Stop that Island! The remarkable story of HNLMS Abraham Crijnssen

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Without trying to blow my own trumpet, or in this case my countries trumpet, it is a well know fact that the Dutch are among the most inventive people in the world. As was the case with the crew of the HNLMS Abraham Crijnssen(and HMAS Abraham Crijnssen for a while)

Sometimes in life, the guy with the drunken, so-crazy-it-just-might-work ideas hits one out of the park and saves the day.This seems to be what happened in 1942 aboard the HNLMS Abraham Crijnssen, the last Dutch warship standing after the Battle of the Java Sea.

HNLMS Abraham Crijnssen was a minesweeper of the Royal Netherlands Navy (RNN). Built during the 1930s, she was based in the Netherlands East Indies when Japan attacked at the end of 1941. Ordered to retreat to Australia, the ship was disguised as a tropical island to avoid detection, and was the last Dutch ship to escape from the region. On arriving in Australia in 1942, she was commissioned into the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) as HMAS Abraham Crijnssen and operated as an anti-submarine escort. Although returned to RNN control in 1943, the ship remained in Australian waters for most of World War II. After the war, Abraham Crijnssen operated on anti-revolution patrols in the East Indies, before returning to the Netherlands and being converted into a boom defence ship in 1956. Removed from service in 1960, the vessel was donated to the Netherlands Sea Cadet Corps for training purposes. In 1995, Abraham Crijnssen was acquired by the Dutch Navy Museum for preservation as a museum ship.

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After the Japanese invasion of the Dutch East Indies in 1941 and their decisive defeat of a combined Dutch, British, Australian, and US naval force, the remaining Dutch ships in the East Indies were ordered to flee to Australia. Many Dutch ships were either scuttled or fell prey to Japanese warships or aircraft patrolling their escape routes.

However, the HNLMS Abraham Crijnssen, a tiny minesweeper with little in the way of offensive armament or speed, was able to successfully escape to Australia because the captain came up with a crazy scheme. He disguised the entire ship as a small island.1a-ship-disguised-as-island-raw

Although the Abraham Crijnssen was a relatively small ship, it was still a big object—approximately 55 meters (180 ft) long and 7 meters (25 ft) wide. So the crew used foliage from island vegetation and gray paint to make the ship’s hull look like rock faces.

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Moving only at night, the ship was able to blend in with the thousands of other tiny islands around Indonesia, and the Japanese didn’t notice the moving island. The Abraham Crijnssen was the last Allied ship that escaped the Dutch East Indies.

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.The ship was based at Surabaya in the Netherlands East Indies when Japan invaded in 1941.Following the Allied defeats at the Battles of the Java Sea and Sunda Strait in late March 1942, all Allied ships were ordered to withdraw to Australia.Abraham Crijnssen was meant to sail with three other warships, but found herself proceeding alone.

To escape detection by Japanese aircraft (which the minesweeper did not have the armament to defend effectively against), the ship was heavily camouflaged with jungle foliage, giving the impression of a small island Personnel cut down trees and branches from nearby islands, and arranged the cuttings to form a jungle canopy covering as much of the ship as possible.Any hull still exposed was painted to resemble rocks and cliffs.To further the illusion, the ship would remain close to shore, anchored and immobile during daylight,

(see if you can spot it)

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and only sail at night She headed for Fremantle, Western Australia, where she arrived on 20 March 1942; Abraham Crijnssen was the last vessel to successfully escape Java, and the only ship of her class in the region to survive.

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The Crijnssen managed to go undetected by Japanese planes and avoid the destroyer that sank the other Dutch warships, surviving the eight-day journey to Australia and reuniting with Allied forces.

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After arriving in Australian waters, the minesweeper underwent a refit, which included the installation of new ASDIC equipment.

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On 28 September, the minesweeper was commissioned into the RAN as HMAS Abraham Crijnssen.She was reclassified as an anti-submarine convoy escort, and was also used as a submarine tender for the Dutch submarines that relocated to Australia following the Japanese conquest.The ship’s Dutch sailors were supplemented with survivors from the British destroyer HMS Jupiter and Australian personnel, all under the command of an Australian lieutenant.

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The wardroom tradition of hanging a portrait of the commissioned ship’s reigning monarch led to some tension before it was decided to leave Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands on the bulkhead instead of replacing her with King George VI of the United Kingdom, which was installed in the lieutenant’s cabin.

It was agreed however that Miss Hayworth was worthy of wardroom status and she was installed on the bulkhead opposite Queen Wilhelmina.

While escorting a convoy to Sydney through Bass Strait on 26 January 1943, Abraham Crijnssen detected a submarine on ASDIC. The convoy was ordered to scatter, while Abraham Crijnssen and HMAS Bundaberg depth charged the submarine contact.

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No wreckage of the suspected submarine was found.A pair of hastily released depth charges at the start of the engagement damaged the minesweeper; several fittings and pipes were damaged, and all of her centreline rivets had to be replaced during a week-long dry-docking.

Abraham Crijnssen was returned to RNN service on 5 May 1943, but remained in Australian waters for most of World War II.On 7 June 1945, the minesweeper left Sydney for Darwin, with the oil lighter (and former submarine) K9 in tow.On 8 June, the tow cable snapped, and K9 washed ashore at Seal Rocks, New South Wales.

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Abraham Crijnssen was used for mine-clearing sweeps of Kupang Harbour prior to the arrival of a RAN force to accept the Japanese surrender of Timor.

The ship was removed from the Navy List in 1960. After leaving service, Abraham Crijnssen was donated to the Sea Cadet Corps (Zeekadetkorps Nederland) for training purposes. She was docked at The Hague from 1962 to 1972, after which she was moved to Rotterdam. The ship was also used as a storage hulk during this time.

In 1995, Abraham Crijnssen was marked for preservation by the Dutch Navy Museum at Den Helder.She was retrofitted to her wartime configuration.

Amazingly I was able to find out most of the details of the HNLMS Abraham Crijnssen, even which pictures hang in the wardroom, but I could not find out any crew members name and most importantly who came up with the idea. If anyone knows please let me know.

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