The war is a crazy time, with death lurking in every corner man has to rely on his skills and ingenuity to survive. Sometimes it takes an insanely crazy idea to prolong your life and keep you safe from marauding enemies. One such unbelievable tale is that of HNLMS Abraham Crijnssen, a Dutch Ship that escaped Japanese bombers and sailed to Australia right under the noses of hawk-eyed Japanese air fleet employing a daring and crazy idea.
Abraham Crijnssen was constructed in 1936 for service in the Netherland navy and was based in Surabaya in Java.
The Van Amstel Class minesweeper Abraham Crijnssen was based in Java in 1942 at the time of the Japanese invasion. It was ordered to make its way to Australia after the Battle of the Java Sea. At that time, the Japanese air power was vastly superior and the chances of safe passage from Java to Australia were slight.
The crew of Abraham Crijnssen were originally planning to escape with three other warships but was forced to embark on a solo voyage.
The minesweeper did not have speed on their side, they could get up to only about 15 knots (top speed). Their meagre defences would not protect them from the Japanese war planes. All they had were a few guns and two Oerlikon 20mm cannons, in other words, they had toys to deal with ferocious Japanese bombers that circled the skies looking for targets to hit.
Their only chances of survival was camouflage. They decided to turn the ship into an island and head to Australia as a portable island.
The 45 crew members worked frantically on disguising their ship. The crew went ashore and cut down many trees as they could lug back onto the deck. The chopped trees were arranged to look like a jungle canopy. The visible parts of the ship were painted over as rocks, boulders and cliff faces.
Though the ship was deeply camouflaged, moving in the daytime would be perilous as a keen-eyed Axis pilot could bomb the ship out of existence. The crew decided to move only at night.
The crew decided to anchor the ship near the other islands during daylights. They hoped to blend and merge with the landscape and evade detection. At night, they would cover as much distance as possible – praying that the Japanese would not notice the portable island appearing and disappearing among the 18,000 existing islands in Indonesia.
The ship managed to escape the eagle eyes of the Japanese planes and avoid the destroyer that sank the other Dutch warships. It took eight days for the ship to reach Australia safely.