Austro-Hungarian offensive Group Edelsbrunner BH2 (Bosnian/Bosniaken)

Bosnian Herzegovian Infantry

Bosnia Herzegovina became part of the Austro-Hungarian empire only in 1878. Nevertheless its capital Sarajevo would be the scene of the start of World War 1 in 1914, by the assination of Archduke Franz-Ferdinand.

The AH regimental system was regional, each regiment would get men from a specific region. This way four Bosnian Herzegovian Infantry Regiments were formed. Officers (on purpose) would come from a different region. The Bosnian regiments were numbered BH1 through to BH4.

Golden Bravery Medals

Despite the fact that the Bosnians had been linked to the Austro Hungarian empire for only a very short time or maybe even because of this the 4 Bosnian Herzegovian Infantry Regiments that were formed in WW1 would get the highest number of gallantry (Golden Bravery) medals in the entire AH army.

The average of these Golden Bravery medals was around 10 per regiment but the BH2 Infantry Regiment would get the highest amount of all, 42! The runner up regiment would get 36 Golden Bravery medals. There was even a saying in the AH army – “The Bosnians are coming” which would bring fear to the enemies as they were seen as fierce fighters.

More about the bravery medals can be found in my earlier blog.

Officers in BH2

As a large part of the Bosnians were Islamic the Fez was worn as the standard headgear in these units for all men, independend of their belief! Officers not being from the same region could choose if they would wear “standard” officers headgear or also the Fez like in the picture below.

An album in my collection has photo’s from several related (two brothers with family name Almasi) and befriended officers coming from the same “German” city of Trautenau in the current Czech Republic.

It seems they al went as volunteer (1 year) officers to the war. Several of them becoming officers in BH2. Below Leopold Erben from Trautenau who also, as an officer in training, would earn a Golden Bravery medal for BH2 in 1918!

Leopold Erben GTM, BH2

Offensive Group Edelsbrunner

One photo has the caption of “Offensivgruppe Edelsbrunner” named after its leading officer, Edmund Edelsbrunner, also from Trautenau! He was also one of the 42 people in BH2 who was awarded the Golden Bravery medal.

He would receive it during his training period as an officers (so still NCO for the awarding of medals) in 1915. During the rest of the war he would remain very active even getting an Iron Crown order 3rd class as a lieutenant. This is very rare for such a junior officer. Almost only flight aces would get that honour.

A specific event is mentioned in the book “Die Bosniaken kommen” by Werner Schachinger. In the book his group is mentioned as a “Nachrichten” or reconaissance group. The part is about his role in the 12th and decisive Isonzo battle. Probably this is the action for which he received the Iron Crown order!

“After the arrival of the main group of BH2 1st Lt Edelsbrunner and his men detached themselves again and went north. Two companies of BH2 were involved in heavy streetfighting in the city of Forgaria at that moment. In the meantime Edelsbrunner circled around the city and went straight for Anduin capturing an Italian Artillery unit in the process. He captured 7 pieces of artillery, 12 machineguns and other materials but also 600 Italian soldiers. The struggle for the bridge of Cornino was over after this. He earned the title of “Ramssurimann of Anduin” for this from the men of BH2″

Erben (GBM), ?, Edelsbrunner (GBM), Almasi

See for more picture from the same album my other blog!

RST – Speciale Troepen KNIL SOP para actiewing – wing for combat jump

The Netherlands East Indies Army Special Forces made four combat jumps in december 1948 and early 1949. A special wing to commemorate this was designed and worn in 1949/50.

Photo: collection Theo Jacobs through S. Postma
An action wing like the one seen above

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.

Photo from the NIMH collection

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 (app 250 men including the staff of the Airborne School, SOP) was combined with the 2nd Para Company (app 150 men) of the Korps Speciale Troepen. The unit was renamed in Para Battle Group (para gevechtsgroep of app 400 men) 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 370 para’s made this combat jump. A very extensive description of the further action can be found in the sources (in Dutch).

Photo Lt. Castelein estate

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.

Photo Kloër estate

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 370 men in total (not all men in all three jumps).

Photo Kloër estate

Gading

March 1949 was the last of four combat jumps. This one was on Java again and aimed at a large group of resistance fighters. After the jump it turned out the intelligence was outdated and the group had already left the region.

Photo Kloër estate

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.

Two examples of the regular qualification wing
Captain Eekhout wearing a qualification wing during an action. Photo Kloër estate.

