His Majesty's Ships - H.M.I.S. Bengal
A fleet minesweeper of 650 tons, with a speed of 15 knots, armed with one 4-inch and a few smaller guns, H.M.I.S. Bengal was built in Australia for the Royal Indian Navy in 1942. Soon after being commissioned by Lieut.-Commander W.J. Wilson, R.I.N.R., she was escorting the Dutch motorship Ondina, a valuable tanker of 6,341 tons gross, built in 1939, across the Indian Ocean.
On Nov. 11, 1942, two Japanese armed merchant cruisers were encountered about 1,000 miles S.W. of Java. These were the Kikoku Maru, a new ship of 10,000 tons gross, and the Kunikawa Maru, 6,863 tons gross, built in 1937. Each armed with six 5.5-inch guns, besides torpedo-tubes, and carried seaplanes. Immediately on sighting the enemy the captain of the Bengal headed for the larger of his opponents, to enable the Ondina to escape; but the Dutch master preferred to fight. A hit from the Bengal set the Kikoku Maru on fire, and ultimately there was a magazine explosion which destroyed the after-part of the raider. She ceased fire and foundered by the stern. Though both ships had received a number of hits, the Bengal sustained only slight damage and no casualties.
Meanwhile, the Ondina, in action with the Kunikawa Maru, had suffered severely, her brave master being killed. With ammunition exhausted, the crew abandoned ship, whereupon the Japanese machine-gunned the lifeboats, killing the chief engineer and three Chinese. Having fired a torpedo into the tanker, the Japanese ship made off rather than continue the action with the Bengal. Thereupon the Ondina's second officer, third engineer and gunlayer (an Australian naval rating) returned on board with three members of the crew. The engines being undamaged, the remainder of the crew were embarked and the ship was able to proceed.