Special Forces badges of the Netherlands East Indies Army (1946-1950) – KNIL Speciale Troepen KST schild

Short history of the Special Forces of the Netherlands East Indies Army

The Depot Speciale Troepen came into existense in 1946 on the island of Java. It was a commando unit similar to WW2 English units were the intructors had been trained. They wore the green commando beret and would exist of 3 companies. Parallel to this an Airborne unit, the 1st Para Company was established in 1947 wearing the famous red berets and para wing. In 1948 the Depot Speciale Troepen was transformed to the Korps Speciale Troepen which included also one Para-Commando unit called the 2nd Para Company, Green Berets with the para wing!

The two standard/official versions of the Speciale Troepen badge in metal and bullion

For “Operation Crow” a large scale airborne operation with combat jump the 1st Para Company and the 2nd Korps Speciale Troepen Para Company were combined in one Para Battle Group. In 1949 all of these units were included in the Regiment Speciale Troepen.

Regiment Speciale Troepen (Photo NIMH)

Badges in the 1946-1950 period

In the post 1945 period all Dutch forces in the East Indies designed badges for their units. At first unofficially but soon this custom became official. Most badges were made in metal and coloured with a thin layer of paint/enemal. If used the paint would often chip so to find perfect examples is hard.

Secondary versions were also made in cloth and sometimes even different versions and sizes in metal. The most well known maker was Cordesius & Zn in Batavia but other makers existed andoften used slightly different colours and not always had the same quality.

For the Speciale Troepen a badge was approved in December 1947. Two metal versions are known (both version with no maker markings). Several cloth versions exist but the most common version is a high quality version with bullion details, these were locally made.

Period bullion version

In 1949 there were three companies of Commando’s, approximately 450 men and two companies op Para’s approximately 350 men. So around 750 men were qualified to wear the Speciale Troepen badge.

Cloth version being worn on the trip to Europe on the English style Battle Dress

Also several copies of the cloth insignia exist were the best known version is from the 1980s and is easily recognizable as a fake.

On the trip from Indonesia to the Netherlands the soldiers would get English style battle dresses for use in Europe. On these battle dresses cloth badges would be worn, as can be seen in the first picture of this blog. After 1954 only the cloth jump qualification wings could be worn including those with action jumps. Soon the circle under the parachute would change to a small rectangle as on English jump wings.

Version of the badges being worn are hard to find. In the pictures (from internet) you can see them being worn but none in full view.

Person on the left also wears the badge.
Left commando with the KSTbadge, next to him a para with wings
In the Netherlands the cloth badge only was used

If you have examples of the badge in metal for sale or trade please let me know at: info@erikscollectables.com

Sources: https://www.militairespectator.nl/sites/default/files/bestanden/uitgaven/1997/1997-0149-01-0047.PDF

These 2 badges and the beret wing belonged to one person!

Netherlands East Indies Army (KNIL) Reserve and Home Guard badges

In the years leading up to World War 2 the Netherlands East Indies started also making preparations. On of these was extending the amount of men that could be called to arms in the form of a reserve. The largest base for this were former (indigenous) men of the KNIL that had been honorably discharged.

Two variations of the KNIL Reserve badge

To increase the visibility of the reserve a badge was introduced in November 1939. The badge was worn on the civilian clothing. A version of this badge is shown above. In 1941 the total reserve of former KNIL men amounted to 4700.

How many badges were actually made and handed out remains unclear but looking at the potential number of 4700 and only two years of use of the badge (1940/41) and the fact that the majority of these indigenous reservists became POW’s in 1942/1945 and most of these remained in Indonesia after WW2 it can be considered a rare badge now.

The reverse side of the two badges

Other versions of reserve badge for the Royal Legions (Surakarta/Jogjakarta/Madura) also exist and can be considered even rarer! So far I have found no pictures of the badges being worn. All these badges are in the same basic form.

Somewhat later the Home Guard (Landwacht) was introduced which existed of men not otherwise mobilized for different reasons. The basic badge has the word LANDWACHT at the bottom but versions for specific towns also exist. These amounted to a total of approximately 27.500 men.

The basic Home Guard badge as worn on the Home Guard uniform (so not on civilian clothes)

Hungarian Military (Honvéd) Uniforms of WW2

As most books regarding Hungary in WW2 regarding the history, uniforms and medals are in Hungarian I want to add a series of short descriptions in English in this blog.

