Historical riddle – Dutch (neutral) officers on the Eastern front in WW1?

This is adapted and translated version of an article I published in Decorare in 2011

What is this photo?

After finding the photo that is the theme of this blog I saw myself confronted with something impossible. Dutch military officers among a group of Austro-Hungarian soldiers, so probably on the eastern front in the first World War?

As you may know the Netherlands were a neutral country during the first worldwar (and they tried, unsuccesfully, to do the same in the second world war – but that is a different story). Surrounded by warring countries the war had a great impact on the Netherlands but there was no military participation of any kind so the big question that arised is: what is the story of this photo?

The photo had a Hungarian text on the back that helped to shed some light on this. It can be translated as follows: Dutch officers visiting Lieutenant Colonel Safrán. So the Dutch are not participating but visiting the front and we know whom they were visiting, a good starting points for further research.

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Timeframe established!

Like most countries the Austro-Hungarian army also published rank lists with information on officers, these are a great source of information. During peacetime the lists (thick books) are almost perfect but during war time with rapid promotions, casulaties and all kinds of unregular changes they become less and less trustwothy. Nevertheless I could find (with the help of some research friends) that he was promoted to full Colonel in November 1917. So the photo must be from before that date. Another clue is the uniform the Dutch officers are wearing – it was only introduced in 1916 so the period is between 1916 and the end of 1917.

Study tours to the frontlines

Why would Dutch neutral officers visit the front of a war they are not part of? Well the First Worldwar changed the face of warfare in a shocking way. A neutral country could not learn from their own experience what this impact was. The only way to learn is by studying the experiences of others. So in that direction goes the second part of the research. There is only one publication on this subject written by Sven Maaskant. He states that between 1914 and 1920 approximately 60 tours were made by Dutch officers to study the effects of the war and the impact for the Dutch armed forces. After some research I succeed in contacting Maaskant and mail him a copy of the photo. He instantly recognized one of the Dutch officers. It is Lieutenant-Colonel T.F.J. Muller Massis who was the Dutch military aide to the Dutch embassies in Germany and Vienna between 1916 and 1920.

With that information he also can determine the specific trip out of the 60. Only one trip fits the participants, timeframe and location. It is a study tour to the Austro-Hungarian front that was made between June 25th and July 31st 1917. The four participants were: Colonel D.G. van der Voort Maarschalk, Lieutenant-Colonels T.F.J. Muller Massis and E.M. Carpentier Alting and Captain W.J. van Breen.

Carpentier Alting, an officer of the Dutch East Indies army is not in this picture, did he make it or was there another reason for his absence? The tour would have been organized by Muller Massis in his capacity of military aide in Berlin and Vienna. An officer that would raise to the rank of General and commander of the Dutch field army from 1922 until his pension in 1928 after which he would become a member of parliament untill 1948.

In 1933  Muller Massis donated a collection of helmets and gasmasks of different countries that participated in the war to the Dutch National Military Museum. He wrote about this: “The object were picked up by me during the visits I made to the battlefields. Further I still have the German gasmaks that was supplied to me in my function as military aide in Germany and that I wore on several fronts.”  The donation also held his collection of Austro-Hungarian distinctives. These are the so called “Kappenabzeichen”, unofficial badges worn on the military caps by Austro-Hungarian troops which he collected during these trips. On the picture in question can be seen that the 3 Dutch officers al wear such insignia on the left breast of their uniform.

What is the unit in the photo?

Some research on the Hungarian officer in the pictures gives the specific unit, the 10th Honved (Hungarian territorial army) Infantry Regiment (HIR) which was part of the 39th Honved Infantry Division which is confirmed by a “Kappenabzeichen” on the breast of one of the Dutch officers which is of this division.

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Wy this unit?

In March 1917 the 39th HID waged a very signifact battle against Russian troops on the realively new Rumanian front in which the 10th HIR of which Safrán was the commander played an important role. The entire unit was used as Stormtroops. The use of Stormtroops was a new military development of the Germans that was quickly adopted by their Austro-Hungarian allies. These troops were used mainly to force breaktroughs in the stallmate of trenchwarfare and new tactics and weapons were deployed by them. They were the first to get handgrenades and machine guns but also helmets and gasmasks which were not widely spread yet with the Austro-Hungarian army. They can be seen as an early variation of Special Forces within the army, receiving addtional training and equipment in comparison with the regular infantry.

The entire action of the 39th division would literally become a textbook example for the Hungarian (Ludovika) officers academy of a Stormtroop attack. In the fight for Hill 1504 (Magyaros near the Uz river) there were hardly any Austro-Hungarian casulaties but the Russians sufferend hundreds of casulaties and a multitude of were taken as Prisoners of War. A good reason for a visit of Dutch officers to learn from this example attack only a few months later especially a good promotion for the Austro-Hungarian army that struggled with its performance in other places.

From hypothesis to proof

The Dutch Institute for Military History has the archive of Muller Massis that also contains his (formerly SECRET) report from September 1917 on the “Commission sent to visit the Austro-Hungarian fronts”. It is a sort of diary of the trip with several appendices on specific military themes. In his reports he also describes how they received “Kappenabzeichen” as gifts. Here some translations relevant to this article:

“July 3rd.
With this regiment we learned 
for the first time about regimental and other insignia 
which were attached to the headwear.  
As momento of our visit to the  
von Hindenburg regiment we each received
a similar badge with a in white metal
portrait of the “Inhaber” or owner
surrounded by a wreath of laurels and a ribbon 
in enemal with the years 1914, 1915 and 1916
and the words v.hindenburg K.u.K. Inf. Reg. Nr. 69.”

