Dirk Drok (Dalfsen, Netherlands 1915–1988), Perth) and his wife Kitty Isabella Theodora Uitenhage de Mist-Barkey (Java 1921–2001 Perth) lived in Java, Netherlands East Indies NEI (now Indonesia).
After the Japanese had occupied the NEI, Dirk and kitty both – separately – ended up in Japanese Camps. There is an extensive article on this period of their live.
During the war years, a Netherlands East Indies government-in-exile was established at Camp Columbia in Queensland which was well prepared for the arrival of the East Indies Dutch. They established the Netherlands East Indies Welfare Organisation for Evacuees (NIWOE) whose role it was to receive and process evacuees, to pay all expenses associated with their ‘recuperation’, and to organise accommodation in private homes, hotels and boarding houses.
When the Dorks –arrived in Fremantle on 20 January 1946 they most likely were met by NIWOE representatives or members of the Australian Red Cross and then taken to NIWOE state headquarters based at the Cloisters, St Georges Terrace, Perth to be formally processed as evacuees. The Drok family were relatively fortunate as they had already been offered temporary accommodation with friends of the family in Mt Lawley, some four kilometres north of the city.
The family moved from Mt Lawley to independent accommodation at 32 Mount Street Perth. In 1947, Dirk enrolled at the University of Western Australia (UWA) to study languages.
Dirk was a successful mature-age student, passing many of his examinations in French, German, Greek and Latin with Distinction. He was awarded a Bachelor of Arts in 1950, a Teacher’s Certificate in May 1952, and a Diploma of Education in 1957. He tutored languages at UWA, taught at various schools in regional Western Australia, was elected to the Australian College of Education in 1971, and was Senior Master of Languages, and of Administration, at Christchurch Grammar School from 1973.
Dirk also loved history. He worked with Henrietta Drake-Brockman (1901–1968) for a decade to help solve the mystery of the Batavia. Their 1963 publication Voyage to Disaster focuses on the ill-fated voyage of the Batavia in 1629 together with a biography of the ship’s captain Francisco Pelsaert. Importantly it was Dirk’s translations of numerous, relevant documents from the period including Pelseart’s Journal, and the complete Log of the Batavia and of the Gardam – written in the Gothic handwriting of 1629 – that helped Dirk and Henrietta Drake-Brockman to pinpoint the wreck of the Batavia off the Western Australian coast within a mile of their calculated position.
In a Letter to the Editor (Western Mail, 2 December 1985) – copies of which are also held in the Battye Library, [ii] National and The Hague Libraries together with a number of Australian university library archives – Dirk states that:
“For a period of ten years I translated aloud to Henrietta who made written notes and together we poured over the current Admiralty Charts locating all the bearings given in relation to both ships. Together we concluded that the ‘Batavia’ must be in the vicinity of Noon Reef, and this decision was not an accident or a guess, it was the result of our arduous search and research. Henrietta told Hugh Edwards of our calculations, so for the next three years local fishermen were on the watch. David Johnson, a crayfisherman, spotted on Morning Reef, objects which he believed to be canons and reported them to Max Cramer then President of the Geraldton Skindivers Club. He and Hugh Edwards visited the site and Max brought to the surface proof that the ‘Batavia’ lay within a mile of our calculated position. Max Cramer, Hugh Edwards and others in conjunction with the Royal Australian navy began uncovering the wreck some five months later. It was then that both Henrietta and I dived on the wreck to view it in situ.”
Dirk passed away in Perth in 1988.
This article is with permission abstracted from: Internment, resilience and survival: The story of Dirk Drok who helped to uncover the Batavia and a key contributor to Voyage to Disaster, and his wife, well-known painter and ceramicist, Kitty Drok.