The towing of K-IX by Hr.Ms. Abraham Crijnssen
Written by Josephus van den Haak.
|Robert Hollebrandse writes: "My
Grandfather Maarten Jacobus Marie Hollebrandse de Booij, was one of the
men on the HMNS Abraham Crijnssen at the time, and along with 3
other sailors, rowed to the beach to attempt the recovery of the sub.
Unfortunately he died ten years ago, and my grandmother doesn't remember
all the details - except for her husband and Theunissen arriving home
unexpected, soaking wet and carrying a rifle."
"However, my grandfathers shipmate and closest friend, Josephus van den Haak, is still very much alive. In the article below (written in 2000/2001) is his account on the towing of K IX."
My name is Josephus van den Haak. I was the Sick Berth attendant on HMNS Abraham Crijnssen from August 1943 until April 1948, when I was honourably discharged from the Royal Dutch Navy. I was on board the ship when the K-IX submarine was lost.
Early on 7th June 1945 Abraham Crijnssen left Sydney towing the Dutch submarine K-IX, with the intended destination of Merauke in the former Dutch New Guinea, The K-IX had been next to HMAS Kuttabul at Garden Island, Sydney in 1942 when Japanese midget submarines entered the harbour. Kuttabul was sunk, with many lives lost. K-IX was slightly damaged in side. As sick berth attendant, I was asked to see a seaman who was on duty on the sub during the night, who was unable to speak from shock after the attack, I took him to the Medical Officer at Garden Island.
Abraham Crijnssen, year and place unknown (Photo: © Collection Willem Cool).
The K-IX had been decommissioned and was being towed to Merauke to be used as a floating oil tank. On sailing through Sydney Heads, there was a strong south easterly wind blowing. There was no crew on board the submarine K-IX and no lights at night on either the ship or the submarine, as it was wartime.
The Abraham Crijnssen had been built as a minesweeper at the Gusto Wharf in Schiedam and launched 22 September, 1936, In March, 1942 it escaped from Soerabaja and came to Geraldton, W.A. Later it was taken into the Royal Australian Navy and for a period during the war, it acted as an escort vessel on convoy duty travelling up and down the Australian coast.
Towing submarines is a special job and I doubt if there was anyone on board with any experience, the steel towline was approximately 110 meters, with a piece of chain in the middle, There was no way of checking on the sub at all, except for the way the towline was pointing at the stern of the ship. As it was winter, sunrise was quite late in the morning and as soon as it was possible to see, we looked out, but the sub was no longer there. During the night, the towline had broken and the K-IX had been cast adrift. Panic of course, as it was not known when it was lost. So we turned around and went back, more or less on our previous course.
Sydney Naval Base was notified and the Dutch navy sent a Catalina (flying boat) to search the area for the sub. It was located late in the afternoon and we were given the position, but by the time we reached it, about 4pm on the same day it was lost, K-IX had already beached, just south of the lighthouse at Sugarloaf Point. The official version was that the sub was still afloat, but in fact, it was definitely already on the beach.
A party of men were sent ashore to see if there was any possibility of towing it off the beach. The men included Lt. van Leeuwen, Able Seaman Theunissen, Electricianís mate Maarten Hollebrandse, plus two others whose names I canít remember, Able Seaman Klaas Vuil rowed the boat to the beach near the lighthouse and left them there, returning to the ship. Later on, we got word from the lighthouse that the chances of getting the sub off were slim. In the meantime, the wind got much stronger and the skipper let the men ashore know, via signal lamp at the lighthouse, that it was not possible for them to return to the ship and to remain with the lighthouse keeper.
