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Isaac Israëls, Het transport der kolonialen (Transport of the Colonial Soldiers), showing recruits for the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army marching through Rotterdam to their transport to the Dutch East Indies
The KNIL was formed by royal decree on 14 september 1814. It was not part of the Royal Netherlands Army, but a separate military arm specifically formed for service in the Netherlands East Indies. Its establishment coincided with the Dutch drive to expand colonial rule from the 17th century area of control to the far larger territories constituting the Dutch East Indies seventy years later.[not in citation given]
In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the KNIL resumed the conquest of the Indonesian archipelago. After 1904 the Netherlands East Indies were considered pacified, with no large-scale armed opposition to Dutch rule until World War II, and the KNIL served a mainly defensive role protecting the Dutch East Indies from the possibility of foreign invasion.
Once the archipelago was considered pacified the KNIL was mainly involved with military policing tasks. To ensure a sizeable European military segment in the KNIL and reduce costly recruitment in Europe, the colonial government introduced obligatory military service for all resident male conscripts in the European legal class in 1917. In 1922 a supplemental legal enactment introduced the creation of Home Guard (Dutch: Landstorm) for European conscripts older than 32.
No large-scale armed threat to Dutch rule existed until World War II.
Dutch forces in the Netherlands East Indies were severely weakened by the defeat and occupation of the Netherlands itself, by Nazi Germany, in 1940. The KNIL was cut off from external Dutch assistance, except by Royal Netherlands Navy units. The KNIL, hastily and inadequately, attempted to transform into a modern military force able to protect the Dutch East Indies from foreign invasion. By December 1941, Dutch forces in Indonesia numbered around 85,000 personnel: regular troops consisted of about 1,000 officers and 34,000 enlisted soldiers, of whom 28,000 were indigenous. The remainder were made up of locally organised militia, territorial guard units and civilian auxiliaries. The KNIL air force, Militaire Luchtvaart KNIL (Royal Netherlands East Indies Air Force (ML-KNIL)) numbered 389 planes of all types, but was largely outclassed by superior Japanese planes. The Royal Netherlands Navy Air Service, or MLD, also had significant forces in the NEI.
During the Dutch East Indies campaign of 1941-42, most of the KNIL and other Allied forces were quickly defeated. Most European soldiers, which in practice included all able bodied Indo-European males, were interned by the Japanese as POWs. 25% of the POWs did not survive their internment.
A handful of soldiers, mostly indigenous personnel, mounted guerilla campaigns against the Japanese. These were usually unknown to, and unassisted by, the Allies until the end of the war.
Sumatra High Command (Division status), overseeing the island of Sumatra, commanded by Maj. Gen. R.T. Overakker.
The Sumatra High Command divided into four territorial commands, i.e. North Sumatra, West Sumatra, Riouw and South Sumatra.
North Sumatra Territorial Command (Regiment status), overseeing northern part of Sumatra, commanded by Col. G.F.V. Gosenson.
Combat units in Koetaradja:
North Sumatra 1st Garrison battalion, based in Koetaradja
North Sumatra 2nd Garrison battalion, based in Koetaradja
Celebes Territorial Command (Brigade status), overseeing the island of Celebes, commanded by Col. M. Vooren.
The Celebes Territorial Command divided into three local commands, i.e. Manado, Kendari and Makassar.
Manado Local Command (Regiment status), overseeing the northern part of Celebes, commanded by Maj. B.F.A. Schilmöller.
National Reserve battalion, based in Manado, commanded by Capt. W.C. van den Berg.
A Company (8 squads) commanded by 1Lt. A.O. Radema
B Company (8 squads) commanded by 1Lt. W.G. van de Laar
C Company (8 squads) commanded by 1Lt. H. Fucher
D Company (8 squads) commanded by 1Lt. J.G. Wielinga
E Detachment (3 squads/natives) commanded by Sgt. Maliëzer
Infantry company, based in Manado, commanded by Capt. W.F.J. Kroon.
Volunteer company, commanded by Capt. J.D.W.T. Abbink.
Conscript company (European), commanded by Lt. F. Masselink.
Militia company (Minahasan), commanded by Capt. J.H.A.L.C. de Swert.
City Watchmen company, commanded by Lt. M.A. Nolthenius de Man.
Mobile column (Platoon status), commanded by Sgt. Maj. A.J. ter Voert.
Fire Support unit:
Coastal and Air Defense Artillery battery, based in Manado
Other Support unit:
Mobile Auxiliary First-Aid detachment
Kendari II Airbase Garrison (Battalion status), overseeing Kendari II Airbase, commanded by Capt. F.B. van Straalen.
Infantry company (10 Infantry squads), commanded by Capt. E.G.T. Anthonio.
