Source: Netherlands Ministry of Defence

Koenraad, Pieter, naval officer (born in Dirksland 6-6-1890 – died in Las Palmas in the Canary Islands 22-2-1968). Son of Johannes Adrianus Koenraad, headteacher, and Alida Elizabeth de Graaff. Married on 5-5-1923 to Catharina Cornelia van Trooijen, which marriage was dissolved by divorce on 12-9-1930 by judgment of the Council of Justice in Batavia. From this marriage 1 daughter was born. Remarried on 17-11-1934 to Gertrud Maria Eugelink. From this union 2 daughters were born, 1 of whom died young.

Koenraad started his training as a naval officer at the Royal Institute for the Navy in Den Helder in 1908. On August 23, 1911, he was appointed officer (midshipman of the 1st class). He served first in the West Indies and then alternately in the Netherlands and the Netherlands East Indies (NEI), both in shore functions and on-board ships. In NEI he was, among other things, commander of a torpedo boat chase, commander of the Naval Barracks Oedjong and commander of a division of torpedo boat chasers.

At the outbreak of war with Japan, he was Commander of the Navy at Surabaya. During the fall of NEI he took a submarine to Australia and reported at that time to Rear Admiral Coster who was the Deputy Commander Armed Forces East.

Coster recalled that at the request of the Netherlands Government-in-Exile, Koenraad flew to London. There were relatively many senior officers in London for whom there was no employment, not even for Navy Commander Koenraad.

In May 1943, rather unexpectedly – according to Rear Admiral Coster – was he replaced by Koenraad. Since Coster had come out of retirement to take on these positions, it was probably decided for those reasons that Koenraad should replace him.

Back in Australia, Koenraad held the position of Naval Commander Australia (MCA) with headquarters in Melbourne until 1 October 1945; until November 1943 he was also Deputy Commander Armed Forces East (OBSO). After having previously been temporarily promoted to rear admiral, this appointment became effective on 1 November 1943. From 6 October 1945 to 21 January 1946 Koenraad was acting Commander of the Navy in the Dutch East Indies and head of the Department of the Navy in Batavia. On May 1, 1946, he was retired and simultaneously promoted to vice admiral.

According to the Commander of the Armed Forces in the East Rear Admiral Helfrich, Koenraad was not a particularly powerful military figure. However, in March 1942, during the evacuation of the navy from NEI, he acted independently and very wisely.

As commander of the navy in Surabaya, he experienced the battle against the invading Japanese in 1942 from very close by. He has lunch with Rear Admiral Karel Doorman, just before he sets sail with the allied squadron and the next day, on February 27, with his flagship Hr.Ms. De Ruyter goes down in the Java Sea. On March 2, Koenraad ordered the destruction of the Navy Base in Surabaya, where approximately 18,000 people work. With the last available submarine Hr.Ms. K 12 he evacuates to Australia.

In Australia he had a purely administrative task; the operational command of the Dutch naval units present there rested with the Americans. The lack of communication with Helfrich – who was based 5000 km to the west in Colombo (Ceylon) – did not facilitate his task. Koenraad did not lack personal courage; more than once he took part in flights from Australia to the occupied Dutch East Indies.

Celebration of Queen’s Day with a military parade in Surabaya. In the photo in front the Naval Commander P. Koenraad. Source Royal Netherlands Navy.
Rear Admiral Helfrich and Naval Commander Koenraad with NEI sailors freed from captivity. Source Royal Netherlands Navy.

Main source: Huygens Instituut

See also: letters from Koenraad