Today we have a blog post from one of our volunteer guides, Eddy Utberg. “Helping out at the Devonport Maritime Museum as a volunteer is one of my favourite hobbies” he says. In between guiding you can often find Eddie looking through our maritime library, reading and reminiscing a life at sea. He has chosen to write about his childhood experiences of Rotterdam, and of seeing the SS Nieuw Amsterdam coming back into her home port of Rotterdam on April 10, 1946 after successfully completing her WWII service carrying troops and prisoners of war. These experiences inspired him to take on a life at sea.
I was born in Rotterdam in 1937, the same year that the first Nieuw Amsterdam was built. Rotterdam was one of the world’s largest harbour cities with ships coming from many different countries, like Panama and Greece, where safety regulations were very different than they are today, but shipping was always interesting to me.
The Nieuw Amsterdam sailed to New York in 1938, just before WWII. She was based there for the duration of the war years, but in 1947, when she returned to Rotterdam, it was a special morning and we were given time off from school.
Not many ordinary people had the opportunity to travel on an ocean liner, however if you were not rich enough there was always a third class option. My first trip in 1954 took me to Australia while working in the galley of a vessel. I was so impressed by this country that in 1956 I migrated to Melbourne.
The Nieuw Amsterdam was sold in 1974, but others by the same name continued for a number of years.
By Eddy Utberg, 2020
We are lucky enough to have a model of the Niew Amsterdam in our collection and on display at the Museum. It was built by Mr Harold Hancock (pictured below) and is an impressive 1.5 metres.