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)

KNIL – Revolutionary badges from the Indonesian War of Independence

My small collection of revolutionary badges from the Indonesian War of Independence is on loan in museum Bronbeek but when I come across an interesting example I still tend to buy them, in this blog I will show some of these.

In most cases the story behind them is lost and even the meaning of the badge can be difficult to trace as there is very little literature on this subject.

The Republic Indonesia had their own formally organised and uniformed army the TNI (Tentara Nasional Indonesia) during the war for independence. The Siliwangi Division is one of the best known divisions from that war and was considered an elite unit within the TNI. This cloth badge came from the estate of a Dutch Para who was killed in action in 1949 but I’ll leave the rest of that story for another time.

Next to the TNI there were many other political and religious groups often with their own battle groups. Sometimes uniformed but often not. Nevertheless al these groups had badges. These badges were taken from POW’s and casualties by the Dutch forces and used to indentify the activities of different groups by the Military Intelligence community.

Next to all military documentation there were also generic books by the Dutch Government like the one below identifying all political groupings:

Inside the book a total of 106 political groupings are identified!

The badge below recently came into my collection as an unknown item but I did have a feeling that it would be a revolutionary badge. With the help of Museum Bronbeek I found the meaning of this badge. It is the badge of the Indonesian People’s Revolutionary Front, in Indonesian know under the acronym BPRI which was founded in October 1945 in Surabaya by a man called Sutomo

Bronbeek museum has an identical badge with only a different serial number.

The next badge is from the PKI, the Communist party of Indonesia that had a history from long before the War of Independence, starting in 1914/1920 (depending on source) but also was very active in the Independece period and remained so until it was banned in 1965. Next to a political group they were also active in the war.

Next to political there were also many groups with a religious background. On the left the badge of the Daroel Islam and there fighting force Hizboellah. On the right the badge of the Islamic group Sabilillah.

The amount of different badges give a view of how widespread the oppostion against the colonial rule was and how many different political and religious groupings formed that resistance.

Indonesian propaganda leaftlet against the Dutch (soldiers).

RST – KNIL 1st Para Company officers estate

The elite 1st para batallion of the KNIL (Dutch East Indies Army) has a short but intense history that spans the years 1946 to 1950. Most of 1946 and part of 1947 was needed to get the people and material in place and training the fresh para recruits. The later part of 1947 up to 1950 was spent operational including 4 combat jumps in late 1948 and early 1949 in the meantime adding new recruits in all those years.

Para unit badge from the Lt. Castelein estate

The para company existed of some 250 men and was in 1948 combined with para trained commandos, around 150 men, reaching the total of 400 trained paratroopers that would form a batallion in 1949. The amount of officers was limited with much of the operational leadership in the hands of very experienced nco’s many of which had a pre war KNIL or WW2 commando (Korps Insulinde) background.

In the Netherlands during training for Signals officer

Leo Castelein (1928-2016) would become one of those few officers of the para batallion. In the Netherlands he volunteered in 1946 as a reserve officer. The volunteers from the Netherlands would go to the colony in the ongoing stuggle for Order and Peace in Indonesia. This was the Dutch name for the colonial war that had started after the Japanese surrender in 1945 (the War of Independence for Indonesia). He would complete his training as Signals officer in March 1948, subsequently was added to the 1st Signals Regiment and would arrive in country May 1948.

Birthday item in a local newspaper in the Netherlands

After spending some time with his assigned Signals unit he applied for a transfer to the para unit in order to see more action. Although the paratroops were a KNIL unit it was open to all ranks from all branches including those from the regular Dutch army as was the case with Castelein. Unfortunately signals officers were very scarce so his unit did not want to let him go. Upon learning this he wrote a letter to Prince Bernhard as Commander in Chief and later in 1948 was transferred to the para’s after all. He would become the signals officer of the unit.

Training jump preparations. Castelein probably in the middle (behind the white line of the parachute)

His training for the red beret and the qualification wing started but was not completed in time for the first combat jump.

The actual US tanker helmet by Rawlins that was used by Lt. Castelein as practice helmet as seen above!

As a result he would make his first combat jump before being fully qualified earning his combat jump wing before his regular qualification!

Lt Castelein would be sworn in as officer of the Special Forces by the commander at that moment Lt. Col. Borghouts:

Lt. Col giving a speach
The swearing in as special forces officer
The “new” officers of the RST

Each para that completed a combat jump like lt. Castelein would wear the qualification wing with wreath for combat/action jumps like the examples below.


Two examples of locally made filled action wings. These have a safetypin on the back for quick change on and off uniform for the frequent washing.

When he returned to the Netherlands in 1950 he did not have the opportunity to keep his commission as an officer in the regular army so he left his active status and went back in the reserves. There were to many officers returning from Indonesia for a peace time army in the Netherlands. Going to Korea would have been alternative he did not take. Instead he took up his studies (there was a special arrangement for veterans) and started working internationally, rarely spending time in the Netherlands.