The skipper decided to keep going east from the coast, as the weather quickly deteriorated, with huge seas. The next day, the waves were higher than I had ever seen before. They were at least 30 feet high and it was like climbing mountains. A most of the crew were seasick, including myself. The only work being done was the most essential. The sailors at the wheel was relieved every hour instead of every two hours, as keeping the ship into the waves and wind was hard work. One of the seamen who manned the wheel was Able Seaman Christiaan Prins (now living in Sydney). Just as well the skipper, Lttz1. Dobbinga was a good seaman (-ex merchant navy) otherwise we may not have survived. There was no sun or stars for about four days, with heavy rain and storms. During that storm an Australian coastal vessel was lost.
Abraham Crijnssen, year and place unknown (Photo: © Collection Maarten Hollebrandse).
The normal transmitter in the radio hut was knocked out. The telegraphist did all he could to maintain some communications, even though he was as sick as a dog. We had a new A.W.A. (Amalgamated Wireless Australasia) short wave transmitter on the radio table, only a recent piece of equipment. It had a wooden strip about 3 cm high on the edge of the table to prevent it from falling off, however at one stage, the ship heeled over to portside so much that the transmitter went over the edge and fell on the floor. After that, no radio communication at all was possible. On the two mess decks, forward in the ship, there was about 6 inches (15 centimetres) of water, with shoes, socks etc floating in it, but everyone was so sick they did not seem to care. However, the main thing was that we came through the storm and survived. Going back to Sydney was like being on a big surfboard whilst the storm was on. When we eventually returned to Sydney, there was a telegram from Melbourne Headquarters congratulating us on our safe return; They must have got worried about us as there was no communication for a few days.
Among the other crewmen at that time were Telegraphist Dias, Electrician Rien Gelok, Engineer Pieter Kouwenberg and Australians Sub Lt, Read (Communications Officer) and Ted Gillespie (encoder). There was about 65 crewmembers on the ship, about 20 more than the normal peacetime complement.
When we arrived in Sydney, the men we had left behind with the lighthouse keeper at Sugarloaf Point came back on board, all in new uniforms etc. which were given to them by the Australian Navy, as they had only the clothes they stood up in. They told us hilarious stories about their night at the lighthouse and the sleeping arrangements there, There was really no room for five extra men, and being the middle of winter it was very cold. The lighthouse was very isolated in those days and there was only a dirt road to the nearest town.
After the Abraham Crijnssen was cleaned up again and made ready for sea, we went north again, this time to Darwin. When we got to Sugarloaf Point Lighthouse again, we stopped and lowered a boat to take two cases of beer to the lighthouse keeper and to thank him for what he had done for the boys. Beer was very hard to get in those days, so he was very pleased with his gift. When the boat was hoisted back on to the ship, three blasts on the shipís siren were given as a farewell, and we reached Darwin without any further trouble.
Abraham Crijnssen at the Den Helder Naval Museum, 2000 (Photo: © Collection Willem Cool).
Sometime ago, sometime around 1986-1991, my wife and I decided to revisit Sugarloaf Point, and found it a very changed place, busy with tourists. I went to the local store to buy a few things and found a black and white postcard there, which I sent as a memoir to an old friend in Holland, Klass Vuil, who was the sailor who rowed the landing party ashore in 1945. I got talking to the lady in the shop and told her about our experiences- there. She said she remembered it well as it was a very unusual and exciting event for them in those days. Her granddaughter had written a project about it at school, which made me feel very old!
This is the story as I remember it, as best I could. The Abraham Crijnssen is now housed in the Maritime Museum in Den Helder, Holland.
Written by Josephus van den Haak.
|K IX related pages|
|K IX boat history|
|Historic submarine K IX found|
|The K IX Club|
|K IX photos|
|Photos of the search for K IX|
|The towing of K IX by Hr.Ms. Abraham Crijnssen|
|The K IX plaque|
|K IX wreck photos|
|K IX related books|
|NSW Maritime Heritage Office|
|Do you have any comments, corrections, additions or do you have material like stories, photos or other data available for this or any other page on this website? Then please do not hesitate to contact us at email@example.com|
|Models||M-media||Specials||Forum||Search||Help US !|
|Copyright © 1997-2006 - Design and content DutchSubmarines.com|