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:


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.


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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