Netherlands,SS Op Ten Noort,KPM
My first Real life ship is a Ship with a special story.
In 1927, the Dutch Liner, the SS Op Ten Noort was built by the “Nederlandse Scheepsbouw Mij” or the “Netherland’s Shipbuilding Company” in Amsterdam for the “Koninklijke Paketvaart Maatschappij” or the “Royal Packet Steam Navigation Company.
With her hull and lower superstructure ready, on February 12, 1927 the company’s new liner was launched and was officially named the “Op Ten Noort,” which was a strange name for the ship, considering it means “Up the North” yet she would be operating down South in what was then called the “Dutch East Indies,” being today’s Indonesia!
Her service in the Dutch East Indies was not surprising considering that the Company had their headquarters located in Java, for obviously it was there where KPN had a great deal of activity, both in passenger and cargo movements. It was one of the most profitable parts of the world at that time!
Prior to her official commencement in November, she operated a promotional and test voyage, which proved to be very successful, and then on November 9, 1927 the Op Ten Noort commenced her regular Passenger-Cargo duties.
Her services were as follows: Singapore, Bangkok, Saigon, Manila, Maluku Islands Group (Moluccas), Bali and Batavia (Tanjung Priok - Jakarta). Then in later years, she switched to the East Coast of Java, and operated from Batavia via Muntok, Singapore, Belawan & Deli service.
On all of the aforementioned services her 1924 built sister ship, the SS Plancius operated alongside her.
With troubled times ahead, the SS Op Ten Noort was drafted by the Royal Dutch Navy in December 1941 and whilst she was in Surabaya (Jakarta) she received an comprehensive refit in order to convert her into a fully operational hospital ship. However, no one could have imagined what was about to happen, for the great evil that did happen to this ship would illustrate the hideous evil and viciousness of the Japanese during the Pacific/Asian War, but especially what these Japanese did to a protected Hospital Ship, one that was so clearly marked, an all white ship, with her broad red band surrounding her hull as well as huge red crosses located on the hull and the funnel, in addition, the Japanese were officially advised and they even acknowledged her to be an official Hospital ship! But it is from here that her tragic wartime story begins!
The SS Op Ten Noort was in Surabaya where her remodelling to convert the ship into a fully operational hospital ship commenced early in December 1941. Then on January 22, 1942 the Dutch Government officially informed the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the Swedish Embassy in Tokyo that the SS Op Ten Noort’s status had officially changed as she was now operating as a fully operational hospital ship and would not be involved in any war effort whatsoever, nor would the ship carry or transport any weapons. On February 19, 1942 the work at the workers at the Surabaya Naval Yard had worked hard and did an excellent job and on this day completed this fine Hospital Ship with many wards, operating theatres and ample stores for medicines and bandages. She was due to depart two day later and an uneventful voyage was expected.
However as the SS Op Ten Noort departs Surabaya on February 21, heading for the Java Sea, suddenly Japanese aircraft appear high above and they head directly for the Op Ten Noort, as if they had been waiting for her, and before the crew know it the ship is bombed on two occasions, suddenly she takes a direct bomb hit and this bomb kills a Dutch surgeon, a nurse as well as a medical analyst who dies the next day of injuries. Another eleven others persons are badly wounded and are taken care of by the ships doctors and nurses.
Being a hospital ship, and considering the Dutch having officially advised the Japanese that she was a Hospital ship and by attacking her, the Japanese had officially broken the “Den Hague Convention,” which amazingly the Japanese were signatories to! And remember that the ship was clearly marked, being painted all white having broad red band surrounding her hull as well as huge red crosses located on the hull and the funnel, thus there were no excuses. But, it seemed that the Japanese were no better that those evil murderous Nazis, for who else would attack an innocent Hospital Ship?
The Op Ten Noort returned to port to make necessary repairs and whilst she was in Surabaya Dutch Government sent a powerful “Note of Protest” to the Japanese, again through the Embassy of Sweden. Unbelievably, the bombing of the Op Ten Noort was only the beginning of the tragic wartime days of this sad ships history!
Considering there had been quite a battle going on over the past week, it was on February 28, 1942 at 6 AM that Captain G. Tuizinga of the SS Op Ten Noort was ordered to steam urgently to the Java Sea to rescue survivors. But just a several hours after she departed Surabaya she is intercepted by three Japanese Warships, a Japanese Light Cruiser and two Destroyers. A little later, a Dutch aircraft reports that the Op Ten Noort was being escorted by two Japanese destroyers most like being the “Amatsukaze” and “Murasame.”
Later that day she is ordered to drop anchor off Bawean Island and remain there until 12 Noon the next day. As the anchor is raised at Noon on March 1, the “Amatsukaze” escorts the Op Ten Noort to Bandjermasin in Borneo where she remains until March 4.
The Japanese destroyer “Ushio” arrives and transfers to Op Ten Noort about 60 POW’s, all of whom being survivors from the USS Perch which was sunk just that morning in the Java Sea. Interestingly, although the Op Ten Noort was still under the Dutch flag, but she is under Japanese control and orders, although all her Dutch officers and crew were still at this time running the ship. She departs Bandjermasin on March 4, with some 970 Allied Prisoners of War on board; this included around 800 survivors from “Exeter” that also sunk during the Battle of the Java Sea.
On March 5, the SS Op Then Noort arrives at Makassar, Celebes, where she discharges the Allied Prisoners of War that the Jap’s captured on March 3. For the next eight months the SS Op Ten Noort serves as a Japanese hospital facility for POW camps in the area but she remained operated by her Dutch crew.