That same badge is depicted below and is still part of the collection of the Dutch National Military Museum today.

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The report also confirms date and location of the photo.

“July 7th. 
    Guided by several officers
we visited the first line of defense of the 10th
Honved regiment, wich line was a very short
distance away from the enemy line. Here 
also the hostilites had not commenced again
which even made it possible to get in front of the trenches.
After visiting some trenches of neighbouring 9th Honved regiment,
we walked down to the customs office
The starting point of a forresttrain (waldbahn) to Rumania. 
from here we went back to the headquarters of the 39th division.

Without the mentioning of Safrán in the text we can date the picture to July 7th 1917. Most information was already completed when the confirmation in the form of the original report was found. This shows that with thorough research it is possible to determine much valuable information.

In order to do this I had help from several other researchers, many thanks to my friends in making this article possible!

Sources:

Captain Zijlmans RMW04 – A forgotten hero, Atjeh 1942, KNIL Marechaussee

As a collector you sometimes get to be the custodian of a special and rare piece of history. Years ago I was able to acquire a post 1940 Knights Diploma for a Military Order of William 4th class. As the decoration itself is not named the paperwork is the most historically important  part of the award to me as a researcher.

The Military Order of William is the highest Dutch award for bravery and has been awarded only 196 times since 1940 of which 55 awards were posthumous and 9 to units. Currently there are 4 living awardees, one from world war 2 and three recent awardees for actions in Afghanistan with our Special Forces (one of them a Helicopter Pilot for these forces). Most of these awards are for bravery in direct actions against the enemy but this is a very different story and therefore even more special, it is the story of saving 3000 civilians, mainly women and children from harm’s way….

This is the citation of Adriaan Zijlman’s Miltary Order of William 4th class as seen on his Knights Diploma:

zijlmans-mutatie

Translated:

Has distinguished himself in action by the perpetration of excellent deeds of bravery, good conduct and loyalty with his activities, under very difficult circumstances, as commander of a detachment of the 2nd Marechaussee division in February and March 1942 om the West Coast of Atjeh.

For the realisation of his assignment to evacuate ± 3000 women and children, mainly of local military forces on the west coast of Atjeh, he has taken the necessary actions in a discreet and dauntless way, also successfully facing several attacks by gangs of Acehnese and on March 19th 1942 breaking up a large gang of Acehnese in the surrounding of Tapa Toean. Until the surrender to the Japanese he has protected these women and children in an effective way against harm from Acehnese gangs.

It is a forgotten history that I hope to revive here with some context. Adriaan Zijlmans was born in the Dutch East Indies in 1914 in a place called Sigli which is in the North of the island of Sumatra. This region was called Atjeh then and currently it is known as Aceh. During the Dutch colonization of the East Indies this region never stopped the fight against the Dutch rule which was viewed by them as a religious duty as much as patriotic.

The war in Aceh started in 1873 for the Dutch and it never really ended until they left the region in 1950. The period between 1910 and 1942 was relatively peaceful considering the earlier wars. This changed in the early 1940s. The Japanese expansionism was seen as a sign of the dwindling might of the western colonizers and the rise of Asian strength. This revived the will to fight again in the Aceh region. The waiting in Atjeh was for an action of Japan against the colonies to start the uprising (again).

The fighting in the Atjeh region was so intense that an elite unit was developed: the Marechaussee (on foot). This unit was started in 1890 as an active counter guerilla unit against the local guerilla units. They moved on foot, were self-supporting and could go on patrols lasting several weeks and even up to months. From the beginning they were a mixed unit with both Asian and Western and even African soldiers with officers mainly being Dutch or of mixed Asian / Dutch descend (which were also considered Dutch in the army). Only the best infantry officers and men were selected for the unit. Especially in the 1920s and 1930s a placement there was seen as a good career move for officers and as a sign of being an extraordinary good field officer.

Adriaan Zijlmans was a Marechaussee officer in 1942 during the Japanese invasion. His father had already been an instructor in this unit so it was an honor to be in that unit as well, especially as an officer of mixed descend. In 1935 he had become an officer and was promoted to lieutenant 1st class in 1938. In 1942 he was the commander of the Marechaussee detachment in Koeala Bhee on the west coast of Atjeh. On December 8th war was declared against the Japanese. Many units already had been moved from Sumatra to Java for the defense of this main island of the colony. The amount of soldiers that was left on Sumatra was minimal, not even enough to withstand the now expected local uprising. And on February 23rd of 1942 that uprising started with the killing of a government official. This was shortly after the fall of Malaya. Java the colonies main island and primary target fell on March 8th 1942 opening the way for the Japanese to come to Sumatra which had not been attacked yet.

Safety for the 3000 women and children and other civilians part of the local war plan. These civilians were mainly the women and children of the military forces and they were seen as an easy target by the local guerilla with a lot of emotional impact on the forces. Therefore, after the start of the uprising, all the civilians had already been gathered on the west coast of Atjeh to protect them with military force. With the start of the invasion of the Japanese on Sumatra is was necessary to assess the situation again as the forces were now needed against the Japanese as well. The assessment was done during an officers war council on March 15th 1942. The following goals were defined for the remaining armed forces in the Atjeh region:

  1. To engage the Japanese forces directly and actively as long as possible.
  2. To transport all civilians south, outside of the Atjeh region as their safety could no longer be guaranteed by the available forces.
  3. To cover for this retreat by continuous defensive fighting against the Japanese forces.
  4. After the civilians are outside of the Atjeh region to transport them further to relative safety from war actions to a corporation in Groot Singkel in mid Sumatra.
  5. Start a Guerrilla against the Japanese to harm their actions with the limited forces still available after the previous goals have been reached.

