KNIL – H. Stuifbergen, ooggetuige van Nagasaki 1945

Mijn verzamelinteresse voor medailles draait met name om het verhaal achter de medaille of in dit geval oorkonde: de mens en zijn ervaringen in oorlogssituaties. Een enkele oorkonde van het oorlogsherinneringskruis is zelden interessant voor de gemiddelde verzamelaar. In dit geval gaat het zelfs om een versie zonder gesp, de meest basale variant van de oorkonde:

Toch blijkt het hier juist om een interessant verhaal te gaan dat in tegenstelling tot de meeste oorlogsverhalen niet verloren gegaan is in de tijd. Hendricus Stuifbergen heeft zijn verhaal zelf opgetekend, niet als officieel boek maar als een eenvoudig getypt verslag waarvan gelukkig een kopie bewaard is gebleven.

Stuifbergen in KNIL uniform. Foto van www.oud-castricum.nl

Het verhaal draait om Mijn leve bij de Jappen” een dagboek van H. Stuifbergen zoals het document getiteld is en dat een duidelijk en schokkend beeld geeft van de verschrikkelijke tijd die de krijgsgevangen hadden bij de Japanners. Stuifbergen komt uiteindelijk in Japan zelf terecht in kamp Fukuoka 17B in de nabijheid van Nagasaki waar de krijgsgevangen ooggetuige zijn van de atoombom en de paddenstoelwolk die daarbij ontstaat en die hij ook getekend heeft in zijn manuscript.

Interneringkaart – bron Nationaal Archief

Zijn egodocument is daarmee een historische optekening van een zwarte tijd in de Nederlandse krijgsgeschiedenis die niet verloren mag gaan en ik daarom graag hier deel.

Stuifbergen overleeft de ontberingen en zal zijn werkzame leven als militair voortzetten, eerst nog bij het KNIL en vervolgens in Nederland bij de Koninklijke Landmacht.

Documenten ex collectie F. Riemersma

KST – Cattaraugus 225Q the Para and Commando fighting knife

The Dutch Special Forces in the East Indies, both the Para and the Commando unit had a very interesting mixture of clothing and equipment. Mainly bought from the US in the pacific but also quite a lot of surplus English material.

This mixture can be seen in many of the photo’s of the unit. Like the Rawlings tanker helmet that was used as a practice helmet for the para’s. Below Lt Castelein his helmet and next to a photo from his album where he is wearing it.

For combat used there were not enough English para helmets so the motorhelmet was used. For clothing the US Army HBT camouflage (frogskin) overalls were widely used, not only by the special forces but all units. Use by para’s seen in the photo on the left. Even some very rare US camouflage experimental jackets and trousers were used, the photo on the right shows an example of the top being used.

Man on the left wearing the trousers and severall men with the overall. Photo’s Kloër estate.

But which knife was used? In photo’s you can find a wide variety again of different knives including the US M3 knife but most often the Cattaraugus 225Q is seen and it is found in several museum and private collections with a direct link to the KST and Para company.

With some reading on US fora the background of the knife can be easily established. It was a 6″ hunting knife that was ordered by the Quartermaster Corps for both the Army and Navy and it was used in all sorts of units as a general purpose/ fighting knife like there were several others in both the army and navy. In war period advertising it was described as the commando knife with a drawing of a para with the knife:

Ad found on the internet
A well used and a near mint version of the same knife!

This knife was used extensively by the commando’s and the para’s of the Speciale Troepen and the Para Company in the Dutch East Indies. Below the KST commando’s with the knife

Photo from the Kloër estate
Another KST commando with the knife. Photo Kloër estate.

And a famous picture of a group of para’s getting ready for one of the action jumps were several are wearing this type of knife!

Photo from the NIMH

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 – Revolutionary badges from the Indonesian War of Independence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Indonesian propaganda leaftlet against the Dutch (soldiers).

RST – KNIL 1st Para Company officers estate

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

Para unit badge from the Lt. Castelein estate

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

In the Netherlands during training for Signals officer

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

Birthday item in a local newspaper in the Netherlands

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

KNIL – Major A. Picard, Atjeh items

Most etnographical items in Dutch collections do not have a historical background story, provenance. These stories are often lost over time so that is an extra reason for writing down these blogs.

