Royal Netherlands East Indies Army
Overview
 
The Royal Netherlands East Indies Army (Koninklijk
Koninklijk
Koninklijk or Koninklijke is an honorary title given to certain companies and non-profit organizations in Belgium and the Netherlands, by the King or Queen in the respective country. It was first introduced by Louis Bonaparte in 1807, the King of the Netherlands at that time, who awarded the title...

 Nederlands Indisch Leger
; KNIL) was the military force maintained by the Netherlands
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

 in its colony
Colony
In politics and history, a colony is a territory under the immediate political control of a state. For colonies in antiquity, city-states would often found their own colonies. Some colonies were historically countries, while others were territories without definite statehood from their inception....

 of the Netherlands East Indies (also known as the Dutch East Indies, and now modern Indonesia
Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

). The KNIL's air arm was the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army Air Force
Royal Netherlands East Indies Army Air Force
The Royal Netherlands East Indies Army Air Force was the air arm of the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army in the Dutch East Indies from 1939 until 1950...

. Elements of the Royal Netherlands Navy
Royal Netherlands Navy
The Koninklijke Marine is the navy of the Netherlands. In the mid-17th century the Dutch Navy was the most powerful navy in the world and it played an active role in the wars of the Dutch Republic and later those of the Batavian Republic and the Kingdom of the Netherlands...

 were also stationed in the Netherlands East Indies.
The KNIL was formed by royal decree on 10 March 1830.
Encyclopedia
The Royal Netherlands East Indies Army (Koninklijk
Koninklijk
Koninklijk or Koninklijke is an honorary title given to certain companies and non-profit organizations in Belgium and the Netherlands, by the King or Queen in the respective country. It was first introduced by Louis Bonaparte in 1807, the King of the Netherlands at that time, who awarded the title...

 Nederlands Indisch Leger
; KNIL) was the military force maintained by the Netherlands
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

 in its colony
Colony
In politics and history, a colony is a territory under the immediate political control of a state. For colonies in antiquity, city-states would often found their own colonies. Some colonies were historically countries, while others were territories without definite statehood from their inception....

 of the Netherlands East Indies (also known as the Dutch East Indies, and now modern Indonesia
Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

). The KNIL's air arm was the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army Air Force
Royal Netherlands East Indies Army Air Force
The Royal Netherlands East Indies Army Air Force was the air arm of the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army in the Dutch East Indies from 1939 until 1950...

. Elements of the Royal Netherlands Navy
Royal Netherlands Navy
The Koninklijke Marine is the navy of the Netherlands. In the mid-17th century the Dutch Navy was the most powerful navy in the world and it played an active role in the wars of the Dutch Republic and later those of the Batavian Republic and the Kingdom of the Netherlands...

 were also stationed in the Netherlands East Indies.

History 1830–1942

The KNIL was formed by royal decree on 10 March 1830. It was not part of the Royal Netherlands Army
Royal Netherlands Army
The Royal Netherlands Army is the land forces element of the military of the Netherlands.-Short history:The Royal Netherlands Army was raised on 9 January 1814, but its origins date back to 1572, when the so-called Staatse Leger was raised...

, 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 comprising the Dutch East Indies seventy years later, which remain the present boundaries of Indonesia.

In 1894, Lombok
Lombok
Lombok is an island in West Nusa Tenggara province, Indonesia. It forms part of the chain of the Lesser Sunda Islands, with the Lombok Strait separating it from Bali to the west and the Alas Strait between it and Sumbawa to the east...

 and Karangasem were annexed
Dutch intervention in Lombok and Karangasem
The Dutch intervention in Lombok and Karangasem took place in 1894, and is part of the string of Dutch interventions in and around Bali, Dutch East Indies , that led to complete colonization of both Bali and Lombok by the early 20th century....

 in response to reports of the local Balinese aristocracy oppressing the native Sasak
Sasak
The Sasak live mainly on the island of Lombok, Indonesia, numbering around 2.6 million . They are related to the Balinese in language and race, although the Sasak are predominantly Muslim while the Balinese are Hindu....

 people. Bali was finally taken under full control with the Dutch intervention in Bali (1906) and the final Dutch intervention in Bali (1908)
Dutch intervention in Bali (1908)
The Dutch intervention in Bali in 1908 marked the final phase of Dutch colonial control over the island of Bali in Indonesia. It was the seventh and last military intervention in Bali, following the Dutch intervention in Bali ....

. The KNIL was involved in many campaigns against indigenous groups in the Netherlands East Indies including the Padri War
Padri War
The Padri War was fought from 1803 until 1837 in West Sumatra between two rival muslim factions. The Dutch intervened from 1821 and helped the Adats defeat the Padri faction.-Background:...

 (1821–1845), the Java War
Java War
The Java War or Diponegoro War was fought in Java between 1825 and 1830. It started as a rebellion led by Prince Diponegoro. The proximate cause was the Dutch decision to build a road across a piece of his property that contained his parents' tomb...