The 1939M tunic (zubbony in Hungarian) was a modernization of the earlier 1926M version. The most notable difference being the collar which was a standing collar in the earlier version. The 1939M came with a so called stand and fall collar (so a collar that folds like on a shirt).

The same style of uniform was used both by officers and men. The basic material of the tunic is wool but many variations exist in both quality of the material and details. Most officers bought a private, tailor made version of the tunic in a fine quality of wool “kammgarn”.

thumb_IMG_6426_1024

The officers version as seen above can be recognized by the details in gold: the buttons, the collar insignia “paroli” and the shoulder loops. The collar insignia give information about rank and branch. In this case a colonel of the infantry. The stars are made of bullion. The collar loops are the same for officers of all ranks and all branches of the army, a small loop of gold material.

thumb_IMG_6427_1024

The ranks below officer had most often a tunic in coarser wool “poszto”. Most professional soldiers would also have a tailor made in a finer version of wool like the one above. The distinctive difference with officers is that the details are in silver, buttons and collar insignia and the shoulder loops are of cloth and give the branch of the army as do the collar insignia. In this case a sergeant of the Gendarmes. The stars for the rank are made out of solid aluminum.

thumb_IMG_6428_1024

The arm of the officers tunic ends with three (non-functional) buttons which the lower ranks tunic does not have.

thumb_IMG_6429_1024

The back of the tunic shows a minor difference again, a single split for the officer and a double for the NCO.

Normally medals were worn on the uniform, even in the field in the first years of the war. Later in the war most men wore ribbons only and sometimes not even those. The colonel is showing a ribbon series fitting his rank and a career spanning two wars. Behind the ribbons also the loops for medals can be seen. The sergeant is wearing three medals on loops, also spanning a period of two wars.

The Hungarian WW2 Air Force officers 1930M tunic (zubbony)

The 1930M uniform was the standard Air Force officers uniform from 1930 until 1945. The only variations are in material and color. Green for regular use, white for the summer and black as the dress version. Within the green colour also many variations exist.  Officers could buy their own tailor made versions with more luxurious materials like gabardine in place of the regular wool version.

thumb_IMG_6448_1024
Example of a flight officer wearing a tailor made version

This specific version is a coarse wool (poszto) version as was handed out by the Air Force. This variation is called the front version that has brown metal buttons in place of the regular gold coloured buttons and made of poszto.

thumb_IMG_6393_1024
Example of a front version being worn by an Air Force lieutenant

Unlike on the army tunic the shoulder boards are detachable (which was also the case with the river forces). If the officer was an aviator the pilot wing would be worn on the right breast just above the top pocket.

This tunic like eg the German and English ones were also worn as part of the actual flight gear. Often with a leather coat over the tunic.

hun af
Pilots with flight jacket over the tunic (photo from internet)

The Hungarian WW2 army officers 1931M dress tunic (társasági zubbony)

The first type of dress tunic of the Hungarian army, after World War one, was the 1926 Model which was a classic atilla style tunic which was in use in many armies up to World War one.

This was replaced by a more modern but still typical Hungarian dress tunic in 1931, hence the model name 1931M. This model was in use until 1945 and was never changed in that period. Where the regular officers uniform changed the collar in 1939 this remained a standing collar.

thumb_IMG_6467_1024

Some colour variations exist based on the branch of the army – this one is the infantry green version. General officers had a light blue one (like the WW1 hechtgrau colour), darker blue for the cavalry etc. This version is for a Lieutenant Colonel of the Infantry. The loops on the left breast are for medals, in this case 9 loops. The combination of rank and medals hint at an officer that already started his career in the first World War.

Sources:

  • A Magyar Királyi Honvédség Egyenruhái 1926 – 1945, dr. Tóth László, Huniform, 2007
  • Video on youtube by Decker’s Militaria: https://youtu.be/QrlaTfwqG40

Hungarian River Police badge, WW2

The badge shown here is a very rare badge of the Hungarian River Police (folyam rendőrség) from the Horthy (1920-1945) period. So far research has not resulted in additional info but I did get one photo where the badge can be seen. It was worn on the left sleeve.

Officer of the Hungarian River Police (WW1 veteran) with the same badge.

