Not the Reef Knot (9) Rotterdam Revisited

Written by Howard Burr.

I last saw the Rotterdam as a teenager way back in 1972 I think it was. She was docked at G -berth in Cape Town harbour and had called there on part of her round the world cruise. I remember her with a grey hull and silver funnels and even then she was a rather imposing sight carrying millionaires on their holidays.
Unfortunately, I cannot remember much of what I saw on board and being a poor teenager, I did not possess a camera. I do however remember walking along her accommodation decks and noticing the beautiful wood panelling and highly polished wooden doors.

Postcard issued on board

To 1996 and a much older me and the Rotterdam again – this time in Durban harbour and the ship now 37 years old and me – well, lets just say much older. She is still an imposing sight, this time with her dark blue hull and white funnels and looking as pristine as ever.

I boarded together with Rudi, Neville and Derek with the visit having been made possible by Rudi and the kindness always shown to us by Ron McClundy. We were met by the Master at Arms at the top of the gangway who after checking names against his list allowed us to proceed under our own steam to view the ship. As usual, we started on the lowest deck we could find. This deck contained the Indoor Swimming Pool and Sauna which on a hot day in Durban looked very appeasing to us. Up to the next deck and this was cabins as far as the eye could see. The interior companionways looked the same to me as they did when I first saw her and were in tip top condition. The next deck up was almost a mirror image of the one we had just seen and unfortunately all the cabin doors were closed, so we could not peep in to see what they looked like.

Making our way up one more deck, we came across the Purser’s Offices and no time was wasted in asking for and getting postcards and ships stamps.

While we were here, the ship’s Second Office came over and introduced himself to us, having heard we were aboard. He too is a World Ship Society member and an avid liner and tug enthusiast. A good half hour was spent talking to him before he left to attend to duties on the bridge and with an invitation to join him up there later. Before this however, he had organised a visit for us to the engine room. What a revelation. She still has her original Steam Turbine machinery and everything is in perfect condition with the control panels so highly polished, you could do your make up in them. We toured right through to the tailshafts and back again. No leaks, no oil, no waste anywhere.
From the engine room, we were taken by lift back to where we were originally and commenced our ‘Walkabout” again, now starting to come across the public rooms. All of these are beautiful, and still contain much of the original decor and furniture and fittings all still in immaculate condition. It was like travelling back in time for me and I can see why so many of the older generation like to travel on her year after year. I certainly would.
We had been asked by the Master at Arms to leave the ship by 12 noon, so we hurried up to the bridge to see Hans (the Second Officer).

After a good look around the bridge with him, we stood talking on the Starboard bridge wing for a while and Hans managed to get in some photography of his own as one or two of the Portnet tugs ran passengers to “Navy Day” which was on at Salisbury Island.
Our visit was due to come to a close when Hans invited us to lunch in the Lido. This offer was gratefully accepted and accompanied by Hans, we made our way on a short conducted tour through some of the public rooms which we had not yet seen on our way to the Lido aft. Lunch was a gourmet affair with just about everything you could think of to choose from to eat. We had a marvellous lunch in the company of a man who is extremely proud of his ship and has every right to be.

Enclosed Prom deck

Aft decks and pool looking aft

After filling ourselves to the brim, we bid our farewells to the Mariner and made our way slowly to parts that we had not yet seen, before, exhausted we bid a further farewell to the Master at Arms at the gangway and stepped ashore. The tour had taken us a little over four hours.
The ship is in immaculate condition. If you did not know she was 37 years old, you would never guess it. It seems such a pity that a glorious chapter like this must come to an end although we are told that Orient Lines have expressed an interest in her when she is withdrawn in September 1997. May she run forever.

Postscript DRW 06/2022.

At the time of our visit she was on borrowed time, this being her last world cruise before she was sold out of the HAL fleet. There was talk of her being bought by Premier Cruises and being renamed “Big Red Boat Somethingorother” but she ended up operating as Rembrandt instead, before ending up in layup where her future became increasingly more uncertain. She remained laid up at Freeport until May 2003, when it was announced that she had been bought by the Port of Rotterdam. and her original builders. who intended refitting her back to 1960’s style, and using her as a static museum ship. In mid July 2004 she arrived at Cammel Laird in Gibraltar for further refurbishment before returning to Holland. Since moved to Poland for refurbishment and removal of hazardous material, then to Germany for more refurbishment. Her entering service as a static hotel/museum was delayed until 2010 and the ship finally opened to the public. 

