranston Victory (Zuiderkruis) was built by the Oregon Shipbuilding Yard in Portland; Oregon was launched on May 5, 1944. The second of the series, S.S. Costa Rica Victory (Groote Beer) was built by Permanente Metals Co, Richmond California and launched on June 17, 1944. The last of the three was the S.S. La Grande Victory (Waterman), which like her sister S.S. Cranston Victory, was built by the Oregon Shipbuilding Yard in Portland, Oregon and launched on January 16, 1945.

A sister of the Dutch Trio, S.S. Maritime Victory seen whilst laid-up

Photo with thanks to www.armed-guard.com/ag16.html

Specifications:

Tonnage: 9.126 GRT (Costa Rica Victory 9,140 GRT).

Length: 455ft (136.7m).

Width: 62ft (18.9m).

Draught: 20.6ft (10.5m).

Engines: Cross-compound Steam Turbines with double reduction gears developing 6,000 BHP.

Screws: Single.

Speed: 17 knots.

S.S. Cranston Victory was operated by the South Atlantic Steamship Co for the US Maritime Commission. S.S. Costa Rica Victory was managed by the American Hawaiian Steamship Co (New York). S.S. La Grande Victory was managed by Shepard Steamship Co. However, their operations was short lived, all were laid up and placed on the market in 1946.

All three ships were purchased in 1947 by the Dutch Government as troopers to the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia), and later to Dutch New Guinea. On their return voyages to the Netherlands Zuiderkruis transported those who wished to leave the former Dutch East Indies as repatriates. 

S.S. Waterman the troop ship seen in Rotterdam. One of her sisters is seen astern

 

 

Above and below: 1950 – S.S. Zuiderkruis (Southern Cross) & Groote Beer (Big Bear) seen prior their rebuilding

 

In 1951, they were sent in turn to the Netherlands Dry-Dock Shipyards Company in Amsterdam to be rebuilt for general passenger use. An extra deck was added and the bridge was moved on top and placed forward. Their original accommodations were gutted and cabins were fitted to accommodate up to 830 passengers. The Cranston Victory, renamed Zuiderkruis at her new tonnage of 9,178-tons, entered her new service in June 1951, sailing from Rotterdam to New York, with her next voyage being to Canada. Then in August she departed with around 800 migrants for New Zealand.

S.S. Zuiderkruis seen after her rebuilding in 1951

 

S.S. Waterman arrives in Sydney Australia - December 1951

The Costa Rica Victory renamed Groote Beer made three voyages to Australia before her reconstruction. Her reconstruction commenced in November of 1951. Now at her new tonnage of 9,190-tons she commenced services in May 1952. In November 1951, the third of the trio, La Grande Victory, renamed Waterman, was completed and at 9,176-tons, commenced her first voyage to Australia.

Their schedules varied from Trans Atlantic voyages and sailings to Australia and New Zealand. Zuiderkruis was managed by the Netherland line, the Groote Beer by Holland America Line, and Waterman by Royal Rotterdam Lloyd, but on the North American services also by Holland America Line according passenger Bert Huizen who sailed on her from Rotterdam to Halifax in 1952.

S.S. Waterman’s Collision at Sea:

SHIPS COLLIDE IN ATLANTIC - March 15, 1957. The 9,177-ton Dutch ship S.S. Waterman, carrying 800 emigrants, including 312 Hungarian refugees to Canada, collided with the Italian ship S.S. Merit mid-Atlantic yesterday. The Waterman radioed there was no immediate danger and said the 7,174-ton steamship Merit was also safe.”

The Waterman departed her homeport of Rotterdam on March 13, 1957, and the very next morning the Italian freighter S.S. Merit rammed the port stern section of the Waterman during a heavy foggy morning. The ships quickly separated and the Captain of the Waterman called all passengers to their lifeboat stations with lifejackets on ready to abandon ship if need be, whilst his engineers were inspecting the damage.

Below is an account by a Hungarian passenger, who gave an excellent description of the situation.

“We departed on the S.S. Waterman from Rotterdam on March 13, 1957 and on the first night we settled in and had a very nice meal and found our way around the ships. Then the next morning, the 14th, we just had our breakfast at the first sitting, which was the sitting for all the refugees on board and as we were part of the Hungarian group on board we always went to that sitting. The Dutch Passengers went to the second sitting. This had nothing to do with segregation or anything, but the language problems, and also, they did provide us with a more Eastern European style menu, whilst the Dutch had a menu more suited to their diet.

