PERTH left Batavia on the 24th for Surabaya to join the combined
American-British-Dutch -Australian fleet ( ABDA ) under the command
of Dutch Admiral Karel Doorman. The ships had not exercised together
before and communications and signalling between ships was very
awkward. The fleet left Surabaya on the night of 26th
February to search for the Japanese Invasion Fleet but were unable
to locate them. The next day Japanese ships were reported
to the north and at 4.12pm contact was made.The battle was fought
in two stages
For the early part of the battle the Japanese were out
of PERTH's guns but at 4.25pm she opened fire on Jap destroyers
off her starboad bow. At 4.37pm she came under intense and
accurate fire from the Japanese 8" cruisers NACHI and HAGURO.
HMS EXETER was hit at 5.14pm and immediately lost
speed and PERTH was forced to swerve quickly to avoid a
collision. PERTH immediately circled EXETER laying a protective
smokescreen. At 5.40pm HMS ELECTRA was hit by gunfire and sank soon after. At 5.45pm the NACHI and HAGURO appeared through the
smokescreen. The light cruiser NAKA and destroyers
were even closer. In the exchange of fire, PERTH
appeared to have scored hits on HAGURO but this was incorrect. At 6.30pm the Japanese retired and
were lost from view.
At 7.15pm a Japanese aircraft dropped flares illuminating PERTH and the other ships and fifteen minutes later PERTH opened
fire on destroyers delivering a torpedo attack on her port side.
The destroyer HMS JUPITER hit what was thought to have been a Dutch mine and exploded and sank at 9.25pm. PERTH passed by survivors from HMS ELECTRA at 10.15pm
but was under orders not to stop and attempt rescue. At
10.30pm PERTH and HOUSTON once again began an exchange
of fire with NACHI and HAGURO and at the same time the IJN destroyers
delivered another torpedo attack.
The allied cruisers were steaming in line ahead led by De RUYTER, then PERTH, HOUSTON, JAVA. Just after 11pm
NACHI and HAGURO fired torpedoes hitting both JAVA and De RUYTER. JAVA blew up an with appalling explosion. Her stern broke off and she sank in fifteen minutes with the loss of of over 500 men. PERTH had to swerve violently to avoid colliding with De RUYTER. De RUYTER stayed afloat for nearly another two hours before sinking. Admiral Doorman and 344 of his crew were lost in the sinking.
PERTH and HOUSTON now broke
off the action and headed for Tanjong Priok, the port of Batavia.