Mystery vehicles
Shell Oil Armoured car on Curacao
This is an improvised armoured car on Curacao, Dutch West Indies, around 1929.
The picture comes from a booklet, Curacao in oude ansichtkaarten (Curacao in old
postcards), that I just bought today after seeing this picture. What can we say about
this car about which probably no one knows anything? This "overvalwagen" was built
on the island of Curacao by Royal Dutch Shell, then still called CPIM petroleum
company, after a band of Venezuelan rebels had assaulted and looted the island in
1929. The car was built on a "solid car chassis" the caption informs us. We assume
this was an American truck commonly available on Curacao.
Note how the headlights are built in, quite uniquely I think. The truck seems to have spoked wheels and is fitted with air tyres.
The wheels are well protected by armoured plates as well. A large horizontal visor has been cut in the front armour. Probably
both driver (seated rather high?) and commander or gunner would use it. Four holes are provided for shooting on the sides of
the car. It seems open topped, rails can be seen for a canvas cover. The doors were probably in the rear. There seems to be a
small light fixed to the top of the hull (leftside).
The gentlemen posing with the car are a mixed lot. The two men to the left were probably the company management, then in the
centre five Dutch police officers (one has a Lewis gun), to the right some local auxiliary or company police? Possibly the eight
uniformed men formed the crew together. If someone knows anything about this truck or its fate (was it still in service during
WW2?), please let him step forward and tell us what he knows.
Armoured jeeps with K.N.I.L.?
The picture is from J.W. Hogendoorn's De Jeep in Nederland. An excellent and
comprehensive account of all jeep variants, both military and civilian, that served in
Holland. Plenty of info on jeeps in the colonies is available as well. This picture from
1948 shows two armoured jeeps on Java, fitted out for use on railways and
connected back to back. The jeeps seem to be Willy's, mounting an armoured hull.
We do not exactly know who did this and when. Willys jeeps probably did not arrive in the Dutch East Indies before the Japanese
invasion (Ford GP's did). So we can state at least that the armoured hulls were fitted after 1946 to the Willys chassis. But what
about the hulls? Who made these and when? Take a look at the armoured hull (shape and welding) and compare it to the
Stadswacht Overvalwagens. It is very similar. Did someone recycle early K.N.I.L. armour by cutting and pasting Overvalwagen
hulls to produce these armoured jeeps? Or were these armoured hulls already built in 1941-42 for Ford GP's? Some K.N.I.L.
accounts of the period vaguely mention "armoured jeeps" or armoured "terreinwagens" in service, but we have no evidence.
Who knows?
This picture is from a Japanese cartoon.
We have no further info on the cartoon presently, but it is clear the vehicle is based
on a Dutch East Indies Braat type Overvalwagen!
The front end is clearly identical, but this Overvalwagen mounts a large turret, while
the rear end seems similar to the front.
Now that's intriguing.
We have no proof such a vehicle actually existed and for the moment we can
assume this vehicle is a fantasy based on pictures of captured Braats.
But there are several sources (notably a 1943 Australian booklet on Japanese and captured AFV's) that state that a few 4x4
and turret mounted Braats were indeed built (turrets either fitted with a Lewis light machinegun or a Browning .50). We do not
know if K.N.I.L.'s workshops in Bandung and other facilities had the technology to built symmetrical armoured vehicles with
turrets, but why not? The Alvis-Straussler AC3D armoured cars could have served as an example to this vehicle and by the end
of 1941 the workshops must have reached quite an advanced level of design and production. Production of a turret should not
haven been too difficult, especially if the turret would be hand operated. Note the large hole in the hull of BB13: it must have
been knocked out (at point blank range?) by a tank or anti-tank gun.The tactical sign BB13 is interesting as well. What dit it
mean? To what unit did this car belong? These signs/numbers rarely show up on K.N.I.L. vehicle pictures. They must have been
added rather late or at least after war had started. There is one other example of such a tactical sign: the first of the abandoned  
White Scout Cars (on Java) -check out the picture on the Foreign built armoured car page - has a tactical sign on the left hand
door starting with BE. Any comments welcome!