These items were collected during the career of Major A. Picard of the Dutch East Indies Army. He was born in 1850, between the early 1870s and 1898, his pension date, he rose throught the ranks to the status of Major. After his pension he returned to the Netherlands and passed away in 1905. For one of his actions he received an Honorable Mention (Mention is Despatches) which was the 2nd highest acknowledgement for gallantry after the Military Order of William. He spent his entire career in Norhtern Sumatra (Atjeh region during the long lasting wars there).

The collecting of etnographical items was popular amongst officers and even promoted by higher ranking officers. Looting was not accepted (which does not mean it did not happen) but collecting/buying was seen as an investment in a better understanding of the local population as was the learning of the local language.

His complete collection was handed down in the family several times until the last family member deceased in the early 2000s. An antiques dealer bought the entire contents of the house and sold them off.

Photo of how the items were found by the antiques dealer.

A friend was able to buy the medals and paperwork and I bought several etnographical items. You can match them with the photo above!

Despite the handkerchiefs these are all items for Atjehnese men, for tobacco, sirih and chalk or toiletries (tool sets with items like ear wax spoons, nose hair clippers and tooth picks) for the men of that region.

Atjeh – noble saber (Peudeuëng)

Next to the very distinctive Sikin and Rencong from Aceh there is another weapon that is directly linked to Aceh but only for those of noble status and in the status variation (so with gold and diamonds) only for those closely connected to the Sultan of Aceh.

Longer weapons of all kinds were named pedang in Indonesia. On Sumatra in the Aceh region the local name was Peudeuëng which was used only for an extra long type of sabre in the Indian Tulwar style.

The noble (status) variation has a few very distinctive differences, The steel handle has a woven (teurhat) silver cover (kabat). The style of weaving can help determine the age but they are basically all 19th century or earlier. The top of the handle has a gold cover (crown) which in this case has also rough diamonds (inten) and enamel work as often seen on status rencong and sikins.

One of the most famous versions of this weapon is the version of Teukeu Umar that is currently in the Bronbeek collection. That version also has a golden cover of the entire handle which signifies an even higher status!

Photo of Teukeu Umar and his followers with behind him a status Peudeung and many other notable status weapons (photo from the collection of the Tropenmuseum, taken from Wikipedia).

The blades are often longer than 80cms (total length around 100 cms) and always flexible in a high quality damascus steel. Probably most often if not always the blades are imported.

High quality, flexible blade with multiple grooves making it lighter and stronger!

This example came from the collection of Karsten Sjer Jensen (writer of the famous Krisdisk). If the number 8 which can be seen both on the handle and the sheath was put there by him is unknown.

Number 8 on handle and sheath

The entire quality of blade, handle and goldwork make these weapons very rare and collectable today!

Sources: Catalogus Museum Bronbeek, Het verhaal van Indie, deel 1

KNIL – Bronze Lion (posthumously) resistance against the Japanese in 1942

The Bronze Lion – Bronzen Leeuw (BL) – is the 2nd highest Gallantry decoration of the Netherlands. It was instituted in 1944 and was the final part of the renewal of the Dutch system of gallantry decorations to extend beyond the Miltary Order of William, which remained the highest gallantry decoration.

Between 1944 and 1962 the Bronze Lion was awarded 1206 times. Most of these were for actions in WW2 (also retroactive for actions starting in 1940) and the colonial war in Indonesia in the period from 1945 to 1950. More recently it has been awarded several times for actions in Afghanistan.

In total 336 awards were to allied WW2 men and 869 to Dutch of which 177 were postumously awarded. A total of 176 were awarded to members of the Dutch East Indies Army.

The documents here are for a posthumously awarded Bronze Lion to a sergeant of the infantry of the Dutch East Indies Army. The Bronze Lion and papers were sent to the father of the sergeant without any ceremony.

I am still researching the circumstances and hope to find more info on this resistance/guerilla group but here the info I have accumulated so far.

First the accompanying letter to the father which makes this a rare paper group!

