KNIL – Airforce Wings (ML KNIL)

Even though my focus is on the para wings of the KNIL a small collection of aviation wings is also part of my collection

Today I will describe the few wings of the Airforce (ML KNIL) from my current collection:

Pilot and Navigator (combined) Wing
Bomber Wing
Radio Operator (Telegraphist) Wing

Mechanic Wing

Pilot and Navigator wings

The aviator and navigator wing for the ML KNIL were introduced in 1922 as two seperate wings. From 1932 a combination was made. The basic wing of the aviator now could be combined with that of the navigator by adding the W (waarnemer = navigator) to the pilot wing as most pilots would have the double qualification and no longer needed two wings to show this. The seperate wings for single qualification would stay in use but are relatively rare.

Crew Wings

These models of wings for crew members were introduced in 1940. At that moment there was still peace in the Dutch East Indies but the war in the Netherlands already was lost. Wings were produced locally. These all have a dark (bronze) colour and no makers name. These wings are solid (so not impressed on the back).

This changed after the Indies were lost to the Japanese in 1942. All forces and planes evacuated to Australia as far as possible. Troops left behind ended up as Prisoners of War with the Japanese invaders. During the remainder of the war the operations in the pacific were continued from Australia. The education of new pilots and aviation crews for the Dutch East Indies Army was mostly done in the USA. This had as a result that wings were produced in both the USA and Australia.

Makers

In the USA one maker was used, Amico. In Australia two makers were used KG Luke and Stokes. All makers have slight differences in the feathers of the wings Colour is the easiest distinction between the USA and Australian versions. Amico used the dark bronze colour that was also the standard before the war. In Australia the colour (and material?) was brass. Most wings produced after 1941 are also marked by the maker but not all.

Stokes

War period style closure

The Bomber and Radio Operator wings are made by Stokes but are from different batches. The Bomber is a rare variation with the pre-war style closure (3 hooks placed on the back) where the Radio Operator had a pin as shown. According to Rob Vis (the foremost Dutch Wing Collector) in 1942 when the KNIL had to evacuate to Australia a rush order was placed for some types of wings and these were ordered with the old (then standard) style closure. Later production batches all had the regular pin backs. The bomber is in general quire rare as post 1945 these were no longer produced. The bombers were used as strafers in Indonesia so bomb aimers were no longer trained.

Amico

Below the reverse of an Aviator combined with Navigator (W for Waarnemer) wing made by Amico in the USA. Note the different style of wing/feathers and the darker colour despite being polished to shine in the past...

1st Lt Samson wearing the Aviator/Navigator wing
Pilot/navigator qualification booklet (brevet) for Lt Samson (see link below)

Local version

The Mechanic Wing shown above is of the locally made variation and does not have a makers mark. I think it was made in 1940/41 but it also might have been produced in the 1945-50 period. I am still looking for furhter info on these local made variations.

As mentioned before the colour is dark (bronze) and it has a simple closure. Compared with the Stokes versions this one has a flat reverse.

Copies

According to Mr. Vis reproductions of the Stokes early batch type of wing also exist but are of lower quality. The same goes for regular Stokes, Amico and Luke wings. As all of the ML KNIL wings are relatively rare reproductions have been made to fool collectors so please study before buying! Most reproduction show differences if you can directly compare them to an original in hand. In photo’s it can be difficult!

A great overview of all ML KNIL wings can be found here.

More reading can be done in Tristan Broos his book Het Koninklijk Nederlands-Indisch leger (Geschiedenis, uniformering en uitrustingen 1911-1942)

Or read about the story behind a Bronze Lion for bomber pilot Lt Samson

And two pages with some background information from the book: Gedenkboek Militaire Luchtvaart 1914-1939 by M. van Haselen. This book I can highly recommend for the prewar history of the ML KNIL.