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Gerrits Travels – Vietnam War 1966-’70 (part 6)

A Dutchman in Vietnam!

Gerrit spent the first half of the ’60s in Greenland working at the BMEWS base, one of the coldest parts of the world. You can read more about him there in the earlier blogs about him: Gerrits Travels – Part 1 – BMEWS at Thule Air Base – Greenland The second half of the ’60s he spent in tropical Vietnam working state related contracts.

As he passed away I am not sure I will ever know what he did there exactly. He worked in some capacity for RMK-BRJ the largest building conglomerate active in Vietnam during the war. You can read more about their history here: RMK-BRJ wiki

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He had some form of medical education in the US (he stated to be an MD but I found no actual proof for this though) and he worked in some medical capacity it seems, probably in the line of Health and Food safety for RMK-BRJ.

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Below a photo of his kit-bag (his original Dutch one, not a US version!): GHM Medical Department / Facilities & Operations RMK BRJ / 6th Division Vietnam

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Here some paperwork form his time in Vietnam:

His MACV ID Card (Military Assistance Command Vietnam)

His S Government drivers license with Vietnam Road Sign test

Saigon Hospital card and Saigon Freemason membership card (look at the date?)

As he spent more than 4 years in Vietnam he witnessed most of the war and not always from a safe distance! On several occasions he risked his life during the line of work. As can be read on the Wiki regarding RMK-BRJ with more than 52 emplyees killed.

I’ll share here some of my favourite pictures from his collection (these are mainly prints I took from the slides he made).

Some local forces:

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Do you something bulbing inside his white shirt? He always carried a grenade there for safety reasons, but not visible….

Driving a river boat, he went with the river forces on patrols on several occassions, just for fun and he spoke French fluently so he could help out in communications too.

With the Marines he had a Dutch friend there too, recently emigrated to the US.

And some random photo’s:

Some of the items he collected during this period:

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The Marbles pilots survival knife he already got in Greenland and brought to VN.

The Rolex Datejust he bought for his Birthday during R&R in Bangkok! It can be seen on the stairs of a friends house in Saigon. He is guarding the house with his M1 with double (taped together) banana magazines.

A relatively rare item among his military gear are these: Military Survival Kit – Hot Wet environment. Mainly issued to Special Forces in Vietnam – complete with all items including flare gun and amphetamine tablets (also called no sleep tablets). For more info see http://www.vietnamgear.com/kit.aspx?kit=370

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At least one more episode to follow! Congo and Persia are the next stations in the trip…

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You cannot hide your heritage 🙂

For the earlier parts you can go here: Gerrits Travels – Part 1 – BMEWS at Thule Air Base – Greenland

MWO4 voor Wim van den Berg – Guerilla & Verzet in Minahasa door het KNIL 1942

Willem Carel van den Berg 

IMG_6491Originele foto zoals ook afgebeeld in Maalderink

Geboren te ‘s Gravenhage 15/10/1899
Ridder MWO bij Koninklijk Besluit van 27/12/1948, no 19

Uitreiking MWO: 
Burgemeester Bisschopplein te Batavia – 19/03/1949
Riddereed afgenomen door: Dr. L.M. Beel – Hoge Vertegenwoordiger van de Kroon

IMG_6492Originele foto van de uitreiking in Batavia, W vd Berg rechts in beeld

Reden MWO

Het zich in de strijd onderscheiden hebben door uitstekende daden van moed, beleid en trouw als Commandant van het Tactisch Commando Kakas (Minahassa) van 11 Januari tot 22 Februari 1942 door, nadat de onder zijn bevelen staande zwakke bezetting van het vliegveld Kalawiran (Minahassa) aan de voor de overmeestering van dit vliegveld neergelaten overmachtige groep vijandelijke parachutisten gevoelige verliezen had toegebracht en de voorbereide vernielingen te Kakas waren uitgevoerd, hoewel zijn oorspronkelijke opdracht het toeliet zich naar het Zuiden buiten de Minahassa terug te trekken, zich tot het voortzetten van de guerillastrijd in het gebied te Oosten van het meer van Tondano te handhaven.