 (1825–1830), crushing the final resistance of Bali
Bali
Bali is an Indonesian island located in the westernmost end of the Lesser Sunda Islands, lying between Java to the west and Lombok to the east...

 inhabitants to colonial rule in 1849, and the prolonged Aceh War
Aceh War
The Aceh War, also known as the Dutch War or the Infidel War , was an armed military conflict between the Sultanate of Aceh and the Netherlands which was triggered by discussions between representatives of Aceh and the U.S. in Singapore during early 1873...

 (1873–1904).

After 1904 the Netherlands East Indies were considered "pacified", with no large-scale armed opposition to Dutch rule until World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, and the KNIL served a mainly defensive role protecting the Dutch East Indies from the possibility of foreign invasion.
In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the KNIL prosecuted the conquest of the Indonesian archipelago. Once the archipelago was considered "pacified" the KNIL was mainly involved with military police 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 male conscripts in the European legal class in 1917. In 1922 a supplemental legal enactment introduced the creation of a ‘Home guard
Home Guard
-Military:*British Home Guard*Combat Groups of the Working Class *Confederate Home Guard, during the American Civil War*Croatian Home Guard and Imperial Croatian Home Guard*Danish Home Guard...

’ (Dutch: Landstorm) for European conscripts older than 32.

No large-scale armed opposition to Dutch rule existed until World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. The KNIL hastily and inadequatly attempted to transform into modern military force able to protect the Dutch East Indies from foreign invasion. On the eve of the Japanese invasion in December 1941, Dutch regular troops in the East Indies comprised about 1,000 officers and 34,000 men, of whom 28,000 were indigenous. After the defeat and occupation of the Netherlands
Battle of the Netherlands
The Battle of the Netherlands was part of Case Yellow , the German invasion of the Low Countries and France during World War II. The battle lasted from 10 May 1940 until 14 May 1940 when the main Dutch forces surrendered...

 by Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

, in 1940 the KNIL was cut off from the Dutch Army, except for the Royal Navy stationed in the colony. During the Dutch East Indies campaign
Dutch East Indies campaign
The Dutch East Indies campaign of 1941–1942 was the conquest of the Dutch East Indies by forces from the Empire of Japan in the early days of the Pacific Campaign of World War II. Forces from the Allies attempted unsuccessfully to defend the islands. Indonesia was targeted by the Japanese for its...

 of 1941–42 the KNIL and the Allied forces were quickly defeated. All 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.

World War II

The KNIL was the main defense against the Japanese invading the Netherlands East Indies during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. Dutch forces had been severely weakened by the defeat and occupation of the Netherlands
Battle of the Netherlands
The Battle of the Netherlands was part of Case Yellow , the German invasion of the Low Countries and France during World War II. The battle lasted from 10 May 1940 until 14 May 1940 when the main Dutch forces surrendered...

 itself, by Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

, in 1940. Nevertheless, at the start of the Pacific War
Pacific War
The Pacific War, also sometimes called the Asia-Pacific War refers broadly to the parts of World War II that took place in the Pacific Ocean, its islands, and in East Asia, then called the Far East...

, in December 1941, Dutch forces in Indonesia numbered around 85,000 troops, a combination of European and indigenous regular soldiers, locally organised militia, territorial guard units and civilian volunteers. 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. The Dutch East Indies campaign
Dutch East Indies campaign
The Dutch East Indies campaign of 1941–1942 was the conquest of the Dutch East Indies by forces from the Empire of Japan in the early days of the Pacific Campaign of World War II. Forces from the Allies attempted unsuccessfully to defend the islands. Indonesia was targeted by the Japanese for its...

 of 1941–42 saw the Dutch and associated allied (especially ABDA
Abda
Abda may refer to:People*Abda , a personal name, given to two biblical figures*Abda of Edessa, saint of the Assyrian Church of the East*Abda of Dair-Koni, also known as Rabban Mar Abda, abbot and saint...

) forces quickly defeated.

1945–1950

Following World War II, the reconstituted KNIL was used in two large military campaigns
Politionele acties
"Politionele Acties" refers to two major military offensives undertaken by the Netherlands on Java and Sumatra against the Republic of Indonesia during its struggle for independence in the Indonesian National Revolution...

 in 1947 and 1948 to re-establish Dutch control of Indonesia. In the course of this "police action" accusations of war crimes were levelled against the KNIL and its Ambonese auxiliaries. Dutch efforts to re-establish their colony failed and Netherlands recognition of Indonesian sovereignty came on 27 December 1949. On 26 January 1950, elements of the KNIL were involved in an abortive coup in Bandung planned by Raymond Westerling
Raymond Westerling
Raymond Pierre Paul Westerling , nicknamed the Turk, was a Dutch military officer. He waged a bloody occupation campaign in Sulawesi during the Indonesian National Revolution after the Second World War, and staged a coup d'état ‎ ‎ in Bandung and Jakarta in January 1950.-South Sulawesi:Westerling...

 and Sultan Hamid II
Sultan Hamid II
Sultan Hamid II, born Syarif Abdul Hamid Alkadrie was the last Sultan of Pontianak and the only President of the State of West Kalimantan from 1946 to its disestablishment in 1950. He was the eldest son of Sultan Syarif Muhammad Alkadrie...

