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Dutch Merchant Marine in Australia during World War II

September 4 2011 at 12:24 AM
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Klemen  (no login)
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Dutch Fleets: Royal Packet Navigation Co. of Netherlands East Indies (NEI)

There is virtually no record in Australia of the contribution that KPM ships, their officers and crews made to the Allied war effort during World War II, and in particular in the Battle for Australia in the years 1941/1945. The following narrative briefly sets this out. Some thirty KPM ships were involved in the New Guinea campaign in the South West Pacific area and these were superintended by KPM staff from the Sydney office after Batavia (Jakarta) was lost to the Japanese.

KPM commenced operations late in the 19th Century, advancing the increasing Dutch influence in the area. It became one of the largest shipping companies in the world, and then during World War II, half of what was left of its battered fleet after Japan over-ran Malaya and the Dutch East Indies, played a crucial part in slowing then repelling the Japanese advance on Australia during the critical days after Pearl Harbour. (The fleets other half deployed to other oceans, the Companys five largest vessels contributing notably to the war effort as Allied troopships.) On 10 May 1940, the full might of the German armed forces was unleashed on Holland, stores and supplies of all kinds from home-based infrastructure for their fleet of 150 ships operating in the NEI ceased, logistical problems mounted and the operations formerly run by the Batavia Head Office now became more reliant on supply from Australia, carried in KPM and Burns Philp cargo ships.


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