IMG_6488Album ter gelegenheid van de MWO uitreiking

Na in dit gebied ongeveer 100 man aan troepen te hebben verzameld en daarvan twee afdelingen voor een bijzondere guerilla-opdracht te hebben afgescheiden, heeft hij met de hem overblijvende brigade ter sterkte van 23 man als enig overgebleven strijdende groep in de reeds geheel door de vijand bezette Minahassa gedurende 43 dagen onder uiterst moeilijke omstandigheden en onder bedreiging door de vijand met de zwaarste represailles het verzet met veel beleid en onbuigzaamheid volgehouden.

In de nacht van 16 op 17 Februari 1942 bij Kampong Lamban door de vijand na een zorgvuldige voorbereiding omsingeld en aangevallen, heeft hij met zijn groep, tot de munitie uitgeput raakte, hardnekkig weerstand geboden en zonder verliezen door de omsingeling man na man weten heen te sluipen, nadat hij de twee nog vermiste militairen, alleen en onder vijandelijk vuur in het bedreigde bivak had opgespoord en tijdig in veiligheid gebracht.

Nadat hem uit berichten was gebleken, dat elke kans tot versterking van zijn groep met 1 a 2 sectiën geheel verkeken was, besloot hij zich aan de vijandelijke achtervolging te onttrekken door van Kampong Kolongan in Oostelijke richting naar de kust te trekken; over zee de kust naar het Zuiden volgende, werd zijn prauw ten gevolge van noodweer op de kust geworpen en werd hij met zijn groep op 22 Februari bij Kampong Basaan door verraad gevangen genomen.

IMG_6493Artikel in Wapenbroeders 1949

Tenslotte heeft hij na zijn gevangenneming, met de zwaarste folteringen en de doodstraf voor ogen, door zijn moedige, zich zelf niet ontziende en waardige houding, o.m. door zijn verzoek om zijn militairen het leven te sparen en slechts hem voor het voortzetten van het verzet te doen boeten, de vijand dusdanige bewondering en respect weten af te dwingen, dat hij en de tot zijn groep behorende Nederlandse militairen niet werden terechtgesteld en hem zelfs door de Japanse troepencommandant voor de door hem en zijn mannen betoonde moed openlijk eer werd betoond.
Door de gedurende een guerilla-activiteit van 43 dagen met een kleine groep van merendeels Manadonese militairen op de vijand bevochten grote, vooral morele successen, heeft deze officier met zijn mannen tevens de band Nederland-Minahassa aanzienlijk versterkt.

Militaire rangen: 
Tweede luitenant der Infanterie KNIL 08/09/1924
Eerste luitenant der Infanterie KNIL 08/09/1927
Kapitein der Infanterie KNIL 30/06/1937

IMG_6487Militaire (KNIL) officiers legitimatie van W vd Berg als Kapitein uit 1940

Majoor onbekend
Luitenant kolonel 20/02/1947
Eervol ontslag 13/02/1950

Bronnen: 
De Militaire Willems-Orde sedert 1940, door P.G.H. Maalderink,

Zie voor Militaire Willemsorde ook:

The story of a forgotten war hero – Adriaan Zijlmans and his succesful evacuation of 3000 women and children to safety…

Military Order of William – 200 years of decorations!

The Hungarian WW2 army officers 1931M dress tunic (társasági zubbony)

The first type of dress tunic of the Hungarian army, after World War one, was the 1926 Model which was a classic atilla style tunic which was in use in many armies up to World War one.

This was replaced by a more modern but still typical Hungarian dress tunic in 1931, hence the model name 1931M. This model was in use until 1945 and was never changed in that period. Where the regular officers uniform changed the collar in 1939 this remained a standing collar.

thumb_IMG_6467_1024Some colour variations exist based on the branch of the army – this one is the infantry green version. General officers had a light blue one (like the WW1 hechtgrau colour), darker blue for the cavalry etc. This version is for a Lieutenant Colonel of the Infantry. The loops on the left breast are for medals, in this case 9 loops. The combination of rank and medals hint at an officer that already started his career in the first World War.

