South African Marmon-Herringtons in Service with the K.N.I.L.

by Hans Heesakkers

Publiced with permission from H. Heesakkers, bron: Armored Car #24 July-August 1994
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MH01 Photo by D.v.d.Burg
Shortly before the Japanese attack on the Netherlands East Indies in 1942, the Netherlands Purchase Commission (N.P.C.) was searching desperately for modern equipment to strengthen the Royal Dutch Indies Army (K.N.I.L.) In 1941 the N.P.C. in collaboration with the Allies found a batch of 49 South African Marmon Herringtons MK III MFF armored cars which were used in the campaign in Lybia. Since the Allies didn't need this cars, the N.P.C. was allowed to buy them for the K.N.I.L. 
The vehicles reached the island of Java just a few days before the Japanese landings. When the K.N.I.L. forces received the vehicles they were angry and disappointed; the cars arrived without there armament, and in such poor shape that they would have been better sold as scrap. 
During the North African Campaigns the vehicles were used so intensively that their hadn't been any time for maintenance. The technical branch of the K.N.I.L. wrote to GHQ that the engines had become unreliable and the four-wheel-drive was out of order. The vehicles hadn't even been cleaned before they were shipped, the sand of the dessert still being in, as well as on them.Necessity was strong however, and with the greatest urgency and skill the Technical Branche built in a Vickers heavy machinegun to the Marmon-Herrington turrets and managed to bring 27 of the 49 vehicles into operational status. 

A few days before the fall of Java, two independent Squadrons and a reconnaissance platoon (of the Mobiele Eenheid/tank unit) were formed. The 1st Squadron, formed at the city of Bandoeng, and was made up of members from several branches of the Army, none of whome had any experience with armored vehicles.

MH2 Photo by D.v.d.Burg

The squadron was equipped with: -14 Marmon-Herringtons, -6 Williys Jeeps (1/4-ton trucks), -6 motorcycles (BMW of Harley Davidson), Unknown number of trucks and radio's.

And was organized into: -HQ Section (2 M-H armored cars), -3 Platoons (eachwith 4 M-H armored cars)

After a short practice of only a few hours the squadron went into operation on patrol in the area surrounding Bandoeng. During their patrols they had somelight contact with Japanese troops. Patrols were kept up untill the surrender ofall Dutch troops on Java. The 2nd Squadron, also formed at Bandoeng, was formedby some members of the tank units who had been kept in reserve, as well asmembers of several other branches. At least this squadron had some experiencewith armored vehicles.

Unfortunately the 2nd Squadron only received ten Marmon-Herringtons and no other equipment when they were sent out to fight the enemy. On March 4th, 1942 the 2nd Squadron, minus a platoon of three cars, was sent to Tjiaten pass, 20 kilometers north of Bandoeng to stop the appoaching Japanese. (In hind sight it seems a mistake that the majority of the armored equipment should have gone the squadron with the least number of experienced personnel)
Also in service were many Humber Scout-Cars - Photo by D.v.d.Burg

On March 5th, the squadron engaged the enemy on hilly terrain with a heavy covering of vegetation, too heavy for the Marmon-Herringtons to break through. There was only a small road going through the area and became the only axis of advance to attack the Japanese.
When the squadron attacked, the first enemy killed the squadronleader (the only officer in the squadron), and two armored cars were destroyed. The remains of the squadron were forced to pull back to the village of Lembang (6 km south of the pass) During the withdrawal the Dutch units were attacked by Japanese aircraft, but managed to escape without further losses.
At Lembang the damages were repaired and preparations made for another attack. In the meantime the platoon which had stayed in Bandoeng was ordered to scout the "no-man's-land" between the retreating Dutch forces and the Japanese, 35 km west of Bandoeng.
As the platoon entered the area, they found that the Japanese hadn't advanced as fast as was expected, they completed their reconnaissance and returned to Bandoeng, constantly hiding from Japanese aircrafts.
After the mission west of Bandoeng, the plantoon rejoined the rest of 2nd Squadron bringing the total of still operational cars to seven. These vehicles didn't last long, in the very next action again in the area near Tjiater pass and the village of Soebang, five Marmon-Herringtons were lost.
Of the two remaining cars, one was sent out immediately on a voluntary reconnaissance mission; under constant enemy fire the car managed to complete the mission, but on the way back was discovered and attacked by a Japanese aircraft. The vehicle was hit and exploded.
MH4 Photo by D.v.d.Burg

Back in Bandoeng, the plantoon of three cars belonging to Mobiele eenheid saw action during the the counter attack to try and retake the city. During the advance there was a traffic accident in the mountains and one Marmon-Herrington along with two Overvalwagens (locally built 4x2 ACPs) and some trucks were destroyed.
A second M-H car was put out of action when it successfully cleared a road barricade, only to be thrown on its side when a steel cable streched over the road broke. The third car penetrated the enemy lines in the occupied city, but had to return when supporting units stayed behind, hel-up by enemy fire.
After the caputilation of Java, several of the Marmon-Herringtons fell in hands of the Japanese who used them with their occupational forces on Java.
In 1945 those Marmon-Herringtons remaining were handed over by the Japanese to the Indonesian Nationalists. Some were captured by returning K.N.I.L. troops when they landed near the city of Batavia in October of 1945. With these cars an independent platoon was formed with the B-sivison of the K.N.I.L.

This independent platoon, called P.A.U.P.E.L. (Pantserautopeleton - armored car platoon), didn't exist officially, and as a result wasn't able to order the necessary radios, ammunition, supplies, etc. Being resourceful, everything PAUPEL needed, was captured from the Nationalists. Once the even captured 60 tons (60.000kg) of ammunition.

The men of PAUPEL were of Dutch, Indonesian and Surinam origins, and even though it didn't officially exist, the unit saw action from October 1945 until January of 1948. To separate their Marmon-Herringtons from those in service with the Nationalists, PAUPEL painted large Dutch flags on every side of their vehicles.

PAUPEL's typical organization from 1945 to 1948 was as follows: -3 Officers, -4 NCOs, 40 Enlisted personnel, -12 Marmon-Herrington MKII MFF, -1 M3A1 Scoutcar, -2 Overvalwagens, -2 Willys Jeep (1/4 ton truck) and 3 Trucks (general service)

The Marmon-Herrington wasn't a success with K.N.I.L. forces, their weight was too high for the Java terrain, there was no provision for rearward steering, and their turning circle of 14 meters was too large for the small roads of Java. All in all, the vehicles were unsuited for their task.

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