Austro-Hungarian military cemetery in Berezhany – then and now.

In todays world doing research on the internet often delivers great info. This happened when I was looking into some photo’s of Captain Swoboda who was an engineering officer in the Austro-Hungarian army in WW1.

While his main task was building bridges and such there were also some photo’s of monument for a military cemetery in the group. He built these in the city of Berezhany (today in Ukraina) after the city was captured by Austro-Hungarian forces in 1916 from the Russians that had invaded the city before.

Searching for the cemetery on the internet I found some recent photo’s on Wikipedia with the current situation of these monument so here is a quick comparison – then and now:

Photo from Wikipedia
And the caption on the back of the original photo

Also the central cross still being built in 1916 and how it looks today:

And as the last one a grave for an officer (Oberleutnant Franz Volbrecht of KuK IR Nr 75) that still exists today:

Source: colour photo’s from Wikipedia

Nieuw Guinea 1962

Het verhaal achter een medaille maakt het een stuk geschiedenis in plaats van een voorwerp. Hier is het verhaal achter een Nieuw Guinea Herinneringskruis met gesp 1962. Dit kruis werd verleend aan allen die tenminste 3 maanden dienst deden in Nieuw Guinea tussen eind 1949 en 1962. Er is echter maar één type gesp, die met het jaartal 1962. Die gesp werd aan het kruis toegevoegd voor degenen die opgetreden hadden tegen “kwaadwilligen” in 1962. Het gaat dan om Indonesische infiltranten.

Medaille, oorkonde en mouwembleem van dienstplichtig marinier G.T. Rutten

Vanaf 1961 voerde Indonesië actief actie om Nieuw Guinea, toen nog een Nederlandse kolonie die onderdeel was geweest van Nederlands Indië, aan de Indonesische Republiek toe te voegen. Nederland probeerde dit met behulp van meer militaire inzet te voorkomen. In 1962 waren er op het hoogtepunt ongeveer 1685 Nederlandse mariniers in Nieuw Guinea.

Omdat de Nederlandse militaire inzet internationaal politiek gevoelig lag moesten de militairen die in 1962 met burgervliegtuigen als versterking naar Nieuw Guinea vlogen ook als burger vliegen zonder zichtbare militaire zaken. Die moesten in de ruimbagage opgeborgen worden. Met name vanwege de tussenstop in Japan.

Rutten die als marinier is opgeleid tijdens zijn dienstplicht vliegt op 2 januari 1962 met een groepje versterkingen naar Nieuw Guinea. In zijn brieven is te lezen dat de aanvullingen en de oudgedienden niet direct goed met elkaar overweg kunnen maar die stonden vlak voor hun terugkeer naar Nederland.

Tijdens zijn verblijf op Nieuw Guinea (vooral Biak) schrijft hij veelvuldig brieven aan zijn moeder die bij de groep bewaard gebleven zijn. Daaruit blijkt ook dat hij in de loop van zijn tijd daar een fototoestel overneemt van een andere militair die naar Nederland terugkeert. Zo zijn er zowel foto’s als beschrijvingen van zijn activiteiten aldaar. Een paar foto’s en fragmenten op het kampement en “onderweg”:

Wat fragmenten uit zijn brieven die een indruk geven van de situatie:

17-1-’62 Dat geval met die torpedoboot moet je ook maar niet zo ernstig nemen want hier is niks loos mam, wel hebben we gisteren 8 infiltranten gevangen genomen…

22-2-’62 Op het ogenblik heb ik de wacht op de “Oregon-trail” mam, dat is ‘n post zo’n 20km de boes in, er komt hier bijna geen sterveling. Hier moeten we ‘n paar kust batterijen bewaken die hier het vliegveld beschermen tegen aanvallen vanuit zee, ook staat er een luchtdoelgeschut.

16-3-’62 Ik ga direct weg naar Kaimana waarschijnlijk. Het is wel plotseling en zo is het op het ogenblik een paniekzooitje…

20-3-’62 Mam we zijn hier in bivak gelegd om eventuele infiltranten op te vangen en stellingen te bouwen.

2-4-’62 We zijn vorige week met spoed vertrokken naar kampong pronLo (?), dat ligt tussen Kaimana en Merauke omdat hier een infiltratie heeft plaatsgehad. Toen zijn we hier geland en hebben het strand over een lengte van 70km afgezocht. Nou mama dat valt tegen want ieder ogenblik kun je beschoten worden…bij de kampong aangekomen hebben we twee complete rubberboten gevonden en 3 automatische machinepistolen met munitie. We hebben toen een patrouilletocht gemaakt de kali op maar alleen sporen gevonden. Het aantal wordt geschat op dertig.