Infantry company (10 Infantry squads)
3 (Mortar) Infantry squads
3 (Machine Gun) Infantry squads
Fire Support units:
Air Defense Artillery platoon
(Machine Gun) Air Defense Artillery platoon
Makassar Local Command (Battalion status), overseeing the southern part of Celebes
The KNIL was disbanded by 26 July 1950 with its indigenous personnel being given the option of demobilising or joining the newly formed Indonesian military. However, efforts to integrate former KNIL units were impeded by mutual distrust between the predominantly Ambonese KNIL troops and the Javanese-dominated Republican military; leading to clashes at Makassar in April and the attempted secession of an independent Republic of South Maluku (RMS) in July. These revolts were suppressed by November 1950 and approximately 12,500 Ambonese KNIL personnel and their families opted for temporary resettlement in the Netherlands. Following this, the KNIL ceased to exist but its traditions are maintained by the Regiment Van Heutsz of the modern Royal Netherlands Army. At the time of disbandment the KNIL numbered 65,000, of whom 26,000 were incorporated into the new Indonesian Army. The remainder were either demobilised or transferred to the Royal Netherlands Army.
Decorated indigenous KNIL soldiers, 1927.
During its formation it was stated that the KNIL would be comprosed of both European and indigenous soldiers. In the beginning the KNIL was equally divided, which meant that half the army consisted of European soldiers, while the other half was made up of indigenous soldiers. However, starting from the late 1830s the ratio between European soldiers and indigenous soldiers went from 1:1 to 1:3. The reason for this was that there were not enough European volunteers to keep up with the recruitment of indigenous soldiers. Besides European volunteers and indigenous recruits the KNIL also recruited foreign mercenaries of several nationalities during the 19th century. During the protracted Aceh War the numbers of European troops were kept to 12,000 but continued Achenese resistance necessitated the deployment of up to 23,000 indigenous soldiers (mainly from Java, Ambon, and Manado). Even slaves of the Ashanti (Ivory Coast and Ghana) were recruited in limited numbers for service in the East Indies (see Belanda Hitam). The ratio of foreign and indigenous troops to those of Dutch origin was reported to be 60% to 40%. After the Aceh War, the enlistment of non-Dutch European troops ceased and the KNIL came to consist of Dutch regulars recruited in the Netherlands itself, Indonesians, Indos (Eurasians), and Dutch colonists living in the East Indies and undertaking their military service.
Indigenous KNIL troops, 1938
In 1884 personnel strength was numbered at 13,492 European, 14,982 Indonesian, 96 African, and at least 1,666 Eurasian recruits. The officer corps was wholly European and was probably close to 1,300. There were also about 1,300 horses. Recruitment was carried out in Holland and India, with over 1,000 Dutch subjects and 500 foreigners enlisting annually. The foreign troops consisted of Flemish, German, Swiss, and French volunteers. Walloons, Arabs, and nationals of both the United Kingdom and United States were forbidden from serving. Other foreigners who could not prove fluency in either Dutch or German were also not accepted for service.
It was against the law to send Dutch conscripts from the Netherlands to the East Indies but Dutch volunteers continued to enlist for colonial service in the KNIL. In 1890 a Corps Colonial Reserve (Koloniale Reserve) was established in the Netherlands itself to recruit and train these volunteers and to re-integrate them into Dutch society upon the conclusion of their overseas service. On the eve of the Japanese invasion in December 1941, Dutch regular troops in the East Indies consisted of about 1,000 officers and 34,000 men, of whom 28,000 were indigenous. The largest proportion of these "native troops" had always consisted of Javanese and Sundanese soldiers. During the Japanese occupation, most of the Dutch and Ambonese personnel were interned in POW camps.
During the Indonesian National Revolution, the KNIL's officers were still largely Dutch and Eurasians although most of its troops were recruited from predominantly Christian eastern Indonesia, particularly the South Moluccas, Timor and Manado. Although there were smaller numbers of Javanese, Sundanese, Sumatran and other Muslim troops in Dutch service, these received comparatively lower rates of pay than their Christian counterparts, leading to resentment and distrust. The Dutch sought to take advantage of these ethnic tensions by claiming that the Ambonese would lose their special privileges and pensions under a Javanese-dominated government. As noted above, these factors contributed to clashes between demobilised KNIL units and the Republic of Indonesia's military throughout 1950.
^The complicated story of the disbanding of the KNIL is set out briefly here. For a more extended analysis see Manuhutu (1987); Steylen (1996: 33-63); van Amersfoort (1982: 101-8). The psychological impact of the dissolution of the KNIL on the Ambonese servicemen is described in Wittermans (1991).
^Moor, J.A. de, 'Met klewang en karabijn: militaire geschiedenis van Nederlands-Indië (1815-1949)' in: J. R. Bruin en C.B. Wels ed., Met man en macht. Een militaire geschiedenis van Nederland 1550-2000 (Amsterdam 2003) 199-244, p. 201
^Zwitser, H.L. and C.A. Heshusius, Het koninklijk Nederlands-Indisch leger 1830-1950 (The Hague 1977) p. 12
^Blakely, Allison (2001). Blacks in the Dutch World: The Evolution of Racial Imagery in a Modern Society. Indiana University Press. p. 15 ISBN0-253-31191-8