Brief summary of Dutch – Australian cooperation

More by default than through thorough planning the Dutch and Australian were thrown into the war in SE Asia together with other allies such as the Brits and Americans against an incredibly rapid expanding Japanese occupation of SE Asia. Through this essay the military activities are further detailed in their relevant chapters. But as we are talking about a war situation it is important to provide this brief overview of some of the key combined military activities.

Lat us first start with the diplomatic contacts which started when it became clear that the Japanese started its own war in SE Asia.

Timeline of pre-war Dutch, NEI and Australian diplomatic exchanges

Early 1940

First contacts were largely secretive as NEI wanted to remain neutral and didn’t want to upset Japan.

July 1940

Dutch/Australian Trade Agreement to give priority to NEI supply

6 August 1940

Dutch Consul Tom Elink-Schuurman formally requested military supplies.

23 October 1940

NEI Military Exchange Visit to Australia.

10-14 January 1941

Australia & Dutch delegates to 2nd Singapore Conference met beforehand in Bandoeng.

28 January 1941

Australian Prime Manager Robert Menzies visits Java.

31 January 1941

 Agreement for an Australian Consul-General appointment to NEI.

February 1941

Netherlands Government-in-Exile (London) offered to convert ORANJE into a hospital ship for Australia & NZ.

7 February 1941

NEI Research Commission established in Sydney.

11-21 February 1941

Talks in Australia to arrange NEI raw materials exchange for Australian armaments.

14 March 1941

Dutch visit & talks to approve Darwin as a supply port for the NEI.

17 March 1941

Dutch Naval Liaison Officer appointed to Australia.

March 1941

RAAF toured airfields in eastern NEI islands.

5 May 1941

RAAF Liaison Officer appointed to Java.

16 May 1941

Glenn Martin bombers made goodwill flight to Darwin.

8-16 August 1941

Information Minister Senator Foll toured Java & Bali.

25 August 1941

RAAF & Australia Army Talks with Dutch Forces at Batavia.

October 1941

Charles Van der Plas led NEI Press Delegation to Australia.

November 1941

NEI Economic Mission visit to Australia.

Source: Allies in Bind: Australia and the Netherlands East Indies relations during World War Two.

The attack on Peal Harbour (7 December 1941) and the consequent development changed the situation and active military collaboration started. This is a brief overview of the key military  actions that followed.

  • The Battle of Singapore (8-15 February 1942) and other events in the SE Asia war theatre in February 1942 saw Dutch and Australians fighting side by side.
  • The fight on land against the Japanese in NEI in February and early March 1942, where Australians and Dutch fought again side by side, left many Australian soldiers stranded, many of them ended up in the infamous Burma Camps. Many Australians blamed the Dutch for this.
  • The war continued on the islands in the Arafura See and  on Dutch New Guinea throughout 1942 and 1943, however most of the war effort of the Allies was done by ship, these were often easy targets for the far superior Japanese air force. 
  • The south eastern part of Dutch New Guinea was never occupied by the Japanese and the Allies were able to built an important port and airfield in Merauke.
  • To a large extend thanks to the Dutch Merchant Fleet, who brought in the equipment, supplies and troops, the battle at Milne Bay (PNG) – operation  ‘Lilliput’ was the first one where the Japanese were defeated.
  • A combined military activity in Timor in late 1942 failed however it was the largest resistance fight of the Dutch and Australian military against the Japanese on NEI and again delayed further advances which contributed to the eventual defeat of the Japanese in the South Pacific  in 1944
  • Sharing of Australian military facilities with the members of the exiled KNIL (Koninklijk Nederlands Indisch Leger – The Royal Netherlands East Indies Army).
  • Establishing four combined air squadrons, three army battalions and adding 19 ships to the naval fleet.
  • Provided most of the NEI intelligence services for the Allied Forces.
  • Australians had the largest Allied force in the unoccupied part of South Dutch New Guinea and fought with the Americans in the north of the island and successfully ousted the Japanese. Control was handed over to the Dutch in 1945.
  • The secret operation of the Australian Z-Force[1] to ‘kidnap’ the pro-Dutch Sultan of Ternate in 1945.
  • Australian military together with the British Army took over control of NEI, after the capitulation of Japan, they eventually handed over control to the Dutch in 1946.

Dutch ill prepared for war in NEI

[1] Z Special Unit was a joint Allied special forces unit formed during the Second World War to operate behind Japanese lines in South East Asia. Predominantly Australian, it was a specialist reconnaissance and sabotage unit which included British, Dutch, New Zealand, Timorese and Indonesian members, predominantly operating in the NEI.