A golden laurel (as in the beret wing) was added to the basic design of the qualification wing. 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 in 1949 and early 1950. Of those only around 400 (all men of the para battle group, 370, that made combat jumps and the staff of the SOP that also participated in the combat jumps) were ever made.

The 1949 Action Wing in metal

Many para’s of Indonesian descent chose to remain in the new Indonesia but the wing could no longer be worn/shown as they were seen as signs of the colonial oppression! The metal version could no longer be worn in the Netherlands only cloth wings were officially allowed to be worn on the uniform. This type of metal wing is now very rare and highly collectable!

Reverse of the Action Wing in a very good condition

There are two versions of this metal wing the one shown below (both same type) is the larger of the two variations. It has been thinly painted (most often worn off) and it has a non standard closure on the back. This seems to be the official version.

And a well worn version of the same wing where the paint is worn down (typical for this variation)

The other type is in the Cordesius style both with the closure and the thicker enamel style painting that chips but does not wear down so much and a less shiny type of metal is used. It is much rarer so probably a privately purchased item.

The difference between these two wings can mainly be seen by the size and paint quality. And of course the type of closure. Below the standard type of closure that is used on the smaller version (not my collection).

Variation 2 which is slightly smaller and has a different metal and closure

Below a period photo’s of the metal wing for combat jumps being worn.

Here two versions of the cloth action wing, both from the estate of an officer of the 1st Para Company with thanks to the Castelein family for allowing to show them here! These badges were made and worn in the Indies and not after (the officer left the service upon return to the Netherlands).

Version with golden laurel but no silver wire. It is filled with a pin on the back for easy removal from the uniform as was customary in the Indies.
Slightly different from the version above as this one has silver wire surrounding the chute and wings.
SMI Kloër with his action wing (Photo Kloër estate)

Upon return to the Netherlands “standard” insignia were worn by all on the battle dresses. Here an example of such a wing from the same Castelein estate as the two other cloth wings shown before.

Lt Castelein upon his return to the Netherlands in 1950 with the wing shown below.
This type is not filled like the versions which were worn in the Indies but these worn directly sewn onto the Battle Dress. They were made in Indonesia for use on the BD.
Two more examples of this type of wing worn on the battle dress. This photo was taken on the ship to the Netherlands (photo collection Museum Bronbeek).

A miniature version of the action wing was also made in Indonesia (in metal). Here is an example worn by Lt. Castelein in 1950 after his return to civilian life.

If you have additional info please let me know so I can update my blog!

Photo Kloër estate

If you have an example of this wing for sale or trade please do contact me at info@erikscollectables.com with a photo and the relevant info!

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

https://www.noviomagus.nl/h1.php?p=Gastredactie/Meijer/BronzenKruisdragers/TheoJacobs.htm

Main photo from the NIMH collection.

Topi Merah, S. Postma, 2022

KST – Speciale Troepen KNIL para wings from the estate of a decorated Instructor

Album with the photo’s of Kloër

Hans Ulrich (Boy) Kloër was a Sergeant Major Intructor for the Netherlands East Indies Army Special Forces Airborne School (SOP) and served as a commando before that within the Korps Speciale Troepen (KST).

Photo: Kloër estate

All personell of the School for Airborne Training (SOP – School Opleiding voor 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 the Airborne Troops.

Before….

Photo Kloër estate

and after the jump….

Photo: Kloër estate

Estate

As an Airborne School (SOP) Sergeant Major Instructor he was in charge of the beret wings and he was one of the last SOP staff members in Indonesia. He took in surplus wings in 1950 from indigenous troops who did not want to go to the Netherlands after the colonial army was disbanded.

Para company II (KST). Photo Kloër estate

The para’s who remained in Indonesia had to hand over all their surplus materials, uniforms and badges. He kept these wings during all his life, never touching them again untill he passed away in 2006.

From his 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 and brass) variations of of the first model wings but in different conditions. Some have been higly polished during a longer period of time, others are bend to slightly curve in the form of the beret or have period repairs and some are still in great and complete condition.

The unique provenance of these wings make them very interesting to the collector as these are all worn originals from the active period in the Dutch East Indies and give a perfect overview of what was in use at that moment. It is a time capsule!

An overview of the subtle colour variations in this group.
From gilded, real silver to brass, copper and bronze colours!

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.

Medal group of Kloër

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.

Photo Kloër estate

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.

Photo Kloër estate

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.

