KPM’s1927 SS Op Ten Noort her story to her tragic end in 1945 due to an evil Japanese sinking of this hospital ship after the ceasefire had been signed!

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With Reuben Goossens

Maritime Historian, Cruise‘n’Ship Reviewer, Author & Maritime Lecturer

Please Note: All ssMaritime and my other related ssMaritime sites are 100% non-commercial and privately owned sites. Be assured that I am NOT associated with any cruise or shipping companies or travel/cruise agencies or any other organisations! The author has been in the passenger shipping industry since May 1960 and is now semi-retired, but continues and I hope that the well over 675 Classic Liners and Cargo-Passengers ships I have written on will continue to provide classic ship enthusiasts and continue a great deal of information and pleasure!


SS Op Ten Noort seen at Sea around the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia)


In 1927, the Dutch Liner, the SS Op Ten Noort was built by the “Nederlandse Scheepsbouw Mij” or the “Netherland’s Shipbuilding Company” in Amsterdam for the “Koninklijke Paketvaart Maatschappij” or the “Royal Packet Steam Navigation Company.”

Here we see the new KPM ship in building

With her hull and lower superstructure ready, on February 12, 1927 the company’s new liner was launched and was officially named the “Op Ten Noort,” which was a strange name for the ship, considering it means “Up the North” yet she would be operating down South in what was then called the “Dutch East Indies,” being today’s Indonesia!

The Op Ten Noort is seen entering the water having been launched and named on February 12, 1927

Her service in the Dutch East Indies was not surprising considering that the Company had their headquarters located in Java, for obviously it was there where KPN had a great deal of activity, both in passenger and cargo movements. It was one of the most profitable parts of the world at that time!

Prior to her official commencement in November, she operated a promotional and test voyage, which proved to be very successful, and then on November 9, 1927 the Op Ten Noort commenced her regular Passenger-Cargo duties.

Her services were as follows: Singapore, Bangkok, Saigon, Manila, Maluku Islands Group (Moluccas), Bali and Batavia (Tanjung Priok - Jakarta). Then in later years, she switched to the East Coast of Java, and operated from Batavia via Muntok, Singapore, Belawan & Deli service.

On all of the aforementioned services her 1924 built sister ship, the SS Plancius operated alongside her.

The 5,955 GRT SS Plancius


A colour postcard of the ship

Op Ten Noort Facilities:

The Op Ten Noort continued on her services for a good fourteen years and she proved to be a most popular ship indeed. Her passengers enjoyed her on board luxuries, for First Class was opulent to say the least with fine Lounges, Bars, a glamorous Smoking Room and a Tropical Verandah, which was more like a Palm Court! She offered two Deluxe Suites located forward on Boat Deck and they offered a lounge, bedroom and a private bathroom each, as well as a spacious private deck, these days they are called Veranda’s! The suites were typical of the day with their walls, wardrobes and furnishings all clad in dark walnut timbers, with light beige paintwork up above, Persian rugs on the floor and the very best of everything else!

First Class had a further 130 outside cabins, being either for two persons or a single berth, a total of 130 berths, plus the 4 in the suites, making a total of 134 in First Class. Most cabins had shared facilities.

The First Class Lounge


A grandiose First Class Dining Room


The Deluxe Suite’s Bedroom


The Suites Private Deck space


Passenger stamps dated June 20, 1937 sent as can be seen, from the ship


Op Ten Noort stamps clearly marked “East Indies

Thank you Jan van der Velden for these above four stamps

Second Class had just 18 cabins for two to four berths and again these were all outside cabins having a window or a porthole, with there being a total of 76 passengers.

An intimate Second Class Dining Room Seen set up for the Formal Night

In addition she offered “Tweendeck” space for “Day Passengers” travelling between ports long the coast of Indonesia, although a single overnight voyage was permitted and basic facilities was provided far forward and if you look at the ships early photographs, you will note 10 portholes located close together on both sides of the bow section. It is there were there was a lounge on the one side and an Indonesian style cafeteria on the other side. Sufficient bathrooms were also provided. Fares were very cheap for locals to travel this way and it was comfortable, as the interior space was good and up on deck there was an excellent spacious shaded area!

Note the 10 portholes under her name and the space behind them up to the last opening in front of the

superstructure that is all part of the Day Passenger space available, as well as the foc’sle which is covered

She obviously had her regular maintenance done and was placed in dry-Dock when required to take care of the hull’s bottom, etc., as well having minor refits and other improvements made as time went by. The Op Ten Noort was famed for always being a wonderfully fresh looking and feeling ship at all times.