17-4-’62 Verders mam hebben wij in Tronga 10 infiltranten gepakt, ze waren helemaal uitgehongerd en de meeste wapens die ze hadden waren zo verroest dat ze het niet meer deden.

De laatste brieven in de groep zijn van mei dus mogelijk is hij in juni weer naar Nederland gekomen? In ieder geval gaat zijn groot verlof pas in november van dat jaar in.

Groot verlof na anderhalf jaar onafgebroken dienstplicht

Dutch Naval Aviation Wings by Toye

During worldwar two the Dutch naval airwing was still using mainly embroidered (bullion) wings for its men in Europe. This was different for the tropics where due to the amount of washing needed metal wings were used that could be easily detached from the uniform.

According to a source on internet (could not confirm this myself yet) the commander of the colonial naval forces ordered a batch of metal wings from the Toye firm in England for use in the tropics (order BDO.12.GHJ/345944) probably in 1943. A total of five wings were authorized for the navy at that moment: aviator / navigator / aviator+navigator / gunner / signaller. The first three, shown in the picture below, are full wings the other two and the later additions are half wings.

When they were actually produced and delivered is unclear. So far I have seen only pictures of these wings being worn in the Dutch East Indies post 1945 and of course into the 1950s and 60s in the Netherlands.

The wings are all marked TOYE SILVER but the silver content is unknown and they do not have an actual silver hallmark. The combined wing for Aviator and Navigator is the rarest and was constructed of a regular Aviator wing plus the specific addition of the wreathed W for Waarnemer (=navigator). The amount made was not large enough to make a specific die for this wing as a whole it seems, only for the wreathed W that was manually added!

Some original but unused surplus examples have come to the market in recent years.

Navy – Bronze Cross – HMS Tromp 1942

Siebe Staal, born 1904, was a quartermaster and combat helmsman on board of Hr.Ms. Tromp, a light cruiser of the Royal Dutch Navy.

Staal in 1938

This ship, Hr Ms Tromp, c804, was in 1942 part of the ABDA fleet, a cooperation between the American, British, Dutch and Australian navies in the fight against Japan and the defense of the Dutch East Indies between 1940-’42.

In 1942 it would have several confrontations with the Japanese enemy. During one of these confrotations in the Lombok Strait, February 19th and 20th of 1942 Staal would show courage and outstanding devotion to duty by remaining calmly at the helm of the ship when a grenade hit in close proximity and the rain of shrapnel from that would cause many casualties.

For this he would be awarded the Bronze Cross, the 3rd highest award for gallantry of the Netherlands, in 1943.

After the war he would remain in the navy until his retirement.

The three medals he earned by the end of his naval career.

The ship received an honorable mention (mention in despatches) for its activities during WW2. All crew members would receive this grand diploma for that reason.

A number of blank diploma’s have come to the market therefore I have blanked out the bottom part of the diploma in order not to make it to easy for fakers.

KNIL 1942 – dapperheid tegen Japan

Binnen mijn verzamelingen is dapperheid een thema en Indië een ander thema, vaak ook in combinatie met elkaar. De verdediging van het toenmalige Nederlands Indië tegen de Japanse aanval en ook de verzetsdaden daarna hebben grote daden van dapperheid laten zien. Enkele daarvan zijn opgetekend en daarbinnen zijn een klein aantal beloond met (militaire) onderscheidingen. Na de val van Indië konden enkelen ontsnappen naar Australië en vanaf daar de oorlog voortzetten maar de meesten, zowel militair als civiel kwamen in de Japanse kampen terecht waarvan de verschrikkingen bekend zijn.

Een verloren oorlog, gevolgd door Japanse kampen. Daarna een bevrijding en voor velen korte tijd later weer een oorlog, de Indonesische onafhankelijkheidsoorlog. Deze resulteerde in het verlies van de kolonie en voor een deel van de betrokkenen een tocht naar Nederland. Voor sommigen een terugkeer maar voor velen een eerste kennismaking met dit land. De aandacht en interesse voor de oorlog in het verre Indië was beperkt zeker na de overdracht van de kolonie aan de Indonesiërs en de focus op de opbouw van Nederland dat ook zwaar geraakt was door de oorlog in Europa.

