Evert van Hummel was born in Baarn in the Netherlands on 29 January 1916.
Evert Herman Van Hummel (some called him Evert others called him Herman) left high school at the age of 15, because he was fascinated by engines. He first worked as an apprentice car mechanic at a local carshop. Not much later he applied for a job in the engineering shop at Soesterberg Air Force base, which was a Dutch-American air base at the time, probably around 1933.
He finished high school attending evening classes, and became a ground engineer, then went to Bandung, Nederlands East Indies (NEI) in 1938 at the age of 22, to become a flight engineer with the Koninklijke Nederlandsche Indische Luchtmacht – KNILM (Netherlands East Indies Airforce), starting off as a ground engineer.
Below is a picture of a football game between staff from the KLM and the KNILM which took place in November 1940. Evert is kneeling (5th from the left).
There is a photo collection that included this period, click here.
Evert on the last KNILM flight
(Most information from the book: “KNILM vliegt door.”)
Unknown to Evert at the time he would involved in one of the most important flights that took place in the last days of a free NEI.
He was also one of the people involved in hectic activities during the Japanese invasion. During February KNILM staff gets more and more ordered to assist the military. Repairs and assemblage were done in the gardens of suburbs around Batavia under the cover of trees. Evert was involved in these activities.
He was involved in a large scale evacuation that took place on 25 February 1942 at Andir Airport in Bandung. However, being one of the younger, unmarried, staff, he was not on the list of personnel to be evacuated. Nevertheless, he was told by his mates to jump on board of one of the planes leaving Andir, once the engines were started, however in the end he didn’t do it.
However his faith suddenly changed twee weeks later.
Secret preparations had been made to bring the last high level government personnel to Australia.
For the purpose of this last flight, the DC-3 nicknamed the Wielewaal was being prepared. The aircraft had finished the very last scheduled flight from Europe (or actually from Lydda in the Middle East). On the way back it arrived in Calcutta on 13 February. It left the next day for Akyab and Medan. In Medan aircraft seats were removed to accommodate a group of 36 women and children who were evacuated to Batavia. The aircraft arrived in Batavia on 15 February 1942, the day that Singapore surrendered.
The plane was now under military command and was used to bring staff, archives and material to Australia. On 3 March 1942, the plane was in Port Hedland and ordered to fly to Andir.
As the airport was now regularly bombed by the Japanese, Captain Eddy Dunlop was ordered to fly the plane before sunrise to Boeabatoe Road, an unfinished highway, near Bandoeng, used now as a secret airstrip.
On 5 March, against his will, Lieutenant Governor General, Dr. H. Van Mook was ordered by Governor Lord Tjarda van Starkenborgh Stachouwer to leave the country for Australia in order to from there lead the fight to liberate NEI. The Governor himself had decided to stay behind and he and his family ended up in the notorious Japanese camps. Staff ready for the last flight were anxious waiting to leave the country as the Japanese were now less than 20kms from Bandung.
On Mach 6 Evert was still at Andir Airport. By that time Bandung was totally surrounded by the Japanese. There had been another bombardment on the airport that morning.
Together with two other colleagues he decides to go to the local Chinese restaurant to have their gallows meal as they conclude that it will all be over by the next day. On their way back from the restaurant they saw a parked car at one of the houses of KNILM staff. The driver tells them to be quick as they can join the last flight as passengers, out of Andir with Lieutenant Governor-General van Mook and other high level government officials.
The aircraft took off from Boeabatoe Road on 7 March 1942 at 1.00am. It was the last civil aircraft to escape the East Indies. By now there was Japanese action occurring at Lembang, less than 15 km away from Bandoeng when they left the area.
The flight from Java was uneventful and it was reported that Dr van Mook remained rather quiet during the flight, he was obviously heavily affected by the seriousness of the situate and fully aware that a whole new task laying ahead of him. On board was also his second in charge Dr. Charles Olke van der Plas; he would play a key role in the administrative process of the Netherlands East Indies Government in Exile.
PK-ALW arrived at Port Hedland in Western Australia 7 hours and 32 minutes later. From here it flew on to Perth.
The next day Governor Lord Tjarda van Starkenborgh Stachouwer surrendered NEI to the Japanese.
Evert now part of the Dutch Air Force
All KNILM personeel were now put under the command of the military, It looks like he did stay for a while with the KNILM planes.
Later when flying between Adelaide and Perth they landed in Kalgoorlie in Western Australia and headed for the pub with only NEI coins in their pockets. The publican said not to worry about the money as all the drinks were on him after all they were here helping protect Australia.
After the planes were sold to the Americans Evert went to the No. 321 (Dutch) Squadron RAF based in Ceylon. The Dutch here were part of the British Allied Command
This squadron was formed on 15 August 1942 in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) from the personnel of the Marineluchtvaartdienst (MLD), the Royal Netherlands Naval Air Service, who had been able the flee to Ceylon after the Japanese invasion of NEI. The squadron was equipped with Catalinas. From Ceylon the Catalina’s were also flown to Australia mainly for transport of equipment and personnel. The planes established several world records on these long distance flights.
