Print this page

The Dutch navy


The modern Dutch navy vessels had already left the Dutch waters on the 16th, when the HrMs Flores and HrMs Van Meerlant had set sail for Dunkirk. What remained in Dutch waters were auxiliary vessels [coded with 'BV', which stood for 'bewakingsvaartuig' or guard vessel]; armed tugs or fishing boats. Their fate shall be briefly addressed hereunder.

The Dutch surface units

HrMs Flores was a destroyer annex gun-boat of 1,793 BRT, with a main battery of three 15 cm guns and fit to shelter an on-board sea-plane [which was only on board in the East Indies]. The Flores Class was specifically designed for NEI coastal water duties. The ship performed all kinds of duties during the war, amongst which escort and gun-boats assignments. After she reached England later in May 1940, she soon served for a long and sustained period in the Mediterranean and took part in all major Allied maritime actions in that area. During D-Day she contributed by shelling German batteries and positions at Arromanches and Sword. She survived the war as a distinguished war-ship and was only stricken from the Royal Dutch Navy ranks in 1960. In 1968 she was scrapped.

HrMs Johan Maurits van Nassau - a modern 1,795 BRT gun-boat - was sunk by German strike planes at the 14th of May, when on its way to England. Before she was sunk she had contributed considerably to the defence of the fortress at Kornwerderzand, where she had chased off the German artillery with her aft 15 cm main-gun. On her way to England, but still close to the Dutch coast, she was attacked by a squadron of dive-bombers, hit twice and sunk. In total 15 of her hands perished with the ship.

HrMs Sumatra - the 8,078 BRT light cruiser that had reached England on the 11th - was a cruiser of the Java-Class. Her sister-ship the HrMs Java was the flag-ship of the NEI fleet and would be sunk in the Battle of the Java Sea, at the 27th of February 1942. HrMs Sumatra was the only Dutch cruiser left in the Dutch navy after the Battle of the Java Sea. The ship - with its ten 15 cm guns a heavier type light-cruiser - served in a number of battle groups, before she was laid up in November 1942. Later her batteries were used to refit the HrMs Flores. In April 1944 she was recommissioned in the Royal Navy and dedicated as one of the (unarmed) block-ships in front of the artificial harbours [Gooseberry] at Normandy. These block-ships were used as wave-breakers. At 9 June 1944 she was deliberately sunk as such.

HrMs van Meerlant - an old 687 BRT mine layer of the Douwe Aukes Class fitted with two 7,5 cm guns - was assigned to the Thames Local Defence Flotilla and ran on a mine in the Thames at 4 June 1941. In total 41 men died when disaster struck. Her sistership HrMs Douwe Aukes had already reached the UK on the 14th of May. In 1941 she was transferred to the Royal Navy to return into Dutch navy service after the war.

BV 33, 37 and 38 went straight to England. BV 39 and the navy research vessel HrMs Hydrograaf [397 BRT, research and auxilary mine laying vessel, one 7,5 cm multi purpose gun and two 12,7 mm MG's] reached Oostende in the morning of the 18th. The latter was accompanied by three civil pilot boats and escorted by the RN destroyer HMS Keith when it made the crossing to England at the 19th. HrMs Hydrograaf was severly damaged during a Japanese airstrike on Soerabaya [18 February 1942] and scuttled a few days later. The Japanese recovered her and commissioned her as a patrol ship. It survived the war and was transferred to the Indonesian navy in 1950.

The BV 31 was abandoned by its crew in the evening of the 17th when it was attacked by German planes. It later ran on a mine and sunk. The BV 36 was designated to be the tug for the commissioned but unfinished [2,240 BRT] heavy destroyer HrMs Philips van Almonde [five 12 cm Bofors main guns, 4 x 4 cm Bofors, 8 torpedo tubes, 4 depth charge mortars, 24 sea mines] that was under construction at De Schelde shipyard. It did not succeed to pass the sluices and was abandoned. It was captured thoroughly destroyed by the Dutch before the Germans seized Walcheren. It was scrapped by its new owners. Her sistership HrMs Isaac Sweers made it to the UK (pennant G-83) and served distinctively until she was sunk by U-431 off the coast at Algiers at November 13, 1942. The two other sisterships were salvaged by the Germans, although one of these later proved too badly damaged by the Dutch to be commissioned. Only one of the ships served in the Kriegsmarine, as the ZH-1 [5 x 12 cm Bofors, 4 x 3,7 mm Rheinmetal, 16 x 2 cm AA and 8 torpedo tubes]. It was sunk at June 9th, 1944 by British destroyers at Ile de Bas in French waters.

The BV 40 was surrendered to the Germans when the captain was informed of the armistice. He had considered the crossing to England or France too much of a risk since he wasn't in possession of mine-field maps and naval charts. He was obviously one of few who used these arguments to motivate his decision.

Both navy education vessels, the OS I and OS II, surrendered to the Germans.

The ferry Bath I was heavily damaged during a German airstrike whilst on her way to England. They were still close to the Dutch shore, when the ship ran aground. The entire crew evacuated the Bath I and made it to England by foot, via France!

The Bath II was anchored off the west coast of Schouwen-Duiveland. For unknown reasons the ship had a white flag in top [the reason may have been that the captain considered his civil ship safe with the white flag in top]. When word of the capitulation was received, the captain decided to cross the Northsea, but when the ship turned its bow it was caught into a buoy mooring-line. When divers tried to cut the buoy line, suddenly two small French Chasseurs appeared - that were on their way to Flushing - and opened fire. The French ships were under the impression that the Bath II was surrendering, which was caused by the white flag in top. The captain then ordered to beach the ship, after which the crew abandoned the unfortunate vessel. The French Chasseurs continued to shell both crew and vessel. A peculiar act. No fatalities were suffered though.