News Articles

It is a Diamond Jubilee for post-WWII Dutch emigration to Canada

Massive coverage greeted new arrivals

Tags: Immigration World War II History

LANGLEY, BC - The faded memories of the New Beginnings of the post-WWII Dutch emigration to Canada in the late 1940s received renewed attention recently, when the glossy bi-monthly magazine Dutch in its September/October 2022 issue devoted several feature articles to this Diamond Jubilee. The Montreal-bound sailing of the converted Victory-Class navy supply ship, now named Waterman, was on June 17, 1947, first in taking a party of mostly rural folks to Canada where they were to fill job vacancies on farms throughout the country.
To put faces to this story of New Beginnings, Dutch featured Barrie, Ontario resident Harry Vanderkooij who as an eleven-year old had climbed aboard the Waterman on the rope ladder that hung on its side in the still war-ravaged harbour. Now 86, Vanderkooij resides at Tollendale Village, a retirement community built by Dutch Canadian Christians. For the interview in Dutch, he was joined by fellow residents Trix Spaans and her sister Ann Stam.
The parents of Vanderkooij, who resided in the South Holland community of Maasland, were part of a group of 25 from there who were hoping for a New Beginning in Canada. They settled in Holland Marsh, a 1930s Dutch emigrant vegetable growers district. The family of the Douma sisters Trix and Ann, who were from the Frisian village of Arum, settled on a farm in the Chatham, Ontario area.
Trix and Ann and three of their siblings started at an one-room public elementary school with 35 kids of all ages. They speak fondly of their wonderful and patient teacher, Miss Rose. They were that year the only Dutch emigrant kids in the school. It was different in Holland Marsh, where Harry Vanderkooij was enrolled in the community’s fairly new Christian School, the first of many in Canada. His teacher there was originally from the Netherlands too and the school population belonged mostly to the second generation of Dutch Canadians.
The story of the 1947 sailing to Canada of the Waterman has been extensively covered in the 512-page classic of Dutch emigration, To All Our Children, as has the second 1947 sailing of the converted freighter Tabinta, which departed from Rotterdam on September 8. The arrival of both ships in Canada was the subject of country-wide media attention. Numerous local newspapers were on hand as the emigrants disembarked at railway stations for a New Beginning.
(Copies of the book To All Our Children are available at the online bookshop on