There were thousands of motorcycles in K.N.I.L. and other services in the Netherlands East Indies by 1942. Since the early days most
common brands had been used by both government, military and private users in the colony: Motosacoche, FN, Indian, Harley Davidson
As early as 1915 trials were held on Java with
motorcycle-sidecar combinations fitted with machine guns.
The motorcycle is the Swiss Motosacoche, then in service
with K.N.I.L. Trials were not entirely satisfactory however.
Targets could be hit as far away as 200 meters, but the
firing in general when riding proved inaccurate. It
remained an experiment (source of pictures Heshusius
During the 1920s Indian
Motocycles were purchased in
the U.S., this particular one
serving with the Veldpolitie. It's
an Indian Powerplus twin
1919-1921 model. The sidecar
is not the factory one (thanks to
Gunnar Lindfors). Picture from
Weerzien met Indie.
Dispatch riders with their
assorted motorcycles of a
Wielrijders unit, crossing
a small river on Western
Java, 1924 Source:
picture of the
1920s. A 4-cylinder
FN bike at the
The Dutch East Indies civilian
population counted some passionate
motorcyclist. Tragic is the story of
22-year old Pauline Blom of
Modjokerto, Java. Pauline was killed in
a crash while travelling on her
Matchless bike in June 1929. From
At least the Cavalry
had BMW motorcycles
in the 1930s,
BMW R35s for instance.
Picture left from
Batavia Beeld van een
stad, picture right from
Orient Magazine 1941.
K.N.I.L. troopers on
a British BSA
festivities at Malang.
combinations were used by K.N.I.L. for
reconnaissance and by dispatch
riders with the artillery battalions.
When war came nearer K.N.I.L. started looking for extra and more modern
motorbikes. We have no information on trials nor on pre-war or early war
orders. This picture however, from a Belgian magazine (courtesy Jacques
Jost) shows K.N.I.L. tested a whole line of FN products from Liege: from left to
right the FN M86mil (exported to many countries), an armoured version of the
same (exported to Argentina, China and Brazil) and a Tricar (tested as staff
car for the artillery). See The Overvalwagen Forum for more information on
Presently we do not have any concrete info on K.N.I.L. orders in Europe prior to WW2, but such orders were likely if we consider how
K.N.I.L prepared itself for war in the late 1930s. What is sure is that K.N.I.L. was in dire need of motorcycles (both solo and sidecar
combinations) in 1940 and sought to place large orders in the US with both Indian and Harley-Davidson. According to the US Mission
Report of August 1941 K.N.I.L. had 1100 solo motorcycles of all types plus another 500 requisitioned ones. Their were 450 sidecar
combinations. Respectable numbers but the NEI still needed a further 400 at least for both army and home guards. While many
sidecar combinations could be replaced by Ford GP jeeps, many solo bikes were still needed for narrow roads and paths where even
jeeps or combinations could not go. Eventually, the remaining order was negotiated with the US Government and Harley-Davidson.
Shown below are various Indian and H-D types in service in the 1940-1942 period with both Army and Stadswacht units (sources:
Heshusius, Stabelan, Orient, Geeft Acht! and others).
Another user of motorcycles were the Dutch Navy and
Marine Corps. This Harley-Davidson combination has
been fitted with a Lewis gun and probably belonged to the
Navy Battalion, active in the Surabaya region in 1941-42
(picture from Martens & De Vries). Other pictures show:
Navy/Marine officers on what probably were their private
bikes, another H-D combination and another unidentified
combination (below right). All pictures from a publication
by the Mariniers Museum, Rotterdam.