A Seafaring Nation

The Dutch Mercantile Marine, mainly through the Netherlands’s major shipping line KPM (Koninklijke Paketvaart Maatschappij), played a crucial role in the supply and defence of Australia. Several Dutch ships were sunk by mines, submarines or aerial bombing, at a time when the Japanese enjoyed air and sea superiority in much of the area in which the KPM vessels operated. Most of the vital reinforcement of New Guinea in 1942 and 1943, including troops, vehicles, weapons and supplies for the Milne Bay, Buna and Gona operations, was undertaken by Dutch vessels.

In addition to the valuable role played by Dutch merchant seamen in maintaining supply lines to and from Australia during the war, the modern liner Oranje was offered by the Dutch government to the Australian and New Zealand governments in 1941. Refitted as 1st Netherlands Military Hospital Ship, Oranje eventually carried more than 32,000 sick and wounded Allied patients on over 40 voyages.

Ship The Oranje was used as a hospital ship for Australian forces from June 1941. P01189.002