Allies in adversity, Australia and the Dutch in the Pacific War: The Abraham Crijnssen


The Abraham Crijnssen

The Van Amstel Class minesweeper Abraham Crijnssen was constructed in the Netherlands in 1936, for service in the NEI. At the time of the Japanese invasion, it was based at Surabaya in Java, and in early March 1942 was ordered to make its way to Australia. At the time Japanese air superiority was overwhelming, and the crew could see little prospect of the ship making the passage undetected. The minesweeper’s meagre defences were certainly not sufficient to protect it from air attack.

The only possible solution seemed to lie in camouflage, and the ship was accordingly covered with jungle foliage. By lying up during most of the day, and regularly replenishing the protective foliage, the vessel blended into the islands among which she was travelling, and managed to escape notice. On 15 March, Abraham Crijnssen arrived at Geraldton in Western Australia.

After a refit and improvement of sonar equipment, the minesweeper began service with the Royal Australian Navy, becoming HMAS Abraham Crijnssen. It was employed as a convoy escort and submarine training vessel for the remainder of the war, and remained a familiar sight in Australian waters, although it officially returned to RNN service in 1943.

The veteran Abraham Crijnssen survived both war and peace, and is today preserved by the Dutch Naval Museum at Den Helder in the Netherlands.

Camouflaged shipThe heavily camouflaged Abraham Crijnssen seen against an appropriate background. This view makes it clear how effective the jungle foliage was in concealing the vessel from air observation. 012190

Camouflaged shipThe bridge of the Abraham Crijnssen, almost totally obscured by the layers of concealing foliage.012193

ShipA view of HMAS Abraham Crijnssen in Sydney Harbour during late 1942. 300065