Netherland Line MS Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, sold to become the TSMS Lakonia

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With Reuben Goossens

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

Please Note: All ssMaritime and other related maritime/cruise sites are 100% non-commercial and privately owned. Be assured that I am NOT associated with any shipping or cruise companies or any travel/cruise agencies or any other organisations! Although the author has been in the passenger shipping industry since 1960, although is now retired but having completed well over 700 Classic Liners and Cargo-Passengers Ships features I trust these will continue to provide classic ship enthusiasts the information they are seeking, but above all a great deal of pleasure! 

“Memories of the JVO

MS Johan van Oldenbarnevelt

Chapter One – Part Two

The Pride of the Netherlands

The delightful “JVO” seen as built in 1930 on the North Sea Canal

Please Note: The JVO feature is slowly being updated. Chapter One, Parts One & Two were completed on July 6, 2013.

Please Note: Due to the many photographs used on Chapter One, covering the first part of her life from her building and maiden voyage in 1930 until her being called for duties as a trooper in 1939, whilst updating it with so much new material I had to split Chapter One into Two Parts. I am sure that you will be more that happy with the results!

However, if you have arrived here via Google or another search engine may I suggest that you first visit the “JVO Introduction” page at: HERE and then go to Part One of this feature “The Pride of the Netherlands.”

Reuben Goossens.

A wonderful aerial view on this SMN postcard and taken by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines

Second Class Public Venues:

Just aft of the First Class Veranda were the second class lounges, commencing with the delightful Music Saloon. This venue also featured timbered panels highlighting their unique grain rather than the fancy carvings found in First Class. Yet, this room as was the Smoking Room featured the finest quality dark and exotic timbers possible and they were thus were most elegant, yet they were bright and airy rooms, mostly due to their large windows to promenade deck, and their ceilings having been painted a lighter colour! The forward wall of the Music Salon featured the piano and small band stand, and the wall behind it has a delightful mosaic as can be seen in the image below. The aft section had the Second Class Main Stairwell down to their other Decks and Dinning Room, however halfway down the stairs, and on the landing wall, there was a fine piece of timber art that was inlaid with mother of pearl and this can also be seen below!

A beautifully refined Music Salon with parquet floors


The timber artwork on the stairwell on the halfway down from the Music Salon

Next was the wonderfully appointed Smoking Room with the service bar aft on the portside. This venue did feature further panels with wonderful carvings. Two were located on the aft mid wall placed at each side as in the middle was another delightful piece of art as well as several large cabinets made of ebony. Along the walls, there were other panels between the windows that also had timber coverings. In the ceiling there was an octagon stained glass dome that let in light from the open (B) deck above. However, sadly that was removed for her next stage whilst she was taken during her war duties, and it was never replaced!

The delightful Smoking Room


This is a very old photo of the same venue, but it does show the octagon dome!

Next came the Veranda being very similar to the one in First Class and the children’s Playroom and nursery was located far aft having its own play deck. Second Class had an extensive Promenade deck that ran at least half the length of the ship, and like First Class it was fully serviced.

The extensive Second Class Promenade Deck

D Deck:

We now head to D Deck being a deck that was the first of the ships decks that had four classes spread from fore to aft! Far forward was the Fourth Class Promenade Deck located at the bow section of the ship as well as their Recreation Room. Sadly, I have little to no information regarding the actual venue!

Back to First Class; forward of her main stairwell and lobby, there were a number of cabins including two spacious semi-deluxe cabins with private facilities. The Lobby on D Deck was most attractive being panelled with marble panels along the walls and in the centre there was a large carpet and an attractive small lounge area that separated the main stairwell and the popular ships shop . On offer was a wide range of luxury goods such as a few Jewellery items, leather goods, as well as a range of souvenirs and those normal needs that passengers may require during the voyage, such as sweets or toothpaste, etc. Of course like the lounges on C Deck, the Lobby as well as the furnishings and the shop were designed by the genius of the great designer; Carel Adolph Lion Cachet. Directly aft of the shop were the Ladies and Gentleman’s Hairdresser Salons. The ladies was reached via portside and the Gent’s via starboard.

The D Deck Lobby and the shop

First Class cabins continued along this deck until where aft of funnel would be located. However located directly amidships was the Pursers office with all the associated offices this section was also the Interchangeable section, were cabins could either be First or Second Class, the same applied amidships on E Deck! On D Deck this commenced from the aft wall of the Gent’s Hairdresser to about seven cabins back from the Pursers office, and on E Deck from the Back off the First Class Dinning Room Balustrade to the end of the engine room casing where there was a passageway around. However, on E Deck, all of this section or only one side could be used if required.