The start of a long and dangerous transport to safety for the civilians. Zijlmans received the responsibility for goals 2 and 4. A total of 15 lorries and multiple cars were available to transport the total of 3000 civilians 600 km to the south. One trip took up to 48 hours and the vehicles took app 400 people in one trip. It turned out to be very long, difficult and also dangerous trips. Several times a trip was hindered and stopped by attacks of local guerilla’s as described in the citation. All these were countered without any casualties to the civilians. During the time it took to complete all trips the Acehnese became more and more hostile towards the outsiders and they became more dangerous for the passengers and their military hosts. Several of the attackers were killed in the process. At the end all civilians were delivered safely to their destination and saw the end of the hostilities against the Japanese there.

Zijlmans became a prisoner of war of the Japanese. On March 23rd all Dutch troops formally surrendered. A small group of men continued with a guerilla but most of them were captured or killed in the year following. As part of his assignment to protect the civilians he also had to surrender himself to the Japanese.

After his liberation in 1945 the continued to serve in the army receiving the Military Order of William on May 18th 1948. The Marechaussee were not reinstalled after the war so this was their last official action with Zijlmans becoming the last Marechaussee to receive this decoration and also the last citation with Atjeh as location which had been one of the most common locations in the last half of the 19th century.

The MWO diploma, framed by Zijlmans

After his return to the Netherlands in 1950 he continued to serve and rose to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in 1958 and got his honorable discharge in 1963. Until he passed away in 1992 he lived in Wassenaar. After his wife also passed away the Diploma came in my custody.

In 1948 he wrote an article about the impact of sleep deprevation on troops. That was before he received the award but is based on the same action. That period and the road trips were so intense and with so much stress and actual fighting that soldiers hardly slept and even started hallucinating in the process of saving the civilians.

Photos of the award ceremony by General Spoor in 1948

Decorations:

  • Militaire Willemsorde 4e klasse
  • Oorlog Herinneringskruis met 2 gespen
  • Kruis voor Trouwe Dienst officieren met cijfer 25

Sources:

  • De Militaire Willems-Orde sedert 1940, door P.G.H. Maalderink, 1982
  • Tijdschrift de “Militaire Spectator” van Augustus 1948
  • “Atjeh en de oorlog met Japan, door Dr Piekaar, 1948

Bronzen Leeuw voor oorlogsvluchten in 1942, ML KNIL – C.J.H. Samson

Dit is een aangepaste versie van het artikel dat eerder in Decorare verscheen.

C.J.H. Samson

Carel Jan Herman Samson werd in 1916 in Soerabaja geboren als zoon van Carell Johan Remy Samson en Maria Pappolo. Zijn vader had een venduhuis in Lawang dat na het overlijden van zijn vader in 1934 voortgezet wordt door zijn moeder en de oudste broer. Anderhalf jaar overlijdt ook zijn moeder op maar 47 jarige leeftijd. Op 20 jarige leeftijd is hij dus wees. Met in totaal 5 kinderen in het gezin waarvan hij dus niet de oudste is zal er weinig geld geweest zijn voor een studie van Carel. In juni 1937 begint hij zijn dienstplicht die hij vrijwillig vervolgde bij de Militaire Luchtvaart van het KNIL in januari 1938 om daar naar de Vieger en Waarnemers school te Andir te gaan. Daar haalt hij in april 1938 zijn Klein Militair Brevet,  juni 1939 zijn Groot Militair Brevet en in januari 1940 zijn Waarnemers Brevet. In juni van dat jaar is zijn opleiding dan volledig afgerond en starten de 7 jaren van zijn “kort dienstverband”  met als rang vaandrig, aspirant officier, Vlieger-Waarnemer. De regeling is zo dat de eerste 5 jaren in werkelijk dienst worden doorgebracht en de volgende jaren als reservist. Hij wordt geplaatst bij de 2e vliegtuig groep te Malang, op Java waar hij in februari 1941 tot 2e luitenant benoemd wordt.

ML-KNIL en de Glenn Martins

De Militaire Luchtvaart van het Koninklijk Nederlandsch Indische Leger (ML-KNIL) ontstond als zelfstandig wapen in 1939 maar was in het begin van de oorlog tegen Japan eind 1941 nog niet op volle sterkte. Het bestond uit 5 operationele vliegtuiggroepen (VLG) waarvan de eerste 3 uit bommenwerpers bestonden en de laatste 2 uit jagers. De bommenwerpers vlogen vooral met de Glenn Martin model 139/166. Een toestel dat bij haar ontwikkeling in 1932 nog hypermodern was maar in 1941 al sterk verouderd en geen partij meer voor moderne jagers zoals de Japanse Mitsubishi Zero.

Samson was eind 1941, begin 1942 Patrouillecommandant bij de 1e afdeling van de tweede vliegtuiggroep (1-VLG-II) die te Malang op Java gestationeerd waren. Een patrouille bestond over het algemeen uit 3 vliegtuigen waarvan 1 vlieger de taak had van Patrouillecommandant.

