Wim Kan’s World War 2 years.

WIM

Anyone living outside the Netherlands or the Flemish speaking part of Belgium will probably have never heard of Wim Kan.

It is actually not that easy to describe what he was, his title was cabaretier ,which is French for Cabaret performer. But I think the term ‘stand up comedian’ would be more relevant nowadays, even though that doesn’t really describe it accurately either.Because he cracked jokes, sang songs he had written himself, told stories.

He was one of the ‘Great 3’ cabaret acts of the Netherlamds, together with Win Sonneveld and Toon Hermans.

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In 1936, he established the ABC Cabaret, which soon became one of the most successful Dutch cabaret groups, in which several artists debuted who later became famous.Wim Kan’s wife,Corry Vonk, was also a member of the group.

In 1940, the ABC Cabaret was touring the Dutch East Indies.(Now called Indonesia)While they were on tour in Indonesia, which was a Dutch Colony at the time, Germany invaded the Netherlands therefor Wim Kan and his Cabaret company could not return to the Netherlands.

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On 8 December 1941, the Dutch government-in-exile declared war on Japan. Wim Kan was called as a conscript with the KNIL. The Royal Dutch Indies army. He was assigned to  the Department of War as a radio broadcaster.By March 1942 all of Indonesia was occupied by Japan.On Friday the 13th of March, Wim Kan was made a prisoner of war, with POW number 71502.

He survived 13 Japanese camps. Probably because of his fame he ,did enjoy some protection of hard physical labour, but he was not completely exempt from working on the Burma railway.

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While he was in the camps he did do what he always done, entertain. He continued doing shows albeit in adapted form, and he continued writing songs. He also kept a diary of his years under captivity. These diaries were only released relatively recently.

Mt Dros, who was one of the 15,170 Dutchmen who survived the Burma Railway, said in an interview with a Dutch newspaper” The performances of Wim Kan were like small rays of light, and made us feel like we were home in the Netherlands again albeit for a short time.”

Shortly after the war ,on November 6,1945 Wim Kan staged a benefit show in Bangkok  for former prisoners of war. The show was called ‘Mystery in Budapest’

AFFICHE

Wim Kan and his wife returned to the Netherlands in 1948, where he became an even bigger star as when he was before the war.

When the Japanese Emperor Hirohito came for a state visit to the Netherlands October 1971, Wim Kan strongly protested and urged the Dutch government to get the Emperor tried for war crimes.

Wim Kan died age 72 on September 8, 1983.

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Sources

Trouw.nl

NIOD.nl

New York Times

Dutch Wikipedia

 

 

 

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Alistair Urquhart- The man that just wouldn’t be killed.

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Sometimes you come  across stories and you think “You could not write this”. Amazing tales of survival.Proof of how strong the will to live can be.

Alistair Urquhart  8 September 1919 – 7 October 2016) was a Scottish businessman and the author of The Forgotten Highlander, an account of the three and a half years he spent as a Japanese prisoner of war during his service in the Gordon Highlanders infantry regiment during the Second World War.

Urquhart was born in Aberdeen in 1919. He was conscripted into the British Army in 1939, at the age of 19, and served with the Gordon Highlanders stationed at Fort Canning in Singapore.

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He was taken prisoner when the Japanese invaded the island during the Battle of Singapore, which lasted from December 1941 to February 1942. He was sent to work on the Burma Railway,built by the Empire of Japan to support its forces in the Burma Campaign and referred to as “Death Railway” because of the tens of thousands of forced labourers who died during its construction. While working on the railway Urquhart suffered malnutrition, cholera and torture at the hands of his captors.

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After working on the railway and in the docks in Singapore, Urquhart was loaded into the hold of the Kachidoki Maru, an American passenger and cargo ship captured by the Japanese and put to use as a “hell ship” transporting hundreds of prisoners. The ship was part of a convoy bound for Japan; on the voyage prisoners endured more illness, dehydration, and instances of cannibalism.

Kachidoki_maru

On 12 September 1944, the ship was torpedoed and sunk by the US submarine USS Pampanito,whose commander was unaware of its cargo of prisoners.

pampanito1

 

Urquhart was burned and covered in oil when the ship went down, and swallowed some oil which caused permanent damage to his vocal cords.He floated in a single-man raft for five days without food or water before being picked up by a Japanese whaling ship and taken to Japan.

In Japan, Urquhart was sent to work in coal mines belonging to the Aso Mining Company and later a labour camp ten miles from the city of Nagasaki. He was there when the city was hit with an atomic bomb by the United States.

7A_Nagasaki_Bomb_Cloud

Remarkably he survived all 3 events. In 2010, Urquhart published The Forgotten Highlander: My Incredible Story of Survival During the War in the Far East, an account of his experiences.

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In the book he expresses anger at the lack of recognition in Japan of its role in war crimes as compared to the atonement in Germany.

He was born in the City of Aberdeen, but has resided in Broughty Ferry, Dundee for many years. He spent his retirement teaching retired people how to use the computer and attended and taught ballroom dancing at many Tea Dances.He died on 7 October 2016, aged 97.

Mr Alistair Urquhart 1

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I am passionate about my site and I know a you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2 ,however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thanks To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the paypal link. Many thanks

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