Netherlands and Malaysia Investigate Fate of War Grave Submarines

July 10, 2019 (Google Translation) – The wrecks of the submarines KXVII and O16 have disappeared. That was the message from the expedition team that in recent weeks visited the location of the war wrecks off the coast of Malaysia. Yesterday the team returned. The commitment of the experts followed from earlier cooperation agreements between the Netherlands and Malaysia, which were confirmed today.

The expedition that the Netherlands and Malaysia carried out together began on 28 June. The Netherlands Cultural Heritage Agency led the expedition on behalf of the Netherlands, in collaboration with the Defense Diving Group (Royal Netherlands Navy). The research consisted of a cultural-historical field research, conducted by a team of archaeologists and defense specialists from the Netherlands and Malaysia who were specially put together for this occasion.

O16 with crew on deck around 8.8 cm gun (archive photo, 1936). Image: NIMH

The declaration of intent that the countries brought out today contains the initial findings of the study. Both countries are further discussing the next steps to be taken. They are committed to finding out what happened to the missing wrecks.

“We are building on the recently signed cooperation agreement between the Netherlands and Malaysia with regard to maritime heritage,” said the ministers involved. In addition to Defense Minister Ank Bijleveld-Schouten of Defense, these are Minister of Culture, Education and Science Ingrid van Engelshoven and Minister Stef Blok of Foreign Affairs.

HNLMS KXVII did not return from a patrol that started on December 6, 1941, along with HNLMS O16. From the O16, the expedition team found a few remains on the seabed. Only one print of the KXVII in the seabed.

“This message touches us deeply,” write the ministers. “These shipwreck locations are the last resting place of the people on board and form a place of remembrance. The relatives have since been informed.” Out of respect for the dead, a memorial was held at both locations last week by the members of the expedition.

In 2016, it was announced that three Dutch war graves had (partially) disappeared in the Java Sea. The wrecks of HNLMS De Ruyter and Java could not be found and Kortenaer turned out to be a large part disappeared.