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Gifts to my father after three years of military service in Indonesia

In the period 1947-1949 armed conflicts took place in Indonesia. The Dutch government tried to maintain its colonial government in the "Dutch East Indies" by means of military force against a long-standing local struggle for independence. I would call it a war, and even today debates are going on about war crimes that were committed in those days. No doubt it was a very complicated situation short after the Second World War.

In 1947, in these circumstances, my father (20) was suddenly called under the arms with many other Dutch boys. He was forced to migrate to Indonesia as a soldier for an uncertain period of time. His father and two brothers having died earlier, he left his mother and two sisters behind. But he returned safe home in 1950.

In the decades to follow, my father, who died in 2017, did not tell much about this period. We know that he served as a dental assistant in the army, based in Manado on North Sulawesi. This probably prevented him from being involved in fighting, even though he may have had to be present at executions of Japanese prisoners in the camp.

I want to share some of the keepsakes he received from friends and relatives after returning home. They are documenting his migration between two countries, pictured with some stereotypes. One shows the soldier; another highlights the names of the vessels transporting the troops.

My favourite one is the small square copper plate: to me, it really evokes the 'home-feeling' of his city Maastricht, by depicting the Romanesque "Basilica of Our Lady" with the statue of "Our Lady, Star of the Sea" in front. Without any doubt, this "Star of the Sea" has been meant and felt as the reliable guardian of his safe travels over the sea and the period in between.

Migration in the sake of war, will this ever stop? I hope so.