Navy – Dutch Naval Aviator (MLD) 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.


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

WW1 – 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

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

Wilhelm II and Von Moltke the elder, photographs

Searching for military photographs you sometimes come across something that does not fit in the collection and that you buy nevertheless. These two pictures came to me that way years ago. They were part of a larger group of pictures all with Wilhelm II and other famous German people of that period, late 19th and early 20th century. I bought the group in Utrecht, close to Doorn where Wilhelm II spend has days after WW1 in exile.

So my hypothesis is these photo’s are somehow linked to that fact. There was no further info when I bought the photos so it is impossible to prove it but they might have been from someone is his entourage. A lot of former German military and noble families followed him here. Some to stay indefinitely and some only for some years.

Both pictures were made by court photographers and are original high quality prints. The picture of Wilhelm II is by William S. Berger in Potsdam. The picture of Von Moltke is by Loescher & Petsch in Berlin. Both also are embossed by the photographer on the print themselves!

The picture of Von Moltke is by Loescher & Petsch in Berlin and dated 1887. Both also are embossed by the photographer on the print themselves as seen in these two photo’s!

The print of Wilhelm II has originally been framed but that frame was gone when I bought the group. Interestingly it is written in Dutch on the reverse that it should be framed in small plain oak.

These are the only copies of these specific photo’s that I could find online. Many pictures were also sold to the public or even made into postcards for an even larger audience. But these seem to be rare if not unique prints.

What I did find that of both pictures a drawing based on these pictures does exist. The one of Von Moltke was used for a book about the famous Germans of the 19th century (a book printed in 1899). The origins of the drawing that was made of William II could not be traced. The drawing nevertheless is clearly based on this photo but without the building behind Wilhelm II.

As can be seen in the embossed mark the picture was printed in 1887 a year before he fully retired but already at the very end of his career. More can be read here.

If you have a copy of one of these photos or other relevant information do let me know.

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:

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:

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 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 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 oriented groups there were also many groups with a religious background. Below the badge of the Daroel Islam and their fighting force Hizboellah. One of the DI badges has a number. Below the DI badges is the badge of the Islamic group Sabilillah with an Arabic text on the Indonesian flag.

Next are two different badges of the Barisan Banteng Republik Indonesia, a fighting force of the Republican side that was a continuation of the Barisan Pelopor (pioneer) from the Japanese period.

Not very often you come across a badge with a provenance, in this case the story of how and where a badge was captured:

This badge was taken from the body of a Japanese soldier that fought during the war of indepence as a leader of an Indonesian group during fights in August 1949 in central Java.

The name of the veteran was Frans Janse and the friend and collectors name was Leo Sassen. Several items from his collection are shown in this blog.

The exact meaning of the badge is still unknown and the Dutch soldier (Janse) writes down an idea he had about it that has not been confirmed.

The Republic also had regular police forces in place already during the revolutionary period. Below a (cap) badge.

There was also a Military Police (PT – Polisi Tentara)

The Armlet is of the Special Police (Polisi Istimewa) and is discussed in a seperate blog.

The Republic also had a small Airforce and a relatively large Navy. Below two metal ranks for a navy (ALRI) nco. These came as a pair depsite the different form of the ranks.

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

Also there were a lot a civilians that were not directly involved in the resistance but sympahtized with the Republic Indonesia and wore badges with a form of representation of the red and white flag to show this.

This badge I have not yet been able to identify. If you have info please contact me.

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 WW2 – 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.


Austro-Hungaria, 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.