A Difficult Ship To Sink

History

The construction for the S.S. Veendam started in 1922 and finished in 1923. Her first voyage would be from Rotterdam to New York. The ship was used for cruises until 1939 when the ship would be pushed into the World War II conflict. The S.S. Veendam rescued British soldiers after their aircraft carrier, Courageous, was hit by a torpedo from a German U-boat in September 1939. In 1940 while the ship was docked in Rotterdam, it suffered during the bombing and German invasion of Holland. The ship was then taken by the Germans during the invasion and was repaired. The German navy used it to house soldiers until it was sold to the Hamburg-America Line.

While the ship was docked in 1943, numerous air raids caused significant damage to the ship including one in 1944 that resulted in extreme damage to the engine room and caused the back half of the ship to sink. The continuous bombing of Hamburg caused more damage and sinking. It wasn’t until 1945 that the English were able to save the ship after taking over Hamburg. The half-sunken ship is used as lodging for the Dutch as they are claiming back their ships to take back to Rotterdam for repairs. The ship got back into a routine in 1947 with its first trip to New York after the war.

The ship operated as a cruise line after all it endured for nearly five years going between Rotterdam and New York through the Caribbean sea. The ship last sailed from Rotterdam to New York in 1953 where it then traveled to Boston, Massachusetts for scrapping after surviving the war and creating memories for many.

Passengers

The Holland-America Line had first class, second class, and tourist classes. The cruise line would also serve as transportation for Dutch immigrants wanting to participate in the American dream, especially after World War II. The ship could carry up to 600 guests who both want to immigrate and view the tourist attractions of New York. Upon entering the United States, immigrants would have to pay a head tax of $8 to the United States government if they weren’t a resident of the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Newfoundland, and Cuba.

On the ship, to pay for all goods and services, you would have to pay in Dutch currency when heading to New York but when heading from New York to Rotterdam, only U.S. currency would be accepted. Although I couldn’t find the costs of the Holland-America Line post-war during the times that the S.S. Veendam operated, in 1928 it cost $230 to board as a first-class passenger. In the 1920s, $230 is the equivalent of $2200 in today’s world. 

Brochure promoting the S.S. Veendam cruise with information on the destinations and prices.

Tourist Class Menu

I examined a menu that was given to the tourist class in August of 1948 on the S.S. Veendam. Although the menu seems fairly simple for a lunch selection, two items interested me. Consomme Fermiere interested me because it is the only item on the menu that is in French. This meal means farmer’s soup. It is called farmers soup because of the many fresh vegetables it has which are served as a starter. The same meal was also very popular on the R.M.S. Titanic especially because it was on the final lunch menu that was served on April 14, 1912, and the Titanic sunk on April 15, 1912. Consomme Fermiere consists of carrots, onions, cabbage, string beans, and chicken broth.

The next menu item that piqued my interest was the Orleans pudding. Orleans pudding is half of an almond sponge cake sliced thin, lemon juice, white wine, eggs, cream, sugar, nutmeg, and meringue. The Orleans pudding recipe can be found in Eliza Leslie’s cookbook “The Lady’s Receipt-Book; A Useful Companion For Large or Smaller Families”. Eliza Leslie created the most popular cookbook of the 19th century with recipes that used the technology of the time such as a wood-burning oven. Her recipes gave people the opportunity to try new items as well as how to use their cooking appliances of the time correctly.

S.S. Veendam Lunch Menu for August 10, 1948

Lunch Over Breakfast

Compared to the lunch menu, the breakfast menu for the S.S. Veendam had fairly simple items. It included fruits, jams, breakfast meats, and beverages. The lunch menu has more items that catch your attention because of the way it sounds such as the consomme fermiere, stewed escalops of pork, fried fillet, assorted cold meats, and Orleans pudding. Since the menus are for the tourist class, the menu items seem representative of what they can afford based on both travel class and economic level.  

S.S. Veendam Breakfast Menu for August 14, 1948

Legacy of the S.S. Veendam

After the S.S. Veendam was scrapped for metal, the name still lived on throughout the Holland-America Line until the pandemic in 2020. Although it is not the original ship that had survived multiple air raids, attacks, invasions, and sinkings, the name carries the history of the original Veendam and the purposes it served. The S.S. Veendam helped transport many Dutch immigrants to the United States as well as provide luxury cruises and cuisine to those who could afford it. The tourist class menu helped show what it was like in the late 1940s to 1950s to travel on a cruise as well as the many distinct items that were served during different times.

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