De eerste vliegtuiggroep had 2 afdelingen, de tweede groep had maar 1 afdeling en de derde vliegtuiggroep had 3 afdelingen. Iedere afdeling vloog met 9 vliegtuigen, bij de drie bommenwerper groepen werd met verschillende versies van hetzelfde basismodel Glenn Martin gevlogen. In totaal waren er dus maar zo’n 45 bommenwerpers beschikbaar voor oorlogsvluchten waarvan natuurlijk ook continu een deeI in onderhoud was. Bij de vliegtuiggroep van Samson werd met het laatste type Glenn Martin gevlogen – Samson beschrijft deze zelf als type III.

Martin_166_bombers_ML-KNIL_over_Malaya_1942
Foto van Glenn Martins 139/166 tijdens een oorlogsvlucht (bron: wikipedia)

Oorlogsvluchten en strijd om Nederlandsch Indië

Het boek “”Het verlies van Java” van Dr. P.C. Boer geeft een uitstekende analyse van de geallieerde strijd tegen Japan eind 1941 en begin 1942. Het genoemde boek beschrijft ook in redelijk detail de vluchten die per dag uitgevoerd werden. De naam van Samson en zijn patrouille worden daar veelvuldig genoemd, hij werd door de schrijver ook uitgebreid geïnterviewd. Het gaat te ver om die detailinformatie hier integraal over te nemen maar voor geïnteresseerden beveel ik dit boek van harte aan. Daar valt bijvoorbeeld ook te lezen dat de patrouille Samson veel acties samen vloog met de patrouille Cooke uit de eerste Vliegtuiggroep. De naam Cooke is vooral bekend omdat hij de enige vlieger is die drie keer het Vliegerkruis verleend kreeg.

Samson zelf vulde na zijn krijgsgevangenschap een formulier in over de periode voorafgaand aan zijn gevangenschap. Dit document is bewaard gebleven en de volgende informatie is daarop gebaseerd:

Vanaf 5 december 1941 dus al voor de oorlogsverklaring tot 14 januari 1942 het uitvoeren van verkenningsvluchten vanuit Ambon, Kendari, Malang, Buitenzorg en, daarna enkele dagen niet operationeel (onderhoud). Vervolgens tot begin februari vanaf verschillende locaties lange afstandsverkenningen boven en ten zuiden van de Kleine Soenda eilanden.

In de periode die P.C. Boer in zijn boek beschrijft als de strijd om de luchtsuperioriteit, de eerste fase van de strijd om Java, voert hij vanaf vliegveld Kalindjati bombardementsvluchten uit op Palembang I, Pladjoe, schepen in de Moesie en in straat Bangka waarbij 1 Glenn Martin van zijn patrouille verloren is gegaan maar de bemanning heelhuids teruggekeerd is.

Daarna in de periode die P.C. Boer beschrijft als de strijd om Kalindjati, de eerste vier dagen van Maart voert Samson vanaf vliegveld Andir bombardementsvluchten uit op het vliegveld Kalindjati dat dus inmiddels in handen van de Japanners is. Daarbij gaat een Glenn Martin uit zijn patrouille verloren waarvan alleen de telegrafist het overleefd.

Van 4 tot 8 maart wordt de eindstrijd om de Tjiater pas gevoerd zoals P.C. Boer dit omschrijft en wederom voert Samson meerdere bombardementen uit. Op 8 maart in Tasikmalaja, de dag van de capitulatie worden de laatste – niet operationele – Glenn Martins vernietigd om te voorkomen dat ze in handen vallen van de Japanners. Het wordt ook de eerste dag van de krijgsgevangenschap van Samson en zijn collega’s, slechts één van alle Glenn Martins van de ML KNIL is nog operationeel en weet naar Australië te ontkomen.

Na 1942

Over de periode van Samsons krijgsgevangenschap is weinig terug te vinden behalve dat hij in Japan zelf gezeten heeft en daar op 28 augustus 1945 bevrijd werd en vervolgens op 26 september te Manilla geregistreerd werd. In oktober van dat jaar komt hij terug in Indië en gaat over naar No 18 Squadron. In juni 1946 wordt hij tot tijdelijk 1e luitenant bevorderd. Daarna volgen er in de periode van de politionele acties verschillende overplaatsingen, onder andere naar No 16 Squadron en vervolgens wordt hij hoofd van de Elementaire Opleidingsschool afgekort als EOS (onderdeel van de Centrale Vliegschool, afgekort als CVS). Zijn Bronzen Leeuw wordt op 1 september 1948 uitgereikt. In 1949 wordt hij nog benoemd tot Kapitein in de reserve en in 1950 wordt hij gedemobiliseerd.

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Brevetboekje van Samson uit 1948 met Vlieger Waarnemer wing KNIL

Bronzen Leeuw

De Bronzen Leeuw (BL) werd in 1944 ingesteld als dapperheidsonderscheiding, na de Militaire Willemsorde de hoogste dapperheidsonderscheiding in het toenmalige en huidige Nederlandse decoratiestelsel. Het is in praktische zin de opvolger van de Eervolle Vermelding op het Ereteken voor Belangrijke Krijgsverrichtingen dat dan al niet meer in gebruik is en de vervanger van de wel in gebruik zijn de  Eervolle Vermeldingen op het Bronzen Kruis (1940), Kruis van Verdienste (1941) en Vliegerkruis (1941), dit gebeurde in totaal 135 keer. Het standaardwerk Bronzen Leeuw / Bronzen Kruis van Henny Meijer is een belangrijke bron van informatie over deze onderscheiding. Tussen 1944 en 1962 werd de onderscheiding 1206 keer uitgereikt, waarvan 1 keer aan een vaandel en 8 mensen ontvingen de BL voor een tweede maal. Van de 1206 werden er 336 verleend aan geallieerden, 62 aan de Koopvaardij en 119 aan burgers (voornamelijk verzet). De Militaire Luchtvaart van het KNIL ontving 23 Bronzen Leeuwen waarvan 16 voor de strijd tegen Japan in 1941/42.

