To me, as a survivor from "The Battle of the Java Sea" this was when ABDA units fought IJN units in the Java Sea. I served as a Midshipman RNR in Exeter and we acted as convoy protection after the fall of Singapore. We also had midshipmen and other crew from "Prince of Wales" and "Repulse" which we picked up in Singapore, and were with us when we in turn were sunk.
The lead up to that disastrous day was the first battle on the 26th February where we were part of the ABDA fleet, and received a hit in our main steam pipe. We were shepherded into Sourabaja, where we repaired our steam piping and boilers. Next day we buried our dead ashore and were directed to leave the Java Sea by the Sunda Strait for Ceylon. We sailed that evening and steamed through the Japanese invasion fleet making for Java. That day was the end of ABDA, and all the top brass -- Wavell, Collins,et all, scurried out of Java, leaving EXETER, PERTH, and HOUSTON to our fate.
An interesting point about the shell which hit the main steam pipe, and which I believe had a lot to do with our subsequent treatment, was that the fragments of the shell were recovered and found stamped "Vickers Armstrong 1926" Other survivor's memoirs mention the recovery of the fragments, but dont tell you of their joint UK/Japanese origin. I have researched this subject over the years, and for those interested have attached a bibliography. That research has shown me that there was a keen interest by the IJN in the RN extending over many years. IJN officers were trained in the UK at staff and gunnery schools. Moreover Vickers and Armstrong put millions into a joint arms facility with Japan, and built submarines, cruisers and battleships for them --- for money, of course!
That relationship tapered off in the mid thirties, as the Japanese army was roaring through Manchouko and China, politics took over, but in 1942, in the Java Sea there were IJN officers who still thought their RN training was OK.
After EXETER was sunk and we were floating in a calm sea, the IJN destoyers later came back and picked up survivors over the next day. We were not badly treated, Officers were separated from ratings, and we were put aboard a Dutch hospital ship the IJN had captured and taken to Banjermasin in Borneo. About a week later we were taken to Macassar and our first POW camp, where we learned a lot more about the Japanese.
BIBLIOGRAPHY -- BATTLE OF THE JAVA SEA
1. " Battle of the Java Sea" by David Thomas, Pan Books paperback,1968
2. "No Surrender", by Johns and Kelly, Harrap & Co, 1969
3. "Never Forget, Nor Forgive", by Capt George T Cooper, Navigator Books,1995
4. "Social Change in the Royal Navy 1924-1970", edited by Dr Chris Howard Bailey,1996, Sutton Publishing for the RN Museum.(theTwiss memoir)
5. "Rising Sun in the Pacific 1931-April" 1942, By Samuel Eliot Morison, (history of United States Naval Operations in World War II) Castle Books 2001.
6. "Fight it out", By Captain Oliver Gordon, William Kimber ,1957(Capt.of "Exeter")
7. "Forty Years on the Pacific", by Frank Coffee, Oceanic Publishers, N.Y.1925
(1st mention of joint UK-Japan armaments factory. Japan Steel Works.)
8. "The history of Anglo-Japanese relations 1600-2000,Vol 4", Edited by Janet Hunter and S.Sugiyama. (Japan Steel Works and British shareholders,to'33)
9. "Vickers : A History", by J.D.Scott, Weidenfield and Nicholson, 1962
10. "Betrayal at Pearl Harbour", by James Rusbridger & Eric Nave, Summit Books, 1991 New York. (Automedon story)
11. "The Intelligence Game", by James Rusbridger, Bodley Head,UK 1991 (Automedon story )
12. "The Technological Transformation of Japan,17th to 21st century", by Tessa Morris-Suzuki, Cambridge University Press,1994
13, "Out of the Night" by Jan Valtin, Heineman May 1941. (Memoir of Commintern agent, Richard Julius Krebs,1905 - 1951, incl.Mutiny in NEI Navy ship "De Seven Provincien" in 1933. Renamed "Sourabaja" sunk by Jap bombers in '42. Salvaged by Japs later.
14. Note : There are four copies of "The Price of Admiralty" by Professor JWM Chapman, Vol IV, which is the English translation of the war diary of Admiral Paul W.Wenneker, the German Naval attache to Japan,'39-'45. The copies are at the ADF, War Memorial, National Library, and Uni of NSW libraries, but they only can be read there. He dealt with the secret mail and survivors from the "Automedon" which reached Japan in December '41, via Norwegian tanker, the "Ole Jacob". At Hitler's orders, the secret mail, including the UK cabinet minutes of 11th November 1940, were handed to Admiral Kondo of the IJN. These significant cabinet minutes led to Japan's southward attack through Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and the NEI. Even today there is no official explanation as to why the secret cabinet minutes went by sea mail from UK to Singapore. The governments of Australia and New Zealand were not told either, still believing in the yarn about "the Bastion of Singapore" for which they had been charged large amounts of sterling in the thirties.
Capt.Rob Rae,26th February2008