Picture as a 2nd lieutenant, freshly returned to the Netherlands in 1950
The actual wing with wreath for combat jump (action wing) from the photo above. This version was still made in Indonesia but is flat and was sewn on the (wool) uniform that was worn during the return to the Netherlands.

His son inherited his red beret, practice helmet, insignia and period photo album with some great para pictures.

A few of the pictures and items are shown in this short blog. Most items are now in the collection of Museum Bronbeek to whom these were gifted by the Castelein family.

The group of badges from the Lt. Castelein estate only show variations of the combat jump wing with laurel, maybe he never received the regular qualification wing as he did not complete his training before making the combat jump.

It is a great time capsule of period badges that are rarely seen and even more rare with such a great provenance. As most badges in collections (both private and museum) have lost the link to the original wearer having a provenance is a great plus.

As a civilian in the 50s proudly wearing a miniature of the action wing

With many thanks to the family for making these materials available for this blog and in future publications. All pictures used in this blog are part of the Lt. Castelein photo album.

Hungary – Operation Frantic 1944, Debrecen

Photo albums can be a great source of historic information but sadly often the context of the photo’s has been lost over time. This blog is in regard to such an album that has been in my collection for a long time. Recently I dove into it again and now with the modern digital sources I found an interesting background.

The photos seem to be of an NCO in a Hungarian military unit that is involved in railway repairs. There is family crest with name in the beginning of the album and next to the military photos there also some pictures of the man with his family but I have not been able to establish anything beyond the family name.

Two groups of photo’s help to establish the exact timeframe and specific context of a part of the album. They show two heavily bombed railway stations in Debrecen and Szolnok and their damaged surroundings, railways and trains.

Both cities were bombed as part of American shuttle raids which were executed during Operation Frantic that took place between June and September of 1944. This was one of the few direct operational cooperations between the Russian and American forces. Bombers of the 8th and 15th US Army Air Force would undertake bombing flights on the way between bases in the UK and Italy to locations in Ukraine where they would reload with bombs and fuel and on the return flight again would bomb targets that were agreed upon between the Russian and US forces. That is why these were called shuttle raids, the planes would shuttle between the bases in Western and Eastern Europe and bomb targets on the way in between.

On the first and the last flight of Operation Frantic there would be also Hungarian targets. On the first flight on June 2nd Debrecen would be one of the targets. On the last flight on September 22nd Szolnok would be one to the targets. In both cases the railway station and the related area would be the main targets as these were of importance to the German military logistics, movement of soldiers and material like tanks to the Eastern front.

The photo’s show people of the Railway repair crew but also labour units working hard to repair the damages. IMostly trains and wreckage of railways and buildings but also some casualties, of which there were many due to the fact that not only railway related buildings were hit in the raids. Please be advised that photo’s of casualties are at the end of the blog.

Unexploded 500 pound bomb?

A total of 130 planes would hit Debrecen with more than 1000 bombs between 8.46 hrs and 9.00 hrs. The damage would be great but the loss of life was also enormous. Whole streets in the proximity of the railway areas would also be destroyed. Almost 1200 death and close to 700 seriously wounded would be the direct human impact of the bombing with hundreds of buildings (including many regular houses) completely destroyed.

Due to the nature of the album the photo’s are mainly of the railway related impact and not the civilian impact.

The last few pictures show casulaties of the bombings and the location were they were found. Probably most casulaties would have been removed before the repair crews started working but I assume these were uncovered during the repair works.

I cannot express the sadness I felt seeing that little shoe sticking out between the big boots of the men under the cover of tent halves…

You can read more about the bombing in Hungarian here that is also the source for the numbers used in my blog.

The next blog will be about Szolnok where the repair crew went next (based on the photo’s in the album at least) which was the last action of Operation Frantic.

There are many more photo’s in the album, this is a selection.

Sources:

http://hbml.archivportal.hu/id-1508-debrecen_elso_bombazasa_1944_junius_2.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Frantic

Austro-Hungarian grouping, Carl Öhlzelt

Carl started in the KuK (Schutzen) Landwehr Infanterie Regiment 21 (Sankt Pölten) and later his machinegun group moved to the Landsturm Infanterie Regiment Nr. 51.

Sometimes as a collector you come across a grouping that is quite unique as in this case. At the moment I am still contemplating what my next step will be….A series of blogs, a dedicated website or even a book…

The group contains a photo album with a cover with badges of Carl, many postcards and a short diary. Loads of information on some very relevant moments in WW1 including the Isonzo battles.

Until I have decided what to do only a small placeholder blog with some teaser materials…

The album contains many official photo’s, but also private photo’s and even WW2 related photo’s. Also many captured Italian photo’s and some leaflets (Flugblätter). So for now only this teaser…

KNIL – officers ID cards

As in any army around WW2 there were ID cards. Often different versions for officers than for other ranks. The two versions here are both for officer of the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army.

They are slightly different one is the standard, official version and the other is a temporary one that was handed out during the war against the Japanese but before the occupation which makes it probably quite rare.

The official one (the front can be seen above left) was to a captain who would receive the Military order of William 4th class for his resistance actions against the Japanese.