Medailleset op Dagelijks Tenu jaren 60 met ingewoven Vlieger-Waarnemer wing.

In en direct na de oorlog werd een Engels aanmaak van de onderscheiding uitgereikt zoals in het geval van Samson. De ophanging is ongebruikelijk. Deze versie werd door Garrard gemaakt. Later komen er ook versies van de Rijks Munt.

Hier de tekst uit de benoeming: “Heeft zich in de strijd tegenover de vijand door het bedrijven van bijzonder moedige en beleidvolle daden onderscheiden door als commandant van een patrouille bommenwerpers, onder moeilijke omstandigheden vele malen, in de maanden Februari en Maart 1942, op onverschrokken wijze succesvolle bomaanvallen uit te voeren op belangrijke doelen, t.w. op Muntok, op schepen in de straat Bangka, op vliegveld en olievelden Palembang en op vliegveld Kalidjati, waarvan bekend was, dat zij door een overmacht van vijandelijke jachtvliegtuigen en door zwaar afweervuur werden verdedigd.”

Na 1950

Na zijn aankomst in Nederland wordt hij aangenomen bij de Koninklijke luchtmacht. Waar hij in 1952 instructeur op de Harvard wordt. In 1954 wordt hij benoemd tot Majoor en twee jaar later volgt hij de opleiding tot Helikopter vlieger. In 1957 volgt hij de cursus tot leger vluchtwaarnemer en in 1968 een advanced weapons cursus bij SHAPE. Tot zijn pensioen in 1969 volgt nog de benoeming tot Luitenant-Kolonel. Vanaf 1950 zijn er veel plaatsingen bij de verschillende vliegbasissen in Nederland maar ook bij de Luchtmachtstaf. Toch lijkt het zwaartepunt van zijn militaire carrière bij de eerste jaren te liggen, in de naoorlogse jaren is hij vooral betrokken bij de opleiding van nieuwe piloten. Na zijn pensionering haalt hij nog de benodigde burger brevetten zowel voor particulier als commercieel piloot. Over de periode tot zijn overlijden in 1993 heb ik geen informatie gevonden.

Samson in dagelijks tenu (jaren 60?) met wing en lintjes. Daarnaast zijn DT uit de periode voor zijn pensioen met lintjes en metalen wing. Leren gedrukte nametag met wing – in dit geval de gewone vink en niet de Vlieger-Waarnemer, misschien is die niet gemaakt in deze vorm?

Bronnen:

  1. Meijer, H.G. (1990), Bronzen Leeuw, Bronzen Kruis. Amsterdam, Nederland: De Bataafsche Leeuw
  2. Boer, P.C. (2006), Het verlies van Java. Amsterdam, Nederland: De Bataafsche Leeuw

The Dutch Honorable Mention (Eervolle Vermelding), Mention in Despatches, KNIL

The Dutch Gallantry medals had, for a very long time in history, only one order for all different levels of Gallantry, the Military Order of William which was instituted in 1815.  For lesser deeds of Gallantry there was the “Eervolle Vermelding” which translates to “Honorable Mention” or for the Anglo-Saxon world a Mention in Despatches also instituted in 1815. For this there was no visible display of the honor. By many in the forces this was felt as an omission in the military decoration system. An unofficial wreath was worn with several different medals to make the Honorable Mention visible. Only in 1879 this was changed by the use of a crown device to be worn on the “Expedition Cross” that had been instituted in 1869. For multiple awards the number (2 or 3) would be displayed below the crown.

During WW2 the crown was finally replaced by several new medals for Gallantry and only one more clasp was added to the Expedition Cross (Timor 1942).

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Multiple example of the crown device and to the left an example of the unofficial wreath. (not my collection!)

Bali 1849 – Honorable Mention for J.P ter Beek, MD for the Royal Dutch Navy

As mentioned before the Expedition Cross dates from 1869 and at that same moment 6 clasp were instituted going back to as early as 1846, the first Bali Expedition. All living participants of these 6 expeditions would get the medal with clasp and an award certificate. These first 6 clasps belong to the rarer ones but the award document even more so (as there were more clasps produced than actually handed out to living participants). The navy only had a small part in the total number of crosses awarded so is even rarer.

Medical Doctor Ter Beek of the Royal Dutch Navy participated in the 3rd Bali campaign in 1849 on board of the “Z. M. fregat Prins van Oranje”  (the flagship of the campaign).

Ter Beek retired from the Navy in 1859 and became a General Practitioner in the city of Kampen in the Netherlands. Ten years later, 20 years after the campaign, he received the Expedition cross with the Clasp Bali 1849 and the award certificate shown below.

terbeek2

In 1879 the aforementioned Crown device for wear on the Expedition Cross was instituted and also handed out retrospectively to those who had earned the Crown in the period before its existence. As Ter Beek was also Honorably Mentioned in the same Bali campaign he would get the Crown device and the diploma in that year, 30 years after the campaign for which it was bestowed!

terbeek4

Above the diploma for the Honorable Mention and below the accompanying letter and the Expedition Cross with clasp and crown device.

This combination of a rare clasp with Honorable Mention for the same campaign and all documents confirming this may very well be unique in its kind! Especially so a Navy version!