Photo Kloër estate

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.

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.

Photo Kloër estate

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

RST – Speciale Troepen KNIL SOP Para Wing

The Dutch East Indies Army had a long tradition with anti guerilla style combat before the war, especially with the Korps Marechaussee. After the second worldwar this knowledge was enhanced with that of the new Airborne and Commando units in which Dutch had fought in WW2.

A new unit was formed in 1946 the Special Forces Regiment (Depot/Korps/Regiment Speciale Troepen KNIL).

Speciale Troepen badge in metal and bullion

In 1947 also a Para-Commando Company was formed (1st Para Company / I Para) which was not part of the Speciale Troepen unit that consisted of non airborne trained Commando’s at that moment.

The para’s were trained by the SOP – School Opleiding Parachutisten – Airborne School for the jump qualification but also the commando training as the para’s were double qualified.

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

At the height of the unit it would consist of some 250 men including the staff of the Airborne School (SOP).

Badge used by the Para School (SOP), worn by staff and trainees alike.

In 1948 the Commando’s also would form a Para-Commando Company (2nd Para Company / Para Cie KST) which would consist of around 150 men.

For the large scale Airborne action called “Operation Crow” (december 1948) these two units would be combined in the Para Battle Group (Para Gevechtsgroep). The total group would consist of some 400 men with Airborne qualifications including the SOP staff that would also participate in the action. These forces received both Commando and Airborne training.

Captain Eekhout, commander of the Para Battle Group (photo NIMH)

Although the unit was KNIL it was open to volunteers meeting the criteria including regular draftees of the Expeditionary Forces. For the unity of uniform KNIL ranks would be used for all.

Red and Green Berets in one unit!

The red beret with the wing was the sign of completion of all Para-Commando (airborne) training and handed out at the end of the course. It was a symbol of achievement that was worn proudly! The “topi merah”.

This is an example of the 3 piece baret from the Lt. Castelein estate that seems to be unworn. The fit of the 3 piece barets was less than that of the later 1 piece versions that therefore were more populair when they became available.

The 1st Para Company formed in 1947 would wear the red beret. The commando’s would wear a green beret. When the commando’s started their para training in 1948 they would wear the green beret with the para wing on it after completion of the course. Later as the Para Battle Group all would wear red berets, again for unity of dress.

History of the wings

The qualification wing would be loosely based on the British (Indian) version that was used already by several members of the staff. Like most badges both cloth and metal versions would be used.

Two examples of the Airborne qualification wing

The beretwing was designed only in 1946 by sergeant Kampschuur of the Airborne School together with the badge for that school in an assignment by captain Sisselaar commander of the school. It was designed in the style of the pre war aviation qualification badges. A small batch of the wings was produced in bronze (as this was the colour in use for the aviation wings of the KNIL at that time) in 1946. The wing was designed as a qualification wing. Due to unknown reasons the batch was forgotten and in the meantime the regular (British style) qualification wing had already come into regular use.

With the introduction of the red beret there was a wish for a specific para badge to be worn on this beret in place of the regular Dutch lion that was used previously. The old batch of “qualification” wings was used for this. The first groups would get the bronze wings. Later production was done with the same mold/dye but mainly in brass and a small quantity in silver.

Bronze
Brass
Silver
Photo from the NIMH collection.
Photo from the NIMH collection.

Device for action jumps

The eyelet below the wreath was soldered on seperately, it was not part of the dye/mold! It was to be used for a device to show combat jumps when it was still a qualification wing is the common understanding. The device (possibly a dagger or a star) was never actually made/used. Nevertheless all variations used in the existence of the unit had this eyelet soldered on!

Materials

This first batch was in bronze in both versions of the history of the wing. This batch was used for the first groups that received the red beret by the end of 1947. When this batch was finished new batches were made using the same dye/mold. Somewhere in the process of making new batches brass was chosen as the material as this could be polished better, a desire of many of the new para’s!

Selection of period wings in all three materials, all from the Kloër estate.

Another variation was made in (low grade / “Djokja”) silver! Regarding the silver version several stories/opinions are given none can be substantiated so far. For instructors, for people with combat jumps, for officers etc.

The brass version is the most common (probably around 60% of the total made but still rare with only around 400 active paratroopers in those 4 years!). Bronze and silver seem to be equally rare (probably around 20% each).

Some collectors claim the material variations are only unintentional differences in the alloy mix. Just different production batches using a slightly different alloy as available at that moment which does seem likely.