Second Class occupied a part of the aft part of this deck from the double stairwells, being the one that came from the Music Salon and another that would lead down to D Deck. Just forward of the stairs there were just four cabins as well shared facilities. Aft of the stairs were another twenty eight cabins as well as shared facilities.

Third Class aft of D Deck there was the spacious Third Class Promenade deck considering there were only 64 passengers, but what was unusual that there were four cabins located on the port side as well as two on the starboard side, which were only accessible from the outside deck. Passengers had to enter an external door and there was a short hallway with just two doors to two cabins. These cabins were either two or four berth and toilets and a bathroom was located on the starboard side and these were also reached from the deck. Aft of the accommodations was a pleasant Smoking Room with a stairwell heading down to further accommodations.

E Deck:

Although the two main Dining Rooms were located on F deck, but both First and Second Class Dining Rooms were blessed with grand staircases as well as bandstands in addition to being two levels high. Their balustrades were up on E Deck and those who would walk to their cabins along both sides could look down into the Dinning Room with its elaborate décor!

First Class had those wonderful marble hippo heads above and these were used as light fittings and they were located at the bottom of decorative pillars that commenced at the floor on E deck reaching up to the Ceiling and they certainly looked spectacular!

The Main Entrance Hall was amazingly magnificent having one of the most stunning floors that were made of a decorative mosaic’s, stretching right across the ship. There was a mixture of lighter and darker timber walls with a light beige ceiling that gave this space that perfect contrast. Then there was that wonderful timber stairwell forward, but along the aft wall section along a marble balustrade stood a grand piano at the band stand overlooking the magnificent Dinning Room below, featuring a mixture of fine white marble, a range of exotic dark timbers as well as stainless steel surrounded by ebony and stainless steel sliding (down) shutters covering the portholes!

The decorative mosaic floor of the Main Lobby


A First Class cabin with mahogany wardrobe and desk as well as a bathroom, located starboard on E Deck

Opposite the balcony of the Dinning Room and at the Main Entrance

But of course this deck’s main purpose was to accommodate passengers and it was mostly occupied First Class cabins forward, including several semi-deluxe cabins with private facilities, as well as larger cabins and standard cabins!

Second Class was of a similar size of that as on D Deck with much of the same layout as described above, with a slight difference, as directly at the main Stairwell’s there was the Main Entrance for this class as well as the fine timber balustrade overlooking the Dinning Room.

This is a Second Class three berth cabin with two wash basins and a porthole

Third Class was located far aft and they had their sixty four seat Dinning Room, which did spread right across the ship, and aft of this there were just six cabins and some shared facilities aft.

A very neat and tidy Third Class four berth cabin

F Deck:

Forth Class: I will commence far forward of the ship in Fourth Class, where we find their accommodations that ranged from four to sixteen berth cabins. In between these accommodations is the Dinning area, which had five long tables and bench type of seating, from what I can see from the 1930 cabin plan, it would have been rather simple I assume. Although I have not been able to locate a single photo to show either a Third or Fourth Class lounge or dinning room, I am sorry that I am unable to do so, and fully reveal every single detail of this fine ship, for I normally would have done this. But believe me, I have searched every possible source around the world in order to obtain something, and even the Maritime Museums in the Netherlands have been unable to assist!

This is a typical Fourth Class six berth cabin, which is more than adequate!


Here we see a Fourth class larger cabin

OK the table with flowers that may just be a bit over the top and is just advertising!

First Class: This commenced with the grand Staircase that came down to the grandiose Dinning Room. Upon arrival you were met by the semi circular glass entrance with large doors in the middle. The Dinning Room could seat 270 in the ultimate style and luxury and on offer was the very finest of cuisines, to match the opulent décor! The small ships orchestra would gently play as dinners would dine and enjoy each other’s company and discuss their plans for the evening, or possibly tomorrow or what they might do in their next port of call? Service on the Johan van Oldenbarnevelt was known to be the ultimate, as the author so well knows, having been one of her passengers, although a little later in her days! Amazingly this venue saw very little change, except for a few minor adjustments to furnishings.

