Hungarian Air Force WW2: pilot wings and cap badges

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

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

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

Pilot wings

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

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

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

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 Worn version of the pilot wings, front and back below

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

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

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        Lieutenant with the observer wings (photo from internet)

Cap badges

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

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

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The NOS one even has the makers label still attached!

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

Period overview of Air Force badges and ranks:

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Wing for Combat Jumps – Speciale Troepen KNIL aktiewing

The Netherlands East Indies Army Special Forces made three combat jumps in 1948 and 1949. A special wing to commemorate this was designed and worn.

Batik from the NMM collection commemorating the action jumps of the Para’s

Djokjakarta

The first and most important combat jump was part of the so called 2nd Politionele Actie. A large scale military action against the Indonesian army. The military aim was to reclaim Djokjakarta that was in Indonesian hands. The action started with a combat jump by the Para Battle Group of the Speciale Troepen on the airfield Magoewo close to Djokjakarta. The action started on December 19th 1948.

The preparations for “Operation Crow” as this large scale airborne operation was called had already started in january of 1948 when the 1st Para Company was combined with the 2nd Para Company of the Korps Speciale Troepen. The unit was renamed in Para Battle Group (para gevechtsgroep) and led by Captain Eekhout. After the airfield was taken from the Indonesian army, planes with the commando’s of the Korps Speciale Troepen and 2 infantry units were flown in to take the whole city of Djokjakarta back.

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

The Airborne troops were transported in 16 Dakota C-47 planes and a total of 250 para’s made this combat jump. A very extensive description of the further action can be found in the sources (in Dutch).

Djambi

Shortly after this action the men had to make a second combat jump. This was already on December 29th 1948, only 10 days after the first combat jump. This time the action was on the Island of Sumatra to secure the oil fields of Djambi.

Rengat

Soon again a 3rd combat jump would be made during “Operation Mud (Modder)” in Rengat, again protecting oil fields in Sumatra. This time only the 1st Para Company would make the jump.

In a period spanning less than 3 weeks 3 combat jumps were made by approximately 350 men in total (not all men in all three jumps).

Qualification Wing – with golden laurel for combat jumps

The wing that was used as a qualification wing in 1947 was redesigned in 1949 for those who had particiapted in one or more of these combat jumps.

The 1947 qualification wing in metal (ex Bob Cats collection)

A golden laurel (as in the beret wing) was added to the basic design. As with all badges in the Netherlands East Indies there were metal and cloth versions. The metal versions of the badges were only made and worn in the Netherlands East Indies Army. Of those only around 350 were ever made of which many owners remained in the new Indonesia. This wing is now very rare and highly collectable! There are several versions of this wing of different size and production.

The 1949 Action Wing in metal

The same design in cloth (with some slight alterations over time) could be worn up to 1985 when the last person that had made combat jumps in Indonesia left the army. More recently Dutch Commando’s made combat jumps in Afghanistan and a new (cloth) wing for combat jumps with the same golden laurel design has come into existence.

Reverse of the Action Wing in a very good condition

Below four period photo’s of the metal wing for combat jumps being worn, all taken from internet sources.

Bronbeek has a very similar example in their collection with the same non standard closure on the back! Unfortunately that example has lost all colour.

This Korea veteran is wearing a similarly discoloured version upon his return from Korea in 1951!

Officially the metal variation was for use in the Netherlands East Indies only but as the photo above shows, personal preferences could make an exception.

Oilfields of Djambi after the combat jump (Photo NIMH)

Sources:

https://www.dutchdefencepress.com/vechten-in-een-oorlog-die-zo-niet-mocht-worden-genoemd-%E2%80%93-deel-2/ 

https://www.dutchdefencepress.com/vechten-in-een-oorlog-die-zo-niet-mocht-worden-genoemd-%E2%80%93-deel-3/

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

Korps Speciale Troepen para wings from the estate of a decorated Instructor

Hans Ulrich (Boy) Kloër was a Sergeant Major Intructor for the Netherlands East Indies Army Special Forces.

All personell of the School for Airborne Training (SOP – School Opleiding Parachutisten) also were active in the large scale operations of the Special Forces and most importantly directly involved in the three combat jumps that were made by these Special Forces.

Estate

As an Airborne instructor he took in the wings in 1950 from indigenous troops after the colonial army was disbanded. Those who remained in Indonesia had to hand over all their surplus materials. He kept these wings during all his life, he passed away in 2006.

From this estate several wings have come to the market and I have been able to buy some of these for my collection. You can see all three period (silver/bronze/brass) variations of of the wings but in different conditions. Some have been higly polished during a longer time, others are bend to slightly curve in the form of the beret.

Bronze Lion

Kloër was decorated for his role in these combat jumps with the Bronze Lion, the second highest decoration for Gallantry in the Netherlands! Between 1944 and 1963 only 1211 were awarded and more recently for actions in Afghanistan is has been awarded a few times again.

Awarded by Royal Decree No 25 of December 9th 1949:

Has distinguished himself by very brave and faithful service in the face of the enemy.

After having distinguished himself by his cool and brave performance as Commander of a group Airborne Troops on December 19th 1948 by, after having landed on the Magoewo Airfield (Djokjakarta), breaking the enemy resistance and capturing a large quantity of arms and ammunition, after which on December 29th 1948 and January 5th 1949 again participated in an exemplary manner during the capture of the oilfields of Tempino (Djambi) and Rengat.

Due to his brave and resolute performance the drill towers and pumping stations fell into the hands of the Airborne Troops unharmed, although a large and fanatic group of enemies tried to prevent this. Singlehandedly Kloër disarmed the explosives on several of the drill towers. In less than 3 hours 108 drill towers in a range of 1 to 2 kms and also stations for pumps, radio and electricity were saved from destruction and fire and the city cleansed from hostile elements.

Again after the landing on Rengat he showed himself as a brave and persistent leader, who, after breaking the enemy resistance with his Airborne Troops, capturing the electricity plant and without hesitation by himself extinguish the already lit fuses of bombs just in time before exploding.

In the Netherlands with ribbon for the Bronze Lion

Many thanks to the family for allowing me to use these photo’s! All materials apart from the wings are still part of the family estate.

Source:  Erik Müller, 1944-2016 De Bronzen Leeuw. Voor bijzonder moedige en beleidvolle daden

Read also more about some Broken Wings from the same estate: https://www.erikscollectables.com/2019/02/01/broken-wings-apra-revolution-participants/