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Java Class Light Cruiser

Sumatra - Bombay 1942
Sumatra - Bombay 1942
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Ship BuilderLaid DownLaunched Completed Fate
Java De Schelde 31 May 169 Aug 211 May 25Lost 27 Feb 1942
Sumatra NSM Amsterdam15 Jul 1629 Dec 20 26 May 26Scuttled 9 Jun 1944
CelebesFijenoord, (Rotterdam)not laid Cancelled 1919
Displacement: 6,670 tons/6,776 tonnes (standard); 8,208 tons/8339 tonnes (full load).
Length: 473ft 4in/155.3m (oa); 466ft 4in/153m (wi). Beam: 48ft 9in/16m; Draught: 18ft 6in/6.1m (mean).
Machinery: 3-shaft Germania (Sumatra, Zoelly) geared turbines; 8 Schulz-Thornycroft boilers.
Performance: 72,000shp=31kts; Bunkerage: 1,200 tons oil fuel.
Range: 3,600nm at 12kts.
Protection: 50mm (aft) main belt; 75mm machinery and magazine spaces; 25mm to 50mm deck; 125mm CT.
Guns: ten 5.9in (10xl); six (Java 8) 40mm (6/8xl); four .5in MGs.
Torpedoes: nil. Aircraft: two. Complement: 525.

At the time of their conception, in 1915, these ships were comparable with, if not better than, their British and German contemporaries. However their completion was so badly delayed that they were hopelessly out of date by the time they joined the fleet. Like all Dutch warships, their design took into account the need for service in the Netherlands' most important colony, the East Indies, and they were intended to act as the most powerful ships on that station, as by 1916 the remaining battleships in the Royal Netherlands Navy were well over-aged and financial considerations prevented ships larger than cruiser size being planned. The design, in which Krupp had a hand, was in fact much larger than contemporary British and German designs; some 6,670 tons,which was the result of their heavy armament of ten 5.9in guns.

The protective scheme included a 75mm waterline belt which extended 392.5ft, covering the machinery and magazine spaces, and was reduced to 50mm for a further 42.5ft aft to protect the steering gear. Horizontal protection consisted of a 25mm deck, increased to 50mm on its sloped sides, meeting the upper edge of the side belt. 60mm bulkheads closed off the armoured carapace. Funnel uptakes were 50mm, conning tower 125mm and the faces of the gun shields 100mm.

The main machinery showed the strong German influence, Schulz-Thornycroft boilers and Germania turbines being installed, though Sumatra had Zoelly-pattern turbines because a serious fire at the yard had destroyed the original Germania set. These gave considerable trouble during the early part of her career. Designed power was 72,000shp, necessary for a ship of this tonnage to attain the specified 31kts. The machinery was arranged on a three-shaft system. Full oil-firing was adopted, no doubt due to the availability of oil from the East Indies refineries.

The main armament comprised ten Bofors Mk 6 50cal 5.9in guns in single shielded mountings, two each fore and aft on the centreline, with Nos. 2 and 9 superfiring. The remainder were disposed on the beam, giving a broadside of seven guns. Range was 23,200yd at 29°. As completed, four 75mm guns comprised the secondary armament. No torpedo or aircraft installations were originally intended in the design.

Orders were placed for two ships in 1916 and, on 14 June 1917, for a third, to be named Celebes, with Fijenoord, Rotterdam. The intention was for this third ship to be launched in July 1921. However, only about 80 tons of material had been worked for Celebes, and she had not yet been laid down. As the design was now obsolete, she was cancelled.

Aircraft and handling derricks were added after completion. No catapults were fitted. The aircraft first carried was the British Fairey IIID, acquired in 1924, each ship operating two, but this type proved too fragile for the East Indies and they were replaced in 1926 by the Fokker C.VIIW floatplane. In the course of refits in 1934/35 the pole foremast was replaced by a tubular pattern and the 3in AA landed. In their place, six (Sumatra) and four (Java) 40mm Mk III Bofors in 3/2 twin mountings were fitted on the after shelter deck. The mainmast was cut down and repositioned and the searchlights rearranged. Four .5in MGs were also added. Java was lost in this condition, but her sister survived to be disarmed in 1944, when six of her 5.9in guns were used to rearm two gunboats. She may also have received a few 20mm.

an early photo of Java
an early photo of Java
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Java - Coronation Review, Spithead 1936
Java - Coronation Review, Spithead 1936
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On the outbreak of war with Germany Java took part in convoy escort duties in the East Indies, and carried out similar tasks when the Pacific war began. She became a unit of the Allied Striking Force under the command of the Dutch Admiral Doorman, and participated in the abortive strike against Japanese invasion forces in the Banka Strait on 13/14 February 1942. A similar sortie on 18 February against landings on Bali resulted only in the damaging of a transport by Java, while the Allied force lost a destroyer and had Tromp damaged. On 27 February she sailed with the Allied force to intercept Japanese forces invading Java. In the subsequent Battle of the Java Sea, Java received torpedo hits from the cruiser Nachi and sank some 40nm west-south-west of Balwean Island.

When Germany invaded the Netherlands Sumatra was at Vlissingen, in reserve awaiting refit, but was able to escape to Britain on 11 May 1940. Between 2 and 11 June she took some of the Royal Family to Canada, then sailed for the Dutch West Indies, arriving at Curacao on 22 June, where she was sporadically employed on anti-raider duties in the Caribbean, central Atlantic and in the Antilles. She left Curacao on 7 August for South Africa, arriving back in the East Indies in mid-October 1940. She was almost immediately paid off to refit and her crew dispersed to other ships. After the outbreak of the Pacific war she was recommissioned on 27 January 1942 with a skeleton crew, and left Soerabaya on 3 February with only half of her boilers and two-thirds of her machinery working. She arrived at Trincomalee on 15 February, and remained there, refitting and repairing, until 16 April, when she sailed for Bombay and further refit. She finally returned to Colombo on 26 July and sailed for Britain on 1 August, arriving in Portsmouth on 30 October. From November 1942, in commission but with a reduced crew, she remained there until May 1944, when she was destored and prepared for use as a blockship for the invasion of Normandy. On 9 June 1944 she was scuttled as part of the Gooseberry breakwater off Ouisterham.

Sumatra sunk as a breakwater - Normandy 1944
Sumatra sunk as a breakwater - Normandy 1944
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fine pic of Java
fine pic of Java
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