Singapore under attack, Abbekerk lucky again

Japanese plane shot down and crashes near a ship later in the war. Sight similar to the plane that just missed Abbekerk at Singapore (source AP,

13 January 1942 During the night speed is reduced to 9 knots because the mines that could have been laid by a Japanese submarine. De warships set out paravanes as protection. Also several Dutch minesweepers are busy clearing the route DM.01 will take to Singapore. Just after daybreak a mine is spotted, floating just 30 meters behind Mount Vernon. The other ships are warned and evade the mine that is then destroyed by one of the warships.

As the ships approach the harbor it becomes clear Singapore is under attack. No less than 50 bombers and 20 fighters attack different targets in and around Singapore. The ships spread to their different berths and jetties and to everybody’s relief (and surprise) the planes again pay no attention to the arriving ships. It nearly goes wrong anyway.

When I stepped on deck to go and have a look at the steering machine at the stern, I just saw a fighter plane, obviously hit, falling out of the sky some sixty meters from the ship. That created a large water fountain and when that had come down the plane was nowhere to be seen. When you think about it, you see a human being killed right in front of your eyes. An Englishman, a Dutchman or a Jap? To be honest I did not give it much thought. I thought about the cargo in the ship and our absolutely hopeless position against an enormously outnumbered enemy force in the air.

As was expected we were ordered to anchor half a kilometre from any other ship and even further from the city and that was not for nothing. A well aimed bomb falling on our ship and all the other ships could go to the scrapheap.
Ass. engineer Adriaan Kik


A Hurricane fighter being removed from its crate to be assembled (Source:

De troops from the ships disembark quickly and the cargo’s of the passenger ships are unloaded in a hurry. A day later they are already leaving Singapore, now packed with refugees. Mount Vernon and Aorangie will be in the troopship role for the rest of the war. Narkunda will be sunk by German planes in November 1942 during the allied landings in North Africa.

The unloading of Abbekerks cargo also quickly starts. On both sides barges come alongside the ship and the crates with Hurricanes are taken ashore immediately. Next is the anti aircraft guns and anti tank cannons…


Merchant shipping losses in the area

12 january

Toboali (Dutch): The coaster was bombed and sunk at Bagan Siapi, Dutch East Indies by Japanese aircraft. In 1944 she was salvaged, repaired and entered Japanese service as Aki Maru

2 Responses

  1. Peter says:


    Thank for your compliments.
    More on (the crago of) DM.01 can be found on and this is probably the source of several other accounts on the internet. On the individual ships not much can be found.
    What I know about Abbekerk’s cargo comes mostly of the crew memoires:
    The Hurricanes are mentioned by my father, Third Mate Visser, DEMS gunner MacNab and also Harry Tweedale from 232 squadron RAF. My father comparing Abbekerk with a modern day containership with two crated hurricanes on each of her 5 holds. Most sources only mention 54 (or 52) Hurricane’s aboard Sussex in DM.01. So it is unclear if the 10 aboard Abbekerk were extra or that in fact Sussex only carried 44.
    The AA guns are mentioned by all on board. No exact number only that some of them were put on deck as extra defence in England and later en route to Singapore. Lt G. North of the 35th LAA regiment was on board Abbekerk with 15 troops to man the guns. He mentions that the guns of the 35th were on board (but not if it were all of them or may be from other units as well).
    What is a bit of a mystery is why guns on deck and the 16 men of the 35th were only sent ashore by the time Abbekerk was in Oosthaven (Sumatra) and not already month earlier in Singapore with the rest of the 35th.

    The anti tank guns of the 85th are only mentioned as being part of DM.01. Since both my father and the Third Mate mention field guns and artillery as part of Abbekerk cargo I assume these are the guns of the 85th. Contrary to the Hurricanes and the Bofors I have not really researched these guns.

    Best regards,

  2. Walter Tuttlebee says:

    Peter – Firstly, you’ve done a great job with this website & the info herein – well done.
    My father was a soldier in the British 85th Anti-Tank Regiment. He travelled to Singapore on the SS Narkunda. This was the only anti-tank regiment in this convoy which the Abbekerk accompanied. I’m trying to put together his story…

    In this article “Singapore under attack, Abbekerk lucky again” you mention the Hurricanes, the anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons being carried in & unloaded from the Abbekerk.

    In Archie Monro’s book “The Winston Specials: Troopships Via the Cape, 1940-43”, page 233, he states that:
    “The MT ship Sussex discharged 54 crated Hurricanes, the guns of an Anti-Tank and AA regiment, ammunition and stores all by the ship’s company as the native dock labour had disappeared, in the space of 5 days and nights and thereafter sailed to Australia”.

    It sounds the identical story, but a different ship
    (The Sussex was also part of the same DM1 convoy as the Abbekerk).

    Can you please point me to your original sources, so I can check them out.
    Many thanks.

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