DRW 2022. Created 18/06/2022.   Written by Howard Burr, reproduced in The Reef Knot of April 1996. Views expressed by the author are not the official view of anybody but the author. OCR creation by

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The Case Against Olivier and 11 Others

In 2020 I did a lot of work on the Rand Revolt casualty list and more or less concluded it, but in the back of my mind there was always the nagging feeling that there were more casualties to be found. I had pretty much exhausted my options though, because realistically it was one thing to say that somebody was a casualty of the mayhem but a totally different thing to prove it.  Fortunately the Death Notices of people caught up in the crossfire were usually marked as such which made them easy to identify. During my Death Notice search at I found one DN that was marked “Criminal case Rex vs MJ Olivier and 11 others”  and it was dated 08 March 1922 which fell inside the date range range of the Rand Revolt. It also occurred at the “New Primrose Mine, Germiston”.  My gut instinct said that the DN that I had found was related to the Rand Revolt.

The problem was: how to prove it. Unfortunately I do not have access to the books that I used to have about the revolt, neither do I have the option of getting access to documents that are in the National Archives in South Africa. For all I knew the incident at New Primrose was related to theft or mine negligence. I really needed more proof to put these names forward so filed that DN away and lodged a query in the back of my head.  

Yesterday, while reading an article at the Heritage Portal: Locating Victims 1922 Rand Revolt they mentioned a booklet called “The Story of a Crime being the Vindication of the Transvaal Strike Legal Defence Committee”, which was published and sold for the benefit of the Strike Victims Dependants Relief Fund, and dated 28 May 1924. Was it worth trying to find the booklet as it was almost 100 years since its publication? I hit the jackpot once again as it was available at the Wits University Research Archives.   It was a lengthy and often tortuous read, and to be honest I ended up skimming it. However. I found what I was looking for inside. 

“The first man to be acquitted was Mr J Olivier, who was charged with 11 others, with shooting Natives in the Primrose Mine Affair. At the end of the evidence for the prosecution he, and he alone was at once discharged. “

Bells started to ring in my head, how many “Natives” were killed? The booklet further informs us that on 8 March  “At the New Primrose there was a fight in which two Natives were killed and twenty wounded and two Europeans, Webbstock and Olivier, were killed.” Further on the opinion of the “Director of Native Affairs” is reported as saying “He was satisfied that the attacks on Natives were not by strikers but by Europeans that have no genuine interest or stake in the present trouble” 

I had my numbers. It was time to go searching.  The names that I found that are associated with the “Primrose Mine Affair” do not tally with the 4 casualties reported. Unfortunately the DN’s for the Africans does not always provide proper names and often the names are incorrectly spelt and I am reproducing them as they are written. These death notices are all marked as being related to “Olivier and 11 others”.  “Germiston Cemetery” may be Primrose Cemetery while the current name of “New Primrose Mine Cemetery” is not known. 

  • Nothing (Naite) abt 30 yrs, underground mine labourer, gsw of abdomen, brought in dead. 8 March 1922. Buried New Primrose Mine Cemetery, Germiston. 
  • Manyakulana Sugar, abt 38 yrs, underground mine labourer, gsw through chest, died 38 hours after admission. 10 March 1922. Buried New Primrose Mine Cemetery, Germiston.
  • Mangunyana (Lisi), abt 27 yrs, underground labourer, gsw of abdomen, died 28 hours after admission. 9 March 1922. Buried New Primrose Mine Cemetery, Germiston.
  • Harry Ernest Bruce Webbstock, abt 30 yrs,  gold miner underground,  gsw penetrating lungs and aorta, 8 March 1922, buried “Germiston Cemetery, Germiston”
  • Samuel Antonie Edward Olivier, 40 yrs, gold miner underground,  gsw left hip, septicaemia,  27 March 1922,  buried “Germiston Cemetery, Germiston”
  • Douglas, abt 21 yrs, underground mine labourer, compound depressed fracture of skull,  died 30 hours after admission. 9 March 1922. Buried New Primrose Mine Cemetery, Germiston.
  • Mneedwa, abt 30 yrs, underground mine labourer, gsw head, septic meningitis,  died 6 days after admission. 13 March 1922. Buried New Primrose Mine Cemetery, Germiston.
  • Hlomana, abt 30 yrs,  underground mine labourer, gsw abdomen, brought in dead. 8 March 1922. Buried New Primrose Mine Cemetery, Germiston.

I suspect that there may be more than what I discovered, unfortunately the search facility is not as flexible as it used to be so finding anything has become more complicated. As for the 12 perpetrators, they seemingly walked away leaving 8 deaths behind them.

DRW 2022. Created 09/06/2022.  The Story of a Crime being the Vindication of the Transvaal Strike Legal Defence Committee, available at the Wits University Research Archives.  Death Notices sourced from

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