direct to content

MaSS

stepping stones of maritime history

History

Historical description

The ship Jonge Thomas was on her fourth journey to the East when she left Texel on the 20th of October 1772 under the command of master Barend de la Main. She sailed as a merchant vessel for the Dutch East India Company (VOC) between patria and the Indies. The Jonge Thomas would however never come past her half point stop at Table Bay in South Africa. During a heavy storm the ship began to drag her anchor and ran aground in a sandbank. Only 53 lives were saved. An heroic story followed this event, which is described below.

Painting of Aernout Smit of Dutch Ship anchoring at Table Bay.

The hero Wolraad Woltemade

The local governor send soldiers to the beach where the ship wrecked, not to save lives, but to make sure that the washed up cargo would not be stolen. One of these soldiers was Christiaan Woltemade. His father Wolraad Woltemade was a farmer aged 60+ and visited his son to bring him some lunch. When he saw that none of the soldier tried to save any of the crewmembers on board the ship he decided to help them himself.

On his horse "Vonk" (Spark) he went to the ship seven times saving 14 sailors from a certain death. Being tired after this he decided whether or not to make an eight attempt. The screams from the ship made him try on last time. An attempt he would sadly not survive himself. During this attempt he would tragically drown himself after so many desperate sailors tried to grab onto the horse.

Drawing of the Woltemade in action from 1775. Source: Atlas of Mutual Heritage.

 

Jonge Thomas

South African stamps from 1973 depicting the hero Woltemade.

 

Jonge Thomas

South African Medals of Bravery depicting Woltemade.

 

Jonge Thomas

18th century depiction of the heroic act by Woltemade.

 

Jonge Thomas

Art in an South African office building by I. Mitford-Barbeton depicting Woltemade.

Description

Type: Dutch East Indiaman (Spiegelretourschip)

Name: Jonge Thomas

Master: Barend de la Main

Complement: 300

Built: 1764

Yard: Amsterdam

Chamber: Amsterdam

Tonnage: 575 last, 1150 ton

Painting of an East Indiaman in Table Bay.

Status

Little is known archaeologically about this wrecksite. Supposedly it has been salvaged by the African Salvage Corporation Ltd. However, information regarding this salvage is hard to come by since it has not been published to the public.
Protected in terms of the National Heritage Resources Act, No.25 of 1999. This act regards historic shipwrecks as well. The site may not be disturbed without permission of the South African Resources Agency (SAHRA) and artifacts removed from the wreck may not be traded without SAHRA's permission.

Example of East Indiaman finds.

Trivia

South African stamps from 1973 depicting the hero Woltemade

South African Medals of Bravery depicting Woltemade

18th century depiction of the heroic act by Woltemade

Art in an South african office building by I. Mitford-Barbeton depicting Woltemade

East Indiaman

Roman structures