The age of European colonialism began at the end of the 15th Century with the Spanish colonization of the “New World”. It didn’t take long before the other
European powers followed suit. In the 17th Century the Netherlands was at the height of its power and colonized territory in the west and east. By the 20th Century,
as colonialism was nearing its end, the most important colony for the Netherlands were the islands of the Dutch East Indies. Java, Sumatra, Celebes and the
numerous other islands that are now Indonesia were a source for valuable natural resources and it wasn’t just the Netherlands that saw their value. To the North the
expanding Japanese Empire also saw their value. Powerful, with an expanding army, navy and industrial might, Japan lacked natural resources and as with Great
Britain was dependent on sea commerce. Between World War One and Two the main duty of the Dutch Navy was to protect the Dutch East Indies, primarily from
the Japanese.

The Netherlands were spared from the horrors of World War One and remained neutral. However, the Dutch Navy was in a pitiful state with a few obsolete coast
predreadnought battleships. In 1915 it was decided to build new cruisers, the largest type of warship the Netherlands could afford. They were designed with the aid
of Krupp and were supplied with German machinery. They were exceptionally large and powerful when designed armed with ten 5.9-inch/50 guns and displacing
6,670 tons standard and 8,208 tons full load. Their design reflected the armament placement of German and British cruiser construction of the time with single gun
mounts with gun shields with four centerline guns and six mounted in outboard wing positions. These were primarily designed for service in the Dutch East Indies
and the three ships ordered reflected this in their names.
Java was laid down on May 31, 1916, Sumatra on July 15, 1916 but the third ship, Celebes, was never laid
down.
Java and Sumatra were very slow in building with Sumatra launched December 29, 1920 and Java on August 9, 1921. There was another long delay before
their completion with
Java completing on May 1, 1925 and Sumatra a year later on May 26, 1926. Although they were a first line design when conceived in 1915,
their design was obsolete when completed a decade later.                 
The main guns were mounted four on centerline and six in wing positions, offering a broadside of seven guns. The 5.9-inch/50 guns had a range of 23,200-yards.
The guns had only splinter shielding on front and sides. Four 75mm guns were carried on top of the aft deckhouse. The ships were 473-feet 4-inches in length
(155.3m)(oa), 466-feet 4-inches (153m)(wl), with a beam of 48-feet 9-inches (16m) and a draught of 18-feet (6.1m). The ships had a 3-inch (75mm) armored belt
that ran 392.5-feet, covering most of the ship including machinery and magazine areas, tapering to 2-inches (50mm) for a final 42.5-feet protecting shafts and
steering. The armored deck varied between 50mm to 25mm and conning tower of 125mm. Eight Schulz-Thornycroft boilers provided the steam for three Germania
turbines for
Java and Zoelly turbines for Sumatra, producing 72,000shp for the three shafts with a maximum speed of 31-knots. Range was 3,600nm at 12-
knots.                                         

It didn’t take long before modifications were put in place. Before being completed both ships acquired an aircraft derrick to operate two seaplanes. No catapults
were fitted so the cruisers would have to stop and lower their seaplanes in order to operate them. Initially they carried Fairey IIID seaplanes but these were replaced
with the Fokker C.VIID aircraft.
Java made a cruise to Sweden and Norway between July and August 1925. In October she departed for her operational area in the
Dutch East Indies, which is now known as Indonesia. She arrived at Sabang on November 28, 1925. After settling in she made a tour of the major Asian ports of
the Philippines, China and Japan between November 8, 1928 and January 23, 1929. The next year
Java visited the ports of Australia and New Zealand between
September 2,1930 and December 2, 1930.
Java underwent a refit in 1934 and 1935. Her original thin pole fore mast was replaced a much thicker tube mast. The
four 75mm guns atop the aft deckhouse were replaced by four Mk III Bofors 40mm antiaircraft guns in twin mounts and
Sumatra six 40mm guns. A large
platform with wings was positioned above the forward superstructure and ran from forward of the tube fore mast to just aft of the forward funnel. Two .50 caliber
machine guns were positioned on each wing of this platform. Additionally the mainmast was reduced and moved forward to just aft of the second funnel. After a
decade in the East Indies
Java returned to the Netherlands in a voyage from March 6, 1937 to May 7, 1937. Java represented the Netherlands at the British Spithead
Fleet Review from May 17 to May 22, 1937. From their she underwent another refit. On January 3, 1938 Java went back into service and sailed for the East Indies
on May 4, 1938.
Java was no longer the Flagship in the East Indies. De Ruyter was the flagship as of October 25, 1937. Java, along with the other cruisers and destroyers of the
squadron patrolled local waters until February 1940 when Germany invaded the Netherlands. At this time the ships were tasked with missions of hunting down German
merchant ships in or near the East Indies. Everything changed on December 1, 1941. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was designed to preempt the United States
Navy, which the Japanese logically saw as the biggest threat to their ambitions. The Philippines were invaded, as they presented a threat to the seabourn lines of
communication to the true prize sought by the Japanese, the British and Dutch colonies south of the Philippines. These colonies were rich in natural resources that
Japan lacked. After confining the Americans to Bataan and Corregidor and eliminating the threat of American naval or aerial interference, the Japanese juggernaut rolled
on to the rubber plantations of Malaya and the island of Borneo. With Borneo falling they set their sites on the next major objectives, Sumatra followed by Java. On
February 1, 1942 the USN Admiral Hart set up the ABDA (American-British-Dutch-Australian) Combined Striking Force, which combined the available surface
warships of four countries and placed them under the tactical command of Dutch Admiral Doorman.

