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The gunboat HMS Johan Maurits van Nassau - may 1940

[Courtesy Jan Visser, www.netherlandsnavy.nl] The gunboat HMS Johan Maurits van Nassau was a modern heavy gunboat, launched in 1932. The ship had a loaded displacement of 1,795 tons and a crew of 124. The main armament was formed by three HIH Siderius/Rheinmetall 15 cm [length 50] guns with a maximum range of 19,000 meter [shells of 46,5 kg each]. She was also fitted with one dual battery of 40 mm Bofors AA guns, two dual .50 Vickers heavy MG mountings and four single .303 Lewis MG's. The maximum speed of the fully loaded vessel was quite modest, with 15 knots.

The gunboat was stationed in Vlissingen harbour in the morning of the 10th, but soon ordered to set sail for Hook of Holland. The navy HQ had plans for her to shell occupied Waalhaven, but when the tragedy with the gunboat HMS Van Galen unfolded on the Nieuwe Waterweg, the HMS Johan Maurits van Nassau was redirected to Den Helder. On May 14th the ship was directed towards the Waddenzee, north of the Afsluitdijk. She was ordered to support the fortress at Kornwerderzand that was suffering from German 105 mm and 88 mm shelling from the Friesland coast. The ship was navigated into shallow waters, where she had to take the risk of dropping anchor. From a distance of over 18,000 meter she opened fire with her rear tower only [the shallow waters did not allow for her to manoeuvre such that all three of her towers could be used]. The fire was directed by the navy signals in Den Helder, who were in contact with Fortress Den Oever [west side of the Afsluitdijk] that were on their turn in contact with Fortress Kornwerderzand. Corrections were given by telephone and from Den Helder onwards by radio to the ship. Although this route was quite time-consuming it eventually re-directed the fire in such effective way that the Germans made a run for it. After exactly 100 rounds the ship ceased fire and returned to Den Helder. When a little later the HMS Johan Maurits van Nassau was instructed to sail for England - due to the pending capitulation - she was attacked by German bombers just a few miles outside port. She received two direct hits, and the ship was abandoned. Almost all hands survived the ordeal, yet eight men perished with the ship. Some crew members managed to be picked up by other ships that were on their way to England and as such still a part of the crew reached freedom.

Category Gallery / Armament and equipment (69 images)