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

Patination of wings, why?

One of the new insights that came from the Kloër estate is that many if not all of the wings were patinated to a dark colour which was subesquently polished off again in use. It is unclear if this was done as part of the process of completing new wings or was done by the para’s themselves. A reason could be that in the combat jumps they did not want the wing to be shiny (after the drop most para’s ditched their helmet and wore the red beret instead) so they applied the dark patination before the combat jumps and polished off again after. A production variation seems more likely nevertheless.

Wings with various states of patination – on all material, bronze, brass and silver. The patination was only applied to the front, not the back!

Below the subtle colour variations that all come from the Kloër estate of period wings. From dark patianted bronze to brass, copper, silver and gilded with some in between colours.

Variatons and strikes

A good overview of all the period variations can be found in the Kloër estate that I described in another blog. All examples below and most above come from that estate (only some of these are in my collection but I was able to handle a large portion of the estate for this blog). As these wings all were taken in at the same time in Indonesia they give a great overview of what was worn and done at that moment in time. It forms a perfect time capsule, made in 1950 before the unit was dissolved and the return to the Netherlands. The time capsule came to light only after his death in 2006 when the family found the bag with wings.

It also seems the quality of either the strikes or the dyes/molds themselves resulted in lower quality of the result over the period of almost four years of production. This is visible in the hand, the wreath and especially the lines of the parachute. The amount of polishing could have an effect too of course!

Three levels of the quality of the strike, front version also heavily polished by the owner

Further “miss strikes” or poorly finished examples also exist and seem to have been worn also! Remember all these examples were taken back from the men in 1950 as worn to that date.

Sometimes the strike did not go well as in this example which seems to be struck twice! See the dagger and hand which seem to have a shadow.

The example below also shows how the production was done. Firstly the image was impressed on a plate of base material. Secondly the form was stamped out. This example was impressed perfectly in the first stage but the stamping of the form in the second stage went wrong. Probably the plate moved a few mm.

Nice to see the eyelet has been soldered on too – this example went through quality control as is….

Several unofficial variations/alterations in style of wear are found. One is that the men curved/rounded the wing to follow the form of the baret, another is that the tip of the wings are bent upwards.

From straight, to slightly and very curved
Or curved in the form of actual wings.
Upward bent tips of the wing. Not my collection, photo from the owner

Below a version that has been gilded. Probably to get the shiny look without frequent polishing. Again from the Kloër estate so certainly a period item as worn!

Top gold plated, below the most common brass version
Photo from the NIMH collection.

A closer study of the period photo’s shown further above also reveal that the eyelet beneath the wing often was already broken off in regular wear. The wings sometimes show other defects too.

Last parade of the Para Battlegroup in Indonesia,
Museum Bronbeek, inv49entarisnummer: 2007/06/04-3

Second strike – 1949 or 1950?

The version found often in collections is the later strike, sometimes called the second strike, other times the third strike depending on the source. This version is always in brass, no other versions exist and it is slightly different from the first strike version discussed above.

All clear/high quality period pictures up to 1949 show the first strike examples only. That leads to my hypothesis this later strike is either very late production (1949/50) in Indonesia or production in the Netherlands. This in order to replace missing and broken wings of the first type upon or after the return to the Netherlands. Probably the original dye had been worn out over time as can been seen in the quality of some later first strike examples

Several men in a magazine article can be seen with this later type of wing shortly after their arrival in the Netherlands.

Differences are: Guard of the blade passes the second line of the parachute (counting from left). Blade is longer. Hand is thicker. Arm is shorter. Wreath is more crudely designed. Chute is thicker. Overall the material is thicker than in the first strikes. You can compare both versions below.

2nd later strike
First strike, brass
Back of the 2nd/later strike with full relief

Below a photo from 1950s – in the Netherlands with a second/later strike wing being worn. These wings were worn up to 1954/55 within the army.

From an article about the para’s after their arrival in the Netherlands, 2nd/later strike

Return to Holland

Of 800 men of the Regiment Speciale Troepen only around 400 were Airborne qualified. Of the total of 800 men some 400 chose to stay in Indonesia. Around 250 were brought to the Netherlands in the first half of 1950. Around 125 Speciale Troepen participants of the APRA first had to finish their prison sentence before being discharged (dishonorably). Many of these men went to Holland, despite the way they were treated by the government, as it was safer for them and their families.

