voor de



[Ben Oostdam's
Years 1950-1952]

Back at the Institute, 1951

We returned from our Christmas leave early January to chilly Den Helder and harsh discipline. We had about 40 hours of classes a week, a far cry from "usual" higher education with 12-15 hours. In addition, I worked on two "brevetten" - a bit tougher than most Boy Scout badges -, Bugler and Skipper.
My main memories of the bugle are the daily exercises on the loft, and the time I was asked to rapidly fill in for the corporal who did the daily routine bugle signals. To speed matters up, I was handed his bugle to use, and on the first command I forcefully put it to my lips. This rapidly drained a slug of remnant juices from the bugle into my mouth; in order not to delay the ceremony ("baksgewijs"), I swallowed this concoction dutifully "like a man".

(right): Adelborsten (Dutch Naval Cadets) presenting arms

I was fascinated by sailing, navigation and seamanship. I learned hundreds of knots, hitches and splices from an old grizly Bosun.
We trained under Lt.Cdr Jansen using B-12's, ungainly sloops principally used for rowing, but equipped with two masts and a primitive rig.
We'd sail out to the Marsdiep, the tidal inlet between Den Helder and the island of Texel and spend hours fighting the strong tidal currents just to try and keep up with a stationary buoy.
A nasty memory is that of a fully rigged sloop sailing under the low bridge leading to the basin without first striking the masts; I refuse to state the name of the skipper.
Rarely did we get to use the "Urania", the Institute's pride. (left)

We also spend one month with the Marine Commando School in Doorn. This was tough as nails, especially on me, since they split our class in half and appointed the men at the top of the two lists as C.O.'s...
We went on forced marches, suffered night-exercises, dismantled guns and rifles, learned how to "win terrain", and watched a corporal's thumb cut off in a demo of a bazooka.
Most annoying was the frequent changing of uniforms which had to be done in negative time.
For example, I was told to dismiss my group at 11:05 and to reassemble at 11:00 dressed in khaki; when I got them lined up after a Supermanly rapid change and presented them at 11:10, I was reproached for being 10 minutes late.
I have no pictures or unclassified documents of this experience, and even the scars have healed.

to continue to: next page: Back at the Institute - 1951, part 2 - stories - Ben Oostdam's Website BLO fecit 7 VII 1998 addition: 20060209