advises that nominations are now open for the NSW Premier's 2017 History Awards.
Sadly, I'm not at the point that I can nominate a book of mine. Maybe next year?
Discussions on the history and historiography of Australia's New England
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Jim Belshaw continues the story of Camp Victory and the Casino Boys
Cut of from the home country by the Nazi invasion, the Netherlands East Indies (NEI) forces in
struggled to regroup. The problems were most acute on the Air side where there
were shortages of planes and manpower. Australia
A unique solution was adopted, the formation of joint NEI/Australian squadrons. The Dutch supplied the planes acquired under Lend-Lease arrangements, the pilots were Dutch, the aircrew a mix of NEI and Australian personnel, while ground crew were generally Australian.
Combined No 18 (NEI) squadron in action, 1944
Operational command rested with
Australian crew reporting to an Australian squadron leader, while NEI personnel
were under KNIL (Netherlands East Indies Army) command. The Dutch flag replaced
the RAAF roundel on the planes, while the squadrons were named No (NEI)
Squadron RAAF Australia
This arrangement explains a conundrum I referred to in my first column in this series. How did an uncle from
with no known
Dutch connections end up serving in the Dutch Airforce? Well, it should be more
correctly the Netherlands East Indies Airforce! Kentucky
Four squadrons were formed, of which three entered operational service (one bomber, one fighter plus one transport squadron), flying missions against Japanese positions in the Netherlands East Indies and South-West Pacific.
On the land side, the Australian Government provided the Dutch Netherlands East Indies KNIL forces with bases under NEI control. As part of this process, an advance party arrived in Casino in December 1942 to establish what would be called
a base for the KNL Technical or Labour Battalion. Camp Victory
The Battalion contained personnel recruited from different parts of the
Dutch East Indies
under the command of both Dutch and locally recruited NEI officers. It also
included people from other parts of the Dutch Empire including . Surinam
MATES. Relations among the groups at Camp Victory appear to have been good up to the tensions flowing from the declaration of Indonesian Independence
The White Australia Policy may have been bent by the exigencies of war, but was still in place. The sudden presence in Casino of a large number of non-Europeans therefore posed a challenge. How would the locals respond?
CAMP VICTORY. Fraternising with the locals, Ballina
The answer seems to be very well. Relations with the Dutch were easiest, with some concerns about local girls dating non-European personnel. However, the soldiers had soldiers pay and after hours would visit the stores. Many long term Casino residents remembered them buying bikes and having a fondness for perfumes. They also remember the soldiers showing them how to make kites.
The ending of the War would bring new tensions. Casino was about to find a place in Indonesian history.
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 15 February 2017. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015, here for 2016, here 2017.
Wednesday, February 15, 2017
Jim Belshaw continues the story of Camp Victory and the Casino Boys
WORKING TOGETHER. Australian Army Officer with Netherlands East Indies troops, Cairns, c 1940. While they had different aims their immediate goal was the same - to defeat the JapaneseWith the surrender of the Dutch to the Japanese on 8 March 1942, remnants of both the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army (KNIL) and Air Force (ML-KNIL) escaped to
Both the KNIL troops and civilians included Netherlands East Indies (NEI) nationals as well as Dutch citizens, adding to the many national groups brought to
by the war. The White
Australia Policy was still in force, but the war situation forced its partial
The NEI nationals included people who were opposed to Dutch rule, some of whom had been interned by the Dutch prior to the outbreak of the war. While some were interned in
, another part of our
story, for the present the war situation muted the tensions between nationalists
and Dutch loyalists. However, these tensions would become significant later with
the defeat of the Japanese and the declaration by Sukarno of Indonesian
military camps would then became major flash points. The first was the
Wallangarra Camp, home to the Australian Army’s 36th Australian
Employment Company. The second, and more important, was
at Casino, an NEI KNIL camp home to KNIL’s Technical Battalion. . Camp Victory
In 1942, further complexity was added by the existence in
what were effectively two governments, the home Dutch Government in exile based
with a separate NEI administration. This reported to the Dutch Government, but
was also a seen as (and organised as) a separate national administration with
its own military forces. London
The Dutch and Australian Governments had different objectives. To the Australians, the priority was to protect
Australia by defeating . To the
Dutch and especially the NEI administration, the objective was to reassume
control of the Netherlands East Indies by defeating Japan . For both, the immediate
priority was defeat of the Japanese. Japan
A number of NEI nationals were absorbed into the Australian Army’s Employment Companies. The work of these companies in providing the hard physical labour needed to maintain the war effort and support the fighting troops is poorly recognised.
