Osprey Men-at-Arms: Royal Netherlands East Indies Army (KNIL) 1936-42

I have a lot of 28mm Dutch East Indies WW2 figures and was looking for more information on the campaign and the uniforms of the Indonesian troops.

Outside of the Australian disastrous commitment of troops to “Black Force” (Java), “Lark Force” (New Britain), “Gull Force” (Ambon) and “Sparrow Force” (East Timor) I know very little about this campaign.

Signaller Keith Richards, Corporal John Donovan and Sergeant John Henry Sargent (left to right), from the Australian 2/2nd Independent Company, using a radio on a mountain top in Japanese-occupied Timor, in about November 1942. (Photograph by Damien Parer.)

The only success, if you can call it that, was the guerilla campaign of the Australian Commando’s component of Sparrow Forces. These fought on following the surrender of the bulk of the forces troops including 290 Australians. The 2/2nd and 2/4th Independent companies were a thorn in the Japanese side from the invasion of Timor in February 1942 until their evacuation in August 1942. They were totally on their own without any support except from the East Timorese for nearly six months. The Japanese 48th Division, commanded by Lieutenant General Yuichi Tsuchihashi, was sent to deal with them and was therfor not available for the new Guinea campaign – a win of sorts.

The East Timorese village of Mindelo being destroyed by the Australian guerillas, preventing it from being used as a Japanese staging base in December 1942.

The Sparrow Force guerrillas would become associated with the phrase “you alone do not surrender to us”, which was contained in a message to the men of Sparrow Force by the Japanese commander on Timor, Lieutenant General Yuichi Tsuchihashi. Winston Churchill later stated: “they alone did not surrender.”

Australian High Command made the right decision not to commit the 6th and 7th Australian Division, as requested by Britain, as these would have been lost, and unavailable to turn the tide, as they did, in the New Guinea and Borneo campaigns later in the war.

As I said before the rest of the Dutch East Indies campaign and especially that of the Dutch forces I know little about. Hence the purchase of the Osprey Men-ar-Arms: Royal Netherlands East Indies Army (KNIL) 1936-42. I have mixed feelings about this one although I really shouldn’t. I bought the book solely for the uniforms of the Indonesian troops as no figure supplier to my knowledge makes these. The book show they are almost identical to the Japanese Naval forces. To be fair the author comments in the book about restrictions on space to discuss the campaign at length and refers you to some titles in the extensive Bibliography.

A very good outline of the the various arms of the KNIL, their OOB and detailed prints and photographs of the various uniforms has provided me with the information I needed with the exception of transport vehicles which our fellow blogger John who just needs varnishing (I need a lot of green stuff before you could even thing of varnishing me!) has very kindly researched and provided to me. Thanks John.

I was hoping to obtain more history of the campaign but I guess I will have to wait for my order of this one to arrive.

All in all I cannot complain and the title provided me with what I needed, not what I wanted. If you are interested in the Campaign there are other books around. If like me you want to build the army and want uniform and organisational information then it is well worth it.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

4 thoughts on “Osprey Men-at-Arms: Royal Netherlands East Indies Army (KNIL) 1936-42

  1. Hope you enjoy this project, Dave, and thanks for the mention! 🙂 I’d forgotten that there is also the Osprey MAA title “Japan’s Asian Allies 1941–45” but I’m not sure how much coverage of Indonesian troops will be in it.

    Liked by 3 people

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