Here we see the semi circular main entrance made of the stainless steel and glass


Here is a view forward and we see the bandstand up on E Deck

Also the sliding porthole covers are down … but see below


Looking aft we obtain the splendour of this venue as well as the wonderful tapestry on the wall

And the three excellent cut glass wall light fittings that can be seen along the starboard side

When it came to Lion Cachet’s design, the First Class Dinning Room was another of his masterpieces as there was so much detail integrated into this one venue. Starting at the upper level, we note that the ceiling was similar to the Social Hall, being made of red beaten copper, whilst the slightly off white columns were beautifully carved with detail and was perfectly enhanced for in between there was that delicate iron balustrade. Then at the bottom of each column was that wonderful hippos head looking up serving as a light. Running along the bottom of the upper level of the opening we note that it was curved inwards and it long glass panelled lights completely surrounded the venue, but these were separated by electric fans and these were necessary to keep passengers cool as fans were to be found everywhere!

Down in the Dinning Room, along the centre aft wall was a long tapestry with    two tall lights and a long buffet. Besides this were the doors to and from the Galley. Then on either side three panels, again separated by those white semi-columns, but the panels were clad in a darker material. Each porthole had a unique sliding ebony and stainless steel shutter that’s slid up and down, as can be seen in the photographs. Again, the furnishings were on the highest quality and all hand crafted, for nothing was spared on the Johan van Oldenbarnevelt! Forward there was a semi-circular glass entrance with wide doors at the bottom of the grand staircase.

Another great view from the floor level looking up to the balustrade and the famed hippos

Obviously the First and Second Class Dinning Rooms were separated by their respective Galley’s as well as some cool rooms and storage rooms, etc, to store the meats, fish, eggs and their vegetables and so forth. Although down below where the main storage spaces and items would be brought up as required.

Second Class: Here there was also a grand stairwell down in to the 315 seat Dinning Room, although not as elaborate as the one in First Class, but still impressive as it was beautifully covered in the finest timbers and a variety of touches of art that made this venue look impressive!

The Second Class Dinning Room was still a fine looking venue to say the least!

Third Class: Far aft, there were the very last of the third class cabins located that were reached by their one and only staircase.

Back to the Ship Itself:

Now we have discovered the wonderful m.s. Johan van Oldenbarnevelt’s interiors she also had five cargo holds that were capable of holding over 1,000 tons of cargo. These holds were served by 12 – Three ton “Stork Hijsch” electric deck cranes two at hold number 2 and the rest up on the upper decks. Cargos were varied, but also passengers did carry considerable amount themselves as many would travel to the Netherlands from Indonesia to live and bring with them all their possessions.

This is the very first brochure to be released by the Company showing both ships

It is very unusual that the second ship to be built, the “Marnix” was placed first and the “Johan” second

JVO’s Maiden Voyage:

At the top of the page I did describe her deep sea trails on the North Sea on March 13, 1930, when she reached a most respectable 19 knots, after which the m.s. Johan van Oldenbarnevelt was delivered to her owners in Amsterdam and she was manned and made ready for her departure for the Dutch East Indies.

Then on Tuesday May 6, 1930 m.s. Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, under the command of Captain G. Kruijt and First Officer T.D. Bloemen, this fine Dutch luxury Liner was ready to depart Amsterdam bound for the East Indies on her Maiden voyage. There were hundreds ashore waving goodbye to their loved ones and friends the Johan must have looked so impressive, a ship towering so high with her stately twin funnels and those two tall masts. Finally she slowly pulled away from the wharf and the colourful streamers broke the last link between the passengers and family and friends ashore as the ship slowly headed down the River Ij and towards the North Sea Canal bound for the North Sea on this her very first official commercial voyage!.

But amazingly something terrible happened, for this fine new ship on her very first voyage would not even reach the North Sea as tragically, whilst the she was still in the North Sea Canal heading towards Ijmuiden the 3,854 ton Dutch freighter the SS Reggestroom collided with her and hit her bow. The Johan van Oldenbarnevelt sustained some damage to her port bow plating, thus she quickly returned to Amsterdam to have repairs made.

The (Dutch) West Africa Line S.S. Reggestroom

Considering the Dutch Shipyard had such great pride in their newest and largest Liner built, they worked day and night and just several days later on May 9, she departed again, and this time successfully!

A wonderful classic photograph of the JVO as she heads off for the East Indies

Her first port of call was Southampton where she had a reception on board and a special luncheon for dignitaries and travel agents, but when thus was completed, within two hours she was on her way again having taken on some 100 British passengers. Using her reserve power able to add a good 2 knots, she was able to make up much of her lost time by the time she arrived in Genoa she had already gained one full day. Then by the time she reached Port Said she all lost time had been made up and she arrived in Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) on time and her schedule was back to normal, as the Dutch were famed for being “On Time!”

