The story Willy de Eerens and the dog tag found at Camp Columbia

Willy de Eerens

Willy de Eerens’ dog tag was found in Camp Columbia.
Willy de Eerens was born on 27 February 1921 in Tjilatjap, an important port on the south coast of Java.

During the Japanese invasion he was evacuated to Australia as one of the 99 student pilots from the class of 1 July 1941 of the Vlieg- en Waarnemersschool  (V.W.S. РFlying and Observer School). They left from Tandjung Priok on the 18th of February on board the ms Boissevain.

From February to April 1942 he was at the Flying School and the Observer School of the Army Aviation Corps of the Royal Netherlands Indies Army- KNIL, at the number 6 RAAF Service Flying Training School (6 SFTS) at Mallala, Adelaide. He was trained on the CAC Wirraway aircraft.

Packet of cigarettes specially made by the Americans for the Dutch at the Flying School. Collection Jack Ford.

According to Dutch military historian Dr. Peter Boer [7 The evacuation and posting in Australia of the Flying and Observer School of the Army Aviation Corps KNIL, February-April 1942], from Australia he went with the other students to the Royal Netherlands Military Flying School RNMFS) in America. He was tested as an apprentice pilot (ll vl) and trained as a radio telegraphist-air gunner.

He received basic training with the USAAF to become a wireless operator at Sioux Falls, South Dakota and graduated in March 1943. He was then trained as an air-gunner at Tyndall Field, Florida and Jackson, Mississippi. He was certified as a radio telegraphist-air gunner on 30 June 1943 and transferred to Australia on 9 August 1943, destination 18 NEI Squadron. 

Casualties plane crash Willy de Eerens

On 6 March 1944, he was on board the North American B-25D-25 Mitchell bomber plane, registration number N5-179 who left from Batchelor Air Field, NT destination NEI.

The plane was most likely shot down during a night attack on Toeal, a city in the current Maluku Province of Indonesia. The city, called Kota Tual in Indonesian, is within the Kei Islands, on Dullah Island.

All 6 crew members died in the crash and the wreck was written off.  In the relevant documents of the crash, he is listed as Sgt ML KNIL a/b N5-179. (Sergeant Pilot Netherlands East Indies Air Force on board N5-179). They all will have been close colleagues and friends as most, if not all, went through the same training facilities and would have flown together on many missions.

Return to Camp Columbia Heritage Park, Wacol, Brisbane TOC