Sources:

  • A Magyar Királyi Honvédség Egyenruhái 1926 – 1945, dr. Tóth László, Huniform, 2007

For more Hungarian uniform blogs follow the links:

The Hungarian WW2 Air Force officers 1930M tunic (zubbony)

The Hungarian WW2 army uniform 1939M tunic (zubbony)

WW2 Hungarian Gendarme (Csendőr) tunic

Hungarian Air Force: pilot wings and cap badges

The Hungarian Air Force was built up in secret during the 1930s. Officially this was not allowed based on the Trianon treaty that was a result of World War 1. Also when the war started and they could openly built the Air Force further it remained rather small compared to other forces in the war making all insignia quite rare.

In most countries a pair of wings has become the standard symbol for an aviators qualification. In the Hungarian Air Force this was no different. What makes it a a bit more interesting is that almost the same design was used for cap badges. This leads to many mistakes by collectors, pilots wings are seen as cap badges and vice versa.

The distinction is actually quite easy. For the qualification badge the wings are straight and for the cap badges the wings are curved. Otherwise they are the same.

Pilot wings

There are basically two types of wings that were used in World War 2 by the Hungarian Air Force. One for the pilot and another for the observer (navigator). The only difference between these is that the pilot has a crown above the eagle and the observer not.

The wings are made of cloth with gold bullion stitching. There is no difference in rank visible in the badge – which makes it different from most Hungarian badges like on the cap badges we will discuss next.

The wings were worn (sewn on) on the right breast above the top pocket of the 1930M Air Force officers uniform (that I will discuss in another blog).

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thumb_IMG_6455_1024 Worn version of the pilot wings, front and back below

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Metal versions of these wings were also officially made but these seem to have only been given to non-Hungarian pilots as “exchange” badges.thumb_Schermafbeelding 2018-04-07 om 10.38.16_1024Metal version awarded to a german pilot (photo from the internet, not my collection)

The observer wings were introduced later in the war and were worn by the officer with this task in the crew of a bomber. These are very rare and also exist in metal for foreign observers but I have not found a photo of one being worn or a confirmed original.

IMG_6450        Lieutenant with the observer wings (photo from internet)

Cap badges

For the cap badges the story is interesting too as some more variations exist. The basis is again cloth with bullion stitching. Silver for ranks below officer and gold for officers. But more variations exist. A more ornate version on a red cloth background for general officers exists which is very rare. Also a version for officers in training. For use on the side cap for common soldiers a metal version was in use that later became standard for all ranks. All variations of course with the curved wings!

thumb_IMG_6473_1024NCO cap badge in silver bullion, top is worn, bottom one new old stock

thumb_IMG_6474_1024The NOS one even has the makers label still attached!

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Period overview of Air Force badges and ranks:

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For more info on the Hungarian Air Force uniform go here:

The Hungarian WW2 Air Force officers 1930M tunic (zubbony)

 

The Hungarian WW2 Air Force officers 1930M tunic (zubbony)

Another blog about a Hungarian tunic, this time the Air Force officers “front” version.

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The 1930M uniform was the standard Air Force officers uniform from 1930 until 1945. The only variations are in material and color. Green for regular use, white for the summer and black as the dress version. Within the green colour also many variations exist.  Officers could buy their own tailor made versions with more luxurious materials like gabardine in place of the regular wool version.

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Example of a flight officer wearing a tailor made version

This specific version is a coarse wool (poszto) version as was handed out by the Air Force. This variation is called the front version that has brown metal buttons in place of the regular gold coloured buttons and made of poszto.

thumb_IMG_6393_1024Example of a front version being worn by an Air Force lieutenant

Unlike on the army tunic the shoulder boards are detachable (which was also the case with the river forces). If the officer was an aviator the pilot wing would be worn on the right breast just above the top pocket.

This tunic like eg the German and English ones were also worn as part of the actual flight gear. Often with a leather coat over the tunic.

hun afPilots with flight jacket over the tunic (photo from internet)

For more info on Hungarian Air Force badges go here:

Hungarian Air Force: pilot wings and cap badges

For other Hungarian uniforms go here:

The Hungarian WW2 army officers 1931M dress tunic (társasági zubbony)

The Hungarian WW2 army uniform 1939M tunic (zubbony)

WW2 Hungarian Gendarme (Csendőr) tunic

 

The Hungarian WW2 army uniform 1939M tunic (zubbony)

As most books regarding Hungary in WW2 regarding the history, uniforms and medals are in Hungarian I want to add a series of short descriptions in English in this blog.

