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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Tribute to my cousins father Tobias A. van Driel,serving on the submarine the 016

On November 28th 1941 my aunt Eke van Driel-Sijtsma said goodbye to her husband.Never knowing that this was the last time she ever would see him again.She was four month  pregnant with her second child.They already had a son and were looking forward to this new baby and hoping for a daughter.
The 016 and the K XVII were stationed in Soerabaja the Dutch East Indies.
My uncle Tobias and aunt Eke van Driel

On November 28th they were ordered to Sambas (north-west Borneo). The boats are expected to arrive in the area on the 6th of December. On Nov. 29th 1941 the 016 and the K XVII are ordered to Malacca for a possible unexpected action.They are expected to remain unseen and proceed with speed of 12 knots.Then they are ordered to go to maximum speed.
On Dec.1 1941 they are placed under British (C-in-C China) and ordered to Singapore.Early December 1941 they arrive in Singapore. From December 6, till December 15 1941: The 016 and the K XVII are ordered to patrol the South Sea. Several attacks are made. During this patrol the 016 and all of her hands, except for one crew member, will be lost.

It is December 6 1941 and the 016 and the K XVII depart from Singapore.On December 7 1941: The USA declares war on Japan after Japanese forces attack Pearl Harbor. Approximately 7 hours after the attack the Netherlands also declare war on Japan.On the radios they heard that "War with Japan has broken out".
On December 8 1941 (All Marine Radio stations) messages, report details on enemy forces in the Gulf of Siam and off Kota Bharu.
On December 8.1941 the 016 attacks the Japanese invasion forces that are invading north east Malaya.
On December 9 1941 C-in-C Eastern fleet orders the submarines 016, K VXII, K XI, K XII, and the K XIII to form a line and the distance between each of the submarines should be 20 miles.The O16 should be 40 miles South of the Poeloe Obi Light. On December 10 , the boats have to sail a general course between Kota Bharu, Malacca and Singapore.,Thailand. This because a large numbers of Japanese transports has been spotted off the coast.
On December 10 1941 the 016 damages the Japanese troopship Ayatosan Maru and the Sakura Maru.
At midnight of the 12th of December 1941 the 016 attacks several Japanese ships in the Bay of Soengei Patani ( east coast of Malaya, and only 9 meters deep). The ships are torpedoed while the submarine surfaced.

The 016 sinks the Japanese troopship Tosan Maru.
The Tosan Maru
The Japanese Tosan Maru ( Photo collection Hasashi Noma)

The 016 also sinks the Japanese troopships Asosan Maru,the Kinka Maru, the Sakura Maru and also damages the Japanese troopships Ayatosan Maru.
On December 13th 1941 the 016, with only one torpedo remaining, returns to Singapore.Large Japanese convoys are spotted sailing SSW.The 016 is struck by a mine while she is exiting the  Gulf of Siam during her home bound voyage to Singapore. The submarine is nearly broken in half and 41 men are lost. Only one crew member, boatswain Cornelis de Wolf, survives. The 016 had sailed right into a Japanese line of mines, this line of mines also sunk the submarine the K XVII.

On December 22 1941 a bedraggled Dutch sailor was found by an Australian patrol, trudging toward Singapore in the hapless procession of native refugees fleeing the advancing Japanese.Brought to naval head quarters, Cornelis de Wolf had an incredible story to tell. A boatswain on the 016, he had been on watch on the rainy night of 14-15 December when at about 0230 a huge explosion rent the deck forward and sent a wave of water and diesel oil over the men on the bridge. In less than a minute the boat was gone and he was gasping for breath in the lukewarm water of the South China Sea. ( He later told my Aunt Eke that her husband had just been released from his watch on the bridge).
Nearby a few other survivors called to each other and in the distance the voice of their commander was heard in reply. The swimmers clustered together, but Bussemaker failed to appear and was heard no more.( Bussemaker was the Lieutenant Commander of the 016).De Wolf asked the only officer present, Ltz.11 C.A.Jeekel, what had happened and was told that they must have hit a mine. Knowing that Tioman Island was a few miles west of them, the men, Jeekel, de Wolf, seaman first class F.X. van Tol, seaman second class F.Kruijdenhof, and machinist A.F.Bos,decided to strike out for its shore, but van Tol and Jeekel soon succumbed to exhaustion and drowned. In the morning a Dutch aircraft passed overhead but failed to spot the swimmers, and Kruijdenhof disappeared soon after wards. Towards evening, after 17 hours of struggling against the current that kept sweeping the men southward away from the island, Bos could go on no longer. Asking Wolf, if he survived, to remember him to his wife and two children, he gave up and sank from sight.