Politics raised its hand as the senior Dutch naval officer, Vice Admiral Conrad Helfrich, thought that he should have been named naval commander of ABDA instead of
Admiral Hart. He finally got his wish after complaining about Hart. Helfrich had good and bad qualities but overall his commands hurt the ABDA. He was fixated on
sending warships as escorts for merchant ships, warships that would have better deployed with Doorman. On February 17, 1942 the allies discovered a Japanese
invasion fleet on its way to Bali, the island to the east of Java. Doorman ordered his force to concentrate and set up an overly complicated battle plan. The first wave of
the ABDA assault would be
Java, De Ruyter and seven destroyers would leave Tjilatjap, the port on Java’s south coast, followed by Tromp and four USN destroyers
from ports on Java’s north coast as the second wave and the third wave would be Dutch torpedo boats. At 22:00 on February 19 the first wave arrived with
De
Ruyter
, Java and the destroyers in line ahead. They were too late as the Japanese had completed their landings. Only one troopship and two destroyers were still
present.
Java fired first. Java hit the transport, Sasago Maru and the USS John D. Ford or USS Pope hit her with a torpedo. The Dutch destroyer Piet Hein charged
in but was sunk by
Asashio, which then went after Ford. The Asashio and second Japanese destroyer, Oshio, engaged the Ford and Pope for a short time without
result. Doorman ordered the first wave to retire, minus
Piet Hein. The second wave arrived three hours later, exchanged fire with Asashio, Oshio and two more
Japanese destroyers and then withdrew. The Dutch MTBs reported seeing nothing and the Battle of Badung Strait was over.
On February 25, 1942 ABDA was dissolved as the supreme commander, Field Marshall Wavell flew to India. Helfrich took over command of all forces in the Dutch
East Indies but he refused to see the writing on the wall as Wavell had done. The
Java, De Ruyter, USS Houston and seven USN and Dutch destroyers were at
Surabaya  on the afternoon of February 25. That same afternoon news was received that 30 Japanese transports were approaching from the North and they would
obviously have a heavy surface escort, initially identified as two cruisers and four destroyers. The
HMS Exeter, HMAS Perth and three British destroyers joined
Doorman for a night sortie. That evening the allied polyglot force steamed north looking for the Japanese troop convoy.

They steamed through the night but found nothing. After a bombing attack in the morning of February 26, which scored no hits, the allied force turned back towards
Surabaya . At 2:30 PM the Striking Force were about to enter harbor when they received news that the Japanese convoy had been found close to the island of
Baewan . The force turned around at struck out to intercept the Japanese transports, which were escorted by heavy cruiser
Nachi and Haguro, Light cruisers Naka
and
Jintsu and fifteen destroyers. The crews of the allied ships were physically exhausted from constant steaming and air attacks with no air support. The Japanese
were fresh and had overwhelming air support. Doorman formed a line of battle with the three British destroyers in the van, followed by the cruisers
De Ruyter,
Exeter , Houston, Perth and Java. The American and Dutch destroyers were stationed to the port and rear. The Japanese knew exactly the composition and location
of the ABDA force by Doorman and his captains were blind. The commander of the Dutch East Indies, Admiral Helfrich, had used his handful of Brewster Buffaloes
and dive bombers to mount a fruitless raid on the Japanese transports and no aircraft left to support Doorman. By 4:00PM the afternoon of February 27 Japanese
float planes were circling the allied force. Not long thereafter the British destroyer on point detected the Japanese force crossing the T of the allied force from east to
west.
Doorman ordered a turn to port to parallel the Japanese column but in the confusion the formation broke and the British destroyers wound up on the unengaged side
of the allied force. The Japanese opened fire first but their initial salvo was 2,000 yards short. Although the 8-inch guns of
Houston and Exeter could reach the
Japanese, all three light cruisers were out of range. Doorman ordered a turn to starboard to close the range and allow his light cruisers to come within the range of
their guns. After an hour of gunnery at long range the
Exeter, Houston and Java had been hit but there had been no serious damage. There was an hour of light
when the Japanese unleashed eight of their destroyers to close and launch a mass torpedo attack with their deadly 24-inch Long Lance torpedoes. As 64 torpedoes
sped towards Doorman’s force
Exeter received a critical 8-inch shell hit from Haguro. It exploded in the machinery spaces and Exeter lost six of her eight boilers.
Speed dropped to a crawling 11-knots and
Exeter fell out of the column. Communications among the pick-up allied force had been practically non existent. As Exeter
turned to port away from the Japanese, the captain of the following
Houston thought there had been and order for the column to turn so Houston followed Exeter
and in turn
Java and the rear Dutch destroyers followed Houston, leaving the van British destroyers and De Ruyter steaming west by themselves for six minutes
before Doorman on
De Ruyter ordered the van to match the course of the rest of his force.

