[Abraham van Stockum]

Abraham (Bram) van Stockum 1864-1936, by Han de Booy

From Han's diary. Han de Booy was married to Olga’s closest sister, Hilda. The following excerpts from his diaries were translated and annotated by his daughter Engelien de Booy with a few minor edits by grandson John Anthony Marlin to make usage follow U.S. English conventions, for example regarding names followed in the rest of this book – i.e., where a woman’s maiden name would follow her married name in Holland, with a hyphen, as in “van Hall-Boissevain”, in U.S. English the maiden name precedes the married name, without a hyphen, as in “Boissevain van Hall”.

World War I, 1912-1916

6 April 1912. Dinner at Drafna with Olga and Bram [van Stockum], who had come back. Bram and I got along well. I talked with him about the naval defense of Holland against the Germans. He wants torpedo ships, land-based batteries of anti-submarine guns, and Holland’s own submarines. He is convinced that Holland would win.

7 October 1912. On Saturday and Sunday I went to the Hague with dear Olga, Bram’s wife. In the evening we went to Rijswijk, where Bram and Olga live in a cramped and rather disorderly house. We had bread and shrimps for supper. On Sunday morning we took a walk along the beach at Scheveningen. We went back to Rijswijk where Bram cooked rice in a rice-cooker he invented. He hopes to make money from his invention. This time he didn’t talk any more about torpedoes. On this visit I’m afraid I began to pity him. The poor wretch is so wrapped up in all his inventions he has an unruly home and badly-trained servants. I had a poor impression of their lives and I pitied Olga as well.

(1914. Jim de Booy, Han de Booy’s nephew, was a fellow naval officer and was more impressed with Bram when they met two years later, in 1914. He wrote in a fragment from his diary: “I met Captain van Stockum in the street. He had just arrived to take command of the port [Ijmuiden] and asked me to join his staff, which I was delighted to do. The command included all the coastal defenses as well as the running of the port. Capt. van Stockum was a great inventor. He invented a mine that would float under water, and mirror for investigating the stomach, and a rice boiler. He put this ingenuity to work improving the defenses of the port. The principal port of Ijmuiden had two gun-turrets lit by kerosene lamps... [page missing].)”

9 May 1914. Took a walk on the heath with Jan van Hall, Hessie [Hester Boissevain van Hall], Teau [Catherina Boissevain de Beaufort, the youngest and widely viewed as the most beautiful of Charles and Emily Boissevain’s daughters, although Mary was also considered very beautiful], and Fik [Ferdinand de Beaufort]. We talk about Bram’s plan to leave the Navy, just when Olga was starting to revive in her beautiful Navy-dockyard house, and was just getting to know the Navy people at the port. Bram says he is going to leave because he can’t stand all the paperwork (the “bumf”). He won’t even delay his departure from the Navy by a few months to collect an extra 200 guilders a month pension. He is planning on going to work at a Dutch factory but he doesn’t know for sure if he can get a job there. They are going to have to move to a small house.

15 January 1915. Bram [van Stockum] believes strongly the Allies are going to win. The war is just beginning. He is going to build a wind-powered generator on his house.

31 June 1916. Walked to Bram and Olga in Boschlust. The house is old and dilapidated. The guestroom is shabby and has a short bed. Talked with Bram who is busy with all his inventions: a mine with depth-regulation device, a flame-extinguisher on torpedo-ships, aiming an air-ship and an anti-aircraft gun. At 11 p.m. to bed, and Bram starts working. He goes to bed at 3 a.m. as a rule.

17 October 1916. Bram tells at dinner about his inventions for making observations in Surinam. For example, he did his work at night to avoid faults of the instrument caused by the sun’s heat. He constructed a well-working artificial horizon. And so forth. The boys [Tom and Alfred de Booy] listen with great interest.

Sickness and Recovery, 1917-1919

5 July 1917. Today Bram van Stockum was brought to the Institution of Prof. Bouman from Boschlust by three male nurses. He went willingly, saying he “would not resist force majeure.” He is very content at the moment. The doctor thinks the situation is very serious.

25 April 1918. Today Bram van Stockum lunched with us and he talked with Hilda [de Booy] about his revelation, his rejuvenation etc., and Hilda listened very calmly – she looks at these kind of beliefs with less prejudice, because of her theosophy.

6 February 1919. Went in the evening with Bram van Stockum to the Concertgebouw. We listened to a new composition of Zagwijn with weird but beautiful sounds, and a wonderful “Don Juan.”

Funeral, 1936

2 January 1936. Funeral of Bram van Stockum. Olga had not seen him alive [since he had been taken away in 1935[?]; she was in Washington, D.C. with her daughter Hilda]. The funeral was at 3:30, a third-class function but a very sympathetic group of mourners. Colonel de Viner and I spoke. Bram was a very special person, very brave, independent. A very keen brain, but at the same time childish, naïf, and steadfastly believing in his own earthly immortality.