Alone in the tepid sea, the sturdy pressed on until at about noon on the 17th he was washed up on the rocky shore of uninhabited Dayang Island.
Exhausted and bleeding, he fell asleep. Waking after a few hours, he was found by a lone native in a small prau (a sort canoe with sail) and taken to a larger island (presumably Aur) where impoverished but hospitable natives nursed him as best they could.After three days, De Wolf, clad only in shorts, rigged up a sailing prau and crossed over to the mainland, then walked for nine hours on raw feet before encountering the Australian patrol.
This the route de Wolf swam.

Cornelis de Wolf, after serving his country's submarine force for the rest of the war, retired from the navy and died in 1983. Unaware that the scenario based on his remarkable escape from death at sea was flawed. Given the duration of his swim, his sightings of distant peaks, the strength of the ocean current, and the known place where he landed, 0 16 could not possible have been far enough south to have run into the  British  minefield.

Later new information surfaced from the shambles of Japanese naval records and suggested a somewhat different conclusion. By 1956 the British had found and published the information that on the night of 6-7 December the Japanese had planted a previously unknown mine line east of Tioman Island.
There were so many speculations that the son of the lost boat's commander Hans C. Besancon,Jr. and himself a retired officer of the Royal Netherlands navy,decided to  undertake a crusade to find his father's resting place.

Although the naval authorities declined to provide financial backing for Besancon, they were able to offer some useful information. In 1981 a treasure diver from Singapore, Michael Hatcher, reported having located a sunken Dutch submarine in the South China sea. Wrecks in the area had  become well known to local fisherman who were attracted by abundant marine life around the sunken ships, only to have their nets snagged on underwater obstructions.
Pursuing this lead, Besancon contacted Hatcher and in May 1982 they moored over the wreck and sent divers down. The divers reported that the submarine had sunk deeply into the mud bottom, but they were able to recover the steering wheel from the exposed bridge. When its serial number was checked against naval records, the boat was positively identified as K XVII.

Yet there was still a mystery: the wreck lay well north of the reported location of the Japanese mine line. The missing pieces of the puzzle were provided nine years later by researchers in the Netherlands and Japan. Records disclosed that a Dutch flying boat had sighted TATSUMIYA MARU on December 6th, and caused her to turn back prematurely. Before reversing course however, she had laid her mines about 18 mile north of the assigned position. The remains of the K XVII lay exactly within the relocated minefield north of Tioman.

Besancon quest and its findings had attracted considerable public attention, so when a Swedish diver, Sten Sjostrand, reported finding another sunken submarine in 1995 that he suspected to be Dutch, the naval authorities were interested. Initiating a search for family members of the men lost on 0 16, they organized an expedition to examine the wreck.
This time Besancon was joined by his fellow retired naval officers, H.O. and A.P. Bussemaker, sons of the boats lost commander. The Dutch group also included an official naval observer, Ltz 1 J.M. van Zee, and two journalists. The Navy also contributed funds, photographic and video equipment, charts of the area, and blueprints and identification photos of the submarine. The hulk was quickly located at a depth of 53 meters(about 160 feet) some nine miles east of K XVII in the same Japanese mine line, draped in fish nets and with a gaping hole forward of the bridge. Details of the boat's layout confirmed it to be the 0 16, and the divers removed the steering wheel and some other fittings for retention as official evidence and historical mementos.
The  hatch of the 0 16
The steering wheel of the 0 16
The bow of  0 16, June 2005

                   Photos from Richard de Wolf and S. Sjostrand collection A.P. Bussemaker.
 the deck gun 016, June 2005

The conning tower of the 016, June 2005

Commemorative plaque Richard and his team attached to the tower. Also note all fishing nets wrapped around the conning tower. (If only my aunt Eke would have known. She passed away, before all this was discovered).

Finally, a brief ceremony was held on the forward deck: Ltz. I John van Zee, dressed in tropical white, held a speech and said a prayer and Henk and Ton Bussemaker tossed a wreath of flowers into the sea on behalf of the families of the deceased.
Rest in Peace.

memorial plaque in Den Helder

Never to be forgotten. This is for my cousins Fop and Toby van Driel, who lost their father and spend their first years on earth, in those miserable Japanese camps, together with their mother, my mother and me,and thousands of other women and children.
Tobias van Driel

By A.P. Bussemaker, son of  0 16's CO Ltz. 1  A.J.Bussemaker.

Boatswain Cornelis de Wolf.

