Forgotten WWII Sub Vets: The Dutch

Here we see the Royal Netherlands Nay submarine Hr. Ms. O-12 holding diving demonstrations in the river in front of Willemskade during the Vlootschouw Fleet Review on the afternoon of 29 April 1939. 

In the background is the light cruiser Hr.Ms. Tromp.

Starting WWII with the unprovoked invasion of the country by the Germans in May 1940, the Dutch Navy had 27 active submarines (Onderzeeboot) and three under construction. While the Germans captured three of the active boats (O-8, O-11, and O-12) as well as took over the building units– ultimately commissioning five of these hulls into the Kriegsmarine as UD boats for Underseeboote Dutch– the rest of the Dutch boats escaped and clocked in for hard and heavy work with the Allies. This included 15 submarines, mostly small Great War-era “K” (for “Koloniën” or Colonial) boats based in the Pacific at Surabaya, in the Dutch East Indies, and two in the Caribbean.

Onderzeeboot Hr. Ms. K XVII (c. 1940-1941). She would be lost against the Japanese 13 days into the war in the Pacific.

They gave a good account of themselves, with 10 successful subs credited with sinking 168,813 tons of shipping across 69 Axis vessels including:

*Hr. Ms. O-21 sank U-95 on 28 November 1941 in the Mediterranean.
*Hr. Ms. O-16 hit four out of four Japanese troopships on 12 December 1941, sending three to the bottom.
*Hr. Ms. K XII sank the Japanese tanker Taizan Maru on 13 December 1941.
*Hr. Ms. K XVI torpedoed the destroyer Sagiri on 24 December 1941 off Kuching– the first Allied submarine to sink a Japanese warship.
*Hr. Ms. Dolfijn sank the Italian submarine Malachite in the Med on 9 February 1943.
*Hr. Ms. Zwaardvis (“Swordfish” ex-British HMS Talent) ambushed U-168 on 8 October 1944 in the Java Sea.
*Hr. Ms. Zwaardvis also sent the large Japanese minelayer IJN Itsukushima to the bottom the next week.

Still, they paid the price as shown here from the 1946 Jane’s list of War Losses.

For more on Dutch Submarines in WWII, check out these two excellent sites. 


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