And below the two pages of the award document including the full citation:

Citation. See for the full text in Dutch farther below. It states that the awardee sergeant A.P.J. van der Veen was awarded the BL for his guerilla actions on the island of Celebes after the Japanese invasion (and following Dutch surrender) together with 7 other NCO’s and 2 officers. They participated in actions as a group but also split into several smaller groups led by the two officers. After some time they had no ammunition and food supplies left and fell into the hands of the Japanese. The Japanese showed no mercy for the continuation of guerilla actions after the main force had already surrendered. All 10 men were executed in August 1942 by the Japanese but on different dates and locations.

The following newspaper article from 1985 sheds some more light on the guerilla group on the island of Celebes:

Here is a translated summary of the text above:

The total group initially consisted of some 120 men. Lt Van Daalen already was in the process of surrendering his weapons after the main force on Java had surrendered in the beginning of March. Lt De Jong took action and stopped him, retook the guns that already had been handed in and freed the Dutch Prisoners of War from the Japanese force of some 50 men. The 120 men were split into several smaller groups all trying to survive and fight the Japanese. Without modern means of communication they kept in contact through couriers only. They did have some radiocommucation with the Dutch forces in Australia where they requested additional supplies and guns. These were delivered some five weeks later by the Australian Air Force, unfortunately the communication was also noticed by the Japanese. Based on that they sent 500 men of additional forces to the region. The Japanese were able to capture the dropped supplies.

In the beginning of August, after 5 months of fighting guerilla actions all supplies and ammunition were gone. The Japanese pressure on local people to hand over the guerilla’s was also intensified in that period. Based on these circumstances maintaining the group as a whole was no longer possible. Lt De Jong decided to give all remaining men the freedom to act as they saw fit. Surrender to the Japanese, try to hide or continue to fight as he and Lt Van Daalen and some 14 men did. After a few more days Lt De Jong and Lt Van Daalen and their men all were captured. All captured men were beheaded for their actions.

One sergeant that had chosen to go into hiding was able to stay out of the hands of the Japanese during the entire war and was the only known survivor of the group. He received no gallantry award! The faith of many of the others remains unknown/unresearched.

The commanding officer Lt De Jong was awarded the Military Order of William 4th class – the highest decoration for Gallantry. The other officer Van Daalen and 7 NCO’s were all awarded a Bronze Lion.

Lt Van Daalen was awarded the Bronze Lion before the awards to the NCO group. His text is different from that of the NCO’s but also different to that of the MWO. His award was made on January 27th 1947.

The NCO’s of the group received the Bronze Lion more than half a year later, on September 13th 1947. What the reason is for the difference remains unclear, but the size of the group probably influenced this and maybe the research into all men of this group.

Lt De Jong was awarded the MWO on October 7th 1947. That award process is the most difficult one to complete so that it was awarded later makes sense.

573        The late Willem Hendrik Johannes Everhardus van Daalen, born Batavia September 6th 1914, first lieutenant of the Royal Dutch East Indies Army, passed away, Sario-Menado August 25th 1942.

So far I have not been able to determine why the 8th NCO that is mentioned in the citation was not awarded a Bronze Lion. My hypothesis is that he was an indigenous soldier of whom the authorities have not been able to determine enough details or even a name. Probably similar to BL 653 to Sergeant Malawan of whom no other details are given. Not even his Army number has been traced.

Here is a list of the group of Bronze Lions, all with the same citation text:

650        The late Johannes Antonius Gerissen, born Nijmegen April th 1909, sergeant-major-instructor of the Royal Dutch East Indies Army (army number 87021), passed away Kolonodale, August 15th 1942.
651        The late Nicolaas Christianus Antonius de Jager, born Leeuwarden August 8th 1905, sergeant-major-administrator of the Royal Dutch East Indies Army (army number 85463), passed away, Kolonodale 14 aug. 1942.
652        The late Cornelis Wouter Kors, born Djokjakarta July 11th 1908, quartermaster of the Royal Dutch East Indies Army (army number 84598), passed away Kolonodale August 15th 1942.
653        The late Malawan, sergeant of the Royal Dutch East Indies Army, passed away Kolonodale August 28th 1942.
654        The late Teunis Gijsbertus Onwezen, born Amersfoort November 5th 1908, sergeant of the Royal Dutch East Indies Army (army number 86235), passed away Kolonodale August 15th 1942. 657        The late Arnoldus Petrus Johannes van der Veen, born Batavia March 20th 1919, sergeant of the Royal Dutch East Indies Army (army number 92899), passed away Kolonodale August 12th 1942. 659        The late Hendrik Wonnink, born Soerabaja 23 juli 1914, sergeant of the Royal Dutch East Indies Army (army number 92361), passed away Kolonodale August 12th 1942.

