The MV Ondina was a tanker ship that played a role in World War II. It was launched in April 1939 and was built at the NDSM shipyard in Amsterdam. Upon completion in August 1939, the Ondina was initially employed by La Corona, a subsidiary of the Royal Dutch Shell company.

MV Ondina in Exmouth Gulf – 1943.
Source: Royal Netherlands Navy.

During the war, the Ondina was involved in several significant events. In November 1942, the ship participated in a battle against Japanese auxiliary cruisers and raiders named Aikoku Maru and Hōkoku Maru. The Ondina sustained damage during the engagement but was temporarily repaired. It was then sent to Exmouth Gulf in Western Australia, where it was stationed from June 22, 1943. During this time, the Ondina supplied fuel to US submarines operating in the area.

Abstract from: The ‘Floating Dutchmen’: The Netherlands Merchant Navy in the Pacific War By Jack Ford  

The tanker Ondina, escorted by the Indian corvette Bengal, left Fremantle on 5 November 1942 en route to Diego Garcia and Abadan. On 11 November, Hokoku Maru and Aikoku Maru attacked the ships some 1,400 miles northwest of Fremantle. The odds were in the Japanese favour as Hokoku Maru (10,438 tons) and Aikoku Maru (10,437 tons) carried sixteen 140 mm (5.5 inch) guns, eight torpedo tubes plus four aircraft, compared to the 3-inch gun of Bengal (650 tons) and the DEMS 4-inch gun of Ondina (6,431 tons). The DEMS gun crew comprised three Royal Artillery gunners and five RNN gunners commanded by Able Seaman B.A.G. Hammond RAN Reserve (RANR). Bengal signalled Ondina to escape independently while the corvette positioned itself between the tanker and the enemy. Captain William Horsman of Ondina ignored the order and joined Bengal in firing on the Hokoku Maru. Ondina scored first, a direct hit on the aft of Hokoku Maru causing ‘a violent explosion and throwing the debris of the two planes housed on the after deck into the air, and a fierce fire resulted.

’38 Aikoku Maru had stood aside, assuming that Hokoku Maru could handle two vulnerable ships but then she began to attack Bengal. Hokoku Maru concentrated its starboard guns on Bengal and port guns on Ondina, wrecking the tanker’s topmasts and main aerials. Ondina obtained five more hits in rapid succession on the raider’s bridge, midship superstructure and stern. The resultant explosion blew off the stern of Hokoku Maru and she sank. Bengal was afire from two direct hits and had but five shells left. The corvette laid a smoke screen to assist Ondina to escape and, believing that the tanker was withdrawing, sailed for Colombo. Horsman’s last sighting of Bengal was of her afire and heading into the smoke screen. Out of ammunition and believing Bengal was sinking, Horsman signalled surrender to the Japanese, but Aikoku Maru scored six more hits on the tanker. The last hit killed Horsman on the bridge and destroyed the starboard midship lifeboat. The 56 crewmen boarded the remaining three lifeboats and two life rafts to wait capture, while the raider continued firing on Ondina and launched two torpedoes that blew large holes below the waterline. The tanker began to list to starboard. Aikoku Maru machine-gunned the survivors in the water, killing the Dutch Chief Engineer and two Chinese crewmen. Aikoku Maru shelled the tanker’s starboard bow twice more before heading to rescue the Hokoku Maru survivors, and then fired a third torpedo at Ondina, which missed, before sailing away.    
MV Ondina supplying the Dutch sumarine O20 with oil and water – 1943. Source: Royal Netherlands Navy.

On September 1, 1943, the Ondina also supplied fuel to the ship MV Krait as part of Operation Jaywick, a raid on Singapore. The Ondina continued its operations until the end of 1943 when it was sent to the United States for repairs. The ship sailed via Melbourne, Balboa, the Panama Canal, and Galveston before reaching Tampa for repairs.

After the war, the Ondina was decommissioned and eventually scrapped in 1959 in Hong Kong.

There is also information on the Ondina in the book Touch of the Dutch (page 110)

We also received information from Drs. Willem Geluk who has written a book about the Ondina. Here are some of the highlights he mentions:

• During the second half of 1942 the tanker Ondina made a number of runs from Fremantle WA to Abadan; vice versa. The oil collected in Persia was intended for the battle in southeast Asia
• On November 11, 1942, the tanker Ondina was attacked by the Japanese raiders Hokoku Maru and Aikoku Maru.
• The tanker Ondina was escorted by the HMIS Bengal.
• The minesweeper HMIS Bengal was delivered in Australia and was destined for India.
• After the sea battle, the tanker Ondina arrived safely in Fremantle WA. The Ondina was repaired here.
• B.A. Hammond R.A.N. was an Australian gunner on the Ondina.
• During the second half of 1943 the tanker was stationed off the coast of Onslow WA.
• The tanker Ondina mainly functioned here as a bunker ship for the American submarine fleet. The Ondina also supplied oil here to the Australian ‘Krait’ and the Dutch ‘O 21’.
• The Ondina was the first tanker to enter the port of liberated Antwerp in December 1944. The Ondina was also the first Dutch tanker to enter the port of liberated Rotterdam in 1945.

In the Netherlands, since 2009, he has been setting up small to large exhibitions about the Ondina story at places that are offered to me. He is also interested to exhibit an exhibition about the Ondina story in Australia (suggestions are welcome).

In this e-book it is stated on pages 64 and 65 that it was the will of Vice Admiral Sir Herbert Fitzherbert that the action of 11-11-1942 would be entirely credited to the HMIS Bengal. After compiling the e-book Remembering “The Ondina Story”, Drs. Geluk searched for relatives of Commander Wilson of the HMIS Bengal.
He raised Fitzherbert’s wish. Based on contact with Wilson’s relatives, he compiled the English story of the battle between the tanker Ondina & the HMIS Bengal on the one hand and the Japanese raiders Hokoku Maru & Aikoku Maru on the other: E-book-Booster-action-HMIS-BENGAL-11-november-1942-betreft-ONDINA-STORY.pdf (

More from Drs. Geluk see pages in China Nu 36-41 (in Dutch)