Three days from Singapore: tension rises, the escort grows

Warwick Castle in DM.02, the second convoy from Durban and the last convoy to reach Singapore. (Source:

10 January 1942. The 5 merchant ship are now protected by eight more warships: The cruisers Hr.MS De Ruyter (commanded by rear admiral Karel Doorman), Hr.MS Tromp, HMS Durban, the destroyers Hr.Ms Backert, Hr.Ms Piet Hein, HMS Encounter, HMS Jupiter, HMAS Vampire and the sloop HMIS Jumna. With cruisers HMS Emerald and HMS Exeter the escort now consist of no less then 10 Dutch, British, Australian and Indian warships.

Two warships for every merchant ship. This impressive escort demonstrates that the convoy was regarded as very important, but the biggest threat will probably come from the sky not from the sea. The Japanese have almost complete air dominance around Singapore. Air defence around Singapore consists of a small number of outdated planes such as the Brewster Buffalo, which are hardly a match for the modern Japanese airplanes.

HrMs Tromp will be one of the very few warships to escape the Japanese onslaught in the Dutch East Indies  (Source:, Collection J. Klootwijk )

This convoy carrying 60 modern Hurricanes is the only short term reinforcement to arrive and as such the last hope to resist the Japanese push. The Japanese probably know this and will try their best to destroy the convoy before it can unload the 60 planes and 8000 troops. As it looks now on the 12 of January the convoy will have to negotiate the narrow Banka Straits by daylight. With no of very little protection from the air. Tension rises on board al the ships.

Another fact to demonstrate how bafflingly fast the situation in the Dutch Indies worsens and how superior the Japanese are: From the 10 escort ships, within 3 months De Ruyter, Exeter, Banckert, Piet Hein, Encounter, Jupiter and Vampire will be sunk and Durban and Tromp will be to damaged to sail for months.

Merchant Shipping losses in the area.

7 januari.
Djirak (Dutch): The tanker was torpedoed and sunk in the Java Sea by submarine I-57 . All crew were rescued.

8 januari. 
Van Rees (Dutch): The cargo ship was torpedoed and sunk 80 nautical miles south of Tjilapjap, Java by submarine I-56. 5 crewmen killed.
Van Riebeeck  (Dutch): The cargo ship was torpoedoed and sunk in the Indian Ocean by submarine I-56. 13 crewmen killed. Survivors rescued by HrMs Willem Van Der Zaan.

9 januari 
Benkoelen (Dutch): The cargo ship was torpedoed and sunk in the Java Sea by submarine I-65. USS Paul Jones rescued 101 survivors.
Camphuijs  (Dutch): The cargo ship was shelled, then torpedoed and sunk in the Java Sea west of Bawean Island by submarine I-65. The crew survived


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