We see her around the late 1930s as her ten portholes are now mostly closed in

But times were changing, for now Germany had become a great evil, for a complete madman Adolph Hitler had taken control and soon he would have other madmen in tow, like Mussolini, the Turks and of course the Japanese joined the party as well! Tragically the latter would have a great effect on the ship in question and the Jap’s would do to the Royal Dutch Hospital Ship, the SS Op Ten Noort what remains considered to this day as being completely and simply - VILE!

Here we see a fine photograph of the SS Op Ten Noort just prior the commencement of WW2

Troubled Times:

With troubled times ahead, the SS Op Ten Noort was drafted by the Royal Dutch Navy in December 1941 and whilst she was in Surabaya (Jakarta) she received an comprehensive refit in order to convert her into a fully operational hospital ship. However, no one could have imagined what was about to happen, for the great evil that did happen to this ship would illustrate the hideous evil and viciousness of the Japanese during the Pacific/Asian War, but especially what these Japanese did to a protected Hospital Ship, one that was so clearly marked, an all white ship, with her broad red band surrounding her hull as well as huge red crosses located on the hull and the funnel, in addition, the Japanese were officially advised and they even acknowledged her to be an official Hospital ship! But it is from here that her tragic wartime story begins!

War Breaks Out:

At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbour, it was expected the imminent Japanese attack on the islands of Southeast Asia and therefore meant a state of war immediately. Accordingly, the day December 8, 1941 the Royal Navy requisitioned all Dutch merchant ships and passengers.

The Op Ten Noort is seen berthed awaiting her transformation for war duties

The SS Op Ten Noort was in Surabaya where her remodelling to convert the ship into a fully operational hospital ship commenced early in December 1941. Then on January 22, 1942 the Dutch Government officially informed the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the Swedish Embassy in Tokyo that the SS Op Ten Noort’s status had officially changed as she was now operating as a fully operational hospital ship and would not be involved in any war effort whatsoever, nor would the ship carry or transport any weapons. On February 19, 1942 the work at the workers at the Surabaya Naval Yard had worked hard and did an excellent job and on this day completed this fine Hospital Ship with many wards, operating theatres and ample stores for medicines and bandages. She was due to depart two day later and an uneventful voyage was expected.

However as the SS Op Ten Noort departs Surabaya on February 21, heading for the Java Sea, suddenly Japanese aircraft appear high above and they head directly for the Op Ten Noort, as if they had been waiting for her, and before the crew know it the ship is bombed on two occasions, suddenly she takes a direct bomb hit and this bomb kills a Dutch surgeon, a nurse as well as a medical analyst who dies the next day of injuries. Another eleven others persons are badly wounded and are taken care of by the ships doctors and nurses.

Being a hospital ship, and considering the Dutch having officially advised the Japanese that she was a Hospital ship and by attacking her, the Japanese had officially broken the “Den Hague Convention,” which amazingly the Japanese were signatories to! And remember that the ship was clearly marked, being painted all white having broad red band surrounding her hull as well as huge red crosses located on the hull and the funnel, thus there were no excuses. But, it seemed that the Japanese were no better that those evil murderous Nazis, for who else would attack an innocent Hospital Ship?

The Op Ten Noort returned to port to make necessary repairs and whilst she was in Surabaya Dutch Government sent a powerful “Note of Protest” to the Japanese, again through the Embassy of Sweden. Unbelievably, the bombing of the Op Ten Noort was only the beginning of the tragic wartime days of this sad ships history!

Considering there had been quite a battle going on over the past week, it was on February 28, 1942 at 6 AM that Captain G. Tuizinga of the SS Op Ten Noort was ordered to steam urgently to the Java Sea to rescue survivors. But just a several hours after she departed Surabaya she is intercepted by three Japanese Warships, a Japanese Light Cruiser and two Destroyers. A little later, a Dutch aircraft reports that the Op Ten Noort was being escorted by two Japanese destroyers most like being the “Amatsukaze” and “Murasame.”

Later that day she is ordered to drop anchor off Bawean Island and remain there until 12 Noon the next day. As the anchor is raised at Noon on March 1, the “Amatsukaze” escorts the Op Ten Noort to Bandjermasin in Borneo where she remains until March 4.

The Japanese destroyer “Ushio” arrives and transfers to Op Ten Noort about 60 POW’s, all of whom being survivors from the USS Perch which was sunk just that morning in the Java Sea. Interestingly, although the Op Ten Noort was still under the Dutch flag, but she is under Japanese control and orders, although all her Dutch officers and crew were still at this time running the ship. She departs Bandjermasin on March 4, with some 970 Allied Prisoners of War on board; this included around 800 survivors from “Exeter” that also sunk during the Battle of the Java Sea.