At 5:15 PM the mass torpedo assault arrived but in part because of the unintended turn to the south none of the torpedoes struck except one, which blew the Dutch
destroyer
Kortender in half. When Admiral Takagi, the Japanese commander, saw all the allied ships steaming south away from his force, he thought the skeedaddle
was on and turned south to charge in pursuit. By 5:20
De Ruyter had caught up with her wandering compatriots and except for Exeter changed course to run to the
northeast. Doorman ordered
Exeter to continue to withdraw to the south and make for Surabaya . All three British destroyers, Electra, Encounter and Jupiter,
headed towards the Japanese in order to give
Exeter more time to safely withdraw. Jintsu leading a group of destroyers came charging towards the British and
concentrated on
Electra, which was soon in sinking condition. It was dusk, which combined with smoke from damage as well as smoke screens laid by both sides,
made sighting difficult. Ships were dodging in and out of smoke. After polishing off
Electra, Jintsu and her ducklings went on looking for there true quarry, the
Exeter . Encounter and Jupiter had been joined by the Dutch destroyer Witte de With in covering the withdrawal of Exeter. Doorman’s cruiser went into the smoke
screen and when they came out of saw that they were confronting
Nachi and Haguro. To make matters worse the Houston was low on ammunition for the
forward turrets. There were plenty of 8-inch shells in the inoperable aft turret but that was of no help for Doorman in the fight.
Doorman didn’t want to fight the Japanese cruisers and destroyers. He was after the transports crammed with troops. He ordered the destroyers to lay a smoke screen
and took his force to the northwest in hope of finding his quarry. The transports were to the northwest but the allies were dogged by the float planes, which started
dropping flares as the night descended. At one point these flares illuminated both forces and the Japanese renewed fire. However, the range was too great for the allies.
Doorman changed course again to reach the Java coast in order to steam west and locate the transports. At 9:25 PM
Jupiter hit a mine and came to a stop. She sank
after four hours in a futile effort to save the ship. The American destroyers left to go to Surabaya to refuel and
Encounter stopped to pick up the survivors of
Kortender, which had sunk four hours earlier. There had not been contact with the Japanese in hours, as the Japanese float planes had departed as they ran short of
fuel, so Doorman steamed to the northwest of Surabaya with his four remaining cruisers. As luck would have it, the two forces sighted each other in the bright
moonlight around 1:00 AM February 28. The Japanese altered course to close and at 8,000 launched another salvo of torpedoes. Only twelve had been launched but this
time they were decisive. One hit
De Ruyter, which lost power. As Perth and Houston changed course to avoid the dying De Ruyter, Java at the rear of the line took
another of the torpedoes. With both Dutch cruisers dead in the water and burning, Doorman knew he was doomed. His last order was for
Perth and Houston to
escape and make for Batavia on the western end of Java. Doorman went down with his
De Ruyter and the Java.

