An eye-witness account by Gerrit Vermeulen, a young Dutch soldier from Renswoude
In his own words:
Gendang Tambak, 6 August, 1946
In the night multiple shots are heard, close by and far away. The post that is considered absolutely safe is attacked by a group of 100 extremists. With a little planning they could have taken the five men that manned it by surprise, but instead they tried to find out if the post was on the alert by firing a few gunshots first, which of course immediately alerted our men. Assuming by the number of shots that the group of the attackers was large, our men called for immediate reinforcements. Upon the arrival of two trucks full, the enemy retreated. The reinforcement troops turned back and immediately 25 men went on patrol to try and cut off the retreating enemy, a move which was successful beyond expectations. Several men were shot down and a few were taken prisoner. They fled to a kampong from where they continued shooting. It’s a shame that several civilians were among the casualties. The enemy force of over 100 men, as was discovered later, was completely defeated by our patrol of 25 men. The battle lasted until our small patrol had used most of its ammunition.
Later, the prisoners told us that the plan was to blow up the bridge on post One, where they attacked us. They carried with them explosives, two heavy machine guns and one heavy mortar. They did not use the machine guns and the mortar, fearing our men would rush in to try and take them. On our side only one man had lost part of a finger. We estimated the losses of the enemy to be 25 men. Had we had a larger patrol, it would have even gone better.
Gendang Tambak, 8 August, 1946
Yesterday, it was up at 2:00 a.m., on patrol until noon. Three hours of rest, standing guard at 3:00 p.m. till 6:00 p.m., standing guard at 9:00 p.m. till midnight and back to bed until 7:00 a.m.
I sleep outside here, behind a bridge pillar, bulletproof from the front, nice and cool. It won’t be fun when it rains, but it won’t rain any time soon. The sun acts strangely here. In the Netherlands the sun rises in the east and travels through the south to the west. Here, the sun rises in the east, and travels through the north to the west, where it sets. For now, everything is quiet.
Reflecting on the situation, we are fighting the extremists in their Bersiap, their fight for independence from the Dutch, with a relatively small army in the vicinity of Soerabaja. But the violent Bersiap is taking place all over Java and other islands as well, killing hundreds of thousands of white people and Indo’s (mixed blooded civilians) every day. And it has been going on for a whole year now. Will we make a difference? Will the fighting ever end? (RHdJ)
Morokrembangan, 12 August 1946
It’s behind us: seven weeks in a row on duty at the front, now a few weeks of rest, which means rising at 5:30 a.m., serving until noon, then guard duty. But we are lucky to be at the best spot on the airfield: “Zeepost”. We are not allowed to swim in the ocean, because one of our men was attacked and killed by a shark. But we may go into town once in a while. And we go fishing with my net, fabricated from chicken wire and four long sticks, catching 27 beautiful, big fish the very first time. I sell ten of them in town for Fl.22 (22 guilders) and buy 25 kilos of sugar, which comes in handy, since we brew our own coffee and tea for the 25 men here.
Zeepost, 19 August 1946
“Sunday, a nice and quiet day”, I think, but no, the order comes at 6:00 a.m.: “Get up boys, we leave at 8:30. Take your weapons, beds, and let’s go.” We jump in the car, close the sailcloth around the back and sides so they can’t see us from the road, and off we go. It is bloody hot in the closed car and we are glad when we get to our destination, Gendong Tambak near Grissee. We attend a church service at 3:00, go to bed at 7:00 after watching many more soldiers arrive: a heavy patrol is awaiting us tomorrow.
We get up at midnight, leave at 2:00 a.m. and for a long time we are marching through jungles, across hills and valleys, until it finally gets light. We have arrived in enemy territory and the shooting begins. However, it takes a few hours before our group actually sees the enemy. Then we see, from the top of a hill, tons of extremists running across a street in the village of Grissee, at least a kilometer ahead of us. Yet they are also shooting from other positions closer by. We fire at them for at least an hour from our position, with the bren and the guns. Back and forth bullets fly over our heads, and we throw a few mortar grenades at them once in a while. Finally the others have caught up with us and we can move forward. First our artillery delivers an incredibly rapid fire up front, and we storm forward till we reach the edge of town; we remain there for about an hour and only see a few native men, women and children, without firing at them. Is the enemy waiting in the small town with ten or with hundreds of men? Did they flee or are they taking cover? It is too risky to advance now. Besides, our orders are to advance till here, and after eight hours we are not fresh anymore. We get home around 1:00 a.m. without any losses and with two prisoners, one of which is injured; the enemy suffered several casualties. It’s good to finally be back at Zeepost.
For your information: Today, in Dutch News NL you can read an article about upcoming research into the Bersiap period. Follow the link.
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