Through the website of the Dutch War Grave society it is also possible to search on location. The location Kolonodale shows two more victims in the same period. Soldier Cornelis Reijnhout born in Middelburg March 29th 1914 and sergeant Johannes Hendrik de Bruin born in Djokjakarta October 8th 1903. Both passed away on the same date as sergeants Wonnink, Van der Veen but did not receive gallantry awards. If they belonged to the same group (my current hypothesis) still has to be researched.

And the last award for this action is to the commanding officer of the group who was awarded the Military Order of William on Ocotber 7th 1947

5591    The late Johannes Adrianus de Jong, born 17-7-1914 Rotterdam, son of Frederik Willem and Aleida Suijkerbuik, passed away 25-8-1942 Sario.

They shall not be forgotten!

Full text of the citation in Dutch:

Wijlen Arnoldus Petrus Johannes van der Veen, geb. Batavia 20 maart 1919, sergeant der infanterie van het Koninklijk Nederlandsch-Indisch Leger (stamboeknummer 92899), overl. Kolonodale 12 aug. 1942.

Heeft zich – tezamen met 7 andere onderofficieren – in de oorlogsmaanden 1941/1942 tijdens de acties in Celebes, onderscheiden door daden van bijzondere moed en beleid tegenover de vijand.
Behorende tot het Troepencommando van Menado, waren zij ingedeeld bij de afdelingen van de Luitenants de Jong en van Daalen, die – na de capitulatie van het Java Leger – weigerden gehoor te geven aan de oproep om de wapens neer te leggen en besloten de strijd voort te zetten, welke in hoofdzaak plaats vond in het gebied tussen Poso en Kolonodale in Midden-Celebes.
Door guerilla-actie, nu eens gezamenlijk, dan weer gesplitst optredende, werden de vijand belangrijke verliezen berokkend, waarbij echter aan eigen zijde ook offers moesten worden gebracht.
De steeds opgejaagde troep kreeg uiteindelijk gebrek aan munitie, voedsel en medicamenten, terwijl de bevolking, onder druk van de Japanners, geen hulp meer durfde verlenen.
Tenslotte vielen de resterende militairen in handen van de vijand, in wiens ogen hun voortgezette weerstand geen genade kon vinden.
De beide officieren, commandanten, werden naar Menado overgebracht en aldaar onthoofd, terwijl deze 8 onderofficieren te Kolonodale moesten achterblijven, alwar zijn in de maand Augustus 1942 werden terechtgesteld.
Het zou de Luitenants niet mogelijk zijn geweest het verzet zovele maanden vol te houden, indien zij niet de krachtige steun van deze onderofficieren hadden gehad. Naast grote moed en trouw hebben zij bij het herhaald gesplitst optreden ook het benodigde beleid getoond.
Evenals thans reeds in Minehassa geschiedt met de namen van de Luitenants de Jong en van Daalen zullen daar in de toekomst ook de namen van deze onderofficieren als sieraden van het Koninklijk Nederlandsch-Indisch Leger met eerbied en waardering worden genoemd.

Krieger – Tsuba’s, Netsuke and a war tale too!

For a long time I have been very interested in Japanese applied arts, netsuke, inro and tsuba’s mainly. Although I stopped collecting such items actively I still bought these 4 items from a friend.

krieger
Photo from Utrecht University, see sources

The provenance wat too interesting to let them pass by. The friends grandfather was Professor Dr. C.C. Krieger. He collected these items in the first half of the 20th century when he was the Conservator for the Department of Japan, China and mainland Asia in what today is the Ethnographical Museum (Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde) in Leiden. He held this position from 1927 up to his retirement in 1949.

