Warship Wednesday, August 23, 2017: Wilhelmina’s Tromp card
Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger
Warship Wednesday, August 23, 2017: Wilhelmina’s Tromp card
Here we see the Tromp-class light cruiser Hr. Ms. Tromp (D-28) of the Koninklijke Marine as she appeared in late 1941/early 1942 in the Dutch East Indies complete with her distinctive splinter camo. The leader of a class of four fast but small cruisers intended as “flotilla leaders” for a group of destroyers, she was a survivor and the largest Dutch warship to survive the hell of that lowland country’s combat in the Pacific.
At just 3,400-tons and 432-feet in length, the Tromp-class ships were about the size of big destroyers of their day (or frigates today), but they made up for it with an armament of a half-dozen 5.9-inch Mk 11 Bofors/Wilton-Fijenoord guns which were firmly in the neighborhood that light cruisers lived.
A suite of six torpedo tubes ensured they could perforate larger targets while geared steam turbines capable of pushing the ship at up to 35-knots gave it the option of a clean getaway from battleships. A Fokker C 11W floatplane gave long eyes while some 450-tons of armor plate (13 percent of her displacement) coupled with a dusting of AAA guns offered peace of mind against attack from low/slow aircraft and small vessels.
Laid down in 1936 at N.V. Nederlandsche Scheepsbouw Maatschappij, Amsterdam, the hero of our tale was named after noted Dutch Admiral Maarten Tromp, a 17th-century naval hero whose name was carried by several of Holland’s warships going back to 1809.
Billed by the Dutch as “flotilla leaders” they were meant to replace the elderly coast defense ships Hertog Hendrik and Jacob van Heemskerck and only reclassified as light cruisers in 1938 after funding was secured.
Tromp would be the only one of her class completed to her intended design, commissioning 18 August 1938. Her sister Jacob van Heemskerck was still on the ways when the Germans invaded in 1940 and was later completed to a much different design while two other planned vessels were never funded.
Following several naval reviews and waving the flag in Europe on the edge of meltdown, she sailed for the important colony of the Dutch East Indies to help beef up the KM’s strength in a region where Japan was eager to obtain Java and Sumatra’s natural resources by force if needed.
When Holland fell in May 1940, the Dutch government in exile under Queen Wilhelmina maintained control of the East Indies from London and Tromp spent the first two years of WWII with her eyes peeled for German raiders and U-boats in the Pacific and put on her war paint.
Then the Japanese went hot in December 1941, striking at the Dutch, British, and Americans simultaneously. Soon Tromp, arguably one of the most capable ships at Dutch Rear Adm. Karel Doorman’s disposal, was engaged in the thick of it.
During the three-day running action that was the Battle of Badung Strait, Tromp and the destroyers USS John D. Edwards, Parrott, Pillsbury, and Stewart clashed with the Japanese destroyers Asashio and Oshio in a sharp night action in the pre-dawn hours of 18 February 1942.
Tromp landed hits on both enemy ships but was also plastered by 5-inch shells from the Japanese tin cans and forced to retire.
Emergency repairs in Australia saved Tromp from the crushing Battle of the Java Sea at the end of February that saw the Dutch lose the cruisers Java and De Ruyter sunk and Doorman killed, effectively ending the defense of the East Indies.
After surviving the crucible, Tromp became known to her crew as “the lucky ship” which, when you realize what the Dutch went through in the Pacific, was apt.
The Dutch Navy lost 57 ships during WWII, and amazingly half of those were in the East Indies in the scant four-month period between 15 December 1941- 15 March 1942. These included the two aforementioned cruisers, eight submarines, six destroyers, and 15 smaller escorts (minelayers, gunboats, minesweepers). Even the old coast defense ship, De Zeven Provinciën was sunk at her moorings in Surabaya harbor. In contrast, the country only lost 16 ships in May 1940 when metropolitan Holland fell to the Germans.
Based out of Newcastle and later Fremantle, Australia, Tromp was augmented by several Bofors 40mm and Oerlikon 20mm mounts, given a series of surface and air warning radars, and served as a convoy escort and patrol vessel in and around Australian waters, picking up the U.S. Measure 22 camo in her work with the 7th Fleet.
She was transferred to the control of the British Eastern Fleet in January 1944. Around this time, she swapped out her aging Dutch V53 torpedoes for British Mark 9s along with new mounts.
When the Allies began pushing back into the East Indies, Tromp was there, plastering Surabaya and supporting the amphibious landing at Balikpapan in Borneo. In September 1945, as part of the end game in the Pacific, she landed Dutch Marines in Batavia to disarm the Japanese garrison and reoccupy the former colonial capital.
Tromp participated in magic carpet duty after the end of hostilities and returned to Holland for the first time since 1939, arriving at Amsterdam in May 1946, carrying 150 Dutch POWs liberated from Japanese camps.
Tromp was one of just two cruisers left in the Dutch Navy at the end of the war (the other being her sister), but she had seen hard service and carried an amalgam of Swedish, American, and British weapons and electronics, many of which were no longer supported.
Following a two-year overhaul that saw much of her armament removed, she served as an accommodation and training ship with a NATO pennant number.
The highlight of her post-war service was a few midshipmen cruises and attending the Spithead fleet review in 1953.
Tromp was decommissioned on 1 December 1955 and, after more than a decade in reserve status, was sold to be scrapped in Spain in 1969. Her half-sister, Jacob van Heemskerk, shared a similar fate and was scrapped in 1970.
Since then, her name has been reissued to the class leader of a group of guided-missile frigates (HNLMS Tromp F801) and in a De Zeven Provinciën-class frigate commissioned in 2003.
For more on Tromp‘s history, please visit NetherlandsNavy.NL, which has it covered in depth.
Displacement: 3,350 long tons (3,404 t) standard
Length: 432 ft. 11 in
Beam: 40 ft. 9 in
Draught: 14 ft. 2 in
2 Parsons/N.V. Werkspoor geared steam turbines
4 Yarrow boilers
56,000 shp (41,759 kW)
860 tons of fuel oil
Speed: 32.5 knots designed, 35 on trials
290 as commissioned, 380 in WWII
Armor: 15mm belt, up to 30mm on bulkheads
6 × 150 mm Bofors Mk 11 (5.9 in) guns (3×2)
4 × 40 mm Bofors (2×2)
4 × .50 cal in two twin mounts
6 × 533 mm (21 in) torpedo tubes (2×3), 12xV53 torpedoes
6 × 150 mm Bofors (5.9 in) guns (3×2)
4 × 75 mm U.S. AAA
8 × 40 mm Bofors (4×2)
8 × 20 mm singles
6 × 533 mm (21 in) torpedo tubes (2×3), 12xMk9 torpedoes
Aircraft carried: 1 × Fokker C.XIW floatplane
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