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The Soemba Docket - the gun on Soemba that did not go boomba

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Alpha Tester
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The following was brought to my attention on Hinon discord, courtesy of @Phoenix_jz

It is about a malfunctioning 5.9" gun on HNLMS Soemba:


HNLMS Soemba

She was a Flores class gunboat.



These were a class of 2 1920's era gunboats, Flores and Soemba, small 1822 ton, 75m, 15 knot patrol boats, armed with 3x 150mm license built Bofors guns. This is the tale of a malfunction on one of those guns ....


Of all the remarkable papers which have at one time or another circulated through the Admiralty, it is doubtful if there has been anything to compare with the Soemba Docket. It stands alone as the only one - so far as is known - in which all the comments are in verse, and thanks to Rear Admiral A.D. Nicholl, C.B., C.B.E., D.S.O., who obtained its release from archival oblivion, it can now see the light of publication.

Rear-Admiral Nicholl writes: "The matter of the Soemba's gun was raised in the first instance by a signal from the ship to the Admiralty, reporting the damage to the gun and requesting that a new one should be fitted or the damaged one repaired.

As Director of Operations Division (Foreign), I was responsible for bringing the matter to the attention of those Departments in the Admiralty who would examine the question, and, if thought appropriate, propose action to meet the Soemba's request. Soemba's signal was received about a month before D-day, 1944, a period of as great activity as the dockyards and ship-fitting firms of the country have ever experienced. I therefore knew that the Soemba had little chance of being ready in time to take part in th D-Day bombardments unless she were given special priority. Purely from the point of view of the bombardment operation, the Soemba was not of outstanding importance; but as one of the few Netherlands ships available for Operation ,,Overlord" she was most important from the political point of view. It would mean a great deal to Dutch morale that one of their warships should be in front line of the allied forces on the Great Day. So, as I have often found that a few lines of doggerel will ring a bell where prose knocks in vain, I started the docket off with a Limerick.

Everyone played. The docket went round to the various Departments in the orthodox way, the First Sea Lord approved action being taken, the Soemba got her new gun and was there on D-day.

The Dutch themselves regarded the whole thing with delighted astonishment. They marvelled that, at such a time, Heads of Departments and members of the Board of Admiralty should amuse themselves writing rhymes and deal with a serious matter in such an apparently frivolous way. One of the Dutch officers commented, "No wonder the English win wars"!

As regards the rhymes themselves, Soemba is, of course pronounced "Soomba"; the Emergency "Despair Section" is the Emergency Repair Section; and "E-Loemba" is Captain Evans-Lombe (now Rear Admiral), the Director of Gunnery. Admiral Cunningham's reference to "accommodation" is due to the fact that ships unable to take an active part in operations were in many cases allocated as "Accommodation Ships" - a necessary but undistinguished role".


H.N.M.S. "Soemba"
defective 5.9 Gun.

A report has come in from the Soemba,
That their salvoes go off like a Rhumba,
Two guns, they sound fine,
But the third five point nine,
He am bust and refuse to go boomba.

    D. of P. and D.G.D. referred for information
        D.D.O.D.(M) added to the marking as a mark of courtesy.

    A.D. Nicholl,
        Director of Operations Division (Foreign)


This is very grave news from the Soemba,
Whose guns are all needed to go boomba,
On a fast nearing day -
Though we cannot say
When exactly will rise the balloonba.

    R.K. Dickson
        Director of Plans.


Best Plans! Where childlike learning sits
Remote from worldly cares
And leaves to skilled Division its Administry affairs
(With apologies to Oriel College)

    C.C. Hughes Hallett,
        Director of Plans (Q)


These ersats-made guns of the Soemba's
D.G.D. has said times without numbers,
If OPS want nice pops,
At the Huns, then these guns,
Must be changed for some British made Boombas.

    V.C. Begg
        Gunnery and Anti-Aircraft Warfare


It is agreed (in every quarter)
That to get results you oughter,
Make the boomba under water.
As Gun-Boombas aren't my line
I suggest she tries a Mine.

    John Cowie
        Director of Operations Division (Mining)


To find any Yard for the Soemba
We've searched from the Clyde to the Hoomba
But we haven't got room
For Van Tromp's ruddy Broom
Much less for this useless old Loomba

    Returned to D.O.D. (F) with the compliments of the Emergency "Despair" Section.
        G.A. Bassett
            For Director of Dockyards


This dreadful affair of the Soemba
Is really too hard for a "Plumber"
Referred with a laugh
Straight back to the Staff
for the personal care of E-Loemba.

    Olivir Bevir
        Director of Naval Ordnance


I hasten to say
In no uncertain way
That my personal cares
Are as few as my hairs.
With some satisfaction
I note proposed action
And pass for notation
With gratification.

    E.M. Evans-Lombe
        Director of Gunnery and Anti-Aircraft Warfare


Soemba has awakened the Staff from repose,
I am amazed, all the same, that they do not propose
To allocate Soemba with modification
(Soft velvet chairs the one stipulation)
To the "Overlord" plan for accommodation
Though some of the minutes are just on the verge
I note with regret no proposals emerge.
I can only assume that the Staff and Soemba
Have returned with with relief to their usual Sloemba.

    A.B. Cunningham
        First Sea Lord


To the foregoing notes on the Soemba
Which imply she is now a back Noemba
You must pay no regard, For she's got to bombard
(As is very well known to E-Loemba).

    E.N. Syfret
        Vice-Chief of Naval Staff.


After so much backchat it is but right
That Soemba should join in this fight
Because she loves very much
To be rude too, and in Dutch.
So no one can read it, serve you right!

Waarom wordt nog niet begonnen
Met verwisselen der kanonnen?
Rijmpjes maken helpt geen zier
Want met pen, inkt en papier
Werd geen oorlog ooit gewonnen

    Van Holthe
        Dutch Naval Liaison Officer in Defence of H.N.M.S. "Soemba"

    Free translation by D.O.D. (F)
    Temporary interpreter in Double Dutch (unpaid)

Oh why have you not yet begun
The exchange of (above-mentioned) gun?
How can rhymes help you when,
No ink, paper or pen
Have ever a (bally) war won.


  • Cool 11
  • Funny 1

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Alpha Tester
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Well, there goes all my misconceptions about military professionalism in WW2.

  • Funny 1

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My hat is doffed in amazed respect to obvious word-masters. 07 Amigo!

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Alpha Tester
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The soldiers in WWII were all stoic, doing their duty, none had time for comedy


I mean, if they were all running around willy nilly, making fun of things,


How on earth would their jobs get done.  They weren't called the greatest Generation for no reason.  Nope, stiff upper lip and all that, couldn't be having fun when the free world was at stake


I mean...


Oh forget it. 


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On 6/11/2019 at 3:28 PM, vonKaiser said:



it's all fun and games until someone loses a........ oh my......

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On 6/11/2019 at 3:28 PM, vonKaiser said:


I hope that thing isn't loaded...

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On ‎6‎/‎11‎/‎2019 at 12:28 PM, vonKaiser said:

The soldiers in WWII were all stoic, doing their duty, none had time for comedy



With what PC and such has come to today, I'd think this would get titled "Nazi soldiers steal baby's carriage and force small children to perform circus tricks for their amusement..."




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