On average 15 of the 22 aircraft of this Squadron were available for war flights and with this small fleet they convoyed no less than six thousand Allied ships, without any loss to personnel or planes.
After the war they flew between NEI, Ceylon and Australia to repatriate NEI personnel from the Islands to Australia.
On on October 23, 1945 the Catalina with Evert as flight engineer went to Mokmar on the island of Biak of the coast of Dutch New Guinea, to deliver a few crates of alcohol for the troops of the No. 120 (Netherlands East Indies) Squadron RAAF … but unfortunately, they flew too low to land safely and crashed into the ocean. As the engineer’s position was at the top of the plane, Evert was able to climb over and drag the pilot out of the cockpit. He later went back and retrieved a few crates of booze to help them get over the trauma of the crash landing.
Report of the Catalina Crash in a magazine on the history of the 120 Squadron.
The Catalina Y-62 approaches the south coast of Biak in the afternoon. Familiar territory. For nearly a year, Alta crews have been operating with their Cats from Rose Bay, Sydney, at posts and bases in the liberated areas of New Guinea, mostly for resupply or flying in NICA personnel. For boat commander De Groot and his crew, including the later KLM flight engineer Evert van Hummel, the flight is also a routine matter. They approach the coast with the terraced inland hinterland even for the second time within a few days, this time after an extra service to Wundi and Hollandia.
At Mokmer, the arrival of the Catalina does not go unnoticed. Several people from 120 Squadron see the flying boat descend to the sea surface, pull up and turn around for another landing attempt. At that point, no one expects them to witness the final landing of the Y-62. Slightly sloping backwards, the Cat sinks to the water for the second time. Why it goes wrong they cannot see on Mokmer, but just before the hull will make contact with the sea surface, the left auxiliary driver hits the water and the flying boat makes a sudden turn counterclockwise. At the same time, De Groot slides the throttles of the engines to full power in a reaction, a reaction that leads to catastrophic consequences, because both Pratt & Whitney’s are ripped from their mounting bolts. A plug mows through the cabin skin, right behind the pilots! The briefly loosened Catalina croaks on the water again and strands on a reef, where the bottom sprang leaks. Alarmed Americans with speedboats are quickly on the spot. The crew members turn out to be miraculously unharmed. They, together with a crate with 24 bottles of whisky and one with 24 bottles of sherry intended for distribution at Biak, are brought ashore in triumph, where a “reception committee” of 120 Squadron is already waiting. Among the guards are Bouke Prins and fighter pilot Hoekstra, who will later go to KLM.
Source: Kemajoran Magazine
After the liberation he went back to NEI but returned to Sydney to meet his new born son. The marriage didn’t work out so he decided to go back the Netherlands.
On August1, 1948 he continued his career as a flight engineer with KLM in the Netherlands, he rented a room in the house owned by Koos Roos and his wife Henny in Amsterdam, with whom he became very good friends. It is believed that his first plane as a flight engineer with KLM was a Lockeed Super Constellation, which proved to be his favorite airplane.
Evert married Freddy (maiden name Van Den Hamer) on August 28th 1951. They had three children Herman, Saskia and Robert.
After his early retirement – with a golden handshake – at the age of 48 he came back to Australia with his family in 1964. Initially he was told to be able to fly as a flight engineer for Qantas, where the retirement age then was 55. Instead he was told this was not possible as they only employed Australian and British flying personnel. He became a ground engineer once more, but that was not satisfactory. He continued to have several other jobs, including a short career as a salesman for David Jones. After finding out they changed the retirement age in the Netherlands to 55, he was invited back by an Australian friend of his who flew for Schreiner Airways.
There was a true family meeting to decide on their future. The family decided unanimously to return to the Netherlands in order for Evert Herman to be able to fly for Schreiner Airways.
In that period (1966-1967) he was involved in dangerous Schreiner Airways flights, dropping food and medications from the air above Biafra, during the separation war with Nigeria. Because of Mum’s fear for his life, he left Schreiner Airways shortly after that and continued to fly for Transavia from 1968 to 1971. Not long after Evert Herman and Freddy moved to Epe in 1973, he was for a short time involved in creating a new Airline at Maastricht Airport, which never really took off. That marked the end of his career in aviation. On December 31st 1986 he migrated again to Australia with his wife Freddie to make Australia his definite home. Herman Jr. had moved there in 1978 and Saskia had moved there in March 1986. Robert had decided to stay in Holland.
Pictures below Evert and his family in the Netherlands.
In the year 2000 he visited a friend in Caloundra, who took him to Queensland Air Museum and to his surprise saw the Wielewaal fully restored and on display, so Herman was reunited with his old airplane… both had survived the war after many adventures.
Evert died at the age of 100 years in TriCare Aged Care Residence in Mermaid Beach, Queensland Australia on April 30th 2016.
This story has been preserved thanks to Mary Hummel who was married to Everts’ son Peter and the documentation provided by Evert’s daughter Saskia and his son Robert.
Most documents and photos have been donated to the Dutch Australian Cultural Centre for safekeeping and are available for research.
Mary Hummel and Paul Budde – January 2023
A rich photo collection has also been donated to the Dutch Australian Centre. They van be viewed here.