It was certainly a foggy morning, and as we the Hungarian passengers already had our breakfast, with the Dutch passengers, having the second shift, they were either would have been getting ready for it or having a walk around. But suddenly around 8.15 to 8.20, I think, there came a huge bang, for something big had hit us at the stern of the ship, which was strange. After the impact, the distress call went out and everyone had to proceed, with our life jackets on to the deck where lifeboats were already being released. As we were about to get into them, an order came from the captain on the bridge that we could return to our quarters and return our lifejackets and go about our regular business.

It turned out that after an extensive inspection, it was determined that the damage was high enough above the waterline that we could either limp back to Brest, France, which at that time was the nearest port to our then location. When we arrived we were transferred to the already awaiting S.S. Zuiderkruis, where we were placed in equivalent cabins, as the two ships are identical. We made a successful, although a very choppy crossing to Halifax, arriving at the end of March. It was certainly an eventful voyage and not one but two ships!

I must also add that our last six weeks prior to our voyage, we spent time in Holland, courtesy of the Dutch Government. We were made most comfortable with room and board and were treated with the utmost respect. We gratefully remember our stay there. Anna Nadler.”

Anna also sent the following photograph which was taken by a photographer in Brest France.

The damage done to the S.S. Waterman by the Italian freighter S.S. Merit

Photograph provided by Anna Nadler

The story continues with another item that was sent to me, that provides further details of this event!

Passenger Lists with – Hugo Schouten:

Eleven year old Hugo Schouten, his parents, brother and sister sailed from Rotterdam to Melbourne Australia on the S.S. Groote Beer on October 25, 1958. Hugo who now lives in Adelaide South Australia has a webpage online covering his voyage on the Groote Beer and other passenger stories, as well as various passenger lists that he has online. To visit Hugo's Groote Beer page and passengers lists see the INDEX at the bottom of the page!

In 1961, the Dutch Government formed their own company “Trans Ocean” all three ships were transferred to this new company, although each ship continued to be managed by the same shipping two companies as before.

Groote Beer in Fremantle Australia

In 1961 the ships facilities were vastly improved to become more of a genuine Tourist Class status, thus encouraging a better passenger trade for the truth being, the migrant trade was rapidly declining and now these ships needed to be more suitable for the tourist trade, and this is what they now sought out! Both The Groote Beer and Waterman continued sailing the Atlantic as well as to Australia and New Zealand.

S.S. Waterman seen at anchor

Photographer unknown – See photo notes at bottom of page! 

 

S.S. Groote Beer seen around 1962

Photographer unknown – See photo notes at bottom of page!

The Groote Beer was chartered for the Commonwealth Games in 1962, which was held in Perth (Western Australia), and she was berthed in the nearby port of Fremantle and used as an accommodation ship.

S.S. Groote Beer and M.S. Johan van Oldenbarnevelt seen stern to stern in Fremantle serving

as accommodation ships during the 1962 Commonwealth Games there

The Waterman departed Rotterdam on September 26, 1962 sailing via Port Said (Egypt) and Djibouti for Pulo Bukom (Island off Singapore), Hollandia (then “Netherlands New Guinea”) and Biak (today’s Indonesia). She returned from Biak via Singapore Roads, Djibouti and Port Said arriving back in Rotterdam on November 25, 1962.

The Waterman is seen departing Rotterdam on September 26, 1962 for New Guinea

Provided by Henk van der Bos, Rotterdam NL

Then in January 1963 the Waterman made her final voyage to Australia and New Zealand. Finally in 1963, all three ships were sold by the Dutch Government.

S.S. Zuiderkruis Final Days:

In October 1963 the Zuiderkruis was handed over to the “Royal Netherlands Navy” for the use as an accommodation and a store ship. She was berthed at Den Helder a City in North Holland, being the northernmost point of the peninsula, and the country's main naval base; she was given the registration No A853.

She was finally taken out of commission and sold in October 1969 to Spanish breakers at Bilbao. The Zuiderkruis was taken under tow to Bilboa, where she arrived on November 27, 1969, and she became the first of the “Dutch Victory Trio” to be broken up.