We left the port of Singapore on our way to the gulf of Siam on Saturday. December 6th with a crew of 41 souls. We were scouting out 2 Japanese destroyers, but did not undertake any action, as we were not jet at war.On the 8th of December we learned of the attack on Pearl Harbor, which meant that we were now at war! A Japanese troop ship was scouted out during the early hours of December 11. Three torpedoes were launched,but the rain and poor visibility prevented us from seeing whether they had hit.
On December 10th we observed a Japanese merchant vessel with its stern light burning.This blunder allowed us to easily follow the vessel until it entered the Bay of Patani.Commander A.J.Bussemaker decided to enter the bay. He was a fine man and a competent commander with much insight into human nature! That's why he then turned to reserve officer van Einsbergen, navigator an officer of the KPM ( a Dutch Merchant Shipping Company), and said,"You take care of the navigation, since you know this area better than anyone."

He piloted the 0 16 into the bay with the utmost skill, after which the commander resumed command once again.

There were four Japanese ships in the by in a semicircular formation. We first shot at the bow and then the stern. Six torpedoes were launched, all of which struck home. A direct hit! The ships did not sink entirely, however, because the bay was too shallow, being only  8 to 10 meters deep. The trick was now to get away from the bay unseen. The commander did not set course for open sea, but rather cunningly stayed close to the coast in shallow water because of the present of Japanese destroyers offshore. We managed to get away unseen and set course for Singapore.

Around midnight on Sunday, the 14th of December, I took over the bridge watch as helmsman. There were six of us on the bridge. Everyones eyes were on beams of light and flashes in the distance. Evidently there was an exchange of fire taking place. At  two o'clock in the morning, a searchlight could be seen just above the horizon. The commander changed course from 165 to 210 and headed straight towards the searchlight, which had to have some where near the islands by the coast of Malaya.

It happened at around 2:30 a.m. A thunderous blow flung me against the pit. Our faithful 0 16 disappeared into the waves in less than a minute. During those few seconds, I saw the commander and senior officer trying to kick shut the turret hatch, while I desperately did my best to get my coat loose from the mine gear in which it had gotten stuck. My coat tore lose and I found myself in the water, all alone. No, this can't be, the other five have to be somewhere around here. I couldn't see anything because of the darkness and high waves and started calling out. I heard vague shouting. I swam towards the cries and saw four others. Commander Bussemaker was not one of them. We kept calling out and heard only a vague response. Unfortunately, he was too far away and we were unable to find him.
the wrecksite 016 and the route of Cornelis de Wolf.
There were five of us: Senior officer Jeekel, Corporal Bos, seamen van Tol and Kruijdenhof and myself. We oriented ourselves by the moon and stars in order to swim towards the islands. Senior officer Jeekel swam in front. He asked us often if we were able to keep up. We had all removed our clothes except for van Tol, who was unable to remove his coat. He was barely hanging on. I couldn't stand to watch his desperate struggling any longer, so I swam back to help him. I was able to be of some help, but not for long. He sank a few seconds later.

The sun was coming up in the meantime. We could make out the islands on the horizon. By eight o'clock it had become too much for Lieutenant Jeekel. He had never complained once and frequently asked whether everyone was able to keep going and encouraged us all to hang on. We spoke briefly about the cause of the explosion. He thought it was a mine.

After he had given up the struggle, I asked Bos and Kruijdenhof whether they were able to keep going. Their brief response said it all, "Thirsty". We could already make out the mountaintops on the islands.Rescue seemed imminent. A British plane circled overhead,but failed to notice our desperate waving. Kruijdenhof sank into the depths at nine o'clock.

Bram Bos and I continued swimming in the salty water with the burning sun above.We were tormented by an immense thirst. The most difficult part of the entire journey lay ahead of us in the churning sea. We estimated that we were only 2 to 3 miles from the islands, but the current was against us and we barely made any progress. A plane circled above once more. This time with Dutch registration letters. They did not see us.

Bram Bos fought desperately against death. He was scared. We sang a psalm together, which calmed him. He made a few more strokes and said. "Cor, if you survive, say hello to my wife and kids." He was a brave soul.It must've been around 5 o'clock; my watch had stopped.

From that moment on I was totally alone and with the night ahead of me. I was never scared, not even to die. Faith gave me the strength to keep going.

You start to despair. I couldn't see anything in the dark. I was worn out and thought to myself,"I've had enough." You start hallucinating. I saw a sloop close by and wanted to rest in it a while.I thought I was sitting up, but then began sinking and was jerked back into reality. I swallowed some saltwater, making the sensation of thirst even more agonizing.

Day broke once more and the sun burned overhead. I was totally exhausted and wanted to simply let myself fill up with water. It's all over, I thought. But I didn't drown. Just when I thought it was over, the current changed.

Finally, on Tuesday afternoon at around 5 o'clock, after nearly 38 hours of swimming, I reached the breakers of an island and was tossed onto the coral reef. My flesh was completely waterlogged. My hands, feet, legs and back bleeding, I lay there dazed.

