Wednesday, 17 November 2010

The Battle of the Java Sea: ABDA [1] The Dutch

After reading a bit of "The Pacific Campaign" by Dan Van Der Vat (try saying that after a few beers and it will sound like a bad Meatloaf lyric) I got interested in the Battle of the Java Sea. It seemed as if both sides were fighting it with their second teams, while the big boys were elsewhere. In essence it was a cruiser and destroyer action with an annoying bit of strategic Japanese air power lying about.

Following on from their immediate successes against the Americans at Pearl Harbour the Japanese pushed forwards into the European Dutch Colonies (Borneo, Sumatra, Java) with the simple expansionist objectives of driving all before them and obtaining the valued raw materials they so desperately needed.

In February 1942 the combined local forces of the Americans, British, Dutch and Australian (ABDA) had gathered in sufficient force to attempt to check the Japanese advance. This became known as the Battle of the Java Sea.

It is of interest to me as although the ABDA fleet was outnumbered the Japanese were quite reckless in their advance as to give a fleeting "best-bad" opportunity (one that pans out slightly better in a wargame than the historical reality). Also of historical interest the most senior admiral and hence in charge of this multi-national force was in fact Dutch, Rear Admiral Karel Doorman.

The Dutch contingent is seem below (Navwar 1/3000 kit):

  • Cruiser (Flag): De Ruyter (leading)
  • Cruiser: Java (rear)
  • Destroyer: Kortenaer (top)
  • Destroyer: Witte De With (bottom)
Of special note none of the ADBA ships have NO serviceable spotting planes, thanks to recent Japanese air activity shooting down or damaging them
Next the British (RN) Forces


west1871 said...

Gorden bennet,1/3000 IS small.Looks good though.

Beccas said...

One of my favourite naval battles.

Geordie an Exiled FoG said...

Hello west1871 and Beccas,

Well 1/3000 are relatively small compared to the Airfix kits I made of your, but I find it the largest feasible naval wargame scale I can gey on the table. For small please see Figurehead games 1/6000, half as small again. I just cannot spot the difference in detail in them.

I do think the Java Sea battle does off a glimmer of hope for the ABDA boys, partly due to the fact they caught the IJN in a state of over confidence. Unfortunately he ABDA multi-national force had to make it up as they went along whereas the IJN could fall back on drill.

If only the Allied air and sea arms respectfully had talked to each other. It is also a pity that the US had lost the USS Langley (ex-CV now a seaplane tender) from their line of battle.

Paul said...

Interesting post. I am quite a fan of this battle and period as well.

Geordie an Exiled FoG said...

Hello Paul,

It certainly was the darkest period of the war and where Allied "odd and sods" were asked to fight in the most strange and dire of circumstances.

reinier said...

very interesting. I am very interested in the batle, also because of a personal connection (my grandfather commanded the Kortenaer, which was sunk during the battle).

Geordie an Exiled FoG said...

Hello reinier,

Gosh how very interesting. From what I read the Dutch Royal Navy in particular fought very hard and gallantly that day, against great odds.

RA Doorman seems to been have clear that he was going to make a stand of it at Java and even pressed the battle into a night phase with the remaining Dutch ships (cruisers).

If it were not for those "long lances" (taking the Kortenaer from a destroyer launched attack and then later taking the Java and De Ruyter list time from the IJN heavy cruisers) he just might have gotten to grips with those troop transports.

Your grandfather was a brave man commanding the Kortenaer that day.

My respects and Best Wishes
Geordie an Exiled FoG