Navy – Nanking, Shanghai 1927, Dutch involvement, Hr. Ms. Sumatra

Although the 1927 Nanking incident mainly involved the great nations of that time there also was a minor involvement of the Dutch Navy and a group of their landing forces. Two albums from an officer of the light cruiser Hr. Ms. Sumatra show many photo’s of the Dutch involvement in the incident that were previously unknown!

As it happened the Sumatra was taken into use in 1926 and it was planned to travel around the world and ending in the Dutch East Indies, starting in September of that year and completing the tour in 1927. It had a crew of just under 400 men including a few civlians.

The aim of this tour was to promote both the Dutch navy as a serious force and the quality of Dutch ship building. In modern words it was a marketing tour. Therefore it stopped in many places including some where very rarely a Dutch navy vessel would come otherwise.

The plan included China, Shanghai as the last big stop before going to its final destination the Dutch East Indies.

The plan for the entire travel as originally planned

Even a book was written about this tour around the world which was quite extraordinary for the Dutch navy.

In the book it is mentioned that some of the photo’s were made by LTZ3 H. Isbrücker and also these two albums were made by him. He is in several of the photo’s in the album.

LTZ 3 Harry Isbrücker in action with the sextant on the ship.

The photo below comes from another website about Harry Isbrücker and describes his daring escape from the POW camp Stanislau during the second world war. He has the same rank in both photo’s, note also the signet ring.

Photo from:

Most pictures in the albums and in this blog seem to be unique. Not used in the book which only has a limted amount of pictures and also not in any of the museum/archive collections. We will start with the Sumatra and some pictures from the locations it towent to during its travels:

During that trip the Sumatra stopped in many place like Hawai.

And Japan, the officers in front of the Great Buddha of Kamakura.

The ship arrived in Shanghai on the 19th of Februari, so before the Nanking incident about which you can read more here. The arrival of the ship was planned as part of the trip but that it coincided with the Nanking incident was purely accidental. It was nevertheless a reason to stay much longer in China than originally planned.

In the second photo album that is dedicated to the Nanking part of the trip of the Sumatra are also some newspaper clippings about the incident and many original photo’s. Some of the photo’s also appear in the book mentioned above. The main aim of the international forces was to defend the international settlements in Nanking against the civil unrest/war and the National Revolutionary Army that was nearing the city. The settlements were the locations were foreigners were located and from where the trade into China was established.

Below some newspaper clippings and photo’s from the album.

A Dutch naval landing detachment of 100 marines and officers would be stationed in the business district just like English and American forces in their settlements in order to protect the western properties. The Dutch also had a small colony with several banks and trade companies and the Dutch marines would be located in the buidlings of the Nederlandsch Indische Handelsbank and De Factory (Nederlandsche Handels Maatschappij).

English forces:

American forces

And finally the Dutch naval landing forces consisting of both marines and regular navy personnel! After the initial days an extra group of 40 naval men and an additional officer were added to the original landing force of 100 marines as due to some incidents more men were deemed necessary to maintain the safety of the Dutch settlement!

The men would defend the 3rd and 4th bridge over the Soochow creek from the Whangpoo river. This was the border with the French settlement that was defended by French troops. This location was close to the Main Post Office of Nanking. On the other side was a Chinese area, so not a foreign settlement, were part of the fighting and unrest took place.

The Sumatra would stay untill May in Nanking when the situation there was more or less stabalized. After this they continued the last part of the tour, the travel to the Dutch East Indies starting on May 11th of 1927.