Captain Westerling had been the commander of the Special Forces (Korps Speciale Troepen) between 1946 and 1948 and had a great impact on these forces for the majority of their existence. In 1949 he had become a private citizen and started a transport company on Java. Although he had left the army he was still a man with infleunce in military circles.
Somehere in 1949 he had formed a secret small private army called the APRA, in Malayan: Angketan Perang Ratu Adil or translated “Legion of the Just Ruler”. By the end of 1949 the Dutch had handed over the sovereignty to Indonesia but the situation had not yet stabilized. There was unrest and there were several revolts.
Westerling with his APRA also planned and executed a failed revolt on January 23rd 1950, only a month after the independence of Indonesia. Westerling’s aim was the continuation of the independent region Pasundan on Java. In order to do this he planned to take over the cities Djokjakarta and Bandoeng. His group of around 400 men consisted mainly of former military and police forces. Among these men were around 125 active Special Forces soldiers that had deserted shortly before this planned revolt.
Most of the men that participated in this illegal action were caught. The men that were still officially serving in the Netherlands East Indies Army were sentenced as deserters by the Dutch Military Authorities were interned and not handed over to the Indonesian authorities. Most went to the Netherlands after their sentence.
Those APRA men that fell in the hands of the Indonesian Authorities were senteced for the participation in a revolt against the state and would have a very different fate with long prison sentences.
Broken Wings hypothesis
From the estate of Sergeant Major Intructor Hans Kloër came a group of wings. These were taken in 1950 from indigenous men of the Special Forces and should have been destroyed the story goes in the family. A small amount of them seem indeed to have been deliberately broken/clipped, roughly in the same location so probably using the same method or tool.
Why would these wings have been deliberately destroyed? The badge was still in use in 1950 and would remain so untill 1954 in the Dutch army for those that had been qualified. Normally the army does not destroy property that can be re-used!
My hypothesis is that there is a link with the APRA revolt in 1950. Were these wings from some of the 125 men Speciale Troepen that participated in this action? During the action all sorts of uniforms can be seen but none of the men wear a red beret with the wing or any other insignia linking them to the Special Forces.
The breaking of this wing is a very strong symbolic action. Had the APRA men done this themselves before deserting? Has the army done so after they were taken into custody and sentenced as deserters? Maybe we will never know but working from the APRA link hypothesis I will continue to research!
Museum Bronbeek, inventarisnummer: 2007/06/04-3/1 – all period photo’s are from this album in the museum collection.
More info about the estate in an earlier blog: https://www.erikscollectables.com/2019/01/16/korps-speciale-troepen-para-wings-from-the-estate-of-a-decorated-instructor/