His son A.W.K. ter Beek also chose a life of service and joined the Dutch East Indies Army where he would be awarded a Military Order of William 4th class, Honor Sword and Honorable Mention. The related documents to that are in the hands of another collector!

Dutch United Nations Detachment in Korea (NDVN) – medals and insignia

Much has been written about the Dutch United Nations Detachment in the Korean War both the Infantry (with the US 2nd, Indianhead, Division) and the Naval participation.

A good overview of this history can be read here: the-korean-war. This article is only aimed to give a short overview of the main medals and insignia the Dutch received and used during the conflict.

Cross for Justice and Freedom

This cross was delivered in an orange box already mounted for wear in the Dutch style with silver ‘KOREA 1950’ sword bar. The Cross was instituted on 23 July 1951 to be awarded to members of the N.D.V.N (Nederlands Detachement Verenigde Naties = Netherlands Detachment United Nations). The N.D.V.N. was established on 15 October 1950 and an advance party of Dutch soldiers arrived in Korea from Malaya on 24 October 1950, the first of 26 contingents from the Netherlands arriving in early December. This first contingent saw the hardest fighting of all and even lost its commander and several other officers and men when the staff was overrun by the Koreans

A total of 3,972 Dutch soldiers served in Korea, the last unit returning to the Netherlands at the end of 1954. In addition, 1,360 members of the Royal Netherlands Navy served in Korean waters aboard the destroyers Evertsen, van Galen and Piet Heim and the frigates Johan Maurits van Nassau, Dubois and van Zijll.

Those that went more than once would have the number of awards on the sword bar, like the 2 in the example below. The 3 and 4 also exist but are very rare.

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Award certificate for the medal:

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United Nations Service Medal with clasp Korea (Dutch Version)

The same basic medal was given to all participants of all countries with their own language. The Dutch can be recognized by the D on the box for the correct language version but some incorrect versions seem to have been made as well and handed out (combination of two languages on one medal, bar and reverse in different language).

Award certificate for the medal:

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Republic of Korea War Service Medal

All army personnel would also receive the Korean war medal with certificate. The Navy would not receive these at that moment in time.

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Medal groups

So all army personnel in the conflict would get at least these three medals. Most groups will have at least one more medal. The medal for Order and Peace given to participants in the conflict in the Dutch East Indies between 1945 and 1950. The army wanted only to send battle hardened veterans to the conflict so most would have this medal in the group (though not all, also WW2 veterans joined the group and later also non veterans would join). For many the Korean conflict was an opportunity to stay in the army so most later groups also have medals for long and faithful service. Here some examples.

1950s period mounted group in the correct order (first the Order and Peace medal and number 3 the long and faithful service medal for nco’s before the two foreign medals):

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Unmounted group with the medals on ribbons as they were handed out (papers shown before belong to this group, this private was part of the first contingent of 500 men):

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Incorrectly mounted group, but as worn by the NCO in the 1960s. Consists of 3 partially mounted groups put together in the incorrect order.

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Presidential Unit Citations

From the US and the Korean Government they would also receive two Presidential Unit Citations. Many different versions of these exist. The US one was the first and later received an oak leaf cluster. The Korean came somewhat later. All veterans were entitled to both but many of the first contingent only received the US one without the oak leaf cluster during their period in Korea. If the left the army afterward they often used/had the one.

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Combat Infantryman Badge

And most infantrymen would also receive the Combat Infantryman Badge. Here also many different versions exist but is seems an unnamed variant marked only STERLING is the one standardly given by the US Army at that moment. That is the bottom version of the three variants seen here (all from Dutch veterans):

Ribbon groups

Some ribbon groups with the 3 standard medals in some variation. It seems the ribbon bar on top was handed out to all personnel going to Japan for R&R for wear on their uniform. Many had ribbon bars made in Japan with their complete entitlement.

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Ribbon group with Unit Citations and CIB (part of the first medal group shown above):

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Ons Leger – Our Army, tokens of recognition for returning veterans

Upon their return in the Netherlands the Infantry veterans of the first contingent would receive a table medal from “Ons Leger”. That is a relatively rare as it was only given to the around 500 men that returned end of 1951.

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All later contingents would receive the Indianhead on wood as seen below, so about 3000 of these will have been made (mint example in original box) between 1952 and 1954.

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Letter of thanks from Prince Bernhard

And all men would receive a letter from Prince Bernhard as an additional recognition:

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Badges and Insignia

On the uniform the Dutch would be recognized by the UN badge with Netherlands tab as still in use today. Below three period versions and the small version for the collar tab:

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And serving as part of the 2nd Indianhead Infantry division that badge was also worn on the other arm. Two period examples and a small metal version for the collar tab:

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Below a photo of the two badges being worn. Not standard in this combination as they should be on opposite sides not beneath each other!

When going to Japan for R&R US uniforms were worn with all standard insignia and a standard 3 ribbon bar for the Korea entitlement. Next to that  Korea shoulder board were worn both by the Americans and the Dutch.

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Upon return to the Netherlands the Dutch Van Heutsz tab and other related typical Dutch insignia would be worn on the English style Dutch uniforms including a baret with badge.

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Another item should be mentioned here. Many of the men were veterans from the colonial war in Indonesia. Many of those had served with the Special Forces there including the first commander who brought many of his men to Korea. They often wore a red baret with the para wing on it as seen below. The wing was even worn on the cold weather cap as seen below (in the Ridgeway style who wore his US parawing also on the cold weather cap)

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See for more info my other blog regarding these wings.

Below a period photo with some of the badges and ribbons discussed above (this photo taken from internet, not my collection).