On March 5, the SS Op Then Noort arrives at Makassar, Celebes, where she discharges the Allied Prisoners of War that the Jap’s captured on March 3. For the next eight months the SS Op Ten Noort serves as a Japanese hospital facility for POW camps in the area but she remained operated by her Dutch crew.

Renamed SS Tenno Maru:

Finally the Japanese decided give the ship a Japanese name, thus on June 5, 1942 she was officially renamed “Tenno Maru,” meaning “Emperor Circle” but the Dutch flag still remained on her stern. And she was placed under the management of the Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Shipping Co. But sadly from October, the ship was reflagged and reregistered with the Japanese flag and homeport as “Yokohama” and as from now she was crewed by the Japanese navy, and the Dutch captain, officers, crew and medical personal became POW’s.

On November 23, 1942 the Tenno Maru departed Makassar under the command of a Japanese Captain bound for Yokohama carrying Javanese and Dutch sailors and Dutch medical personnel, but all being prisoners. And again, this was in complete violation of the Hague Convention, but that mattered little to the Japanese, for they have no honour whatsoever!

On December 20, 1942, the Tenno Maru is officially commissioned in the Imperial Navy of Japan as a “Japanese Hospital Ship,” serving in the naval base of Yokohama. She was immediately put into dry dock in early January to be remodelled under Japanese rules in the yards of the Mitsubishi. Three months later she was ready to enter service under the orders of the combined fleet based in Yokosuka.

JIN SS Tenno Maru - JIN = “Japanese Imperial Navy”

At the end of April 1943, the Tenno Maru performs a series of voyages between Yokosuka, Rabaul, Truk and Sasebo, transporting sick and injured or in response to ambulatory patients while in port. On November 5, 1943 she looked after the wounded from the Rabaul raid carried out by the “Task Force 38” of the US Navy. The Tenno Maru departed in the evening bound for Sasebo and then returned to her base in Yokosuka for repairs in dry dock.

On December 11, 1943 she set sail from Yokosuka again bound for Truk, Rabaul, Ponape and then returns to Truk. During the American Operation “Hailstone” on Truk on February 16 & 17, the ship escaped unhurt all thanks to her being clearly marked as being a hospital ship having marks of the red cross on the white background and the bands powerfully illuminated, thus The Allies always did what is right, unlike those of the Imperial Japanese Navy, who bombed and captured a Dutch Hospital Ship, the complete opposite of what was right! Thankfully the Japanese fleet suffered a crushing defeat and was forced to leave its Main Naval Base at Truk, which many likened to being the equivalent to Pearl Harbour! The Tenno Maru set course to Saipan, but she was sent back very quickly to evacuate 1400 wounded and sick at the base at Truk. The next day she is directed to Saipan and Guam and then again to Truk for further evacuations. She worked hard for the Japanese and she worked like clockwork, as her machinery was perfection, never missing a beat! A month later, with the work completed she returns to her base in Yokosuka.

*Truk is (also Known as Chuuk Atoll)located in the Caroline Islands, and it is infamous for its giant lagoon, considering is the final resting place for more than 100 ships, planes and submarines. This is the tragic legacy of a fierce World War II battle between the Imperial Japanese Fleet and Allied carrier planes.

Renamed SS Hikawa Maru No 2:

Considering that the allies were now closing in on the lies of the Japanese, the Imperial Navy decided to disguise the Tenno Maru in order to ensure that their hideous crime, which was obviously in total violation of the Hague Convention as they had captured a Dutch Hospital ship and yet, 1. They bombed her, and 2. They captured as well as manned her with Japanese, all of which are being major violations! Thus, the Jap’s feared that the ship could be recognized as being the captured Dutch Hospital Ship, the SS Op Ten Noort and thus a major target!

It is for that reason that during September and October in 1944 that the Tenno Maru was given some external remodelling. First they shortened and thickened her original funnel and then added a second dummy funnel, which they placed just aft of it, making her look like an older style ship having two squad funnels.

When she was completed on October 25, when the Tenno Maru was renamed the IJN Hikawa Maru No 2 and the Japanese ensured that an official notice had gone out to all the Allies out that this, their official Japanese liner will serve as hospital ship. Their strategy was that they had sent other notices over the wires that that the Tenno Maru had “encountered a mine at sea and sank” which of course was a scam, but the perfect means of hiding the true identity of the Hikawa Maru No. 2.

