Patricia (Pat) Metcalfe (born 1929 in Cairns) moved to Brisbane when she was 4 years old and after she finished the St Columba school at Wilson, was employed at Camp Columbia as a typist and secretary, first with the Americans and since 1945 with the Netherlands-East-Indies Government. Here she worked for the Department of Works and Communications till 19 December 1947. This date is interesting as it indicates how long the Dutch were still operating in Australia, despite the hostile attitude of the Australian Government against the Dutch police actions (war) in Indonesia.

Here she met her future husband Willem (Wim) van Wely. Wim was born in Roosendaal in 1921 and during the war he studied engineering at the University of Delft. When in April of 1943 all university students were forced to sign a declaration of loyalty to the occupying forces, 85% of students refused to do so, Wim included. However, this made his position vulnerable as the Nazis could come and pick up and imprison in forced labour camps who had not signed. He decided to flee the country and ended up in Switzerland. After D-Day he and other Dutchmen wanted to go back to the Netherlands. But they were only allowed back if they went into military service to fight in Netherlands East Indies.  For Wim this meant to get a six-week military training in Wolverhampton, England (the Netherlands were still partly occupied).  From here he went to Brisbane by boat, and was deployed at the Motor Pool at Camp Columbia.

Most likely Pat worked at the office of the Motor Pool and this is where they met, first at friends, later as fiancées. On 5 November 1946 Wim was put on leave from the Royal Netherlands Indies Army. A year later he was sent to Batavia where he was supposed to be employed by the Department of Work and Communications. However, perhaps because of the rapidly evolving political situation in the Netherlands East Indies where the Indonesians had started their war of independence, it doesn’t look like he was actually deployed. Soon after that he worked as a civilian at the Import and Export Company Deli Atjeh.

Back in Brisbane Pat and Wim were married by proxy, as otherwise she was unable to travel to Indonesia. Because of the hostilities she couldn’t travel until early 1949. They were officially married in Jakarta on 29 April 1949.

The political situation in Indonesia after receiving formal independence from the Netherlands remained very unstable and there was a lot of violence against ‘foreigners’, being Europeans or for example Chinese. In 1957 Wim was attacked and beaten up quite severely before being rescued by a policeman. Because of his injuries and a continuation of the threats they decided to leave ASAP and took the first available boat which brought them to the Netherlands.

There their daughter Donna was born and she visited me in 2022. She told me the story and I showed her the area of Camp Columbia where both her parents had worked and where they had met for the first time.

Paul Budde

This pdf contain several documents from Willem and Patricia Wely

Jean van Schilfgaarde – secretary at the Dutch Army at Camp Columbia

Joan McConachy – secretary at the Dutch Army at Camp Columbia

Edmund Nyst  – Dutch Army

Return to Camp Columbia Heritage Park, Wacol, Brisbane TOC

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