Christiaan Vincent Gradwell (Chris) van Oosterzee, born on March 20, 1922, in Weltevreden (Batavia), and died on April 18, 1989, in Amsterdam, was a significant figure during and after World War II. His life included notable interactions with Australia during his military service.

Early Life and Military Involvement

Chris van Oosterzee was a member of a prominent Dutch family with roots in the Netherlands and England. His early life was spent in the Dutch East Indies, but his family moved to the Netherlands in 1935. When Nazi Germany invaded the Netherlands in 1940, van Oosterzee was a student in Delft, where he became involved in resistance activities.

Escape and Military Training

Engelandvaarder, (literally translated as “England sailer”) was the term given during the Second World War to men and women who attempted to escape from the Netherlands across the North Sea to reach England and freedom. Only about one in ten were successful in the crossing, with most just disappearing in the sea. Once they reached England many joined the Allied forces to help free their country from Nazi Germany.

Van Oosterzee attempted to flee to England multiple times. His successful escape route eventually led him through Belgium, France, and Spain. He was arrested by the Guardia Civil in Spain but later released and reached England. There, he joined the Dutch military forces and aimed to contribute to the liberation of the Dutch East Indies from Japanese occupation.

Service in Australia

In January 1945, van Oosterzee traveled to Australia as part of the maritieme operatie ‘Leander’. He arrived in Sydney on February 21, 1945, and was stationed at Camp Columbia in Wacol near Brisbane. This camp was the headquarters of the Netherlands Indies Civil Administration (NICA), the Dutch government-in-exile for the East Indies. He underwent military training and jungle warfare courses in various Australian locations, including Camp Casino and the Australian Jungle Warfare School in Canungra.

Deployment in the East Indies and Conflict

Van Oosterzee was deployed to New Guinea and later Makassar (now Ujung Pandang) in the Dutch East Indies. Although initially sent to fight Japanese forces, he soon found himself involved in the Indonesian struggle for independence, which led to a moral and ethical conflict for him. He was promoted to first lieutenant and played roles in various military and civil operations, despite his reluctance to participate in the colonial suppression of Indonesian independence efforts.

Post-war Life and Legacy

After five years of absence, he returned to The Netherlands and struggled to find a job, eventually being employed by the Nederlandsche Handel-Maatschappij in Amsterdam. In mid-1949, he was sent to Asia, initially working in Jakarta. At the end of 1950, as former KNIL soldiers and their families (including 12,500 Moluccans) were deported by the Indonesian government, he was transferred to the Singapore office. After ten years, he was sent to Mombasa in early 1962 but quit and returned to The Netherlands because his family couldn’t join him. He found a similar job at the Rotterdamsche Bank in Rotterdam and Enschede. His career concluded in Hattem as a director of an AMRO bank branch from March 1966, holding several management positions. Suffering from Concentration Camp Syndrome, he retired early at the end of 1976. He spent his retirement in France until lung disease struck in spring 1989, leading to his death in Amsterdam at age 67.

Chris van Oosterzee’s connection to Australia was a pivotal part of his military career, contributing to his training and preparation for the significant roles he later played in the Dutch East Indies and beyond.

Source: Wikepedia