. The coup failed and only accelerated the dissolution of the federal Republic of the United States of Indonesia
Republic of the United States of Indonesia
The Republic of the United States of Indonesia , also abbreviated as RUSI, was a federal state to which the Netherlands formally transferred sovereignty of the Dutch East Indies on 27 December 1949 following the Dutch-Indonesian Round Table Conference...

.

The KNIL was disbanded by 26 July 1950 with its indigenous personnel being given the option of demobilizing or joining the 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
Makassar
Makassar, is the provincial capital of South Sulawesi, Indonesia, and the largest city on Sulawesi Island. From 1971 to 1999, the city was named Ujung Pandang, after a precolonial fort in the city, and the two names are often used interchangeably...

 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
Regiment Van Heutsz
The Regiment Van Heutsz is a line infantry regiment of the Royal Netherlands Army. The regiment was named after J.B. van Heutsz a former Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies, and was formed on July 1, 1950. It currently, in 2011, operates as 12 Air Assault Infantry Battalion as part of 11...

 of the modern Royal Netherlands Army
Royal Netherlands Army
The Royal Netherlands Army is the land forces element of the military of the Netherlands.-Short history:The Royal Netherlands Army was raised on 9 January 1814, but its origins date back to 1572, when the so-called Staatse Leger was raised...

. 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 Netherlands Army.

Recruiting

During the 19th century the KNIL recruited Dutch volunteers, European mercenaries of other nationalities (especially Germans, Belgians and Swiss).. During the protracted Aceh War
Aceh War
The Aceh War, also known as the Dutch War or the Infidel War , was an armed military conflict between the Sultanate of Aceh and the Netherlands which was triggered by discussions between representatives of Aceh and the U.S. in Singapore during early 1873...

 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
Java
Java is an island of Indonesia. With a population of 135 million , it is the world's most populous island, and one of the most densely populated regions in the world. It is home to 60% of Indonesia's population. The Indonesian capital city, Jakarta, is in west Java...

, Ambon
Ambon Island
Ambon Island is part of the Maluku Islands of Indonesia. The island has an area of , and is mountainous, well watered, and fertile. Ambon Island consists of 2 territories: The main city and seaport is Ambon , which is also the capital of Maluku province and Maluku Tengah Ambon Island is part of the...

, and Manado). Even members of the Ashanti (an African tribe from the present Ghana
Ghana
Ghana , officially the Republic of Ghana, is a country located in West Africa. It is bordered by Côte d'Ivoire to the west, Burkina Faso to the north, Togo to the east, and the Gulf of Guinea to the south...

) were recruited in limited numbers for service in the East Indies
East Indies
East Indies is a term used by Europeans from the 16th century onwards to identify what is now known as Indian subcontinent or South Asia, Southeastern Asia, and the islands of Oceania, including the Malay Archipelago and the Philippines...

 (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.

It was against the law to send Dutch conscripts from the Netherlands to the Netherlands East Indies but Dutch volunteers continued to enlist for colonial service. In 1890 a 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 comprised about 1,000 officers and 34,000 men, of whom 28,000 were indigenous. The largest contingent of these indigenous troops had always consisted of Javanese and Sundanese soldiers. During the Japanese occupation
Japanese Occupation of Indonesia
The Japanese Empire occupied Indonesia, known then as the Dutch East Indies, during World War II from March 1942 until after the end of War in 1945...

, most of the Dutch and Ambonese personnel were interned in POW camps.

During the Indonesian National Revolution
Indonesian National Revolution
The Indonesian National Revolution or Indonesian War of Independence was an armed conflict and diplomatic struggle between Indonesia and the Dutch Empire, and an internal social 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
Sundanese people
The Sundanese are an ethnic group native to the western part of the Indonesian island of Java. They number approximately 31 million, and are the second most populous of all the nation's ethncities. The Sundanese are predominantly Muslim...

, Sumatra
Sumatra
Sumatra is an island in western Indonesia, westernmost of the Sunda Islands. It is the largest island entirely in Indonesia , and the sixth largest island in the world at 473,481 km2 with a population of 50,365,538...

n 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 pension
Pension
In general, a pension is an arrangement to provide people with an income when they are no longer earning a regular income from employment. Pensions should not be confused with severance pay; the former is paid in regular installments, while the latter is paid in one lump sum.The terms retirement...

s under a Javanese-dominated government. As noted above, these factors contributed to clashes between demobilized KNIL units and the Republic of Indonesia's military throughout 1950.

External links

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