In 1935 he promoted to PhD in the Japanese language and the same year he became professor in the same subject at the Utrecht University. In 1947 he was promoted to special professor (bijzonder hoogleraar) in the art and history of the Far East including the Japanese language, a position which he held upon his final retirement in 1954, aged 70.

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Dunhill-Namiki fountain pen

About 20 years before I had already received his fountain pen as a gift for my collection. Being a specialist in the Japanese language and art he obviously wrote with a luxurious Japanese lacquer pen. It was a Dunhill-Namiki, a cooperation between the famous London retailer of smoking utensils Dunhill and the Japanese pen company of Namiki (the current Pilot). These Namiki pens are famous for the lacquer (maki-e) of high quality and also were made by famous artists. Dunhill retailed them in the Western world. In this case the pen was used intensively. It is a rare pen as a size 20 (the biggest they made apart from the jumbo size 50) in a period that watches and pens were still small in general. A very appreciated gift and still one of my favorites!


His extensive collection of Japanese art was divided between his 3 children, amongst which the mother of my friend. She held on to the inheritance and after her death her two daughters inherited the collection and I was happy to gain these 4 objects from his original collection.

Netsuke

Two netsuke, toggles for the inro. One a relatively crude depiction of a foreigner and the other a depiction of a famous Japanese tale.

Nanban Tsuba

The other two items are tsuba or handguards for the Japanese swords. In this case foreign imported items most probably and adapted for Japanese use. In Japan these are called nanban. If the professor had a special interest in Japanese items with a different origin or depiction of foreigners is not known. Below a short description I received regarding these tsuba.

Martial arts meet the decorative arts. The round guard looks Chinese, Ming in style, but possibly a later revival piece. Note the voal delinaeation of the washer-seat on one side, which on the opposite side is rectangular. More study is required to determine the date of manufacture.

The octagonal one may be Korean. In both cases, these guards have been adapted to Japanese use. Unfortunately, the addition of hitsu-ana has defaced the original design. The condition appears to be outstanding.

Damascened guards do no fare so well under heavy use. Neither of these guards seem to have been worn “in the field”. Both were well cared-for by previous owners. Their preservation today is thanks to the uniquely Japanese culture of appreciating sword-parts as works of art in their own right.

Dr. Krieger and the War against the Japanese

Even though the items are not military in essence there is a small link to a military history due to the person of the original owner!

In the 1930s Japanese influence in Asia was expanding and felt threatening for most Western powers in the region. The Dutch with their presence in the Dutch East Indies were part of this fear. The actual extend of the threat would finally become clear with the start of the war against the Japanese from Pearl Harbour onwards.

In these 1930s the Dutch Military Intelligence already worked on breaking the codes the Japanese used for their international communications. What I was not aware of when I started this blog is that Dr. Krieger actually was part of this effort!

A collecting friend has several items in his collection that relate to this subject and he brought this fact to my attention. It is even mentioned in the book by Robert Haslach about the subject. The dutch Naval officer Nuboer asked for the help of Krieger (also a former Naval officer!) in his effort in breaking the Japanese codes in 1934. Nuboer would eventually be successful in his efforts! You can read some more about him here.

The friend has in his private collection a Naval uniform of Nuboer and a tropical suit that belonged to Krieger. Here some pictures of the Nuboer uniform.

How Nuboer and Krieger came into contact is not yet clear and subject of further research I want to do. What is clear that the help of a former Naval officer with extensive knowledge of the Japanese and their language was valuable to the Dutch Forces.

This was formalized in 1937. Henri Koot, the head of military intelligence requested his official help. Krieger would become, next to his job as Curator of the Asian department of the Leiden Ethnographical Museum, member of the General Staff of the Army in The Hague. His work would only end after the German occupation in 1940. Due to the secrecy of the job and the subsequent war little is known about this period but it will also be subject of further research!

Sources: 

  • http://resources.huygens.knaw.nl/bwn1880-2000/lemmata/bwn4/nuboer
  • https://profs.library.uu.nl/index.php/profrec/getprofdata/1188/147/183/0
  • https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henri_Koot
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synchronicity
  • Private collection including Krieger suit from the collection of the late Sjoerd Douma and Nuboer Naval uniform
  • Robert Haslach; Nishi No Kaze Hare