Renamed SS Tenno Maru:
Finally the Japanese decided give the ship a Japanese name, thus on June 5, 1942 she was officially renamed “Tenno Maru,” meaning “Emperor Circle” but the Dutch flag still remained on her stern. And she was placed under the management of the Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Shipping Co. But sadly from October, the ship was reflagged and reregistered with the Japanese flag and homeport as “Yokohama” and as from now she was crewed by the Japanese navy, and the Dutch captain, officers, crew and medical personal became POW’s.
On November 23, 1942 the Tenno Maru departed Makassar under the command of a Japanese Captain bound for Yokohama carrying Javanese and Dutch sailors and Dutch medical personnel, but all being prisoners. And again, this was in complete violation of the Hague Convention, but that mattered little to the Japanese, for they have no honour whatsoever!
On December 20, 1942, the Tenno Maru is officially commissioned in the Imperial Navy of Japan as a “Japanese Hospital Ship,” serving in the naval base of Yokohama. She was immediately put into dry dock in early January to be remodelled under Japanese rules in the yards of the Mitsubishi. Three months later she was ready to enter service under the orders of the combined fleet based in Yokosuka.
At the end of April 1943, the Tenno Maru performs a series of voyages between Yokosuka, Rabaul, Truk and Sasebo, transporting sick and injured or in response to ambulatory patients while in port. On November 5, 1943 she looked after the wounded from the Rabaul raid carried out by the “Task Force 38” of the US Navy. The Tenno Maru departed in the evening bound for Sasebo and then returned to her base in Yokosuka for repairs in dry dock.
On December 11, 1943 she set sail from Yokosuka again bound for Truk, Rabaul, Ponape and then returns to Truk. During the American Operation “Hailstone” on Truk on February 16 & 17, the ship escaped unhurt all thanks to her being clearly marked as being a hospital ship having marks of the red cross on the white background and the bands powerfully illuminated, thus The Allies always did what is right, unlike those of the Imperial Japanese Navy, who bombed and captured a Dutch Hospital Ship, the complete opposite of what was right! Thankfully the Japanese fleet suffered a crushing defeat and was forced to leave its Main Naval Base at Truk, which many likened to being the equivalent to Pearl Harbour! The Tenno Maru set course to Saipan, but she was sent back very quickly to evacuate 1400 wounded and sick at the base at Truk. The next day she is directed to Saipan and Guam and then again to Truk for further evacuations. She worked hard for the Japanese and she worked like clockwork, as her machinery was perfection, never missing a beat! A month later, with the work completed she returns to her base in Yokosuka.
*Truk is (also Known as Chuuk Atoll)located in the Caroline Islands, and it is infamous for its giant lagoon, considering is the final resting place for more than 100 ships, planes and submarines. This is the tragic legacy of a fierce World War II battle between the Imperial Japanese Fleet and Allied carrier planes.
Renamed SS Hikawa Maru No 2:
Considering that the allies were now closing in on the lies of the Japanese, the Imperial Navy decided to disguise the Tenno Maru in order to ensure that their hideous crime, which was obviously in total violation of the Hague Convention as they had captured a Dutch Hospital ship and yet, 1. They bombed her, and 2. They captured as well as manned her with Japanese, all of which are being major violations! Thus, the Jap’s feared that the ship could be recognized as being the captured Dutch Hospital Ship, the SS Op Ten Noort and thus a major target!
It is for that reason that during September and October in 1944 that the Tenno Maru was given some external remodelling. First they shortened and thickened her original funnel and then added a second dummy funnel, which they placed just aft of it, making her look like an older style ship having two squad funnels.
When she was completed on October 25, when the Tenno Maru was renamed the IJN Hikawa Maru No 2 and the Japanese ensured that an official notice had gone out to all the Allies out that this, their official Japanese liner will serve as hospital ship. Their strategy was that they had sent other notices over the wires that that the Tenno Maru had “encountered a mine at sea and sank” which of course was a scam, but the perfect means of hiding the true identity of the Hikawa Maru No. 2.
For the remainder of the war the ship sailed between Singapore and Manila carrying looted gold and other treasures from the Japanese occupied countries. Just weeks before the war ended she arrived again in Yokohama loaded with 2,000 metric tons of gold but instead of offloading her cargo she then sailed on to the Maisaru Naval Base where more gold and platinum bars, diamonds and other gems were put on board. (A metric ton of gold equals 26,400 ounces).
On August 15, 1945 the Japanese officially announce their surrender and their willingness to sign the Peace Treaty. Then on August 17, 1945 just two days after their surrender the Jap’s decide to sink the ship and recover (steal) the treasure at a later date (just like the Nazis did) thus orders were received from the Naval Ministry to destroy and most importantly hide the ship for obviously they do not want to be found out what they have done, or the ship to be found, for the treasure must remain hidden!
That same night SS Hikawa Maru No 2 departs Maizuru’s port for Wakasa Bay, which was not very far away. In command of the ship were the following; a civil captain and twenty-four non-naval crewmen, also on board was a specialised Imperial Naval Party who were under the command of Commander Sato. His men carefully prepared the ship for scuttling and they planting two huge 328lb explosive charges. The first was placed near the ship's bow on the starboard side of the foremast and the second was placed aft of the second (dummy) funnel.
Before lighting of the fuses, the ships captain and his twenty-four crew are called for a meeting together, but instead they are all are shot on the spot, for no one can be a witness. Then the fuses are lit and the last naval members rapidly head for and board the awaiting lifeboat and they row around 250 yards away and wait. The ship explodes and sinks in 400ft of water. Later a small vessel arrives and picks them up. This is a tragic end of the great and wonderful Dutch Liner, the SS Op Ten Noort!
She was officially removed from the Navy list on September 12, 1945, thus she soon became the forgotten Dutch ship, and question remained, did she really go down having been struck by a mine when she was the Tenno Mary? The masquerade of the dummy funnel and Hikawa Maru No 2 was a good one and it did work well