The 1939M tunic (zubbony in Hungarian) was a modernization of the earlier 1926M version. The most notable difference being the collar which was a standing collar in the earlier version. The 1939M came with a so called stand and fall collar (so a collar that folds like on a shirt).

The same style of uniform was used both by officers and men. The basic material of the tunic is wool but many variations exist in both quality of the material and details. Most officers bought a private, tailor made version of the tunic in a fine quality of wool “kammgarn”.

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The officers version as seen above can be recognized by the details in gold: the buttons, the collar insignia “paroli” and the shoulder loops. The collar insignia give information about rank and branch. In this case a colonel of the infantry. The stars are made of bullion. The collar loops are the same for officers of all ranks and all branches of the army, a small loop of gold material.

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The ranks below officer had most often a tunic in coarser wool “poszto”. Most professional soldiers would also have a tailor made in a finer version of wool like the one above. The distinctive difference with officers is that the details are in silver, buttons and collar insignia and the shoulder loops are of cloth and give the branch of the army as do the collar insignia. In this case a sergeant of the Gendarmes. The stars for the rank are made out of solid aluminum.

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The arm of the officers tunic ends with three (non-functional) buttons which the lower ranks tunic does not have.

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The back of the tunic shows a minor difference again, a single split for the officer and a double for the NCO.

Normally medals were worn on the uniform, even in the field in the first years of the war. Later in the war most men wore ribbons only and sometimes not even those. The colonel is showing a ribbon series fitting his rank and a career spanning two wars. Behind the ribbons also the loops for medals can be seen. The sergeant is wearing three medals on loops, also spanning a period of two wars.

Sources:

  • A Magyar Királyi Honvédség Egyenruhái 1926 – 1945, dr. Tóth László, Huniform, 2007
  • Video on youtube by Decker’s Militaria: https://youtu.be/QrlaTfwqG40

For more Hungarian uniform blogs go here:

The Hungarian WW2 army officers 1931M dress tunic (társasági zubbony)

The Hungarian WW2 Air Force officers 1930M tunic (zubbony)

WW2 Hungarian Gendarme (Csendőr) tunic

HGU-4/P USAF Aviator Sunglasses 1958-2018, an icon for 60 years!

The HGU -4/P was introduced in 1958 and is still in use in 2018 marking an unpreceded 60 year period, a design classic in all aspects!

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Although the USAAF Aviator Sunglasses (AN6531 and the G-2) are probably the most iconic (aviator) sunglasses in the world and still in production today (Ray-Ban being the most well known maker) they were in official air force use from 1941 until their replacement in 1958 so they “only” lasted a period of 17 years.

General Douglas MacArthur with the earlier G2 Aviator Sunglasses and A2 leather jacket

They were then replaced with the sunglasses that are the subject of this blog: the HGU-4/P Aviator sunglasses. An extensive testing was done in 1958/59 and the HGU-4/P was considered the better compared to the G-2 that was still in stock at that time.

Here you can read the original report of that testing: HGU 4P

American Opticals designed these glasses for more comfortable use with helmets in mind resulting in the iconic bayonet style arms. The original version had a 52mm frame and was gold filled, later versions became gold plated and also available in matte chrome. Since 1982 Randolph started supplying the US forces with these glasses and they still do today. Both brands made these glasses also available for the commercial market and they still do today. Minor differences between the commercial and military versions can be found.

