I’ve posted before about my Dad’s service record in the Dutch army during WW2 (see Part 1 and Part 2). Now let’s carry the story on to the late 1940s, and his part in the conflict in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia).
But first, some background. According to Wikipedia, the Indonesian War of Independence was an armed conflict and diplomatic struggle between Indonesia and the Dutch Empire, and an internal social revolution. It took place between Indonesia’s declaration of independence in 1945 and the Netherlands’ recognition of Indonesia’s independence at the end of 1949.
Dutch forces were not able to prevail over the Indonesians, but were strong enough to resist being expelled. Thus, the Republic of Indonesia ultimately prevailed as much through international diplomacy as it did through Indonesian determination in the armed conflicts on Java and other islands.
As you can see in his service record, after the war Dad came back from “groot verlof” (long leave) in 1946. Although long leave sounds leisurely, in fact much of this ‘leave’ was after the 1940 surrender of the Dutch army and included his captivity in Germany as a forced worker. He was back in his hometown by April 1945, working as a radio technician.
Like many returning servicemen he was never officially demobilised from the Dutch army. So in March 1946 he received a letter calling him back up as a medical sergeant, and requiring him to report to the barracks of the Stoottroepen (shock troops) at Corrnputkazeren in Steenwijk.
The Stoottroepen were founded by order of Prince Bernhard on 21 September 1944, originating from the resistance against the German occupation during WW2. They were initially a very rag-tag force, lacking weapons and equipment and not trained as combat units. In March 1945 Queen Wilhelmina expressed her wish that the Stoottroepen would continue to exist for ever. The ‘Stoters’ went on to serve in the Dutch East Indies, Korea, New Guinea, Bosnia, Cyprus, Kosovo and Afghanistan.
In the late 1940s four battalions of volunteer Stoottroepen went to fight in the Dutch East Indies, later followed by five battalions of drafted men (including my Dad). He set sail on 23 July 1946 on board the Kota Baroe, crossing the equator in August, and disembarking at Tandjong Priok later that same month. He was based for a month at Meester Cornelis (a sub-district of East Jakarta, named after one Cornelis Senen, a 17th century Calvinist schoolmaster, preacher and local landholder – it is now known as Jatinegara).
On 28 September 1946 Dad left Meester Cornelis for Denpassar (Bali), where he was temporarily posted to the medical service of Y Brigade. ‘Y’ Brigade had been formed two months before by combining a number of Dutch units. The ‘Y’ Brigade badge depicted a demon’s head because the Brigade was established on Bali, nicknamed “Demon Island”.
On 24 October 1946 the brigade embarked for Palembang, initially by landing craft and then transferred to the ship Boissevain. In his souvenir booklet, Dad pinpointed himself in a photo of a mass of soldiers on board landing craft N205. He used the word ‘Saja’ in the photo caption – as his initials were S.A.J., and he was a sergeant, I wonder if Saja was his nickname?
My research shows that when ‘Y’ Brigade got to Palembang, they took over from the British 1st Burma Regiment. On New Year’s Eve the battle of Palembang began and heavy fighting continued for nearly a week. A truce and the demarcation line was established on 5 January. I have no knowledge of any role my father might have played in this battle.
The next item in my folder is a note dated 4 March 1949 from the HQ of the Medical Service of South Sumatra, praising Sergeant Hermans for ‘organising the administration of the Medical Service for the whole territory of South Sumatra in an excellent manner’. The note went on to say that he always excelled through his ‘very good zeal, ambition and skills’, and he was ‘very favourably reported always and everywhere’.
So whilst he wasn’t in the front line (at least, that I know), I’m sure his service as a medical sergeant helped save the lives of his fellow soldiers and civilians in South Sumatra.
I suspect Dad returned to the Netherlands in 1949, because his souvenir booklet is inscribed on the cover in his own hand with the dates 1946 to 1949.
On his return to his small home-town of Swalmen, he received a heavy bronze plaque from the ‘Swalmen Home Front’, commemorating his service in the Dutch East Indies. This plaque has looked over all my hobby interests since I was a child, because it hung unremarked in our garage workshop where I did all my model soldier painting during my teens (often used as a heavy weight to clamp models whilst the glue was drying!). It eventually passed to me in my adulthood, and now hangs in pride of place over my study desk.
Finally, if you’re interested in following my family’s military history, make sure you read about about my great-great-great-grand-dad who was a dragoon trumpeter in Napoleon’s army!
Pictures of badges in this article are from: http://www.hetdepot.com/