Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Tjilatjap During World War II (1939-1945)

Initially Holland was again neutral, until invaded by Germany on the 10th May 1940.

• A week later, Holland was lost. The Dutch Royal Family was evacuated to England, as was a Dutch Government-in-exile.
• The first KPM wartime loss was the 3,000 ton “Rantaupandjang”, sunk on the 22nd February 1941, by the German Pocket Battleship “Admiral Scheer” north of Madagascar, homeward bound from South Africa with a full cargo of coal.
• On the 7th December 1941, Japan entered the war with the attack on Pearl Harbour.
• Three days later, the British battleships “Repulse” and “Prince of Wales” were lost off the east coast of Malaya.
• On the 12th December 1941, “Patras” and four other KPM ships embarked Australian troops at Darwin and landed them safely several days later at Ambon, escorted by HMAS “Adelaide”.
• During January and February 1942, the unarmed and unescorted Allied ships were at the mercy of the Japanese Navy and Air Force and losses came thick
and fast
• On the 15th February 1942, Singapore, the cornerstone of the Allied defence of South East Asia, fell to the Japanese and all Allied resistance in the area, except the small Allied Naval Force, had been snuffed out.
• Fifteen days later, that too, was obliterated in the Battle of the Java Sea.
• That was just about it!
• For the Allied ships, there was then nowhere to go in the whole of the Far East, South East Asia and a large slice of the Pacific, but Tjilatjap, the small port on the mid-south coast of Java.
• On the 4th and 5th March 1942, came the first heavy air raids on Tjilatjap and the end was nigh. The KPM supply and repair ship “Barentsz” was totally destroyed, as well as a number of other KPM ships and the floating dock and floating crane, which had been towed from Batavia.
• Finally, on the 7th March 1942 – exactly 3 months after Pearl Harbour – Japanese land forces reached Tjilatjap and it was all over!
• The Netherlands East Indies had held out just three more weeks after Singapore fell on the 15th February 1942. It had cost the Allies dearly.