A few military examples in matte chrome, from the internet:

Here some photo’s from the internet of the glasses being worn in Vietnam:

And some celebrities on and off the screen (from the internet again):

And my own set (now with prescription multifocal glasses), RE from December 1991:

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Dutch “Honorable Mention” to a Navy MD

The Dutch Honorable Mention

The Dutch Gallantry medals had, for a very long time in history, only one order for all different levels of Gallantry, the Military Order of William which was instituted in 1815.  For lesser deeds of Gallantry there was the “Eervolle Vermelding” which translates to “Honorable Mention” or for the Anglo-Saxon world a Mention in Dispatches also instituted in 1815. For this there was no visible display of the honor. By many in the forces this was felt as an omission in the military decoration system. An unofficial wreath was worn with several different medals to make the Honorable Mention visible. Only in 1879 this was changed by the use of a crown device to be worn on the “Expedition Cross” that had been instituted in 1869. For multiple awards the number (2 or 3) would be displayed below the crown.

During WW2 the crown was finally replaced by several new medals for Gallantry and only one more clasp was added to the Expedition Cross (Timor 1942).

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Multiple example of the crown device and to the left an example of the unofficial wreath. (not my collection!)

Bali 1849 – Honorable Mention for J.P ter Beek, MD for the Royal Dutch Navy

As mentioned before the Expedition Cross dates from 1869 and at that same moment 6 clasp were instituted going back to as early as 1846, the first Bali Expedition. All living participants of these 6 expeditions would get the medal with clasp and an award certificate. These first 6 clasps belong to the rarer ones but the award document even more so (as there were more clasps produced than actually handed out to living participants). The navy only had a small part in the total number of crosses awarded so is even rarer.

Medical Doctor Ter Beek of the Royal Dutch Navy participated in the 3rd Bali campaign in 1849 on board of the “Z. M. fregat Prins van Oranje”  (the flagship of the campaign).

Ter Beek retired from the Navy in 1859 and became a General Practitioner in the city of Kampen in the Netherlands. Ten years later, 20 years after the campaign, he received the Expedition cross with the Clasp Bali 1849 and the award certificate shown below.

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In 1879 the aforementioned Crown device for wear on the Expedition Cross was instituted and also handed out retrospectively to those who had earned the Crown in the period before its existence. As Ter Beek was also Honorably Mentioned in the same Bali campaign he would get the Crown device and the diploma in that year, 30 years after the campaign for which it was bestowed!

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Above the diploma for the Honorable Mention and below the accompanying letter and the Expedition Cross with clasp and crown device.

This combination of a rare clasp with Honorable Mention for the same campaign and all documents confirming this may very well be unique in its kind! Especially so a Navy version!

His son A.W.K. ter Beek also chose a life of service and joined the Dutch East Indies Army where he would be awarded a Military Order of William 4th class, Honor Sword and Honorable Mention. The related documents to that are in the hands of another collector!

 

Expedition cross for the 1942 Timor Ferry

The Dutch medal “Ereteken voor Belangrijke Krijgsverrigtingen” is commonly referred to as the Expedition Cross.  Where the medal and most of the 33 clasps are common some of the clasps are relatively rare. One of these is the last clasp, that of Timor 1942. The accompanying documents for these rare clasps are even harder to find.

This example is to one of the Navy participants (servant 1st class :)) that was was on board of the so called Timor-Ferry Hr. Ms Tjerk Hiddes.

A great article has been written on the subject of the Timor Campaign and can be found here:

http://www.go2war2.nl/artikel/2830/Battle-for-Timor.htm?page=1

A small excerpt from that webarticle regarding this ship:

Possibly the Australian navy had underestimated the risks of an evacuation and drew the conclusion that it required a fast en well-armed ship to finish such exercise successfully. Because the Australian did not have such ship available at that moment, the Dutch Commander of the Navy, Rear-Admiral Coster, was called upon. Coster supported the plans to evacuate the guerillas from Timor and because Hr. Ms. Van Galen was at sea, he appointed Hr. Ms. Tjerk Hiddes to carry out this dangerous mission. The commander of the Tjerk Hiddes, Lieutenant Commander J.W.Kruys, received secret orders to firstly sail to Port Darwin where they had to bunker oil and where two motor launches and eight collapsible boats had to be loaded. On December 5th, 1942, the modern destroyer left her base, Fremantle, West Australia. Apart from fuel and the launches, commander Kruys received extremely useful information from the RAAF in Darwin. Shortly before, the Australian Air Force had downed a few Japanese bombers which had enabled them to lay their hands on a flight schedule of Japanese air patrol activities between North Australia and Timor. Therefore Kruys had the availability of detailed data regarding the air routes and times of the Japanese reconnaissance flights. Experience thought him also that the Japanese would not quickly divert from their schedules.

