At the head of the ABDA formation stand the last two ABDA "modern" destroyers with offensive capability (see below). To the left is HMS Jupiter down to just over half strength (but with a loaded torpedo mount intact), and on the right the Dutch Kortenaer having "just to say" some fighting ability, but left with no torpedoes (thanks to the earlier attentions of the IJN heavy cruisers).
(Top above) In the distance the IJNS Nachi pulls across the path of the stricken IJNS Hagero and starts laying a protective smoke screen.
Back on the bridge of the De Ruyter, Admiral Doorman was vexed by his inability to control or participate in the battle. HMS Exeter had taken the van, passing the De Ruyter with all guns blazing in fine style. De Ruyter's engineers worked valiantly amidst the steam and flame below but were crucially precious minutes away from restoring power when a cry of alarm came from a starboard lookout.
Swinging round from his preoccupation of the Japanese heavy cruisers fire, Doorman could not believe the sight multiple white tracks heading towards his ship. The enemy had no destroyer within effective (ABDA) torpedo range, so had he blundered into a cleverly sighted submarine trap? He was in the middle of the ocean, surely impossible? With the few seconds before impact all he could think of was the haunting sea shanty of the "Deadly Kraken off Java that ate unwary sailors". Doorman now saw her evil teeth but there was nothing he could do to save himself or his crew.
The huge explosion that signalled the loss of the De Ruyter with all hands shocked the ABDA line. De Ruyter disappeared in a towering plume of white water in a fantastic series of explosions, some eight separate hits all told (bottom middle: see the cluster of brown explosion markers). The ship disintegrated within the space of two minutes (enough GQII damage to sink the De Ruyter in her damaged state six times over!). ABDA had lost her first line-of-battle ship. Only the existing physical momentum took the ABDA line forward. Anxiously all hands scanned for signs of further danger. The Dutch light cruiser Java at the back of the ABDA line was the only ship to see the cause, additional malevolent torpedo tracks harmlessly passing parallel to her. Unbeknownst to HMS Exeter by choosing to close the range with the Nachi she had successfully evaded the Long Lance torpedoes aimed at her.
Meanwhile another drama was unfolding of the port flank of the ABDA line, with the USS Houston becoming the fixated object of hatred to the IJNS Urakaze (middle left above). Removed of her torpedo armament by enemy gunfire, her captain had the intent to make her a floating ram. In a scene reminiscent of the IJNS Hagero versus HMS Encounter the two ships closed on a collision course, the difference being the USS Houston still answered her helm. This meant all the guns on the Houston were focused on trying to sink the Urakaze leaving nothing to assist HMS Exeter in her moment of need. The Houston's gunfire rolls were atrocious and the Urakaze would get her "ramming" chance. Meanwhile heavy cruisers exchanged hard blows at the head of the ABDA line.
Next: HMS Exeter v IJNS Nachi