Die aandacht is daarna eigenlijk nooit echter verder ontwikkeld en in mijn blogs probeer ik toch deze vergeten helden een plek te geven en aan die vergetelheid te onttrekken. Helden in militair opzicht maar vaak ook in menselijk opzicht door de betrokkenheid bij het redden van mensen onder zeer zware en gevaarlijke omstandigheden.

Hier een kort overzicht van de verhalen op deze site met betrekking tot de Japanse aanval tegen Nederlands Indië en de daarvoor beloonde helden.

Adriaan Zijlmans die als KNIL Marechaussee officier rond de 3000 vrouwen en kinderen (burgers en familie van KNIL militairen) in veiligheid bracht vanuit Atjeh naar midden Sumatra en voor een Militaire Willemsorde verleend kreeg.

Een Bronzen Leeuw werd postuum verleend aan sergeant Van der Veen van de KNIL Infanterie die na de capitulatie doorging met de guerrilla tegen de Japanse bezetters en dit na gevangenname met de dood moest bekopen.

Een Bronzen Leeuw voor luitenant Samson als vlieger van de ML KNIL (Militaire Luchtvaart) oorlogsvluchten uitvoerde onder zware en gevaarlijke omstandigheden.

Het Vliegerkruis postuum toegekend aan luitenant Harkema van de Marine Luchtvaart Dienst (MLD) direct betrokken bij het redden van opvarenden van de Van Nes en de Sloet van Beele.

Een Bronzen Kruis voor de landstormsoldaat KNIL Tuinenburg die uit een gevangenkamp in Thailand wist te ontsnappen, zich bij het lokale verzet aansloot en zich na de Japanse capitulatie weer bij het kamp meldde!

Een Bronzen Kruis voor Marine kwartiermeester Staal voor zijn onverschrokken handelen aan boord van de Hr Ms Tromp gedurende de Japanse aanval.

Dat hun levens, opoffering en dappere daden herinnerd mogen worden!

Dutch Naval Aviator Hans Warning

The story behind the item is what makes it a “piece of history”. The wing I am about to discuss was advertised without the history but after buying it I asked the seller if there was any information and there was. It is indeed a piece of history. At this moment I am still researching and hope to extend the story soon.

The background is that this wing belonged to a Dutch Naval pilot in WW2. His name was Johannes Adrianus (Hans) Warning, born in 1911 in Amsterdam.

But why would a Dutch Naval pilot have a US Navy Aviator wing?

It turns out that Hans Warning was working in the Dutch East Indies in 1941. The war in the Netherlands had already been lost and war with Japan was looming for the Indies. Therefore the Navy located in the Indies would start a class for Reserve Officers, Training to become Aviators (Aspirant Reserve Officier Vlieger, AROV in short). This class consisted of 35 men and had not completed yet when the war against Japan started. All men of the class were evacuated to Australia to complete their training as Aviators for the Navy.

It turned out that the training could not be completed in Australia but was possible in the United States. The group went there and underwent training in different locations like Fort Jackson, Leavenworth and Corpus Christi.

Hans Warning would receive his US Navy Aviator wings on February 18th, 1943 in Corpus Christi which was also a Naval Air Force base and training center. Together with some other Dutch Naval Aviators like G. Manak whose wings (identical to this one, same maker and markings) is in the collection of another Dutch collector (Rob Vis).

In the story of Gerard Lugt, also part of the 35 men in the AROV class, referenced below there are some group pictures in which Hans Warning als might be present but I have not found yet a confirmed picture of him.

Photo’s from Traces of War, see link below.

At this moment I am further researching his activities during the war. It seems he went to England were most others from the AROV group would fly in the Pacific where many of the group would not survive the war.

Warning survived the war and had many important commercial shipping functions.

References:

The story of Gerard Lugt also in the AROV class on Traces of War

List of Dutch Aviators in the RAF and FAA in WW2

And with thanks to Rob Vis

Sabang, interned German ships, 1915

This interesting photo links the Dutch East Indies with Germany and World War 1 and has a quite unknown theme for most so a great addition to my collection.

Sabang was an important freeharbour in the colonial Dutch East Indies. It was used to load coal for the international steamships that came on this route.

