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
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.
Photo by D.v.d.Burg|
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.
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.
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
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
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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