Joop Gijzemijter

Johannes (Joop) Gijzemijter

Born 24 Feb, 1915, Rotterdam, Netherlands.

Died 30 April, 1999, Brisbane, Australia.

Written by his son John Gyzemyter.

“What did you do during the war Daddy?”

As children Dad often told us stories about his career in aviation which started on the 3rd of March 1930 as an apprentice aircraft maintenance engineer with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines in the Netherlands. After qualifying as an aircraft engineer he trained as a Flight Engineer on various aircraft.

In 1938 he was offered a job as a Flight Engineer for KNILM in what was then Netherlands East Indies. He flew from 1938 until the Japanese invasion. During the invasion, as a member of the civilian aircrew, he evacuated from Java to Australia together with 10 KNILM aircraft in February 1942. After having been seconded to various military units around Australia, my Dad found himself attached to the 39th Troop Carrier Squadron of the United States Army Air Force based at Archerfield as a flight engineer and co-pilot in early 1943.

The Dutch Command decided that from the 1st of Sep 1944, the Dutch aircrew would form their own 1st Netherlands East Indies Transport Section (NEI-TS) also based at Archerfield. Dad being a fully qualified aircraft maintenance engineer was offered the job of Technical Superintendent of the new independent squadron. Being wartime, everything was in short supply, including manpower as well as equipment.

My Dad continues the story,

” We were allocated a hangar which could accommodate a Douglas DC 3. There was, of course, an enormous shortage of manpower but through the labour exchange, we were allocated 20 civilians of which only one, an Irishman named Danny McLaughlin, had any aircraft experience. The others were a mixture of farmers, carpenters, miners, and one meat worker. Apart from Danny none had been close to an aircraft before and were totally bewildered. However, they were very willing and in time became an efficient and productive team”.

Danny was a good engineer and a fantastic storyteller; but what was more important, he was the biggest scrounger that I’ve ever come across. He was able to procure almost any part or piece of equipment needed. For the supply of spare parts, we were dependent on USAAF supply depots. So being at the end of the chain it was only natural that we were sometimes given the run-around when we needed something that was in short supply. This is where Danny became our greatest asset. Having worked for ANA and Qantas he knew everybody worth knowing; and because both companies were also engaged in repair work, they had the parts. Danny would casually walk into their hangar, seek out the person he wanted, and with a ‘Hey, did you hear this one?’ start to spin one of his yarns. He would have them in stitches for the next 10 minutes and he would always have the goods when he came back.

We only had one set of wing jacks and badly needed a second pair, but we had no hope of getting a set through normal channels. Danny had discovered a shed full of RAAF equipment and at least two dozen wing jacks just sitting there.

There were two guards in a little office who were extremely bored with having nothing to do. Danny made it his business to visit them regularly and tell them a few jokes. After a while, they really looked forward to his visits and even made him cups of tea to prolong his stay. This was all part of Danny’s plan, for he had shown four of our fellows how they could wheel two jacks out of the shed without being seen, while he would keep the guards occupied roaring with laughter. So, this is how it happened one day, while in our own hangar some fellows stood by with paint and brushes. Before Danny left the guards, the jacks had been repainted and converted to Dutch Air Force property.”

“All is fair in Love and War.”

After the war, Dad returned to Jakarta as Technical Superintendent with KNILM-KLM. Dad remained with KLM as Maintenance Manager at various outstations until November 1963 when he and the family emigrated to Sydney, Australia.

In Australia, Dad was employed by Qantas and tasked with setting up the Apprentice Training College in Roseberry, Sydney, to train aircraft engineers in preparation for the introduction of the Boeing B747. Dad retired in July 1975 and moved to Brisbane.

Remembering Joop Gijzemijter 1915-1999

See also: The Dutch at Archerfield Airport