The glaring sun, the unbearable pain and the agonizing thirst brought me to my senses, water, water, I must have water. Stumbling and falling down, I dragged myself uphill. No water! I stumbled back downwards and suddenly noticed water trickling down a crevice. I managed to reach the water with my tongue and quenched my thirst. I spent that night on the rocks. Something gnawed at my toes. I didn't resist. To this day I still don't know what it could have been.

I pulled myself together as best as possible the following morning and went exploring. I learned that it was an uninhabited island, strewn with boulders and fringed with coral reefs. I suddenly saw a prau with a Malaysian boy of around 12 sail by. After hearing my cries, he came towards me and gave me a young coconut, which I greedily drank. I then ate its soft fruit pulp. I asked him to return to his island and get help.

Rapuli, a man who worked in Singapore at the customs house and spoke English, arrived a day later. He had even brought along a pair of pants, which I put on, but which were much too small. He brought me to his island. All I wanted was to get to the mainland of Malaya and return to the naval base in Singapore. I stayed there for three days. An old Chinese man brought me a bowl of chicken soup every morning without ever saying a word.

The decision turned out to be the right one. Four islanders took me with a prau to Tangarro. A day later we linked up on the beach with a group of 12 Chinese on their way to Mersing under the command of a guide and armed with long axes.We entered the jungle after the guide, using signs and gestures, explained to us which path we should follow.He was retracing his own steps. It was up to us to find the way from that point on,however. I did my best and organized the group in line formation but within earshot of one another.

There was no path, only impenetrable jungle and every so often a swampy area where we sank up to our bellies. After 9 hours of plugging away, barefoot and dressed only in pants,I had no strength left. Just when it seems that things couldn't possibly get any worse rescue appears. A couple of Malaysians who were walking in our direction and clearing the way came across what later turned out to be an Australian soldier. The Australian troops in Mersing had established guard posts in order to signal landings. We entered the encampment via the outpost and I was brought to Singapore from there in a "luxury Ford".

This above is a shortened version of the interview Cor de Wolf gave to a local paper in honor of his retirement. The following is what happened next.
the 7th from the left is my uncle Tobias van Driel,
I often wonder of all the men from the 016 are in this photograph.

After arriving in Singapore, he was first examined in the sickbay and diagnosed as being healthy. All he needed was plenty of rest and food. He was questioned the following morning by a commission of 2 Dutch officers hastily put together and was received that afternoon by English Admiral Layton. That same afternoon, he embarked on board the chartered KMP ship Janssens en route to Batavia (Jakarta, Dutch East Indies). After arriving, he reported to Admiral Helfrich. He was promoted directly to boatswain and left for Soerabaja by ship (he thought it would be too dangerous to travel by plane). After a few days of rest, he was placed on board the K IX and sailed to Australia. De Wolf was decorated with the "Bronze Lion" and" Distinguished Service Medal". He retired on the 1st of August 1962 as an Opper schipper of the Koninklijke Marine. Cor de Wolf passed away in November 1983.

The report (1941) by the 2 Dutch officers gave reason to assume that the 016 had struck a British mine a few miles north east of Pemanggil and that De Wolf had seen the islands of Pemanggil and Aur. It was generally doubted whether he had really spent so much time in the water. After locating the wreck of the 016 (in 1995), however, it became clear that, drifting along a southern monsoon current, he had seen the two tops or Tioman island on the first day and Pemanggil and Aur on the second, where he drifted ashore thanks to the tidal stream. He had covered a total distance of 44 nautical miles (18 km). Therefore it was clear that the 0 16 did not end up in the British mine line ( due to a navigational error) northeast of Pemanggil. After all, the 016 was never near the British mine line. Later (+/- 1990) it was proven the 0 16 entered a Japanese mine line.

By: A.P Bussemaker, son of 016 CO Ltz. Bussemaker.

I have to ad that Cor de Wolf came to visit my aunt in Soerabaja after his ordeal, and told her that her husband  had not suffered, they must have died immediately by the blast , when they hit the mine.

Some of the men from the 016 are in this picture. My uncle Tobias with their dog. and my aunt Eke on the left.
I wonder who they are.All young men, in their prime of their life. This picture was taken before the war at my aunts house in Soerabaja. Indonesia.


  1. in the Soerabaijasche Dagblad dd 1 jun 1942 publiced birth of a child. Born in the week 23 t/m 30 may 1942.
    See also the old newspapers of the Nethelands Indie (Indonesia)digitaal site
    greeting Ritske Sijtsma. email or

  2. Thank you very much. I checked it and I found the newspaper clipping. My cousin got very emotional when I send it to her. Thank you again. I had send you an e-mail to ask if by any chance we are family. My mothers maiden name is Sijtsma. she was born in Friesland. Her grandparents lived in Amsterdam for awhile.You never know. Would be interesting.
    greetings Thea


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