Bersiap: The Bloody Independence War after WWII – Part 18

An eye-witness account by Gerrit Vermeulen, a young Dutch soldier from Renswoude
In his own words:

Bringkang, 7 july 1947

We arrived here in Bringkang in April. We went on one heavy patrol together with another patrol of 50 men. They suffered one casualty. He was buried in Soerabaja yesterday with military honors.

The ceasefire, as well as continued shootings and negotiations in Batavia, continue. It seems that Soekarno could talk better with the Japanese than with the Dutch.

Mengantie, 22 July 1947

We are moving about once every week now. Yesterday I awoke at the drone of airplanes, something that happens seldom here. The commander announced that the Dutch had occupied republican buildings in Batavia. Furthermore he said that from now on the Government of the Dutch East Indies will be responsible for the peace, order and safety on Java and Sumatra. Which means that the Dutch army has to move to the interior to restore and keep the peace and safety. So what was more and more expected has now become a reality: the new republic in its current form can not be maintained. Big changes are imminent.

We have to stand guard every single night here. On top of that we have to go on patrol often, anywhere from 15 to 25 kilometers. If that would be on a straight road it would be okay, and if they would be held during the day that would be all right too. But often we leave at 2:00 a.m. to go into the hills and on narrow, wet clay trails in the dark. Try to remain standing when you lift your foot up high to climb up a step and you slide down three feet in the mud! We are lucky we don’t often hit enemy fire. But we often have to lay in ambush for two to four hours, in wet grass, in fields or in the jungle. When you then think that the negotiations between Soekarno and the Dutch go on an on, delaying our demobilization another six months, you can imagine that instead of order there is unrest on the frontline. Yet, I imagine that a lot will have changed for the better before the next New Year, the year 1949.

Malang, 15 August 1947

It’s getting boring already after two weeks in Malang. We have to stand guard, often go on patrol during the day, and once heard shooting with automatic weapons coming from a small dessa. We went to take a look. Men, women and children were hunkered down in the hiding places that have been dug next to many of the homes. We didn’t find anything – the shooters had fled to the hilly sawah terrain, right into the arms of another patrol. Two men died and four surrendered with their weapons, which included one machine gun.

Malang, 17 August 1947

Today the “Repoeblik” celebrates the second anniversary of the Sovereign State of Indonesia with Soekarno as its leader. Because of possible riots in town or attacks from out of town we have to stay on our posts and are not allowed to go anywhere. I have to stand guard from 12 to 2 a.m. Around 1 a.m., nearby, we hear shots being fired from guns and automatic weapons. The shooting increases, so we send out light signals and establish radio contact. Red alert is announced, we ready the mortars for firing and occupy all positions.

Through the radio we hear that a post next to us is being attacked. They ask for mortar fire. In the mean time, about 2 kilometers from us on the other side, a fight erupted as well, a seemingly heavier attack. Both mortars give rapid fire, one after another. Sometimes ten grenades are in the air at the same time. Our post, however, is not attacked.

After an hour the shooting gets less and around 3:30 we only hear a shot here and there at a greater distance and we are dismissed with the exception of the guards. It is barely light when the shooting starts again at about 3 kilometers distance, and that takes till noon. We had no casualties. The attackers came as close as 75 feet from the nearest post.

We are still in a ceasefire.

Malang, 20 August 1947

Ceasefire here is problematic. Traffic from Malang to Soerabaja has to go in a convoy in one day, so that they can assist each other in case of possible attacks. Yesterday one car with marines, driving without a convoy, was attacked, resulting in one casualty, two injured and a severely damaged car. One convoy on its way to Malang came to a complete stop at a destroyed bridge. Today the whole city is without water. They destroyed the water main and we are not allowed to do anything because of the ceasefire.

The T.R.I. soldiers (Tentara (army) Repoeblik Indonesia) are like flies on your bread. When you wave your hand over it they are gone, but keep your hand still and they are right back. When we go on patrol during the day there is not a single T.R.I. soldier in sight, but at night they are shooting all around the city. We can’t get back at them because of the ceasefire.

Stay tuned!

I welcome your comments


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