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On the 9th of December, early at 5 in the morning, Hr. Ms. Tjerk Hiddes left Port Darwin and headed for Timor by strait Dundas, between Melville Island and the Cobourg peninsula, after which the destroyer crossed the Timor Sea with a speed of thirty knots. For the first hours Australian Bristol Beaufighters accompanied them. It had been agreed with Captain-of-Infantry Breemouer that he would gather his men and other refugees on the beach at Betano, where they would ignite three large fires. By excellent navigating and timing Hr. Ms. Tjerk Hiddes arrived exactly in time on the right spot. Commander Kruys and his navigation officer Lieutenant Keesom had used their artillery radar in order to sound out the coast line and the Asdic-installation to detect reefs and cliffs, which were very innovative methods.

The Tjerk Hiddes anchored 800 yards from the coast and at that time the motor launches and 4 of the foldable boats had been prepared to be lowered. Thereafter the remainder of the foldable boats were hung outside board. The motor launches tugged the eight foldable boats into the surf after which the men of the landing detachment of the Tjerk Hiddes rowed them ashore. The KNIL soldiers on the beach were excited to be evacuated by a Dutch ship. The motor launches and the folding boats had to repeat their trips twice in order to embark all evacuees on the Hiddes. At the same time several Australian commandos and supplies were put ashore as reinforcements of the guerillas. Even before 01:00 all refugees, 50 women and children, 50 sick and wounded and almost 300 Australian and Dutch soldiers were onboard and the launches, boats and climbing nets cleared and stowed inboard. A quarter of an hour later the Hiddes went anchor up to return to Australia with a speed of 30 knots, whereby the heavy monsoon rains provided appropriate cover after daylight. The whole of the operation could not have been carried out more efficiently by the very best trained commando troops.

Several days after its return in Port Darwin, on 14 December, Tjerk Hiddes again left towards midnight in order to pick up evacuees; again accompanied by Beaufighters. This time the agreed landing spot would be 8 miles east of Betano and it concerned mainly the 2nd Independent Company. Again by excellent navigation, around 22:00 the pick-up zone was reached and within five minutes the launches and folding boats were on their way with five tons of supplies for the troops of the 4th Independent Company. Towards 00:30 all persons to be evacuated, about 240 Australian commandos and 30 Portuguese clergymen were onboard and the destroyer ready to leave. Again under the cover of the monsoon storms, the Dutch vessel crossed the Timor Sea and was again escorted by the Beaufighters at the last stretch. After again an exemplary mission, the Tjerk Hiddes entered Port Darwin around 17:00 on 16 December 1942.

Already the next night Hr. Ms. Tjerk Hiddes left for the third and last time for Timor. This time Portuguese colonists and Timorese civilians had to be collected at Aliambeta, on the south coast of Timor. Around 23:00 on December 18th, the first signals were exchanged with the people on the beach and half an hour later the disembarking of aid materials started and the boarding of the more than 310 evacuees and 4 tons of valuable rubber. Even before 01:00 the Dutch destroyer was again ready for departure. In the early hours of 19 December the Beaufighters appeared over the ship which docked around 11:00 in Port Darwin.

The Timor-operation by the Tjerk Hiddes was a complete success and the way it had been carried out was an example of effective military performance. During the three trips to and from Timor not a single Japanese plane had been spotted, which had not been due to fortune but to the clever avoidance of the Japanese reconnaissance flights by the intelligence about their flight schedules. The excellent maneuvering and the quick unloading and loading of the folding boats and motor launches made the success of the operation complete. In an article of February 1960, in the American magazine US Naval Institute Proceedings, the Timor operation of Hr. Ms. Tjerk Hiddes was extensively analyzed and the vessel was called the Timor-ferry.

It is great to have been the custodian of such an interesting historical document! These awarded documents are very rare but beware: a great number of blanks of these are on the market….

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For new blogs go to: www.erikscollectables.com