Do you know more?

I am looking for additional info. If you know more please let me know so I can update the blog. What period was the badge used exactly? Was it for all ranks? What quantities of the River Police did exist?

Special Forces Para Wing of the Netherlands East Indies Army (1947-1950) – KNIL Speciale Troepen Parawing

The Dutch East Indies Army had a long tradition with anti guerilla style combat before the war, especially with the Korps Marechaussee. After the second worldwar this knowledge was enhanced with that of the new Airborne and Commando groups. A new unit was formed in 1946 the Special Forces Regiment (Depot/Korps/Regiment Speciale Troepen KNIL).

In 1947 also a Para Company was formed (1st Para Company / I Para), not part of the Speciale Troepen unit that was only Commando’s at that moment

In 1948 the Commando’s also would form a Para-Commando Company (2nd Para Company / Para Cie KST).

All para’s were trained by the SOP – School Opleiding Parachutisten – Airborne School

Captain Eekhout, commander of the Para Battle Group (photo NIMH)

For the large scale Airborne action called “Operation Crow” these two units would be combined in the Para Battle Group (Para Gevechtsgroep). The total would consist of some 250 to 350 men with airborne qualifications. The majority of these forces received both Commando and Airborne training.

Although the unit was KNIL it was open to volunteers meeting the criteria including regular draftees of the Expeditionary Forces. For the unity of uniform KNIL ranks would be used for all.

Bronze
Brass
Silver
Batik from the NMM collection including the beret parawing

Red and Green Berets in one unit!

The 1st Para Company formed in 1947 would wear the red beret. The commando’s would wear a green beret. When the commando’s started their para training in 1948 they would wear the green beret with the para wing on it after completion of the course. Later as the Para Battle Group all would wear red berets, again for unity of dress.

Some officers received the Green Beret without going through additional training. In most cases this was based on their Marechaussee experience from before the war.

On the green beret the Dutch Lion was worn as with the WW2 Dutch commando’s ( No 2 Dutch Troop No 10 Interallied Commando ). This Lion was normally in metal but KNIL officers could use the KNIL version embroidered in gold with a wreath.

The red beret with the wing was the sign of completion of all Para-Commando (airborne) training and handed out at the end of the course. It was a symbol of achievement that was worn proudly! The “topi merah”.

Period photo’s of the wing being worn (taken from internet sources).

History of the wing

Version one: In an earlier Dutch article published in Armamentaria, the magazine of the Dutch Military Museum, a short history of the wing was given. Originally it was designed for use as a qualification wing for the Experimental Para Group of the Netherlands East Indies Army in 1941. A batch of these wings in bronze was made but never used it states.

The instructors of the Airborne school (SOP) had their background in either this Korps Insulinde or in the No 2 Dutch Troop No 10 Interallied Commando . When the first airborne training course was completed in june 1947 a choice had to be made which badge was going to be used as the qualification wing.

As the majority of the instructors had a British para qualification wing already and was attached to this a very similar design was chosen.

The batch of wings made in 1941 that was still available now was designated as wing to be worn on the red beret.

SOP instructors – Museum Bronbeek, inventarisnummer: 2007/06/04-3/1

Version two: The wing was designed only in 1946 by sergeant Kampschuur of the Airborne School together with the badge for that school in an assignment by captain Sisselaar commander of the school. A small batch of the wings was produced in bronze (as this was the colour in use for the aviation wings of the KNIL at that time) in 1946. The wing was designed as a qualification wing. Due to unknown reasons the batch was forgotten and in the meantime the regular (English style) qualification wing had already come into regular use.

With the introduction of the red beret there was a wish for a badge to be worn on this beret. The old batch of wings was relocated and used for this. The first groups would get the bronze wings. Later production was done with the same mold/dye but mainly in brass and a small quantity in silver.

Photo NIMH

Which history is correct?

In my opinion the 1946 design is the most likely as the dagger seems to be a first pattern FS fighting knife (came into use only in 1940/41 and not yet widespread at that moment) and the pose resembles the silent killing instruction photo’s of the later WWII commando’s.

My hypothesis is that the design was based on the hand with dagger in the Korps Insulinde menu from 1942, pictured below. Korps Insulinde: the unit was officially named “Netherlands Special Operations” a WW2 commando unit that started in August 1942 in Ceylon and was aimed at gathering intelligence against the Japanese.