By the war’s end, 39 companies had been formed totalling 15,000 men. Of the 39 companies, 11 were made of aliens, non British citizens. Two of the 11, the 23rd and the Wallangarra based 36th Co were made up in whole or part from NEI nationals.
In parallel, efforts proceeded to reorganise and restructure the NEI Armed Forces and Government administration, culminating in the formal formation of the Netherlands East Indies (NEI) Government-in-Exile, the only foreign government ever to be established on Australian soil.
This was necessary for military and diplomatic reasons, but would create significant problems as tensions rose at the end of the War.
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 8 February 2017. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015, here for 2016, here 2017.
Wednesday, February 08, 2017
Jim Belshaw begins the story of Camp Victory and the Casino Boys
Melbourne 1943. KNIL Netherlands East Indies troops who escaped march through the streets of Mebourne.Growing up, I was always a little confused that an uncle had apparently served in the Dutch Air Force during the Second World War. How did a boy from
The answer to this question provides another thread in the complex history of Northern NSW, one that would give the quiet
a place in Dutch military history and in the history of the Indonesian struggle
for independence. Casino
The Nazi Germany invasion of neutral
began on 10 May 1940. Four days later, the main elements of the Dutch army
surrendered. Queen Wilhelmina escaped to Netherlands ,
followed a day later by the Dutch government. London
With the fall of
Dutch PM De Geer concluded that the war was lost and sought to return to to negotiate
surrender terms with the Germans. Queen Wilhelmina, later described by Winston
Churchill as the only man in the Dutch Government, would have none of this. She
dismissed De Geer, replacing him as PM with Pieter Sjoerds Gerbrandy. Holland
Despite the loss of the mother country, the Dutch Government in exile still controlled the Dutch overseas possessions and especially the
Dutch East Indies with its resources
including oil supplies. However, the position in the Far East was becoming
increasingly cloudy with the growing threat from . Japan
The Dutch Government’s main military asset in the
Dutch East Indies was the Royal
Netherlands East Indies Army (KNIL, short for Koninklijk Nederlands Indisch
Leger). Air cover was provided by the KNIL's air arm, the Royal Netherlands
East Indies Army Air Force (ML-KNIL). There were also some elements of the
Royal Dutch Navy.
These forces were ill-equipped to face the growing Japanese threat. Urgent efforts began to expand and modernise them, but there were difficulties in acquiring skilled manpower and new equipment.
On 7 December 1941, the Japanese attacked
The Dutch Government declared war on Pearl Harbour the following day. Japan
January 1942. Netherlands East Indies Martin 166 bombers in action over Malaya
Dutch East India oil supplies were of critical importance to
The already prepared Japanese invasion began on 17 December 1941. The Allies
established a unified command including the British and Americans, but the
ill-equipped KNIL ground and air forces could not stop the advance. Japan
On 8 March, 1942, the Dutch were forced surrender. In two months, the Japanese had seized effective control of all the
Dutch East Indies, including its oil resources.
Dutch East Indies General Hein ter Poorten surrenders to the Japanese following heavy defeats.
Remnants of both the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army and Air Force escaped to
, laying the basis for the
story that would follow. Australia
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 1 February 2017. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015, here for 2016, here 2017.