10. Tobameer

Our division also had a vehicle support depot in Prapat near lake Toba (Tobameer) Three of our soldiers were captured there by the Bataks, because they had so called crossed the demarcation line. We have send patrol after patrol to try and find them, but we all knew about the stories as to what happened to the prisoners. Fortunately all three survived their ordeal, although one of them had lost his “marbles” Later they would tell us that each time a patrol got too close they would be shifted.
The three of them had been in captivity for three years

(Photo: Tobameer 1949 en 1989(made by Hans Breugelmans (Breugie)))

One of the guys in my division fell in love with a reasonably well off Dutch Indies girl, whose father was a teacher at the Trade school. She and her family lived in a beautiful house in Siantar. After a year into the relationship the girl fell pregnant.
The girl’s family automatically expected him to marry her. However that was not something he had planned and tried all sorts to wriggle out of it. It was then that the mother placed a curse on him. This curse gave him the feeling that he had a stone in his forehead, which caused him headaches and would not go away. The doctors tried all sorts and could not find anything wrong with him. Headache pills did not seem to work. At his wits end he went to see the unit commander and asked him for advise. The KNIL commander advised him to be transferred to another location and he ended up in Sumatra. He returned after 6 months still having headaches and the feeling that there was a stone lodged in his forehead. The only thing left now was to beg the mother for forgiveness. As he went down on both knees she placed her hand on his forehead and was relieved from the “stone” in his head.
This was something that we as ordinary Dutch boys did not understand at all and it was very scary…

We got all sorts of “normal” illnesses that soldiers would get, but there were others that we did not know existed, like malaria and shingles. Not a day went by without another falling victim to these invisible enemies. We had no idea how dangerous these diseases could be.


I woke up one morning with a terrible pain in my throat. I went to the doctor and it appeared I had problems with my tonsils. A week later I was visited by the administrator and told that I was being shipped to a hospital in Batavia. The doctor had organised that I was to be operated on to have the problem with my tonsils solved. They had forgotten to tell me.

I used to write every two weeks and I wasn’t sure if I would have the opportunity to do that from hospital, I decided to send a quick note in between to let my parents know. My father who had been a soldier himself thought that “ the shit had hit the fan” and I would be involved in actions that I could not talk about.

On the 9th of March 1948 I travelled per ship, the SS Janssen, from Siantar to Belawan and from there to Singapore, where I stayed for one day. From there I went to Java, Trandjong Priok, Batavia.
Natives also travelled on this ship, including women, breastfeeding children and cooking their meals anywhere on deck. It was not the most comfortable way to travel.
On arrival in Batavia I was told that I was not in line for surgery as yet and I had to report to the Temporary accommodation, Barracks Mr Corneliss. During the day I would make some trips to out care patients and into town. In the meantime I was waiting and waiting until finally a sergeant came and told me it was my turn to be operated on.

I spent approximately 6 days in hospital to have my tonsils removed. On my release from hospital I asked one of the nurses if it would be possible to fly back to Medan. I could not try and start to imagine the journey on the ship back to Medan again. I knew that DC2’s with 29 seats were regularly flying between Batavia and Medan and you would not believe it but the nurse managed to get me on a flight back…..
(photo: near Medan 1947)

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