The K IX Club
The vicissitudes of a Dutch submarine in Royal Australian Navy service.
By James Ritchie Grant. From Sea Breezes Vol. 70 1996.
For additional photos and information please check the 'related pages list' at the bottom of this page.
Despite an appreciation of the value of submarines gained through the operation of submarines during and after World War I the Royal Australian Navy was obliged, as an economy measure, to transfer its two "O" class boats, the HMAS Oxley and the Otway to the Royal Navy on April 10, 1931.
The Royal Australian Navy thus entered World War II without the ability to either wage submarine warfare or to give realistic training in the art of hunting down and destroying enemy submarines.
The lack of proper training facilities was not of vital importance during the first two years of the war, but when Japan entered the war and submarine activity along the Australian coasts rose to a serious level the Royal Navy had no submarine, however obsolete, to offer as a training vessel. Paradoxically it was the loss of the Netherlands East Indies which appeared to produce an answer to the problem. In March 1942 three K (KoloniŽn) class submarines of the Royal Netherlands Navy arrived in Fremantle, Western Australia, to join other Dutch Navy survivors from the Netherlands East Indies fighting. These three vessels, K VIII, K IX and K XII, which been built by K.M. de Schelde, Vlissingen, Holland, in 1922/23 and were not only old but had seen 'hard' service during the three-month defence of the Netherlands East Indies. The K VIII was assessed as beyond economic repair and after such components as might be useful to the other two boats were removed, this vessel was scrapped at Fremantle. With hindsight considerable time and effort would have been saved if the K IX had been scrapped at this time. However the other two submarines were offered to the Royal Australian Navy on April 15, 1942, K XII for operational service and K IX as a training aid in the antisubmarine warfare school.
This offer was accepted at the end of April. The K XII came under the control of the United States Navy at Fremantle and the K9, the form in which it was referred to in Australian correspondence, arrived in Sydney Harbour in the middle of May 1942 for servicing and transfer to the school some time in August. Following an inspection, the hull was found to require engineering work and the machinery, including the engines and battery, were in a poor state.
For a short time thereafter it was thought that the Netherlands Government would decommission the vessel in order to utilize the crew more effectively. However it was agreed that the K9 would be allocated to the anti-submarine school and work went ahead with readying the vessel for commissioning by the RAN. In March 1943 the majority of the Dutch and Indonesian crew were transferred to other Dutch Navy vessels.
As the RAN had no personnel with up-to-date experience in the operation of submarines, assistance was sought from the Royal Navy, who agreed to second three officers, Lt. F.M. Piggott RNR, Lt. H. Langer RNR and Sub-Lt. P. Fickling RN and 10 ratings, including CPO Gus Fisher, an Australian who had taken the opportunity to volunteer and thus return home. Additional volunteers were called for from the RAN to make up the crew.
K IX Officers: Sub Lt. P. Fickling RN, Lt. H. Lauger RNR, Lt. F.M. Piggot RNR (Captain) (Photo: © Collection John Eade).
Piggott was horrified when he first saw the boat, he had been advised that it was an old Dutch boat, but he had never seen one that old! or with so many defects. Work on the vessel commenced with the crew assisting the dockyard workers to get it ready.
While most of the problems had been caused by age and hard service additional ones had been caused when a torpedo fired by a Japanese miniature submarine sank HMAS Kuttabul in Sydney Harbour on May 3, 1942. The forward part of the superstructure of the K9, which had been tied up alongside the other ship, was crushed when the Kuttabul sank and struck the submarine. The other major damage had been inflicted on the main battery which had to be replaced by the one removed from the K VIII when it was scrapped.
It was inevitable that the boat came to be called "Canine", reputedly due to its resemblance to a pregnant bitch when propped up in the dry-dock.
Unfortunately as work proceeded an increasing number of faults came to light and progress was so slow that Piggott was threatened with a court martial if the submarine was not immediately made ready for sea. The officer did apologize the following day having no doubt reflected on the extent of the problems with the boat and on how little influence a "pommie" officer would have on Australian dockyard workers.
Despite all the problems the boat was commissioned into the RAN on June 22, 1943, and was expected to take up its duties in the middle of July. However yet more defects were detected and its introduction to service slipped back to September and then to November. Following an unsuccessful first attempt to dive additional ballast was added and the boat was officially handed over to HMAS Rushcutter.
Although now officially operational the vessel still had one major problem, that of battery reliability. It was not possible to fully charge the battery and poor ventilation of the battery compartment was causing problems for the crew. This was again reported on December 15, 1943, when it was reported that the battery had originally been installed in another submarine in 1932, had last been serviced in 1939, and was of an obsolete pattern now abandoned by the Royal Navy. The solution to the problem was to run the ventilator fans at a higher speed but this produced a chemical reaction which threatened to damage the ventilator ducting and cause a whole new batch of difficulties.
The whole problem of operating the K9 was solved at 0832 hours on January 22, 1944, when the battery exploded, fortunately without injuring anyone. A Board of Enquiry was convened on February 11, 1944, and it found the "the extraordinary low efficiency of the battery's ventilating arrangements" was responsible for the accident and that no blame could be attached to either the dockyard staff or ship's officers who had followed all laid down instructions.
Engine room crew of K9. photo includes (peaked caps) CERA Williams, Gorman, Green and Tindale (Photo: © Collection John Eade).
Evidence had been presented at the enquiry that the boat had been in use for only a total of 31 days since its commissioning.
It was a poor end to all the effort that had been put into making the Vessel serviceable and the RAN decided to cut their losses and decommissioning of the submarine was approved on February 24, 1944.
The crew of the K9 was paid off on March 31, 1944, and the boat was converted to an oil lighter. It was lost after breaking its tow on June 8, 1945, and being washed ashore on Fiona Beach, N.S.W. It was subsequently sold for scrap to Messrs Humphrey & Batt of Sydney.
An attempt was made to obtain the K XII which was being used by the US Navy in Fremantle, but this move was opposed by the USN on the grounds that the "K XII was a liability to the war effort." Other attempts to obtain a training submarine from either Britain or the United States were equally unsuccessful and it was not until April 18, 1967, that the RAN commissioned another submarine.
By James Ritchie Grant. From Sea Breezes Vol. 70 1996.
K IX related pages K VIII class specifications 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 none Off-site 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|