Listen to Episode Duration 40:20
In the history of European military aggression in Australia, this is where it all began. For the people that remain alive following the doomed voyage of the Batavia, not to mention the shipwreck and then the genocide that followed, they now have to face a civil war.
The loyalist soldiers, who have managed to find water, must now defend themselves against the murderous mutineers who hold dominion over the rest of the population.
You may think this whole story could not descend further down the wombat-hole of cruel absurdity. But we know you’ve also been paying very close attention. You know where this is going…
The mutineers control the island Batavia’s Graveyard. The defenders, meanwhile, have built forts and are prepared to defend their stronghold, on the island labelled Wiebbe’s Island (Today it is called West-Wallabi Island). From here, they could wade to the High Island, where they’d found a fresh water spring.
Their little yawl, the best vessel amongst all the survivors, is kept secretly on the north-side of Wiebbe’s Island. It is obvious that any rescue ship will approach from the north, so the defenders know that they must row their yawl around the high island, and hopefully be the first to gain the attention of the rescuers.
The defenders on the high islands built two small forts out of loose, flat rocks that they had collected. Their remnants can still be seen today (the island now being known as West Wallabi Island)
These forts are not only a testament to the cohesive and organised spirit of the resistance under Wiebbe Hayes, but also stand as evidence of how early European engagement took place in Australia. They are the first recorded European constructions built in Australia. This was 141 years before James Cook made contact with the East Coast, which until relatively recently was widely taught in schools as the first European discovery of Australia. The incident of the Batavia survivors,on the Houtman’s Abrolhos islands contributed greatly towards changing that historical perspective.
A Flagon of the Good Stuff:
At the end of this episode, we describe a flag, and want to clarify lest there be questions from our millions of adoring followers.
The Dutch flag as recognised today, (often confused with the Russian flag which we will get to), is a horizontal tri-colour flag of red, white and blue. See:
In 1628, this is basically the flag of the rebellious republic that is the Seven United Provinces of the Netherlands. Basically. Actually, the flag that had become recognised as the flag of the nation, was orange, white and blue. This had originated due to it being the colours of livery of the Prince of Orange, who had led (was leading) the rebellion against the Spanish. His was the Prince’s Flag. It looks like this:
Dutch ships up until this point would most likely have been sailing under this flag. Those of the VOC would have had that brand mark printed on.
By 1630, however, not long after the tragedy of the Batavia, official flags were made using red, instead of orange. The most common explanation for this is that red was a much easier and more durable dye than orange, which would tend to fade to red fairly quickly anyway. Thus, the modern Dutch flag was born.
Under this flag, dutch ships sailed the world. The Dutch, originally under the auspices of the West-Indies Company (WIC), were responsible for mass-slavery, controlling the West African slave trade for hundreds of years. Under this flag, but with WIC printed in the middle, hundreds of thousands of women, men and children were forcibly taken to central and south America, to be enslaved by the growing needs of colonial plantation owners. It thus took on vastly different significance for different people and reasons.
The Prince’s Flag also provided the template for this flag, the South African national flag between 1928-1994:
Those are also years of grave and institutionalised racism, in the racial segregation system of apartheid. Those atrocities were also committed under the original colours of the colonial Dutch flag.
But! It does not end there.
The Russian Flag is a re-ordering of the Dutch flag. See:
This became the flag for the Tsardom of Russia in 1696. There are a couple of stories about exactly how this happened, but it is generally because Tsar Peter the Great spent a significant amount of time in the Netherlands, living and working in both Zaandam and Amsterdam as a shipwright. He wanted to modernise his empire, and the Dutch were the best ship-builders in the world. He would employ Dutch ship-wrights for the construction of his navy, and through all this took (oh so creative) inspiration from the flag of the Dutch Republic to give his own country its own.
Ah! So you think it ends there?
Here is the Indonesian flag:
Now, there are multiple reasons given as to what the red-white combination means for the Indonesians and their country and its traditions. They are traditional colours, traceable back to varying ancient kingdoms. But this flag is also the Dutch flag without the blue. In the lead up to World War Two, the Dutch flag flew over Indonesia, given that it had been absorbed as a colony by the Dutch State when the VOC had finally collapsed in 1799. This flag was illegal, but in an act of resistance and rebellion that warms the cockles of one’s heart, in 1945 towards the end of the Japanese occupation and close to Indonesian Independence, students dramatically ripped the blue strip from the Dutch flag, symbolising the banishment of Dutch blue-blood aristocracy from their country.
So there. You’ve now been flagged by the authorities.