The official ports of call were as follows: Amsterdam, Southampton, Algiers, Villefranche, Genoa, Port Said, Suez, Colombo, Sabang, Belawan-Deli, Singapore, Samarang & Surabaya and return.

For nine years the m.s. Johan van Oldenbarnevelt sailed the companies’ route from Amsterdam to the Dutch East Indies, together with her sister ship the m.s. Marnix van St Aldegonde. In addition they also operated a number of pleasure cruises to Scandinavia and other destinations and their “Easter cruises” were especially popular!

However, it would be on August 30, 1939 that the Johan van Oldenbarnevelt under Captain P. J. Bakker operated a single return voyage 39 from Rotterdam to New York under charter to Holland America Line. But upon her return to Amsterdam she resumed her East Indies service voyage 40 on September 27, but due to the war and with the Netherlands having been occupied by Nazi Germany, the Johan van Oldenbarnevelt returned to Genoa Italy and operated her next two voyages (41 and 42) from Genoa to the East Indies, although voyage 42 was under Captain K. J. van der Laan. Yet her role was very soon about to take a drastic change from a luxury glamorous passenger liner to something very different!

Here we the JVO in her pre-War livery, stating that she was from a Neutral Country!

But that would very soon change when Nazi Germany invaded Holland

A brief History of the m.s. Marnix van St. Aldegonde:

Here we see the Marnix St. Aldegonde. Note she was built, behind those large windows forward on Boat Deck there was a

Garden Veranda located there, although in 1937 this was replaced by luxury cabins just like the JVO had been built with!

The “Marnix” was completed on September 10, 1930 and she departed on her maiden voyage from Amsterdam to the Dutch East Indies on October 7. But I seemed that the JVO was the more popular of the two. Thus, in 1937 the Marnix St. Aldegonde was given a refit, which saw her First Class Garden Veranda removed and replaced with new cabins, therefore those large forward windows disappeared and she now looked more like her sister the JVO.

Whilst she was seconded to become a British troopship and therefore, she was duly converted, and although the JVO also served during the war and survived, but sadly the Marnix was not as fortunate, for whilst she was sailing in convoy from Liverpool to North Africa on November 6, 1943 with some 3,000 troops on board, she was torpedoed by a German aircraft just off the coast of Algeria, where she sank the next day whilst undertow in an attempt to take her into port. But the good news is that all lives on board the Marnix St. Aldegonde were saved rapidly by the other ships in the convoy. Thus the Marnix van St. Aldegonde sank November 7, 1943, position: 37°07’ N-6°37’ E, with no loss of life!


JVO’s 1930-39 Specifications:

Built by:                                      Netherland’s Shipbuilding Company, Amsterdam.

Yard Number:                               194.

Launched:                                   August 3, 1929.

Maiden Voyage:                            May 6, 1930.

IMO number:                               5607090.

Call sign:                                     PGJB-PFEB.

Length:                                       609ft – 185.62m.

Breadth:                                      74.8ft – 22.78m.

Draught:                                     27.10ft – 8.5m.

Gross Registered Tonnage:            19,428 GRT (Gross Registered Tons).

Main Engines:                              2 x 10 Cylinder Sulzer Diesels.

Propellers:                                   Twin - 14,000 BHP.

Speed:                                        17 knots - 19 max.

Passengers:                                 713.

.                                                 First Class: 327 (298 Interchangeable between 1st.& 2nd.class).

                                                  Second Class: 274 (363 Interchangeable).

                                                  Third Class: 64.

                                                  Fourth Class: 48.

Crew:                                          361.

m.s. Johan van Oldenbarnevelt seen at Ijmuiden and she is ready to head for the North Sea and bound for Asia

A Quick Summary of her Future:

The m.s. Johan van Oldenbarnevelt would prove that she was an amazing and an enduring liner indeed and she would have a great future, in fact she was a ship had what became known as a “Ship with Five Dutch Lives” in addition she also had a very, and I do mean very short career as a Greek cruise ship as well. Thus, ultimately the JVO became known as “The Ship with Six Lives.” However, her Greek life was a very short and a sad one, for it had the most tragic conclusion and this will be fully covered towards the end of this feature.


Above and below: The Farewell Diner Menu - September 8, 1939 - Prior to arriving in New York

This is the menu from her single pre-war return voyage to New York, whilst under charter by Holland America Line




A classical JVO seen at full speed during her good times – BUT …


Times were About to Change!


Go to Chapter Two - JVO the Trooper

Or the - JVO Index



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