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Het Koninklijk Nederlandsch-Indisch Leger; Volkel, June 12 – 17, 2013

100 Years of Military Aviation, part 2; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

The Military Aviation of the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army (KNIL-ML) went during and after the Second World War through a turbulent period. The KNIL-ML was deployed in Australia during the war and played an important role during the Indonesian war of independence when the Police Actions took place in the late 40s.

The Royal Dutch East Indies Army (Koninklijke Nederlands Indië Leger, KNIL) was the Dutch colonial army which existed from 1830 to 1950. The KNIL was unlike the Army not a part of the Ministry of War, but was a part of the Ministry of Colonies. The KNIL consisted completely of professional soldiers who were stationed in the Dutch East Indies. The army was founded in 1830 in the period of the VOC trade conductions with the East Indies. The KNIL had the task to maintain order in the area. The Royal Decree Order to establish the Trial Division for KNIL was performed by the Dutch Government on July 18, 1914; this department was designated as the PVA-KNIL. The PVA-KNIL was equipped with various transport aircraft for the connection with the Netherlands and light reconnaissance aircraft for local flights. The Military Aviation KNIL (ML-KNIL) emerged as an independent entity during the mobilization on March 30, 1939, and was born within the PVA-KNIL and the Aviation Department KNIL (LA-KNIL). The ML-KNIL consisted of two main groups, namely; the Plane Group (Vliegtuiggroep, VLG) and Reconnaissance Division (Verkenningsafdeling, VKA). The VLG consisted of six flying groups, namely; VLG1 in Bandung (Andir) at Java, VLG2 in Malang (Singosari) at Java, VLG3 Batavia (Tjilitan) at Java, VLG4 in Madiun (Maospati) at Java, VLG5 on Semplak (Buitenzorg) at Java and VLG6 Depot Madiun (Maospati) at Java. The VKA consisted of five reconnaissance departments, namely; VKA1 on Tjikembar at Java, VKA2Yogyakarta at Java, VKA3 on Kalidjati at Java, VKA4 on Kalidjati at Java and VKA5 on Kalidjati at Java. This entire department has several detachments at several airports in Eastern Borneo, in Western Borneo, in Ambon and in Singapore.

On paper, the ML-KNIL was quite large, however, the real scenario showed only a few planes were in good condition. Many aircraft suffered from a shortage of parts and some new aircraft were not assembled yet. The Netherlands Purchasing Commission

(NPC) placed the request for the delivery of 100 Bell P-39 Airacobras in June 1941. This request was refused; however, the ML-KNIL had the opportunity to get 100 Curtiss P-40s which actually were destined for the RAF. Eventually, the repeated request was made for the Airacobras. Eventually the ML-KNIL had no aircraft at its disposal. The ML-KNIL was easily defeated by the Japanese Air Force during the Japanese invasion. Only some parts of Dutch-Indian Army which were stationed in the eastern part of the Indian Archipelago managed to escape from the Japanese invaders. After the surrender of Java, the Dutch units escaped to New Guinea and Australia. The Japanese were at the beginning of the war masters in this area in Asia. Japan was technologically far beyond compared to the other countries in the region. These countries flew many outdated aircraft and were no party for the Japanese Navy. The ML-KNIL was in this situation no exception. The Dutch groups joined the guerrilla soldiers of the Indian army at the end of 1942. The forces present in Australia were extended with small groups which came from New Guinea; these groups were under the command of the Dutch army and the Australian battalion from Portuguese Timor.

In the Victory Camp in Australia the first battalion of the ML-KNIL was formed. This was the first major unit which was formed of the new Dutch-Indian Army. This battalion was quickly separated into a technical battalion and a combat battalion. These battalions were designated as the Left and Right half of the new KNIL. The combat battalion was renamed to the first battalion and was deployed in battle after a short training in the jungle. The evacuated personnel were in Canberra in Australia supplemented by personnel from the RAAF no 18 Squadron and the ML-KNIL was re-established on April 4, 1942. The unit was equipped with the American B-25 Mitchell. The squadron operated in the Southwest Pacific Area and was transferred to Balikpapan. After the capitulation of the Japanese army, the squadron, stated to; fly reconnaissance missions, monitor ships movements, detect enemy camps and conduct food droppings. The squadron was partially transferred to Tjililitan at the end of 1945. In 1946, the unit provided air support for the infantry in South and Southeast Borneo. In 1947, the 16th Squadron was disbanded and absorbed in the 18th Squadron. The ML-KNIL received 40 P-51D Mustangs after the Second World War. These aircraft were used by the ML-KNIL during the two 'Politional Actions', Operation Product in 1947 and Operation Kraai in 1948. After this conflict, Indonesia received some of the ML-KNIL Mustangs and Indonesia became independent.

The new independent government of Indonesia claimed New Guinea since the end of the Second World War. The Dutch government did not agree with this and considered this area as Dutch. A long negotiation was held with the Indonesians at the end of the 50s. In 1958, the Dutch government had sent an air force detachment to New Guinea for the air defense of the island. After moving the detachment the unit was stationed at Biak, because Indonesian infiltrators were preparing a large-scale attack. Reinforce- ments were sent to Biak in 1960 when 12 Hawker Hunters arrived for the air defense and two Allouette II helicopters for SAR duties. The Allouette II was delivered with the aircraft carrier the Karel Doorman and the 12 Hawker Hunters arrived a year later on the island. The Hunters were of the type Hunter Mk6 and had an increased fuel capacity for a larger operational range. The Indonesian army was strong and in 1962 an attack on the Dutch detachment could not be defended. The withdrawal of Dutch troops in Indonesia was celebrated as a great victory by the Indonesian people. The no 336 Squadron was formed as a result of this withdrawal to fly the troops back to the Netherlands. More than 5400 passengers were flown back to the Netherlands in 1961 and 1962. The no 336 Squadron still exists today and is based at Eindhoven Air Base.

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