Captain Sisselaar was one of the members of this unit and the later commander of the Airborne School (SOP) and the new badge was designed for him based on version two of the history.

Device for action jumps

The eyelet below the wreath was soldered on seperately, it was not part of the dye/mold! It was to be used for a device to show combat jumps when it was still a qualification wing is the common understanding. The device (possibly a dagger) was never actually made/used. Nevertheless all three variations had this eyelet soldered on!

Materials

This first batch was in bronze in both versions of the history of the wing. This batch was used for the first groups in 1947. When this batch was finished new batches were made using the same dye/mold. Somewhere in the process of making new batches brass was chosen as the material as this could be polished better, a desire of many of the new para’s!

Selection of period wings in all three materials

Another variation was made in (low grade / Djokja) silver! Regarding the silver version several stories/opinions are given none can be substantiated so far. For instructors, for people with combat jumps, for officers etc.

The brass version is the most common (but still rare with only around 350 active paratroopers in those 4 years!). Bronze and silver seem to be equally rare.

Museum Bronbeek, inventarisnummer: 2007/06/04-3

Some collectors claim the material variations are only unintentional differences in the alloy mix. Just different production batches using a slightly different alloy as available at that moment.

Below front and back of the three material variations or alloys of the original, period (up to 1950 in the East Indies) made wings.

Variatons and strikes

A good overview of the period variations can be found in the Kloër estate that I described in another blog. All examples below and most above come from that estate (only some of these are in my collection). As these wings all were taken in at the same time in Indonesia they give a great overview of what was worn and done at that moment in time.

Two unofficial variations/alterations in style of wear are found. One is that the men curved/rounded the wing to follow the form of the baret.

From straight, to slightly and very curved

The other variation is that the ends of the wings were bent upwards.

Not my collection, photo from the owner

Below a version that has been gilded. Probably to get the shiny look without frequent polishing. Again from the Kloër estate so certainly a period item as worn!


Photo NIMH

It also seems the quality of either the strikes or the dyes/molds themselves resulted in lower quality of the result over the period of almost four years of production. This is visible in the hand, the wreath and especially the lines of the parachute. The amount of polishing could have an effect too of course!

Three levels of the quality of the strike

Further “miss strikes” or poorly finished examples also exist and seem to have been worn also! Remember all these examples were taken back from the men in 1950 as worn to that date.

Right side of the wing and also the top not finished/cut well
Left side and top of parachtute not cut/finished well

Some sources decribe these examples as “first strike” examples of the three materials but no other examples are found in this estate. This leads to the hypothesis that in the period 1947-1950 only these first strike examples were acutally worn and all other examples are of a later period (possibly for the period up to 1954, made in the Netherlands or Japan/Korea maybe).

A closer study of the period photo’s shown further above also reveal that the eyelet beneath the wing often was already broken off in regular wear. The wings sometimes show other defects too.

Last parade of the Para Battlegroup in Indonesia,
Museum Bronbeek, inventarisnummer: 2007/06/04-3

Second strike – 1950/later?

The version found most often in collections is the later strike, sometimes called the second strike, other times the third strike depending on the source. This version is always in brass and slightly different from the first strike version discussed above.

As stated above I so far do not have photographic evidence of this version being worn in the Dutch East Indies only in the Netherlands and Korea.

That leads to my hypothesis it is either very late production (1950) in Indonesia or production in the Netherlands. This in order to replace missing and broken wings of the first type upon or after the return to the Netherlands.

Several men in a magazine article can be seen with this type of wing shortly after their arrival in the Netherlands.

Differences are: Guard of the blade passes the second line of the parachute (counting from left). Blade is longer. Hand is thicker. Arm is shorter. Wreath is more crudely designed. Chute is thicker. Overall the material is thicker than in the first strikes. You can compare both versions below.

2nd later strike
First strike, brass
Back of the 2nd/later strike with full relief
Back of the 1st strike in the three material variations with minimal relief

Below a photo from 1950s – in the Netherlands with a second/later strike wing being worn. These wings were worn up to 1954/55 within the army.