His medal group is in the collection of Museum Bronbeek and I have donated an album to the museum regarding his receipt of the MWO4 after WW2.

The second was to Lieutenant who was involved in the defense of Palembang in February 1942 and the fights against the Japanese parachutists who landed there. He probably lost his regular ID in that period and he received this one before the surrender to the Japanese on March 9th. So this temporary version was made only days before the surrender.

Both officers would survive the war and internation in the POW camps of the Japanese and reach the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in the post war period.

NDVN – Korea 1950-’51 – Munnix snapshots

In an earlier post I have described the medals and insignia of the Dutch during the Korea war. In this post I want to share original pictures of one of the participants. His familyname was Munnix and he was already a veteran (Marine) of the war in the Dutch East Indies.

He was part of the first detachment of the Dutch participation in the war in Korea (as part of the 38th Infantry Regiment which was part of the 2nd, Indian Head, Infantry Division). He was part of the support company (ost.comp) and was a machinegunner (.30 Browning).

A few photo’s have a text I will share here as well but most do not. No further context is known as the group of photo’s came into my hands with no additional information.

In memory of all veterans of the Korean war 1950-1954

RAF – 6B/159 wrist watch by LeCoultre

This watch is now for sale. If interested please contact me.

A longer time ago I actively collected military wristwatches. Now all of these beautifull watches by classic brands like the IWC (Mark X), Longines (6B/159), Zenith (US Signal Corps) and Omega (airplane clock WW1) have been gone for years.

One of the RAF wristwatches by Jaeger LeCoultre had been on the wish list for quite some time but never materialized when I actively collected. By accident I came across an interesting version recently so I picked it up. It was not in working order. Research by the watchmaker made clear that the balance had to be replaced in the splendid 470 caliber. Expensive but possible and now completed!

The Wrist Watch Mark 7a was a navigational watch used by the RAF and had the designation 6B/159 on the case. This model first existed in the “Weems” variation (around 1940) with a turnable bezel. Later (around 1942) the model came without the bezel but with a non hacking central seconds hand. This was relatively rare at that moment in time when subsidiary seconds at the 6 position were still the standard. This was a relatively complicated watch that needed to be of high qaulity for its purpose, navigation. The watch was also needed in high quantities therefore it was sourced from many of the leading Swiss makers but most seem to be from 3 big name brands of that period Omega/Longines/ Jaeger LeCoultre.

The (Jaeger) Lecoultre 6B/159 had very typical leaf hands in blued steel as did the earlier Weems bezel model. It is thought about 5000 of these were produced in total (according to Knirim). Most seem to have been from one large batch produced in 1943 with the Broad Arrow marking above the 6B/159 designation (earlier models made in 1942 had the AM marking ipo the Broad Arrow). All the models with the cal. 470 were delivered in 1943/44, from 1945 onwards the 479 calibre was used.

All LeCoultre watches show the brands stamped serial number next to the engraved markings of the RAF. Of this series the serial numbers on the cases are mainly in the 158xxx up to 163xxx numbers which would correspond with the number of 5000 that is mentioned in the Knirim book. The military numbers do not match directly with the watch serial numbers I found out. They were not engraved in the same order as the case serial numbers but the range seems to be mainly in the A23xxx up to A26xxx numbers. All other brands used the same type of military numbering starting with Axxx up to A 30xxx so it seems more than 30.000 examples of the 6B/159 were made for the RAF in 1943/44 and maybe even 1945.

All original dials for this variation were signed LeCoultre. The story is that there were many of these dials (wit the naming for the US market without Jaeger) in stock and could not be used otherwise so these were used exclusively for the military contract. There are several original dial variations but all have a white background. The case was a chromed brass alloy with a diameter of 32mm diameter with a snap on case back.

The Ministery of Defense often replaced/repainted dials during the war. The case was not waterproof the dial and also the movement were often damaged by condensation and dirt. They did not do this with new dials but they re-painted the dials themselves using different fonts and many variations exist. Of course this was done manually. The MoD repainted dial also exists in black and with the full Jaeger LCoultre name on it on a white and on a black background.

This dial is one of the MoD repainted dials with the original dial as basis. The font used seems similar to the one seen on the Longines pictured here (photo from the Knirim book) but with the standard LeCoultre hands (which can be distinguished from other brands as seen in the Longines example).

The dial has some typical features that makes it easy to distinguish a repainted dial from a replaced dial. To the right a dial with the original finish as deliverd by the factory. Left and middle show the front and back of my version (pictures made by the watchmaker Tijdloos in Leiden). General opinion on the dial with numbers in italics is that it is a rarer MoD variation repainted dial.

A much better look with the glass cleaned and dial dusted!

As the original case was not designed for military use, the chrome case materials (a kind of brass with chrome plating) suffered from corrosion. A stainless steel case of a larger size (36mm) was introduced in 1956. All models of the 6B/159 still in service were recased with the new case but these are relatively rare.

Sources:

http://www.knirim.de/english.htm

https://www.watchprosite.com/jaeger-lecoultre/missing-review-jlc-6b-159-comparison-and-review/2.1265336.10611336/