The Terror of the Fifth Column
The picture was identified by Jacques Jost as a locally built armoured car in
Makassar (Celebes/Sulawesi Island), around 1940. It was probably operated by the
local Stadswacht and advertised as the "Terror of the Fifth Column" (de "Schrik van
de Vijfde Colonne"). There was also a slightly different second vehicle. Thank you
Jacques Jost!
Crow and Icks in their Encyclopedia of Armoured Cars (page 110) knew it as such:
"Ford 4x2 chassis (...), improvised faceted hull w/stepped hull top, fixed
superstructure resembling a turret, rear wheels armour protected, horizontal radiator
louvers, perforated disc wheels, used in the Netherlands East Indies."
The Surabaya Tankette
This Imperial War Museum picture was taken during the battle for Surabaya in november 1945. The Dutch East Indies port city
had seen a large scale Indonesian Nationalist uprising shortly after the Japanese surrender in 1945. The Indonesians captured
most Japanese military equipment in the city, including 1000 machineguns, more than 60 armoured cars (many ex-K.N.I.L.) and
16 tanks (both ex-Japanese and K.N.I.L.). The 4th British-Indian Division was sent in to take control of the city and rescue the
beleagered European population. After intense fighting they succeeded. This little tank was knocked out in the process. In
"Soerabaja, Beeld van een stad" the caption to this picture talks of a knocked out light TKR (=Indonesian Nationalist Army) tank
of Japanese origin. Well, it's not really Japanese! The last issue of Wheels and Tracks Magazine also shows this picture in the
"identifile" section. The light tank has clearly been based on a Universal Carrier. It has been covered with a roof and a small
one-man turret (with hatch) is mounted in the centre of the tank. No armament is visible. The turret shows a huge anchor
painted between the letters E T. Next to it is a rectangular patch that may have been painted over a Japanese (Navy) flag. Marc
Koelich wrote that the white patch on the turret is actually the lower part of an Indonesian flag. The inscription T.K.R.L. stands
for Tentara Keamanan Rakjat Laoet (old spelling) or Rakyat Laut (modern spelling). TKR can be translated as People's Security
Forces, and was the predecessor of T.N.I.. Laut is the sea, so read "Navy". This might confirm that the tankette was seized by
the Republicans at a naval installation.
There seems to be a second TKR LAOET inscription in red on the other side of the turret. If this tank was in service with the
Japanese Forces prior to september 1945, it may have been a Navy tank given the anchor and the fact there was a huge
Imperial Navy detachment in the former Dutch Navy barracks of Goebeng (also captured by the Nationalists). Now, where and
when was this vehicle built? In Surabaya, in K.N.I.L. workshops and N.E.I. factories (Braat), but under Japanese supervision?
The Japanese captured Bren Carriers in the Philippines, Singapore, Malaya, British Borneo, Java, Ambon and Timor.
Meanwhile several people have pointed out that the carrier was most likely a British-built Mortar Carrier.
How many were built? Barry Marriott from Australia wrote me this: "The "Tank Tracks" book mentions a tank being found
abandoned by the Japanese in New Guinea that looked like a Bren Carrier with a Turret." Who knows more about the Surabaya
The right picture is also to be found in 'Making Tracks' British Carrier Story 1914 to 1972' on page 63. Andrew Morrision
provided the complete text of the caption that says: 'One or two of these are known to have been converted to rudimentary light
tanks by plating over the superstructure. A crude turret was built centrally towards the rear with a hinged raised cupola and a
machine gun. Driver and front gunner occupied their usual positions. These vehicles were used in action.'
Let's see if just one or two were built. So far we have only seen this lone tankette in Surabaya and one was possibly sighted in
New-Guinea. We cannot rule out however that more were built. The Japanese must have captured lots and lots of Carriers.
Then, how did this Surabaya tankette get there where it was? After the successfull Japanese invasion of the Indies in early
1942, the best units were withdrawn and redeployed to other theatres. The troops that remained in the Indies were less well
equipped or used ex-K.N.I.L. equipment (though some of that was redeployed as well). I do not think there was any serious
reinforcement during the occupation of Java. Could the tankette have been brought along in March 1942? Hardly possible: it
should have been converted really shortly before. And where? I think this tank was a local (Surabaya) wartime conversion.