The story of the Dutch sailor Pieter Kool

The story of the Dutch sailor Pieter Kool

Birthplace of Canada- Gaspé Historic Site, by Fabien Sinnett.

Pieter Kool was born in 1898, in the small village of Wijdenes, Holland, 60 miles from « Amsterdam ». Married to Grietje Van Deblom. They had two children : A son Henk, and 16 years later, on september 26, 1940 a daughter named Will Dijkman Kool.

Pieter Kool was a sailor in the Netherlands merchant navy, this was called the « Royal Dutch Steamboat Company ». He left the Netherlands for England in january 1940 aboard the ship « Stuyvesant ». in may 1940, the Germands invaded the « Netherlands », As it was impossible for him to return there, he then joined the dutch ship « SS Saturnus » which turned out to be a supply ship for the allied forces to England. On september 15, 1942 the « SS Saturnus » was part of a convoy of 21 ships (the SQ36). It was while sailing off Cap-Des-Rosiers that the boat was hit by a torpedo launched by the Germand submarine U-517, unfortunately, Pieter Kool, who was a gunner at the rear of the ship, was located where the torpedo hit, killing him instanly, this day coincided with the day of his 44th birthday.

In the afternoon of the same day, when I returned from school, I witnessed the arrival of the survivors of the ship at the first aid station. Located on Pointe O’Hara. A scene of horror unfolded there :there were several injured sailors shivering in the backs of two army trucks. A military ambulance came to collect the wounded in order to transport them to hospital.

Mr. Kool’s wife waited several months before being informed of the event, it was not until december 23, 1942 that she was informed by the Red Cross that her husbabd was missing at sea. She then received a letter in september 1945 (three years later) from the « Sea Risk Association , saying that Pieter Kool ultimately lost his life when his ship was torpedoed by a German Submarine, after leaving Sydney. For several years she thought it was Sydney, Australia. It wasn’t until seven years later that she fond out it was more about Sidney in Nova Scotia. Will Dijkman Kool, the daughter of Pieter Koll, had never known her father. She decided to do research from 1995 after attending a ceremony for the 50th anniversary of the end of the war.

In 2 000, Will Dijkman learned that  the « SS Saturnus » had sunk off Gaspé, she therefore sent a letter to the Town of Gaspé concerning her research. The Town of Gaspé then transferred the letter to me, following this request, I went to Cap-Des-Rosiers to consult witnesses of the torpedoing at the time, and trying to find out if anyone remembered that a body had landed on the beach among the debris in september 15 1942. Unfortunaly, no victim had been found on the beach. In 2015, Will Dijkman learned that the place where the wreck of the ship « SS Saturnus » had been located. So she decided to plan a trip to Gaspé with her family to lay a wreath at the place where the wreck now lies. It was in 2021 that the trip finally took place. On september 25, 2021, I had the honor of welcoming the five family members to the « Birthplace of Canada » site. We visited the small  ( naval Base) museum on the battle of the St.Lawrence, and then went to the Musée de la Gaspésie where a German submarine torpedo is on display. For this visit, I invited one of the rare witness to the torpedoing of the ship, Mr. Gérald Giasson, and with the cooperation of Parks Canada, the family was also given a tour of the site where the ship was sunk, as they laid a wreach in the sea as a tribute, three wales appeared, circling the boat for about twenty minutes, everyone was in awe of the show. Finally, this lady’s dream was realized. She was finally able to pay tribute to her fathet and was able to return home to the Netherlands with her head full of memories. I am happy to have had the chance to meet this nice family.

Fabien Sinnett

We would like to thank Tracy Wolfe for the traduction of the original text