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24: He loses a Colleague - and Margot dies

Ivan made his first post-war service flight for KLM on 16 March 1946, less than three weeks after getting back to Holland. In 1946 also the first regular KLM flight to New York took place. The aircraft was a DC4. Watch the film-clip below from 'Dutch Aviation', where you can catch a glimpse of the town Zandvoort, when the DC4 is leaving the coastline, heading for America. Zandvoort was heavily damaged during World War II.

He knew, at the same, that if he was ever to get back to his "Indie-reizen" he would have to find a home of his own. Margot could not stay forever in the Victoria Hotel.

Their old house 'Pelikaan' was occupied now, the lease of the house had expired in 1942 and as an unoccupied house was liable to be taken over by the invaders (**). But after the war, on 7 May 1945, the old prewar Mayor J.W.P. van Doorn had returned. He moved in on Molenlaan - of course still keeping the name 'Pelikaan' on the house.

Ivan's second house. Oudemanslaan in Heemstede

Ivan found a vacant house in Oudemanslaan, a quiet back road. The new house had none of the elegance and charm of the 'Pelican', but it had pleasent surroundings, with a little canal strolling past on the other side of the carriageway, a little rustic bridge leading into the park where Margot could walk, when she was well enough. On 2 May 1946 they moved in.

Margot had the greatest fun refurnishing, and from the time she moved in never a day passed that Triny did not walk over from her own home to keep her old friend company.

First KLM Constellation in Schiphol, May 1946
Lockheed Constellation

"A Dream Come True" DC-4 bound for New York in 1946  AND  Lockheed Constellation inauguration flight in 1946

Ivan sighed with relief and put his name down at once for the Java run. While the younger KLM men competed for the newest routes to South Africa and the Americas, Ivan was content to fly the old ways East.

Margot was obsessed with the fear that Ivan would be involved in an accident, that he would be taken from her, that she would be left to face her last hours alone. Her fears were not groundless for it was a time of crashes.

On 26 January 1947 Ivan had come home, distressed out of all knowing, with the news that a DC3 from KLM had crashed when departing from Copenhagen Airport heading for Stockholm en route from Amsterdam. It carried the Crown Prince, Gustav Adolf of Sweden and Grace Moore, the singing American film star. Also the Danish vocalist and actress Gerda Neumann and her husband, Jens Dennow, were onboard. Its pilot was the fleet's commodore, Gerrit Johannis Geysendorffer.

There is always a tendency in any disaster, air, sea, or land, to lay the blame on the dead man, pilot, master, or driver. It was the same in the Copenhagen disaster and it roused Ivan to fury. He went to Denmark himself and made his own independent investigation. To the end of his life he maintained that the accident was due to gross failure by the ground staff at the Danish airport. He refused to have any of the blame put upon Geysendorffer.

In the spring of 1947 Ivan felt he could no longer undertake the Far East journeys, Margot was too ill. He was allowed to fly the shorter, European services, so that he need never be more than a couple of hours' flying-time from his home.

May 1947. Margot and Ivan. One of the last pictures taken of Margot.

Margot died on 3 July 1947 and two days later her ashes were taken to Mor's garden in the Heemstede cemetery. After the funeral Ivan, grim and stony-faced, stalked through his house systematically destroying every photograph of his wife that he could find. There must be nothing to remind him of his loss. His tears, his sorrow could not bring her back; if he had nothing left to remind him, there would be no tears, no sorrow. In such a situation people react in the most unpredictable ways.

Fortunately, at Triny's home the photographs of Margot were, tenderly, hidden away in the hope that someday Ivan's heart would melt, that he would look again on the face of his darling.

Ivan did not care to eat, he did not care whether he ever left his chair again, he did not even care to go to work. His colleagues shook their heads, sadly. "Ivan will never fly again," they said, "he is finished." In the summer of 1947 it certainly looked that way. But deep down inside him the conviction was growing that something yet remained to be done.

He reported back on duty....

Ivan with his Ivory Chess Set in Oudemanslaan.

(**) From 1942 the invaders had replaced the old mayor of Heemstede with J.H. van Riesen, a Dutch nazi who was arrested 11 May 1945 under escape. Despite his name, he was an exceptional small man. His nickname was "The Fly Peeker".

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