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M.V Oranje model a passion project for Jacobus

Hospital Ship Oranje
Jacobus (Jack) Sulsters with one of his model ships that he built of the Hospital Ship Oranje

When Jacobus Sulsters was a young shipwright working in Amsterdam he was acquainted with what would become known as the fastest hospital vessel in the world.

The Bundaberg man worked on the construction of the M.V Oranje in the 1930s before it set sail across the world, transforming from a passenger liner to a hospital ship when it reached Great Britain, then Australia.

In 2010, more than 70 years later, Jacobus donated a 1:100 exact-scale model replica of the ship to the Bundaberg RSL.

Today, the 103-year-old tells his story about the vessel that captured his heart.

M.V Oranje part of woodworking hobby for Jacobus

Creating wooden masterpieces has been a passion for Jacobus his whole life and his M.V Oranje is just one of many replica war models he has built over time.

“The ship was actually a passenger ship and during World War Two it got converted to a hospital ship,” he said.

“Captain Potjer was master of the ship. He has been decorated a few times by King George.”

According to Passengers in History, M.V Oranje was originally built by Netherlands Shipbuilding Company and set about on its maiden voyage from Amsterdam to Djakarta before being handed over to the British in 1940.

The following year it arrived at Sydney where it was converted to a hospital ship, performing 41 voyages during the war.

After the war it was transformed into a cruise ship before finally being destroyed by fire in 1979.

M.V Oranje
The M.V Oranje was originally built as a passenger ship before it was converted to a hospital ship while in Australia during World War II. Photo: Passengers in History

Jacobus said the M.V Oranje was special to him due to his connection with the build.

“I worked for a few years at the shipyard in Amsterdam, Holland,” he said.

“That's when I saw the real ship.”

With his skillset for woodwork still strong and the vessel imprinted in his memory, Jacobus went about creating a model replica which is currently on display at the Bundaberg RSL sub-branch Veterans Support Centre.

Welfare officer Eddie Stockill said the model ship was often admired by those who visited the centre.

“This is a purpose built support centre where vets can seek assistance, relax and unwind,” he said.

“The ship gives us connection back to service and provides our ex-service people with pride and place within the centre.”

Eddie said he was amazed by the craftmanship of the model and the skill that Jacobus possessed.

The M.V Oranje
Eddie Stockill at the Veterans Support Centre with the Hospital Ship Oranje model

“The detail and the fact that it is a working model – the lighting has been all wired in – it gives it such realism,” he said.

“I believe everything on the ship was handcrafted by Jacobus.

“When you look at pictures of the Oranje originally and then the model, well there are no faults to find.”

To this day and at 103 years old Jacobus still loves to visit the ship and marvel at its glory.

“It's all timber except for the props, I got some brass pieces of plate and I cut the propellers out and shaped them and polished them,” he said.

“When I've been thinking of building something I already know what's coming…it's in my memory.

“It was very enjoyable to build it, I always like looking at it because it gives me satisfaction.”

The M.V Oranje
The M.V Oranje by Jacobus Sulsters.

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