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And finally some pictures of daily life in the field (from a former Dutch Marine veteran of the first contingent who went twice to Korea with the NDVN!)

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

Hungarian Air Force WW2: pilot wings and cap badges

The Hungarian Air Force was built up in secret during the 1930s. Officially this was not allowed based on the Trianon treaty that was a result of World War 1. Also when the war started and they could openly built the Air Force further it remained rather small compared to other forces in the war making all insignia quite rare.

In most countries a pair of wings has become the standard symbol for an aviators qualification. In the Hungarian Air Force this was no different. What makes it a a bit more interesting is that almost the same design was used for cap badges. This leads to many mistakes by collectors, pilots wings are seen as cap badges and vice versa.

The distinction is actually quite easy. For the qualification badge the wings are straight and for the cap badges the wings are curved. Otherwise they are the same.

Pilot wings

There are basically two types of wings that were used in World War 2 by the Hungarian Air Force. One for the pilot and another for the observer (navigator). The only difference between these is that the pilot has a crown above the eagle and the observer not.

The wings are made of cloth with gold bullion stitching. There is no difference in rank visible in the badge – which makes it different from most Hungarian badges like on the cap badges we will discuss next.

The wings were worn (sewn on) on the right breast above the top pocket of the 1930M Air Force officers uniform (that I will discuss in another blog).

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 Worn version of the pilot wings, front and back below

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Metal versions of these wings were also officially made but these seem to have only been given to non-Hungarian pilots as “exchange” badges.Metal version awarded to a german pilot (photo from the internet, not my collection)

The observer wings were introduced later in the war and were worn by the officer with this task in the crew of a bomber. These are very rare and also exist in metal for foreign observers but I have not found a photo of one being worn or a confirmed original.

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        Lieutenant with the observer wings (photo from internet)

Cap badges

For the cap badges the story is interesting too as some more variations exist. The basis is again cloth with bullion stitching. Silver for ranks below officer and gold for officers. But more variations exist. A more ornate version on a red cloth background for general officers exists which is very rare. Also a version for officers in training. For use on the side cap for common soldiers a metal version was in use that later became standard for all ranks. All variations of course with the curved wings!

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NCO cap badge in silver bullion, top is worn, bottom one new old stock

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The NOS one even has the makers label still attached!

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Officers ID of an officer in training (zaszlos) with cap badge

Period overview of Air Force badges and ranks:

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The Hungarian Rongyos Garda – 1938

The Rongyos Garda – freely translated as “ragged guard” – was a paramilitary group of Hungarian volunteers. The name was based on the chosen uniform, consisting of a simple civilian coverall and a Swiss style cap.

In 1938 they were used to pressure Czechoslovakia during the negotiations in which Hungary sought to regain territories that were lost during the Trianon treaty. These were not all territories that were lost but those mainly inhabited by ethnic Hungarians.

The Guard was used to do some commandolike clandestine actions in southern Slovakia and in the Carpathian mountains. They created unrest in the area. The Hungarian state could use “military” pressure with the Guard without using their official army. Use of the army might have ended in a war as the French and English were still heavily involved in the regional politics next to Germany of course.

Some members of the Guard were killed and also some were captured. The captured ones were not treated as prisoners of war as the were not officially military and would not treated as such.

The negotiations with Czechoslovakia were concluded with the support of Germany and Italy and it became known as the 1st Vienna Award. As a result of the treaty a large part of Southern Slovakia was returned to Hungary in 1938.

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The Rongyos Garda participants were awarded the same medal for their activities as their military counterparts. The rather common 1938 medal for the “Liberation of Southern Slovakia”. The only difference I have been able to establish is in the paperwork.

In this specific case the man received two different award papers from the Hungarian army for the same award. One from the Honved (Army) Headquarters, 5th department and one from a unit (in which he did not actually serve during the actions).

Although research is now possible into the actions of that period (which was impossible during the Russian occupation period) obviously not much is left to go by as these actions were “unofficial” but clearly supported by Hungary. So an interesting period with little hard information to research.

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Medal and paper group for a Rongyos Garda man (only one of the two documents for the 1938 Liberation of Southern Slovakia medals is framed top right).

And below the second award document awarded by the Army HQ, 5th department. From what I understood from a Hungarian researcher in this theme is that all Rongyos Garda men received this specific version of the award document for the 1938 action. It is dated November 22nd 1939 where the other document is dated December 6th of that year. Quite surprising they did this as it obviously left a paper trail and made the action at least semi official.

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The Ragged Guard saw no further action as such during the Horthy government, most men became part of the regular army that was allowed to grow again in the years leading up to the second worldwar.

This concludes a rare story for a common medal…..

Gerrit’s Travels – Persia 1971-78 (Part 7)

From Greenland to Vietnam to Zaire to Iran/Persia and especially in Greenland and in Persia Gerrit collected some nice items he kept in his homes. Most of these are gone now but from his period in Persia I have some items I really like among these a cradle, probably from the first half of the 20th century or earlier…

The cradle hanging on a wall in our living room

I do not have much knowledge regarding persian rugs, travel bags and relatead items but ended up having a small collection of these. In one of the following blogs or adding to this one I will show some of the items I have.

Some paperwork from Gerrit of his Persian period.

Earlier blogs regarding Gerrit van be found here and here

Colonial (VOC) Captains chest from the noble Van Hogendorp family estate

Colonial chests

Those who travelled to the Dutch East Indies and had enough money and private space on board often had a private chest made in that region to transport their most precious belongings.

