This is an abstract from the article: A Dutch digger in World War I – Jan Zwolsman. By Bas de Groot January, 2022

Jan Zwolsman’s life story is a testament to resilience and activism, from his early days as a Dutch sailor to his later roles as a soldier, labor activist, and lifeguard. Born in Amsterdam in 1890, Zwolsman ventured to Australia in search of better opportunities, leaving behind his naval career for a chance at a new life. Integrating into Australian society, he found employment as a radio operator and became known for his athletic prowess.

When World War I erupted, Zwolsman’s allegiance shifted as he naturalised and enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force, showcasing his military experience gained from his time in the Dutch Royal Navy. Throughout the war, he demonstrated bravery and leadership, rising through the ranks despite the dangers of the battlefield.

After the war, Zwolsman continued his fight against social injustice, becoming actively involved in labor and political activism. His anti-Fascist stance led him to re-enlist during World War II, even at an advanced age, demonstrating his commitment to defending Australia.

Beyond his military service, Zwolsman remained dedicated to his principles, advocating for the rights of workers and migrants. His involvement in the Communist Party and outspokenness against deportation policies underscored his unwavering commitment to justice.

Despite facing backlash for his beliefs, Zwolsman remained steadfast, leaving a lasting legacy of activism and resilience. His story serves as a reminder of the courage and determination required to stand up against injustice, even in the face of adversity. Jan Zwolsman died in Brisbane in 1969.

See also: Dutch WWI Diggers decorated in the Australian Imperial Force