The first Consolidated PBY-5 Catalina’s were ordered by the end of 1940 and delivered in 1941.
A total of 75 Cats found their way to the Dutch Naval Air Service. The initial order was for the ‘standard’ PBY-5 version; subsequent orders were for the more versatile PBY-5A amphibian. The Type would see continuous use with Dutch Navy until the final “Cat” was withdrawn from use in the summer of 1957 (!)
The Dutch navy used its seaplanes as “Eyes in the Sky”, guiding submarines to their targets This tactic was remarkably successful during the opening phase of the pacific war when the Japanese forces had not yet established their air superiority. The Dutch seaplanes had to abandon their offensive role when Japanese fighters started to operate from captured airfields around the Java Sea. From then on, the remaining seaplanes (Cats and Dornier 24K’s) were relegated to reconnaissance duties.
26 Catalina’s were shot down or destroyed during the fierce fighting for the Indonesian islands. After the Battle for Java was lost, a number of survivors, some of them overloaded with refugees, escaped to Australia (Broome) or Ceylon in early March 1942. (See my post “Broome, Australia’s Pearl Harbor)
In April 1942 it was decided to establish a Dutch Naval squadron at China Bay, Ceylon, under RAF control. It was formed around the surviving ‘Java’ PBYs, to which another five were added that had been delivered to Australia at the time of the Dutch capitulation. The unit was officially established at the end of May as RAF 321 squadron, part of 222 Group Coastal Command. 321 Squadron’s Catalina’s served all over the Indian Ocean until the squadron transitioned to B-24 Liberators early in 1945.
More information on the Dutch Cats can be found on the page “Consolidated PBY Catalinas in Dutch service”