The
Niko Model Java makes a perfect companion to their 1:700 scale De Ruyter. Made of cream colored resin, common with other Niko products, the Java is in a
waterline only format. The hull casting is loaded with detail from the hull sides to the superstructure, most of which are cast integral with the hull. On the hull sides, not
only do you get the armored belt but also several horizontal strakes running the length of the ship. Those coupled with two rows of portholes and hull side anchor
hawse make for very busy hull sides with far more features than the typical hull sides of World War Two cruisers. The cast on superstructure detail is very striking
because of the ventilation louvers. The
Java used louvered ventilators very similar in design to those found in World War One German designs and on the Niko Java
these louvers are very well done. The superstructure that is part of the hull castings includes the first two levels of the forward superstructure, stack base and the first
level of the after superstructure. Additionally the superstructure bulkheads have portholes, doors, bridge windows as well as the ventilator louvers. Between the stack
base and after superstructure there are an additional two free standing louvered ventilators on deck coamings. The forward superstructure also includes a domed
conning tower and the aft superstructure has two small louvered ventilators and two small deckhouses. The deck detail is as busy as the hull and superstructure detail.
The deck panel lines have butt end detail with the butt ending lines running across the deck instead of being staggered. Deck detail on the forecastle and forward shelter
deck includes open cleat fittings, anchor windlasses, anchor chain plates, twin bollard fittings, bases for two of the centerline main guns and a skylight on the shelter
deck. Amidship’s detail include the six main gun bases with three per side, single bollards, three skylights, numerous deck access coamings and four boat chock
fittings. The aft superstructure has the base plates for the Bofor antiaircraft guns with two skylights and a third centerline main gun base aft of the aft superstructure.
There are very delicate deck overhangs found on the forward superstructure, aft superstructure and deck break leading to the low quarterdeck. The quarterdeck
finishes with another skylight, open cleats, twin bollards, main gun base, access coamings and what appears to be a stern anchor windlass.        
With most of the superstructure cast integral to the hull, there are not many larger resin parts. There are only four of them. Two are the funnels with very nice stack
caps and funnel bands, which probably represent foot rails common on funnels to facilitate painting. The other two larger parts are platforms both of which have
bracing detail underneath. The large navigation platform has wooden plank detail and bases for the machine guns and the much smaller platform on the aft funnel rear
face with bases for two large search lights. Twenty three resin runners have the smaller resin parts. Five of the runners are for the float planes with two runners with
two fuselages per runner one with four pontoons and two runners with a top and bottom wing on each runner. Another four runners have the main armament with five
detailed 5.9-inch open guns on two of the runners and five gun shields on the other two runners. Three more runners have the twin Bofer parts with five bases on one
runner and six breach block/twin barrel parts, so you’ll have some spare parts left over. Three runners have the ship’s boats with two large powered whalers, four
medium sized boats and two small dinghies. The large tubular fore mast has two parts, the base between the superstructure and open navigation platform and the
tapered tube rising from the navigation platform. Two runners have support posts for the wings of the open navigation platforms that also serve as kingposts for
booms used in moving the seaplanes. The small pole mainmast aft of the funnel base is loaded with platforms for search lights and binocular fittings with a forward
shelter deck water break sharing the runner. One runner has seven .50 caliber machine guns. Detailed search lights and a director are on another runner. The main gun
director parts occupy another runner. Three anchors and the mainmast boom share a runner. The last three runners have an assorted variety of parts; nice deck cable
reels, aft superstructure platforms, another louvered ventilator tower, main mast platform, carley raft stacks, and other deck equipment and fittings.                        
Niko Model includes a nice size relief-etched brass photo-etch fret. The largest relief-etched part is the platform for the aft main gun director and other relief-etched
parts include a smaller director platform atop the fore mast and platform on the front face of the forward funnel. Each of the two float planes get photo-etched pontoon
struts, wing struts, propeller and cradle. Of course each stack gets a clinker grate and each Bofor mount gets rear safety railing. Ship specific parts include propeller
guards, navigation wings, foremast director platform braces, fore top mast, navigation platform supports, aircraft kingpost rigging, accommodation ladders with davits
and railings, boat davits, aft superstructure open grid platform, jack staff with supports, flag staff with supports and cross-hatched railing on the rear portions of the
navigation platform. Generic photo-etch includes two runs of anchor chain, eight runs of spread stanchion two bar ailing with bottom gutter, one run of medium
spacing stanchion two bar railing, one run of closely spaced stanchion two bar railing, three runs of vertical railing and inclined ladders with railing. Although the
accommodation ladders have trainable treads, the inclined ladders do not as their treads look like rungs. In addition to the photo-etch
Niko also includes copper wire for
the mast yards.

The instructions are two pages with one of the pages back-printed. Page one is simply a parts laydown of the resin parts with each part numbered and photo-etch fret
with each part numbered as well as being numbered on the fret itself. During construction resin part numbers are in a circle and brass part numbers in a square. The
actual assembly is found on the back-printed page. The assembly sequence is shown from bow to stern. The first page covers the bow assembly from cutwater to aft
of the funnels with two large drawings/photographs and insets on 5.9-inch gun positions, float planes, fore funnel detail and navigation platforms. The second page has
two drawings/photographs of the aft of the ship and a color photograph of the finished model with insets for Bofor mounts and aft gun director. The instructions list
Humbrol paints H33, H64, H71, and H145 as the colors of the
Java. I found the instructions very easy to follow but of course look at the photograph of the finished
model before final attachment of a part.
The Dutch cruiser Java in 1:700 scale by Niko Model is a lovely kit. Detailed resin parts abound from stem to stern, further amplified by a relief-etched brass
photo-etch. If you even have a passing interest of the doomed ABDA strike force, the
Niko Model Java is a must have.
Steve Backer
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