JIN SS Hikawa Mary No 2 with her new dummy funnel aft

Sinking of a Dutch Ship and stolen Treasures:

For the remainder of the war the ship sailed between Singapore and Manila carrying looted gold and other treasures from the Japanese occupied countries. Just weeks before the war ended she arrived again in Yokohama loaded with 2,000 metric tons of gold but instead of offloading her cargo she then sailed on to the Maisaru Naval Base where more gold and platinum bars, diamonds and other gems were put on board. (A metric ton of gold equals 26,400 ounces).

On August 15, 1945 the Japanese officially announce their surrender and their willingness to sign the Peace Treaty. Then on August 17, 1945 just two days after their surrender the Jap’s decide to sink the ship and recover (steal) the treasure at a later date (just like the Nazis did) thus orders were received from the Naval Ministry to destroy and most importantly hide the ship for obviously they do not want to be found out what they have done, or the ship to be found, for the treasure must remain hidden!

Hikawa Maru No 2 seen before her being scuttled

That same night SS Hikawa Maru No 2 departs Maizuru’s port for Wakasa Bay, which was not very far away. In command of the ship were the following; a civil captain and twenty-four non-naval crewmen, also on board was a specialised Imperial Naval Party who were under the command of Commander Sato. His men carefully prepared the ship for scuttling and they planting two huge 328lb explosive charges. The first was placed near the ship's bow on the starboard side of the foremast and the second was placed aft of the second (dummy) funnel.

Before lighting of the fuses, the ships captain and his twenty-four crew are called for a meeting together, but instead they are all are shot on the spot, for no one can be a witness. Then the fuses are lit and the last naval members rapidly head for and board the awaiting lifeboat and they row around 250 yards away and wait. The ship explodes and sinks in 400ft of water. Later a small vessel arrives and picks them up. This is a tragic end of the great and wonderful Dutch Liner, the SS Op Ten Noort!

She was officially removed from the Navy list on September 12, 1945, thus she soon became the forgotten Dutch ship, and question remained, did she really go down having been struck by a mine when she was the Tenno Mary? The masquerade of the dummy funnel and Hikawa Maru No 2 was a good one and it did work well!

In Conclusion:

As it was thought that the Op Ten Noort had sunk when she was the Tenno Maru nothing further was done for a very long time, but the in 1952 there were reports of fishing nets having become snagged on an unknown shipwreck and the head of the department that governs that port area of Chinju Prefecture arranged for some salvage investigations. Later a Mr. Shinta Koyua, who is a professional diver from Kyoto, dives and photographs the wreck and the ship, was identified as being the Op Ten Noort!

The next year, in 1953, the Dutch Government decides to lodge a Claim against the Japanese Government for 700 million Yen as compensation for the loss of their ship. However later, this sum is revised downward to 200 million Yen. However, after prolonged negotiations over so-many years, the Japanese Government finally pays a miserable compensation of 100 million Yen to the Dutch Government in 1978.

It has been claimed that the ship was raised and the treasure which the Japanese claimed was valued “US$30 billion” was recovered by the Japanese government, although there are many who are very sceptical regarding their claims in regard of the actual value! The truth is also, did the Japanese return the gold and precious stones, etc., to those they stole it from in the first place? For I cannot find any records in regard that!


Ship:...........................S.S. Op Ten Noort.

Building No: ………………..185.

Call sign: ....................PKEA.

Built by: ..................... Nederlandse Scheepsbouw Mij, Amsterdam 1942.

Launched: ...................December 2, 1927.

Engines: ......................2 x Lentz-Reciprocating Steam Engines, 6,000 IHP.

Propellers: ...................2 screws.

Rudder: .......................Single Plate.

Speed: ........................15.5 knots.

Tonnage: .................... 6,076 GRT.
Length: .......................129.50m - 444.2ft.

Beam: .........................16.80m - 55ft.

Draft: ..........................6.70.m - 19.2.
Accommodations:………….134 First, 52 Second & Tween-Deck Day-passengers.

Crew: ..........................162.

Holds: .........................3.

Cargo Capacity:……………..189,305 Cub ft

Home port: ...................Amsterdam.
Flag: ........................... The Nederland’s.

Remembering a Wonderful Dutch Tropical Liner

But She Had a Sad End to Her Days!


Here we see a fine starboard side on photo, but it is also a good view of her beautifully traditional shaped stern


Go to Page Two for a Partial Deck Plan

Also further information not provided on this page



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