From an article about the para’s after their arrival in the Netherlands, 2nd/later strike
Worn down version of the 2nd/later strike.
From an article about the para’s after their arrival in the Netherlands, 2nd/later strike
Second/later strike on red beret – Museum Bronbeek collection

Return to Holland

Of 800 men of the Regiment Speciale Troepen only around 350 were airborne qualified. Of the total of 800 men more than 400 chose to stay in Indonesia. Around 250 were brought to the Netherlands in the first half of 1950. Around 125 participants of the APRA first had to finish their prison sentence before being discharged (dishonorably). More than half of these men went to Holland, despite the way they were treated by the government, as it was safer for them and their families.

First parade of the Para Battlegroup in Holland,
Museum Bronbeek, inventarisnummer: 2007/06/04-3

Version of unknown background

Below another version of which only some examples are known. When it was made and in what quantity is unknown. It is based on the first strike, all examples again are in brass. The back shows that the material appears like it was cast and not struck like the first versions and the 2nd/later strike. All known specimen have the same number in the back so it is not a serial number. This is sometimes called the 2nd strike (and then the version above is the 3rd strike in that case) or the in between strike.

Not my collection, photo’s from the owner

Copies

Several poor quality copies and some slightly better copies of these wings exist. Next to this also a reunion version exist, probably from the 1970s. This is often seen/sold as an original version but was not worn before 1950! The eyelet beneath the wreath is not soldered on (as with originals) but it is cast/struck in one piece as an integral part of the badge. A comparison can easily be made, there are more signs to look for so beware! Versions with makers (like Stokes) are all later fakes. With the originals often the eyelet beneath the wing or on the back are either missing or have been replaced at a later date. To find a complete version has become very difficult!

Example of the reunion wing (photo from the internet!)

Korea

After 1950 the Dutch East Indies Army including the Special Forces were disbanded. Veterans continued to wear the beret badge up to july 1955 in the regular Dutch army. With the start of the Korean conflict the Dutch also formed a detachment. The Special Forces veterans were on the top of the list for recruitment. As a result of this many Special Forces beret wings were worn in the Korean conflict! Below some examples in Korea (not my collection) even on the US Army pile cap!

Korea Detachment (1st) with several wings visible!
Museum Bronbeek, inventarisnummer: 2007/06/04-3

Sources:

http://www.militairmagazijn.nl/bronnen/armamentaria/artikel/bronnen_armas_xml_74aafe1f-56c0-4f7e-a4d5-cf503840ee23/

https://www.defensie.nl/onderwerpen/historische-canons/historische-canon-korps-commando-troepen/het-korps-paraat/korps-insulinde

First photo: Museum Bronbeek, inventarisnummer: 2007/06/04-3/1

http://www.hetdepot.com/sop.html

Opdracht Sumatra – Het Korps Insulinde – 1942-1946, J.Th. A. de Man, 1987

Westerling’s oorlog. Indonesië 1945-1950, J.A. de Moor, 2000

ML KNIL Wings – Netherlands East Indies Military Airforce

Recently I was able to acquire a small collection of badges and wings from the Netherlands East Indies Army (KNIL) from the 1940s.

Today I will describe two wings of the Airforce (ML KNIL) from this collection:

Bomber Wing
Radio Operator (Telegraphist) Wing

Crew Wings

Both of these models of wings were introduced in 1940. At that moment there was still peace in the Dutch East Indies but the war in the Netherlands already was lost. Wings were still produced locally. This changed after the Indies were lost to the Japanese in 1942. All forces and planes evacuated to Australia as far as possible. Troops left behind ended up as Prisoners of War with the Japanese invaders. During the war the operations in the pacific were continued from Australia. The education of new pilots and aviation crews for the Dutch East Indies Army was mostly done in the USA. This had as a result that wings were produced in both the USA and Australia.

Makers

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

Pre war style closure
War period style closure

Stokes

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

Stokes marking on the Radio Operator wing
Example of an Australian made wing being worn (navigator)

Amico

Below an example of an Aviator combined with Navigator (W for Waarnemer) wing made by Amico in the USA. Note the different style of wing/feathers and the darker colour despite being polished to shine in the past.. (This wing not part of the recent additions).

1st Lt Samson wearing the Aviator/Navigator combined wing

Copies

According to Mr. Vis reproductions of the Stokes early batch type of wing also exist but are of lower quality. As all of the ML KNIL wings are relatively rare reproductions have been made to fool collectors so please study before buying!

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