The Netherlands were neutral during WW1 which meant that ships entering the neutral harbour but were part of the countries in the war were not allowed to leave. This impacted mainly German ships as the English had their own presence in the region and did not need the Dutch harbour were the Germans did.

The German ships and their crews were interned for the duration of the war. Some ships escaped and also some German crews were able to escape on sailing boats out the harbour.

These two ships appear to be, for the time, modern steam freighters. The text on the photo mentions they are interned German steamships and it is dated 1915.

This leaves open quite a few possibilities I found out again with the help of the people on the Feldgrau forum. Ships from at least 3 German commercial shipping companies were interned in this harbour, Hansa, Hapa and the Norddeutsche Lloyd.

Will try to find out if I can determine the names of the ships. If you have more input this will be more than welcome also.

Thanks again to the people of https://www.feldgrau-forum.com/

WW1 Germany – General Karl Brentano (IR137/IR75/IB172)

This group is now for sale as it is to far out of my collecting focus. If interested please contact me.

In a local auction I saw to my surprise some German pre WW1 and WW1 related items that came directly from the family that lived locally in the Netherlands in more recent years it seems.

As it happens in an auction most items were spread over different lots and with many bidders (unexpected) it was impossible to get everything but I chose to buy some items that at least keep the history and name of the original owner together with these items.

Silver plaque but on what it was mounted originally remains unknown.

With some help on a German WW1 forum I was able to get a good overview of the career of this German officer from a noble family with an Italian background.

The 137th Infantry Regiment was located in the Alsace which has a history linked both to Germany and France (to which country it belongs currently). The small silver badge was given to then Captain Brentano by the officers of the 137th IR upon his leave to another regiment.

The group has two set of shoulder board for a 2nd lieutenant of this unit where he started his career in 1883 and he was promoted to 1st lt in 1892 so these would come from exactly that timeframe. He would leave the unit in 1899 which dates the silver plaque.

I was also able to buy a group of photo’s that belonged to him which helped to put a face to the name Karl Brentano.

This photo made it possible to put a face to the name which I then again found on some of the other photo’s in the items I bought!

His rank at the beginning of WW1 would be major and he would be commander of a part of Infanterie Regiment 75 (II/IR75 ) where he remaind for most of the war. In 1918 he wat promoted to colonel and received command of the 172nd Infantry Brigade and finishing his career as the commander of IR 75 in 1919 until the unit was dissolved. He would retire as General Major.

Some private items like these silver serviette rings also came in one of the lots. With the initials of Karl Brentano and his wife Paula.

The group has several pre-war photo’s but of the wartime nothing came to me and very little was in the auction at all.

So another surprise grouping out of my focus area but interesting and researchable!

With thanks to the contributors in https://www.feldgrau-forum.com/

Military history in a (Zippo) lighter…

The military history of the 20th centrury and smoking seem to go hand in hand in all conflicts and all countries. Due to that lighers make up part of the small pieces of history connected to units, conflicts and locations.

Especially the Zippo and its lookalikes have become the brand connected with the (US) military. It had a lot of options for customization offered to customers. I do not mean the (often fake) crude engravings made in Vietnam but the acid etched, often coloured variations that were officially made by Zippo for the customers. From the 50s until the 80s loads of these were made in all sorts of variations. Here follows a selection from my collection ordered by date/period

USS Archerfish (SS311), Vulcan lighter Japan, 1950s

This submarine saw extensive service in WW2 and ended its operational period in Japan after which it was decommissioned in 1946. But due to the Korean war it was recommissioned in 1952 for that war and afterward again decommissioned in 1955 after which it again was put back in use in 1958 but this time under somewhat different name, as the AGSS311. Exact date inclear but likely 1950s.

Two well used examples from the same year:

US Army, Signal Corps, Zippo 1960

(Hollands) Signaal, Dutch manufacturer in the Weapons Industry, Zippo 1960

USS Thaddeus Parker, Zippo 1963, double sided

The item below is a small commercial pocket knife and not a lighter but it was produced by Zippo as well. Due to the two military subjects it can be dated to 1962 or 1963. The years the Commando vehicle and the Stoner MG were introduced, both were produced by Cadillac Gage.

UNEF United Nations Emergency Force, Middle East, Canadian participation, Zippo 1978, double sided

Alsaskan Dewline – Distant Early Warning Line, Zippo 1981, double sided

HMS Active, Zippo 1982, Falklands War, double sided

The HMS Active was part of the English fleet to went to the Falklands and actively participated in the war there in 1982. Lighter is also Zippo dated 1982.

