Our tough ancestors’ things


Few people know much about our Dutch (Dutch) ancestors before 1652. Who would have dreamed that our pious ancestors, before Jan van Riebeeck’s arrival, occupied themselves with dark things? Something stories were written about, they put into practice!

During our visit to one of our children in the Netherlands, I asked if he knew about Piet Hein and then I sang him the song, which I had learned as a child, and he wanted to know more about the man. I couldn’t tell him more, but as usual, my trusty Google informant was able to get his side back.

At the age of 15, he had as ship’s boy began working on his father’s merchant navy ships. During the 80 Years’ War, they competed with Spain and Portugal, with whom they were at enmity, in the field of trade. Both groups were enriched by gold, silver and pearls purchased on islands south of America and in Central America.

The Dutch considered it normal to attack some of the Spanish and Portuguese merchant ships and then make valuable booty during the skirmishes. As a crew member in his father’s navy, he quickly learned to master the art of robbery during raids.

During these occasions he was captured twice and worked as a galley slave on enemy ships, where he gained valuable knowledge and experience. After his second release, he went back to the Netherlands where he became attached to the United East India Company as Under Koopman. Later he lives in Rotterdam Captain on the merchant ship.

In 1623 he entered the service of the United West India Company with the task of attacking Spanish merchant ships. The Spanish wars were mainly financed by gold and silver from colonies in South and Central America.

To attack these Spanish merchant ships, the Silver Fleet, the VWIC brought a special attack force to sea. Under the leadership of one Pieter Ita, the first attack was carried out with partial success and shortly afterwards Piet Hein was instructed to launch a surprise attack.

He left for the Caribbean with thirty-one heavily armed ships and caught the Silver Fleet unawares and without much opposition captured the first ten ships of the Silver Fleet, followed and captured the rest as well. The booty was 77,000 pounds of silver, gold, pearls and other merchandise. The value of the booty would be enough to pay for a year of Spanish warfare. With the value of the booty, the Siege of s’Hertogensbosch in the Netherlands could be financed.

This is how the historian writes about him: “The Dutch Naval Commander, Piet Hein, became famous mainly for the conquest of the Spanish Silver Fleet in 1628. With this, he dealt a heavy blow to the Spanish treasury.”

For his bravery and fearless leadership to defeat the Silver Fleet, he was promoted to lieutenant general, but he was fatally wounded during a subsequent battle at sea. And the Commander-in-Chief of the Silver Fleet? He was beheaded for dereliction of duty after the Silver Fleet was defeated.

So tongue in cheek I now wonder: King William of Orange who just forgave and apologized and handed out “excuses” for his ancestors’ participation in the slave trade: I wonder if he should consider doing the same to Spain not. Just a few sincere “apologies” for his forefathers’ piracy!

Have you heard of the Silver Fleet,

The Zilveren fleet of Spain?

They had a lot of Spanish mats (coins) on board

And apples of Orange (gold pieces).

Piet Hein, Piet Hein, Piet Hein his name is small.

His deeds are great, His deeds are great.

He won the Zilveren fleet.