A visit to HMAS Stirling by Colonel Harold Jacobs, Defence Attaché for Australia and New Zealand at the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, provided the Royal Australian Navy with the opportunity to return some World War II Netherlands artefacts.
Three of the four artefacts are ship's Bridge voice pipes, from the six inch light cruiser HNLMS De Ruyter which was sunk by Japanese torpedo on 28 February 1941 in the battle of the Java Sea, with the loss of 345 men.
The fourth item is the top of the starboard running light from the Dutch submarine HNLMS KVI. On 24 December 1941, KVI torpedoed and sank the Japanese destroyer Sagiri, the first Allied submarine to sink a Japanese warship. A day later, the Dutch submarine was torpedoed by the Japanese submarine I-66 off Borneo, with all aboard killed.
The artefacts were recovered, along with other naval items, from a Perth auction house on behalf of the Australian Chief of Navy's office.
Captain Angela Bond, Commanding Officer HMAS Stirling presented the items to Colonel Jacobs.
"On behalf of the Royal Australian Navy, I am pleased to be able to return the artefacts to their rightful owners."
In accepting the artefacts Colonel Jacobs revealed an interesting Australian link to where the artefacts will reside on their return to the Netherlands.
"The handover of the artefacts will take place on the Abraham Crijnssen at the Dutch Naval Museum in Den Helder," Colonel Jacobs said.
For Royal Australian Navy history buffs, the name Abraham Crijnssen should ring a bell. The HNLMS Abraham Crijnssen, a minesweeper, was stationed in the Netherlands East Indies when World War II began. After the destruction of the Allied Fleet by the Japanese during the Battle of the Java Sea in February 1942, Crijnssen's Captain was ordered to escape with his ship to Australia. The ship arrived in Fremantle on 20 March, 1942 and was the last vessel to successfully escape Java.
Following a refit the Abraham Crijnssen was commissioned into the Royal Australian Navy on 28 September 1942 as an anti-submarine escort vessel, with a mixed ship’s company of Royal Australian Navy, Reserve, Volunteer Reserve, Royal Netherlands Navy and Royal Navy sailors.
Abraham Crijnssen served under Australian colours until 5 May 1943, when she was officially handed back to the Royal Netherlands Navy. She continued to operate as a convoy escort until 7 June 1945 at which time she deployed to northern Australian waters operating from Darwin. Following the end of World War II, the ship returned to the Netherlands East Indies.
In 1995 the Abraham Crijnssen was donated to the naval museum at Den Helder and refitted to her wartime configuration.
Imagery is available on the Navy Image Library at http://images.navy.gov.au/S20141896.