10th Special Forces, 1984, the 1st Batallion (BN) was located in Germany, double sided

Multinational Force & Observers, Sinai, Zippo 1992

SFOR, Bosnia, Busovaca (logistics location for the Dutch), Zippo 1998

USS Canisteo, Zippo 1977, double sided

Some more Navy Zippo’s, several countries, dates and ships

And to help you dating your own Zippo this overview will help!

Date list by Zippo

Next to Zippo there were all sort of makers offering similar lighters and services and also very different types of lighters were made for the military like the WW2 Service Lighter by Dunhill that was aimed at the US forces as a relatively cheap but high quality lighter.

It is fun to look for lighters with unexpected and special engravings and although it is not a focus within my collection I tend to pick up nice examples when I find them (only locally in the Netherlands though). I will add more lighters as they come in.

Dutch US Airborne in Vietnam?

This US Air Force clothing bag triggered my attention in a recent auction. The painted para wing was interesting but the name on the label sounded Dutch and the bag was from around the Vietnam period so a reason for me to do some research. This because I have an interest in Dutch people in Vietnam, see my earlier blog regarding Gerrit’s travels, a family acquintance who stayed 5 years in Vietnam during the war there.

With some luck I found an article about the man and some items he left behind in Japan in 1965! From that 2014 article comes this picture:

Photo from: https://75.stripes.com/archives/returned-photos-reveal-father-never-known-50-year-old-promise-kept

On the right side of the photo his US para wings can be seen. On the left there are English style wings, currently the background of these is not known. There is a photo of Van Wissem as a Dutch commando (1960) in which he wears a Dutch para wing so it might be linked to that.

The bag still has an original MATS (Military Air Transport Services) label to Frankfurt Germany hanging on it. Probably from its last official use. The label has no date but must be no later than 1965 as that was the last year MATS would function under that name. His rank is given as SP/4, specialist 4 which was the rank you would typically atain after two years of service in the army. So everything hints at a bag with 1965 as the year of use.

Bag Assembly Flyer’s Clothing Type B-4B with a 1963 production date on its label.

And with some more research I found this newspaper article from 1965

De Stem, april 6th, 1965

These two articles give an interesting view into the military part of the life of Mat (P.M.) van Wissem. By the end of the 1960 he completed his service in the Dutch army as a (temporary rank) sergeant of the commando’s. He had received his green beret in february 1960 after completing the hard training and qualifaction.

In 1961 he went to Canada to find good paying jobs and see the world. Later het went to the US where he in 1963 signed up for the army for a period of three years “to see the world” and he did. He trained as a para in Fort Benning and became part of the 503rd Airborne Infantry Regiment with whom he travelled around Asia as they were stationed in Okinawa, Japan.

In 1965 he left a footlocker with his belongings behind in Japan with his landlord, before shipping out. That footlocker is the story behind the article in Starts and Stripes. The landlord hung unto the footlocker for decades and then found Van Wissem’s children to return the contents to like these letters and photo’s:

Photo from: https://75.stripes.com/archives/returned-photos-reveal-father-never-known-50-year-old-promise-kept

Some of the contens of the footlocker, like surgical sciccors and other medical items would suggest he functioned as a medic within his unit.

The Dutch article states that Van Wissem went to Vietnam for a short period (month?) in january 1965 as an adviser to Vietnamese troops in Da Lat (the location of the South Vietnamese Army Officers Academy). This was before the period the US had entered a war with communist North Vietnam and only served there as advisors. So far I have found no mention of the 503rd AIR in Vietnam before May 1965 and also his rank is unusual as advisor so this still needs more research. This story is not yet confirmed by anything other than the article itself.

After this short period in Vietnam (?) he was rotated back to Okinawa where the unit was in reserve and he would get a furlough after his 2nd year of service. During that furlough in March/April he went to the Netherlands to visit his parents and the newspaper article in “De Stem” would be published.

In the Dutch newspaper article it is mentioned he would spend the remainder of his last year in Germany and after that period he wanted to return to the Netherlands to become part of the family business. He was indeed transferred to a unit that was located in Germany. In the course of 1965 he chose to return to his home country without finishing the service period he had signed for.

This last part is for now unclear and needs more research.

Van Wissem passed away in 2003 and how this bag came to the market so long after his passing remains unclear.

(published with permission of the family)