HNLMS Jacob van Heemskerk

HNLMS "Jacob van Heemskerck" was a "Tromp"-class light cruiser of the Royal Netherlands Navy, named after Admiral Jacob van Heemskerk (1567–1607). She was hastily commissioned on May 10 1940, when Nazi Germany invaded the Netherlands. However, as she was not armed she escaped to the UK, she was refitted as an air defence cruiser since only this kind of guntypes were available and there was a growing need for this kind of ship to protect the convoys. During the war the crew felt that their ship was blessed and gave her the nickname 'Oude Jacob' (Old Jacob). She received the reputation that not a single convoy ship would be lost when she was on duty.

"Jacob van Heemskerck" was the last of the two "Tromp"-class torpedocruisers, which were built as part of the Deckers Fleetplan, named after the minister of Defence at that time. The other ship was the "Tromp".


The ship was meant to commence trials on the day the Germans invaded and to prevent her capture was immediately pressed into service. Since she had no armament she left port for the United Kingdom with only a skeleton crew. Once she had arrived in Portsmouth attempts were made to give her weaponry of some sort. She received the depth charge-equipment from the old torpedo boats G13 and G15. On the 18th of May, 1940, her majesty Queen Wilhelmina paid the ship a visit. At the end of the month, she and the aging cruiser HNLMS Sumatra received the assignment to bring her royal highness the Princess Juliana and her two children (including the crown princess) to Canada. The ships put to sea on the second of June and arrived on the 11th at Halifax.

The Heemskerck returned alone to England and arrived at Portsmourth in July where her re-arming program began. The British Admiralty decided to convert her to an anti-aircraft ship. Work was finished on the 17th of February, 1941, and she was ready for active service. After tests and trials, which lasted till the 29th of 1941, the ship was assigned as convoy-escort in the Atlantic Ocean as part of the Irish Sea Escort.

She was taken from escort duty in January 1942 and directed with all haste to the Dutch East Indies to reinforce the defence fleet assembled there. The ship arrived to late too take part in the battle of the Java Sea and was re-assigned to the Eastern Fleet in 1942. In September 1942 the ship took part in operations 'Stream' and 'Jane', both aimed at the retaking of Madagascar. On October the 25th the Heemskerck arrived at Fremantle, Australia, and came under the command of Allied Naval Forces 'Western Australia', where she performed convoy duties.

On 28 November 1942, the Heemskerck, in the company of the Australian cruiser "HMAS Adelaide", identified and damaged the German supply vessel and blockade runner "Ramses", which was subsequently scuttled by her own crew in the Indian Ocean.

On the 1st of December, 1943, the ship returned to the Eastern Fleet and on the 27th of the same month, she set sail for the Mediterranean Sea where she, again, performed convoy duties till she was recalled to England for maintenance in June 1944. On the 26th of July 1945 "HNLMS Jacob van Heemskerck" arrived as the first Dutch warship after Liberation Day at Amsterdam. In September of that year she set sail for the Dutch East Indies, where she performed patrol duties till the 22nd of July, 1946. She returned to the Netherlands in August of that year.

From the 12th of March, 1951, onward she served as a lodgingship for the sailor education in Vlissingen. She served in this capacity in several other locations.

The cruiser was decommissioned for the last time on the 20th of November, 1969 and struck from the Naval Registry on the 27th of February 1970. On the 23 of June 1970 the ship was sold for scrap.


* Mark, Chris. 1997. "Schepen van de Koninklijke Marine in W.O. II". Alkmaar, the Netherlands.

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