Farewell old friend - S.S. Zuiderkruis

S.S. Waterman & Groote Beer told to Greece:

In 1963 both the Waterman and Groote Beer were sold to John Latsis shipping Group of Greece being a family owned Shipping Company. The Waterman was renamed Margareta” and the Groote Beer became Marianna IV”.

S.S. Groote Beer seen having been chartered from the “Latsis Shipping Company

S.S. (Waterman) Margareta’s Final Days:

The Waterman, having been renamed the "Margareta", departed from Greece and headed for Tokyo in May/June 1968, having arrived there she was placed on two cruises; the first cruise being from Japan to Los Angeles and Honolulu, whilst the second being from Japan to Honolulu and San Francisco. Upon her return from the second cruise, the S.S. Margareta was laid up in Japan.

But sadly she finally became the second of the “Trio” to be scrapped by ship breakers in Onomachi, Japan in 1970.

S.S. (Groote Beer) Marianna IV Final Days:

In 1964 the S.S. Marianna IV (ex Groote Beer) was chartered by the Netherlands from June to September to operate the “Atlantic Educational Program” for four round voyages between Rotterdam and New York They had also planned ths ame charter for 1966, but this was cancelled. For the Educational Programme the Marianna IV was renamed Groote Beer” once again, but remained under the Greek flag. Holland America Line acted as her agents. Although she was returned to Latsis Shipping Group after her fourth return voyage, strangely enough she retained the name Groote Beer” until 1969 when she was renamed Marianna IV” once again. Latsis also used her for student voyages during the summer months from the UK.

As the S.S. Groote Beer was departing on July 12 1966, she collided with a sand dredger named the “Pen Avon” just of the Isle of Wight. She returned to Southampton, where basic repairs were undertaken and she then headed for Greece, where no repairs were done, but she was simply laid up at Eleusis Bay, near Piraeus.

Then in 1970 the S.S. Marianna IV (ex Groote Beer) was sold and in 1971 she became the last of the famed three “Dutch Victory Ships” to be broken up, which was done locally at Eleusis, Greece.

Reuben Goossens.

Maritime Historian, Author, Lecturer & Cruise‘n’Ship Reviewer.

Over Sixty Years in the Passenger Shipping & Cruise Industry.

Founder of “Save the Classic Line Campaign” in 1990. (Now Closed).

Please note: I wish to thank Mr. Michael Kenyon for providing me with some additional notes regarding the final days of the S.S. Groote Beer and the Waterman, then the (Latsis Shipping) S.S. Margareta’s concluding days.

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Dutch Victory Trio INDEX:

Page One The history of these three ships.

Page Two Ships – General Photo Album.

Page Three Theo Kroon Story - They sailed from Amsterdam to Wellington - September 1956 - Lots of great photos!

Page Four Passenger List for the S.S. Groote Beer, Rotterdam, Halifax, New York on January 16, 1957. Provided by passenger Simon de Vente – Two other (S.S. Waterman) passenger lists are also available on THIS page via links provided.

Page Five Here is another passenger list, but this time for the S.S. Zuiderkruis sailing from Holland to New Zealand and Australia. She departed on December 9, 1960. It was kindly provided by Mr. Gabriel-Bosch.

Page Six S.S. Groote Beer Passenger Lists from 1951 to 1962.

Page Six-a S.S. Groote Beer Passenger List for those disembarking at Wellington on September 19, 1951.

Page Seven Passenger Dr. Barbara Wollman sailed in 1955 on the S.S. Groote Beer from New York to Rotterdam and returned on the Zuiderkruis.

Page Eight Bob ter Haar kindly provided the passenger list of his voyage on the S.S. Zuiderkruis from Amsterdam to Australia, January 16, 1959. He came to Australia with his family.

Page Nine This is the story of soldier Frank Lovell who finally returned home, having fought so many battles during WW2 throughout many parts of Europe on the S.S. Costa Rica Victory, (later the Groote Beer) in September 1945. The three parts are by Franks daughter Mary Lovell, by Frank himself in his Dairy, and myself using Mary’s notes. This page has countless actual photographs of the Costa Rica Victory, most of which Frank took on board!

Other Passenger lists currently available online

Passenger List dated 25 April, 1955

View it online

http://www.frontiernet.net/~hdebruyn/waterman/passengerlist1.HTM

 

Also S.S. Waterman departed from Rotterdam on Friday April 1, 1955

http://www.frontiernet.net/~hdebruyn/waterman/passengerlist.HTM

 

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“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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