First parade of the Para Battlegroup in Holland,
Museum Bronbeek, inventarisnummer: 2007/06/04-3

Version of unknown background

Below another version of which only some examples are known. When it was made and in what quantity is unknown. It is based on the first strike, all examples again are in brass. The back shows that the material appears like it was cast and not struck like the first versions and the 2nd/later strike. All known specimen have the same number in the back so it is not a serial number. This is sometimes called the 2nd strike (and then the version above is the 3rd strike in that case) or the in between strike. Due to the unknown background I personally do not classify it as an original but it might be.

Not my collection, photo’s from the owner

Copies

Several poor quality copies and some slightly better copies of these wings exist. These were made in the 1990s in Poland in several variations, all quite easily recognized. Even a variation with a swastika. A comparison with the originals can easily be made, there are more signs to look for so beware! Versions with makers (like Stokes) are all later fakes.

Recently a high quality fake has appeared on the market. It is still possible to recognize it on high res photo’s but not nearly as easy as the Polish made fakes that have been around for a long time. In hand it is much easier if you have an original to compare it with.

Recent fake of high quality. I will not list the differences but do take a good look!

Most of these fakes are based on the first strike and bronze in color where the most common original version of the first strike is brass (bronze and silver are significantly rarer).

Overview of older (80s/90s) fakes and BOP variations made by Kees Smulders

Next to the fakes there are “reunion” versions made for the BOP (union of former parachutists). These were sold to the men who no langer had their original wings. These wings are based on the second/later strike and always in brass. This type is sometimes seen/sold as an original version but these were made in the 1960s up to the 1990s! The eyelet beneath the wreath is not soldered on (as with originals) but it is cast/struck in one piece as an integral part of the badge.

Front and back of a BOP “reunion” wing.

With the originals often the eyelet beneath the wing or on the back are either missing or have been replaced at a later date. To find a complete first strike version has become difficult (with less than 400 para’s of which only about half came to the Netherlands of whom many received new baretwings in the Netherlands)!

Korea

After 1950 the Dutch East Indies Army including the Special Forces were disbanded. Veterans continued to wear the beret badge up to july 1955 in the regular Dutch army. With the start of the Korean conflict the Dutch also formed a detachment. The Special Forces veterans were on the top of the list for recruitment. As a result of this many Special Forces beret wings were worn in the Korean conflict!

Korea Detachment (1st) with several wings visible!
Museum Bronbeek, inventarisnummer: 2007/06/04-3
Photo NIMH – In Korea, wing worn on the Cold Weather Cap

Sources:

https://www.defensie.nl/onderwerpen/historische-canons/historische-canon-korps-commando-troepen/het-korps-paraat/korps-insulinde

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

http://www.hetdepot.com/sop.html

Opdracht Sumatra – Het Korps Insulinde – 1942-1946, J.Th. A. de Man, 1987

Westerling’s oorlog. Indonesië 1945-1950, J.A. de Moor, 2000

Topi Merah, S. Postma, 2022

KNIL – Airforce Wings (ML KNIL)

Even though my focus is on the para wings of the KNIL a small collection of aviation wings is also part of my collection

Today I will describe the few wings of the Airforce (ML KNIL) from my current collection:

Pilot and Navigator (combined) Wing
Bomber Wing
Radio Operator (Telegraphist) Wing

Aerial Gunner Wing
Mechanic Wing

Pilot and Navigator wings

The aviator and navigator wing for the ML KNIL were introduced in 1922 as two seperate wings. From 1932 a combination was made. The basic wing of the aviator now could be combined with that of the navigator by adding the W (waarnemer = navigator) to the pilot wing as most pilots would have the double qualification and no longer needed two wings to show this. The seperate wings for single qualification would stay in use but are relatively rare.

Crew Wings

These models of wings for crew members were introduced in 1940/41. At that moment there was still peace in the Dutch East Indies but the war in the Netherlands already was lost. Wings were produced locally. These all have a dark (bronze) colour and no makers name. These wings are solid (so not impressed on the back).

This changed after the Indies were lost to the Japanese in 1942. All forces and planes evacuated to Australia as far as possible. Troops left behind ended up as Prisoners of War with the Japanese invaders. During the remainder of the war the operations in the pacific were continued from Australia. The education of new pilots and aviation crews for the Dutch East Indies Army was mostly done in the USA. This had as a result that wings were produced in both the USA and Australia.