The form, decoration and size would depend on both period (fashion/style) and the owners taste. Most often this would be the captain or a high ranking officer of the vessel. Most vessels traveling to the East Indies in the 18th century would be owned by either the VOC, the United (Dutch) East Indies (trading) Company, or the Dutch navy. Hence the common name for such chests are either VOC/Compagnies chest or Captains’ chest. In later periods the ships became larger and more people could bring on freight items leading to more and simpler variations of chests in the later 19th and 20th century.

This is an example of such a chest from the end of the 18th or early 19th century with some special variations that make it a rare example of an already rare item. Also the provenance is of interest.

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The chest itself is made of tropical hardwood with brass fittings as is usual. This type of wood was called Djati in the East Indies and nowadays is more commonly described as teak. The brass fittings are interesting as all parts end in a stylized Fleur de Lys – the French national symbol. This is not a common treat on such chests. This seems to have been in fashion in the ruling classes in the Netherlands only by the end of the 18th and very early 19th century. The period from 1795 up to 1815 (Waterloo) in which the Netherlands were occupied and ruled by the French. We will come back to that a bit later as we come to the provenance. So far I have only found one similar example in the collection of the Kennemerland museum. This also comes from a noble Dutch family and is dated there as 1790 – 1800.

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The example above from the museum Kennemerland has also the Fleur de Lys decoration as my example but it is larger and the brass fittings are less extensively applied.

TThe second interesting part of the chest is the lid side of the lock plate. The top is in the form of a crown. Although crowns are often only seen as the headdress of kings and their likes in heraldry they are a sign of the rank of nobility. In this case not a Kings crown but that of a Dutch Earl (graaf) with a stylized Fleur de Lys in the middle and two halves on the outsides with pearls in between.

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I have not been able to find any other chests with such a feature yet. These crowns in their various forms are often applied to other personal items from plates to swords, rings and  clothing.

Many of such Captains’ chests are in Museum collections and there is also an antiques dealer in Utrecht that has sold quite a few of these over the years, also several Auction houses sold such chests. They together function as my reference base for this limited research (I have not found any other good reference sources yet).

Now to a third interesting part, the base. This is different than most which either do not have one or if the have it is an integral part of the chest. In this case it is a loose table with standup sidings on which the chest can be placed. This base is made of (tropical?) wood that has been colored black to make it look like ebony. The base again has brass wheels that were only added in the early 20th century when it stood in the hall of the families country house in Vorden.

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The brass fittings of the chest run over the entire underside like they do on the top and all sides are also covered by the fittings which is not standard on most chests either. It protects the chest very well when handled more roughly. A last interesting feature can be seen on both sides of the chest. It has an additional brass fitting that stops the lid around the 90 degree angle, it can not go further than that which prevents it from damage or even breaking the lid. The handles to lift the chest are well made and also have a Fleur de Lys decoration. They are also designed to stop at a 90 degree angle as a safety device for the hands.

Provenance Van Hogendorp noble family.

The Van Hogendorp family has a history that traces back to the 16 century where the first traceable member was counselor in the High Council of Holland. Many family member held important positions both in civilian as in military and naval careers. The family entered nobility during the French reign as Comte de L’Empire (equivalent of Earl or in Dutch Graaf) and a little bit later into the Dutch nobility as well with both Earl and Baron as titles. Some family members had important civilian ranks (Regent of Buitenzorg e.g.) in the East Indies both under French and Dutch royal ruling. Later in the 19th century family members had important careers in the Dutch navy achieving even the rank of admiral and receiving the Military Order of William. Currently it is still being researched which family member had this chest made. It now comes from the estate of a Baron van Hogendorp, a high ranking officer in the Dutch army and from a longer line of Dutch officers.

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Vietnam 1967 – Rolex Datejust 1601

In a series of earlier blogs – Gerrit’s Travels – I described some of the places where a family friend lived. He was born in the Netherlands but emigrated to the US, became a citizen there and worked around the world on US Government contracts. As a civilian but often in war areas or other troubled locations. Between 1966 and 1970 he spend his time in Vietnam as a contractor.

Gerrit with some civilian and ARVN’s

One of the most prized possession in Vietnam according to many sources was a high quality waterproof watch. For many the first choice was a Rolex, if they could afford one. Watches were most often bought during one of the R&R (Rest and Recuperation) trips out of country.

Rolex Datejust 1601, with box, chronometre certificate and guarantee (punched) from 1967 both year of production and purchase and the original bracelet also stamped with yearmark 67!

During his 2nd year in country he went on a R&R trip to HongKong where he decided to buy his much coveted watch, the Rolex Datejust. He did so on his 38th birthday, as a gift to himself but also with some money he had received form his parents for this birthday as he told me.

The watch remained his daily companion for the following years in Vietnam but also in many places where he went in later years. During the 1980s when I was in my teens he lived partially in the Netherlands with his wife and in laws. Through my mother I got to know him and some of his stories of all his travels. Still the Rolex was his loyal companion. It was this watch that started me wanting to have a high quality watch for myself.

Since that time I have had watches of the best brands in the world but some years after Gerrit passed away I inherited his military posessions and also was able to buy his two watches (the other I described before) from his widow.

Although I seldomly wear the watch I feel very proud to be the owner of this small part of history and each time I wear it my thoughts go out to the memory of Gerrit!

Watch on the stairs of a friends house in Saigon, keeping watch during a restless night….M1 carabine with double (taped) banana magazines at the ready…

Read more about Gerrit in the earlier blog on my other website: