KNIL 1942 – dapperheid tegen Japan

Binnen mijn verzamelingen is dapperheid een thema en Indië een ander thema, vaak ook in combinatie met elkaar. De verdediging van het toenmalige Nederlands Indië tegen de Japanse aanval en ook de verzetsdaden daarna hebben grote daden van dapperheid laten zien. Enkele daarvan zijn opgetekend en daarbinnen zijn een klein aantal beloond met (militaire) onderscheidingen. Na de val van Indië konden enkelen ontsnappen naar Australië en vanaf daar de oorlog voortzetten maar de meesten, zowel militair als civiel kwamen in de Japanse kampen terecht waarvan de verschrikkingen bekend zijn.

Een verloren oorlog, gevolgd door Japanse kampen. Daarna een bevrijding en voor velen korte tijd later weer een oorlog, de Indonesische onafhankelijkheidsoorlog. Deze resulteerde in het verlies van de kolonie en voor een deel van de betrokkenen een tocht naar Nederland. Voor sommigen een terugkeer maar voor velen een eerste kennismaking met dit land. De aandacht en interesse voor de oorlog in het verre Indië was beperkt zeker na de overdracht van de kolonie aan de Indonesiërs en de focus op de opbouw van Nederland dat ook zwaar geraakt was door de oorlog in Europa.

Die aandacht is daarna eigenlijk nooit echter verder ontwikkeld en in mijn blogs probeer ik toch deze vergeten helden een plek te geven en aan die vergetelheid te onttrekken. Helden in militair opzicht maar vaak ook in menselijk opzicht door de betrokkenheid bij het redden van mensen onder zeer zware en gevaarlijke omstandigheden.

Hier een kort overzicht van de verhalen op deze site met betrekking tot de Japanse aanval tegen Nederlands Indië en de daarvoor beloonde helden.

Adriaan Zijlmans die als KNIL Marechaussee officier rond de 3000 vrouwen en kinderen (burgers en familie van KNIL militairen) in veiligheid bracht vanuit Atjeh naar midden Sumatra en voor een Militaire Willemsorde verleend kreeg.

Een Bronzen Leeuw werd postuum verleend aan sergeant Van der Veen van de KNIL Infanterie die na de capitulatie doorging met de guerrilla tegen de Japanse bezetters en dit na gevangenname met de dood moest bekopen.

Een Bronzen Leeuw voor luitenant Samson als vlieger van de ML KNIL (Militaire Luchtvaart) oorlogsvluchten uitvoerde onder zware en gevaarlijke omstandigheden.

Het Vliegerkruis postuum toegekend aan luitenant Harkema van de Marine Luchtvaart Dienst (MLD) direct betrokken bij het redden van opvarenden van de Van Nes en de Sloet van Beele.

Een Bronzen Kruis voor de landstormsoldaat KNIL Tuinenburg die uit een gevangenkamp in Thailand wist te ontsnappen, zich bij het lokale verzet aansloot en zich na de Japanse capitulatie weer bij het kamp meldde!

Een Bronzen Kruis voor Marine kwartiermeester Staal voor zijn onverschrokken handelen aan boord van de Hr Ms Tromp gedurende de Japanse aanval.

Dat hun levens, opoffering en dappere daden herinnerd mogen worden!

KNIL – MWO – A forgotten hero, Atjeh 1942

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

Disclaimer: from the photo’s used in this article I could not retrace the copyright, all came from public sources and are believed to be part of the public domain. There is no intention of infringement of copyrights! If you are the owner please contact me so I can adjust my references.

Hungarian Colonel Miklósy – Honvéd Infantry Regiment 32, 1942-43 and 23 division, 1944-45

This is a compilation of several blogs that I had on another website.

Some time ago I was able to acquire a medal group with papers (not complete but most was there) of a Hungarian officer who saw service in both world wars and the interbellum.

Although the materials came directly from the family there was no additional information so this was the start of my research in which I tried to reconstruct his career based on his medals and archive materials.

Excerpt from the Hungarian officers archives

In the period just before WW1 Miklosy trained to become an officer (the so called one year volunteers) and he was commisioned as Lieutenant in the reserve in 1914, just in time for the Great War. The photo below shows him as sergeant during his training period to become an officer so probably 1913 or 1914.

Photo from the family archives (not my collection)

For service in World War 1 as an officer he received:

Merit Cross 3rd class, Silver Merit Medal, Bronze Merit Medal, Wounded Medal with three stripes on the ribbon, Karl Troop Cross and the remembrance medals of Hungary, Austria and Bulgaria. Basically the set of a lower ranking officer with good (brave) performance. Only of one of these medals the story could be reconstructed based on the Medal Request Form that was found in the Hungarian Military Archives

Silver Military Merit Medal

This is the Silver Military Merit Medal with swords in its original box and with the 1917 award paper to the (then) Lieutenant Nikolajevics in the 301st Honved Infantry Regiment – his name would be changed to Miklosy only in 1932.

Medal in box with the award paper in the background

In the morning hours of the 5th of March, 1917 when superior enemy units attacked our positions on the Vinot heights, he distinguished himself with death-defying behavior and with energetic actions of the machineguns by, at the right moment giving strong fire against the flanks of the enemy attack causing strong losses, in which he contributed strongly in the repelling of the attack. He continued with his men, throughout the day, in killing enemy artillery fire that destroyed our positions almost entirely, to stand his ground.

The 301st Honved Infantry Regiment was in 1917 part of the Austro-Hungarian 7th Army that fought in the Russo-Romanian front in these beginning days of the Russian revolution that would change the war.

With my sincere thanks to the Hungarian Military Archives who provided me with the citation!

Interwar Period

In the interwar period he continued his service with succes based on his medals in that period, a bronze merit medal and a merit cross and continuing his rise through the officers ranks reaching the rank of lieutenant-colonel at the beginning of the re-annexations of lost territories. One medal is peculiar.

Bulgarian St. Alexander Order, 4th class

Although this medal came with the official document it would have been impossible to determine the reason behind it if not another piece of paper had accompanied it. The official report of the Hungarian military participation in the opening in 1935 of a Mausoleum in Varna, Bulgaria.

The Mausoleum was made in honour of the Polish / Hungarian / Croatian King Vladyslaw III. The Mausoleum was placed in Varna, the city in Bulgaria where history places his untimely death at the age of 20 in a battle against the Turks in 1444.

A group of 4 Hungarian officers participated as the Hungarian delegation in this opening of which Miklosy was one. All participants received Bulgarian orders for their participation in the opening according to rank.

Order, award paper and report.

Vitéz order – change of names in 1935

One of the requirements for the Hungarian Vitéz order was having a Hungarian name. For Hungarians of other descent like German or Slavic this was a big obstacle. Many officers with a non-Hungarian name decided not to apply for the Vitéz order or only very late like this officer only in 1932 (the order was started in in 1922). Probably he did this to improve his chances to further advance his career. His name was changed from Nikolajevics into Miklósy as a result!

Zrínyi Miklós 7th Honvéd Infantry Regiment (gyalogezred)

From 1939 up to 1941 Miklosy served as Lt-Colonel in the 7th Honved Infantry Regiment. This regiment is named after the Hungarian poet and military leader Zrínyi Miklós. Upon his transfer to the 9th Regiment he received a formal commendation for his work in the unit which was accompanied by this very nice table medal in it’s original presentation box.

Return of Erdély and Felvidék to Hungary

Both, the ranklist and the officers record (that is kept in the military archives)  regarding Miklosy state that he received the Erdély (Transylvania) medal. This is shown with the sign of an encircled E. The medal was in the estate too but to my own surprise there was this paper that states he received a commendation for merit (on paper, not a medal) for the action in Felvidék (Southern Hungary) but he has not been awarded the corresponding medal for actual participation in that action in Felvidék.

So a separate commendation for merit regarding that action but no medal for the participation – did he do staff prepatory work? It will be impossible to tell what is the story here I am afraid.

Commander of the 32nd HIR – Eastern Front 1942-43

In the second world war Hungary was an unwilling, but nevertheless active, part of the Axis forces. Their participation on the Eastern Front with a hardly trained and poorly equipped army resulted in an enormous bloodshed. Miklosy was a part of this as the commander of the 32nd Honved Infantry Regiment from October 1942 up to October 1943.

With staff on the Eastern Front as commander of HIR 32 (picture from internet, see reference below*)

In 1942 he got promoted to Colonel – in Hungarian Ezredes – literally 1000, so the leader of 1000 men. In Hungarian the word for Regiment is Ezred – so 1000 men. So it follows a colonel belongs to a regiment.

Because of the war effort many Regiments were split. In this case the 2nd Honved Infantry Regiment was split in two with both officers and men and then officers and men were added to both units. So the half of a trained regiment with backfill of additional officers and troops. The so-called brother regiment would have the same number +30 so in the case the 2nd and the 32nd were brother regiments.