Branch distinctive in the form of a propellor

These were worn on the shoulder boards and on the rank insignia for all ranks as a branch distinctive. In the photo 5 variations. Top by Stokes, left first two by Luke and the others are unmarked and maybe prewar.

Unsigned, local version

The Mechanic and Gunner Wings shown here are of the variation made in the Dutch East Indies and does not have a makers mark. These were made in 1941 according to Rob Vis. As mentioned before the colour is dark (bronze) and it has a simple closure. Compared with the Stokes versions this one has a flat reverse. These are stamped (not cast as many of the copies) and partially sawed out by hand which makes that the form is not always 100% sharp/well done. The quality cannot be compared with the Australian and US made wings.

Another version
Two slight variations of the Mechanic Wing, both of the local make

Foreign makers

In the USA one maker was used, Amico. In Australia two makers were used KG Luke and Stokes. All makers have slight differences in the feathers of the wings. Colour is the easiest distinction between the USA and Australian versions. Amico used the dark bronze colour that was also the standard before the war. In Australia the colour (and material?) was brass. Most wings produced after 1941 are also marked by the maker but not all.

Stokes

War period style closure
The propellor as used on the rank badges by Stokes

The Bomber and Radio Operator wings above were made by Stokes but are from different batches. The Bomber is a rare variation with the pre-war style closure (3 hooks placed on the back) where the Radio Operator had a pin as shown. According to Rob Vis (the foremost Dutch Wing Collector) in 1942 when the KNIL had to evacuate to Australia a rush order was placed for some types of wings and these were ordered with the old (then standard) style closure. Later production batches all had the regular pin backs. The bomber is in general quire rare as post 1945 these were no longer produced. The bombers were used as strafers in Indonesia so bomb aimers were no longer trained.

K.C. Luke

K.C. Luke was the second Australian maker of ML KNIL badges as in this example. The propellors were the generic sign for Aviation within the army both for KNIL and the Dutch army. They were worn next to the rank. The typical closure for Luke as seen here was also used on the wings they made.

Amico

Below the reverse of an Aviator combined with Navigator (W for Waarnemer) wing made by Amico in the USA. Note the different style of wing/feathers and the darker colour despite being polished to shine in the past...

1st Lt Samson wearing the Aviator/Navigator wing

Copies

As all of the ML KNIL wings are relatively rare reproductions have been made to fool collectors so please study before buying! According to Mr. Vis reproductions of the Stokes early batch type of wing also exist but are of lower quality. The same goes for regular Stokes, Amico and Luke wings. Most reproductions show differences if you can directly compare them to an original in hand. In photo’s it can be difficult so please act carefully! Many copies are of cast material and lose a lot of quality compared to the originals that were struck!

Documentation

Each wing would be accompanied by a qualification (brevet) booklet or flight license (vliegbewijs). The pre war version was black with on the front the wing involved. Here is a wartime/postwar example for the Aviator/Navigator Samson.

Pilot/navigator qualification booklet (brevet) for Lt Samson (see link below)

Below a flight license for a radio operator (radiotelegrafist) where the medical check seems to be the most important part of the booklet (simple folded booklet so with a total of 4 pages on 2 sides).

The paperwork is even rarer than the original wings!

US Navy Wing to Dutch Naval Aviator (started in the Dutch East Indies)

I will give more background on this wing in a dedicated blog but here is short version. There was a group of Naval Aviators (Reserve Officers, AROV) that started their training in 1941 in the Dutch East Indies. They would complete their training in the US in 1943 as naval aviators. This wing belonged to an Aviator from that group!

Aerial Photography

In the period from 1947 up to 1950 there was a aerial photography unit in the East Indies active. This was the only unit that used an American Style larger size patch for use on the front of the jackets. They also had a specific wing which I do not have yet in my collection.

The photo’s below come from the excellent website www.hetdepot.com showing a similar badge being worn and one displayed in the background.

References:

More reading can be done in Tristan Broos his book Het Koninklijk Nederlands-Indisch leger (Geschiedenis, uniformering en uitrustingen 1911-1942)

Thanks to Rob Vis for his knowledge and input.

A great overview of all ML KNIL wings can be found here.

Or read about the story behind a Bronze Lion for bomber pilot Lt Samson

Or Hans Warning a naval aviator of the AROV group, Trained in the US

And two pages with some background information from the book: Gedenkboek Militaire Luchtvaart 1914-1939 by M. van Haselen. This book I can highly recommend for the prewar history of the ML KNIL.