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Submarine K-17 was completed at the Fijenoord shipwright in Rotterdam in 1933. Two years later, she sailed to the Dutch East Indies for service in the Royal Netherlands Navy. She would serve the Royal Netherlands Navy in the Dutch East Indies for several years. On December 21st, 1941, after the colony had been invaded by the Japanese, K-17, captained by lieutenant Hans. C. Becançon, ran into an enemy mine field and sank with all 38 hands.

Search for the K-17

In 1980, a bizarre conspiracy theory was put forward by a sir Christopher Creighton, involving the sinking of K-17, Winston Churchill, queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. The idea received much public attention and provoked Hans C. Besançon, Jr., the son of the lost boat's commander and himself a retired officer of the Royal Netherlands navy, to undertake a crusade to find his father's resting place and disprove the fabrications.

Commander H.C. Besançon (source:


Basic information

Alternative/historic name(s): HNLMS K-17

Type: Submarine

Associated with: Royal Netherlands Navy

Condition: Largely preserved in situ, Published archaeological documentation not available

Heritage status: Legally protected

Involved institutions: -

The HNLMS K-17 (source:



In 1981, HansBesançonjr., son of K-17's

commanding officer,pursued a lead froma

Singapore based treasure diver, who reported to

havelocated a sunken Dutch submarine in the

South China Sea at a depth of around 50 meters.

Divers were sent down to the wreck, and

reported that the submarine had sunk deeply

into the mud bottom. Still, theymanagedto

recover the steering wheel from the exposed

bridge. When its serial number was checked

against naval records, the boat was positively

identified asK XVII.

Besançon'squest and its findings had attracted

considerable public attention, so when a

Swedish diver,StenSjöstrand, reported finding

another sunken submarine in 1995 that he

suspected to be Dutch, the naval authorities

were interested. Initiating a search for family

members of the men lost onO-16, they

organized an expedition to examine the wreck.

Underwater footage of the K-17 wreck, 1982 (source:


Even though the wreck of K-17 is a designated war grave,World War II wrecks such as this one are under constant threat of being commercially salvaged.

Below: documentary on the discovery of O-22, also featuring the search for the K-17

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