Miklosy with his promotion to Colonel became eligible for the position of Regimental Commander and received the 32nd as his new unit to command in oktober 1942.

From that period up to 1943 they were on the Eastern Front as part of the Hungarian 2nd Army near the Don bend, south of Voronezh. Miklósy was a replacement after the initial battles that cost more than 20% of the officers lives. They served next to the Italian 8th Army. In January 1943 they would face the Russian attack in their region and the total collapse of the Hungarian 2nd army resulting in 60% casualties of the total strength.

Colonel Miklosy would “only” receive the Iron Class 2nd class from his German allies. A relatively low award for a colonel with one year of service on the Eastern Front. Maybe he was not as co operative as they expected or not as active? What is certain his regiment was part of the 2nd Hungarian army that suffered great losses against the Russian forces during his command of the 32nd regiment and the Germans in general blaimed the Hungarians for the defeat near the Don.

From the Hungarians he would receive the Officers cross for the Order of Merit , with wreath and swords, a level up from his earlier peace time award so his service there was seen as positive. A rare order with only 215 awarded during the entire war (to Hungarians and around 67 to others, mainly Germans). A substantial amount, around 78 of the total were posthumously which is not strange if you look at the amount of casualties on the Eastern Front. Unfortunately the related documents for this medal are missing.

His career after the Eastern Front seemed shortlived. Upon his return to Hungary he got involved in the Hungarian youth movement, the Levente but his new commander saw him as unfit for further commands and promotions so he had to retire. This might have to do with the change in politics in Hungary in 1944 but the exact circumstances are unclear. Later testomonies do make it clear he did not cooperate with the Arrow Cross leadership so a political retirement does seem realistic.

With the 23rd (reserve) division 1944-45, defense of Hungary

Despite the political (?) differences he was recalled to service in August 1944 and served in the 23rd Honvéd (reserve) Division (hadosztály) in defense of Hungary against the Russian forces that were coming close to the borders. He even became the divisions last commander of the war. The unit defended Hungary and ended up in the Czech republic, surrendering there to the Russians in May 1945 near the city of Bechin with the remaining 2500 men of the division…

More research into this last part of his military career is needed. In post war testimonies (more than 10) it is made clear he viewed it his task to defend Hungary against the Russians but did not cooperate with the Germans more than was needed for this. There is a statement made regarding Labatlán in Hungary that also needs further research.

Colonel Miklósy’s full entitlement by the end of the war.
His medal entitlement on paper (excerpt from the photo at the top of the blog)
His medal entitlement from the Vitéz yearbook (foreign awards not mentioned here)

He spent the next 3 years in Russian POW camps before returning to Hungary in 1948. From that period muliple testimonies exist, as stated above, from other military men that served with him stating that he was not a fascist/ friend of the Germans. He continued to live in Szeged untill his death in 1968.

Although there are many more documents in the group than shown here most of the documents spanning the later part of the war were lost.

Award document signed by Miklósy (as commander of the 32nd HIR 1943)

Years afther the Miklósy group came into my custody I was able to trade this group that links to Miklósy. It is a bronze bravery medal and firecross both with papers to the same soldier. The bravery medal was given out by the Eastern Hungarian Occupation Forces but the firecross was awarded by the 32nd Honvéd Infantry Regiment and is actually signed by Miklósy as commander of the unit! It is hard to read but it says vMiklósy Ezds (vitéz Miklósy Ezredes) and for reference I have a post war signature of him as reference. The same signature but without the titles. A great addition to the Miklósy group, an award document signed by him in his role as the commanding officer of the 32nd HIR during his year on the Don. Synchronicity at its best!

And as reference a postwar autograph (without titles)

The set of Miklósy was inherited by a relative and I was able to buy it in two groups. Not everything had been sorted out when I bought the first batch but obviously the rest of the material was also offered to me. Unfortunately the set was not complete, especially from WW2 materials were missing. What happened to these over time is impossible to tell but if something related to him is for sale do let me know!

The first batch of documents and medals when I added them to my collection

*Reference: Babucs Zoltán – Szabó Péter: “Legyetek eskütökhöz hívek mindhalálig…” A budapesti magyar királyi “József nádor” 2. honvéd gyalogezred a második világháborúban (Puedlo, Budapest-Nagykovácsi, 2013.)

I do not have the book yet but the photo from internet originally came from this source I have learned.