Hr. Ms. K XVII: sunk by a mine or an assault?

The foundering of Hr. Ms. K XVII according to Christopher Creighton

In 1996 the book ďOperation JB. The last great secret of WWIIĒ by Christopher Creighton was published; the author was a former secret agent of the British Secret Service. The book relates the kidnapping of Hitlerís secretary, Martin Bormann in 1945 by a secret British commando, called Section M. The target of the operation was Bormannís access to the enormous banking assets of the Nazi party. The overall leadership of the operation was in hands of Ian Fleming and the operational command was trusted to Christopher Creighton who was only twenty years of age at that time.

In the book also the Dutch submarine K XVII was mentioned, which was supposedly blown up on December 7, 1941, by Creighton. In a discussion with Fleming, in chapter 9, memories of the submarine are being recollected and in an appendix the author details the matter.

The decision to destroy the submarine was taken when that vessel discovered the Japanese fleet on its way to Pearl Harbor on 28 November 1941. The Dutch commander Lieutenant Commander H.C. Beҫanson, immediately sent a coded message to the British admiralty. This message was intercepted by the cryptologists of Section M who sent it onwards to General Donovan in Washington DC and to Major Desmond Morton of the American and British secret services. Both of them informed their leaders, President Roosevelt and Winston Churchill.

These four people were informed about the forthcoming Japanese attack, which had to remain strictly secret. In those days approximately 80 percent of the American population was extremely isolationist orientated and strongly opposed against war with Germany or Japan. Roosevelt though wanted a war with Japan but could not declare war without a valid reason. The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor would provide him this reason. The argument for America to get involved in the war was that otherwise Japan would have their hands free to occupy countries like India, Australia, New Zealand and countless other countries around the Pacific and Indian Ocean. These countries were the most important sources for raw materials for the USA and would be very difficult to liberate later on. Furthermore the British needed the support of the Americans very badly in their battle with Germany.

As on Hawaii there were a large number of immigrated Japanese, of whom a part was active as a spy for their country of origin, the naval base of Oahu could not be alarmed. The attack had to remain a secret. If that would not be the case, Emperor Hirohito, who insisted that the attack needed to be a complete surprise, would have cancelled the attack. If it would become known that Roosevelt and Churchill had been aware of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and had not acted accordingly, they would have been politically exterminated. Apart from that, the allied intelligence services were convinced that in such case the allied companionship would disintegrate whereby Japan but also Germany would have their hands free. That is why it was decided that the crew of Hr. Ms. K XVII had to be silenced.

As soon as the message of the submarine had been sent, they received the order to return to Singapore. K XVII was not enter into any harbor and the crew had to abstain from any further messaging about the Japanese fleet. Under the cover name of Lieutenant Paul Hammond Creighton travelled with a Berwick flying boat via Nova Scotia, Canada, San Francisco and the isle of Wake to the North Marianas. There he boarded K VII as agreed. Creighton had been given powers of attorney by the British Submarine Services, Admiral M. Horton, the Dutch Naval Authority in London, Admiral FŁrstner and Queen Wilhelmina. These powers provided him with the authority to issue operational orders to commander Beҫanson as the Dutch sub was placed under British operational command.

Near one of the smaller Marianas, just south of Pagan and approximately 800 nautical miles south of Japan the Berwick flying boat unloaded crates into the submarine. The Dutch crew was told that the crates contained Christmas gifts from their colleagues in Great Britain. Most of the crates indeed contained gin, beer, champaign and other Christmas things. But inside one crate there was cyanide gas and in two others there were igniters, explosives and time switches. Creighton waited for a coded radio message. In case the Japanese fleet would cancel the attack on Pearl Harbor, his operation would be suspended.

The next day, Sunday December 7th, 1941, the British secret agent received the order to continue the operation. That night he left the K XVII and returned to the Berwick. Half an hour later the deadly cyanide gas escaped and it could be seen how the crew tried to escape from the sub. A little bit later the vessel exploded and sank. Creighton made sure that there were no survivors.


Abbreviation of a national socialist.

Pagina navigatie


Christopher Creighton.
(Source: P. Kimenai Go2War2)

A Berwick flying boat as Creighton supposed to have used.
(Source: P. Kimenai Go2War2)


Translated by:
Fred Bolle
Article by:
Peter Kimenai
Published on:
Last edit on:
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