Stadswacht Overvalwagens
On the picture on the front page of this website you can see a 1940 "Overvalwagen" (assault
vehicle) or armoured personnel carrier of the Dutch East Indies Homeguards (Stadswacht). This
was in fact an armoured truck on Chevrolet 4x2 chassis. Little is known about them and they
deserve more attention. To dismiss them as "improvised" or "armour clad" trucks is definitely
outdated. Overvalwagens were relatively well made and series produced. Although the
Overvalwagens had many deficiencies and often played roles they were not up to, they were used
extensively by the Dutch, the Australian army on Timor, then by the Japanese and after that both
Dutch and Indonesians during the Indonesian Independence War (1945-50).
In all 90 Overvalwagens of all types were built.
Much is known about the use of these vehicles, but not about the technical features. Common
knowledge says the chassis were Chevrolet 4x2 (and since the Overvalwagens were produced in
1940, most if not all must have been 1940 models).
In the original plan to raise and arm Homeguards (Stadswacht/Urban Guards) provision was made
for around 65 Overvalwagens. It is not sure how many were produced. Several dozen of these
Stadswacht vehicles have been identified.
Chassis were provided by General Motors at Tandjong Priok (Chevrolet), while shipyards (Batavia
Droogdok Maatschappij e.g.) provided the armour cut from steel ship plating. The sides of the
vehicle were double plated and the troops usually stuffed their bedrolls and rucksacks between
the two plates. The armour protecting the driver and commander in the front was just one plate
however. The troops as well as the driver had to embark and disembark through a steel door at
the rear end of the Overvalwagen.
The troops sat facing inward on steel benches, one on each side of the vehicle. If seated they
would have a considerable protection, if standing they would be exposed to enemy fire from their
waist up. The driver’s and commander’s compartment were enclosed at the top. The commander
could open a hatch in the roof and use it as a shield.
The Stadswacht was meant to maintain order while the Army (K.N.I.L.) would do the real fighting.
The Overvalwagens were therefore basically designed for the internal security role and were to be
deployed in and near the larger urban centres. They were organised in mobile columns (rapid
reaction forces). In addition to the armoured Overvalwagens there would be also unarmoured
troopcarriers or "manschappenauto's", light trucks and motorcycles. Only in case of an airborne
assault on the city the Stadswacht and its Overvalwagens would be in the front line. As the war
approached and the lack of real armour was felt, most Stadswacht Overvalwagens were taken
over by the K.N.I.L. Many were sent to other parts of the NEI and used as APC or armoured cars in
various actions (notably Eastern Sumatra, Palembang, Timor).
The Stadswacht vehicle had no fixed armament but the troops it carried could fire their guns and
light machineguns from various points while standing in the back. Next to the driver (on his left,
Overvalwagens were all right-hand drives) a light machine gun could also be fired through a firing
All Stadswacht vehicles seem to have the same hull, but the position and construction of
headlights differed. It seems that headlights were added to the vehicles locally. Referring to the
headlights one could distinguish at least 4 different production series: Batavia, Eastern Java
(Soerakarta and Soerabaja), Makassar (Celebes/Sulawesi) and Medan (Sumatra) types.
Overvalwagen of the Stadswacht (Home Guard) of Batavia (now Jakarta).
Designed and built in late 1940 on 1940 Model Chevrolet 4x2 trucks. The
Batavia Stadswacht operated 12 of these vehicles. Note the armoured wheels,
designed to protect the tyres from bullits and to make sure the vehicle could
get home with a flat tyre, running on the steel plate. (
pic: internet).
Front view of same vehicle (picture from Orient Magazine 1941) during a
parade in Batavia late 1941. The coat of arms of the Batavia Stadswacht is
painted on the front of the vehicle. Note small searchlights on hull sides.
The engine received fresh air through a radiator below the nose of the vehicle
(visible in this picture). To reach the engine the top of the hood could be
Visibility from inside the overvalwagen was poor, especially for the driver.
Crews complained about this and the vehicle was especially difficult to
maneuvre when turning or driving backwards.
In the last case the vehicle commander had to stand up and expose himself to
give directions to the driver.
Batavia Stadswacht undergoing Overvalwagen drill. Note rear
door. All crew members and troops had to enter and leave the
vehicle through the rear. Backpacks and bedrolls were usually
stowed inside against the hullsides.
Note the shields that protected the vehicle commander. Driver and
gunner sat under semi-enclosed hull front (pic: unspecified).
This is probably a picture of the vehicle park
of a company of the Batavia Stadswacht (that
had 1350 men by 1942 in 6 companies) (pic:
JJ Nortier. De Japanse aanval op Java, 1994)
This is a picture of a heavily modified ex-Stadswacht overvalwagen, used by the Dutch Army during
the Indonesian Independence War around 1948/49. In the Dutch Army the overvalwagen was known
as "pantserknots". This particular vehicle was used by the HQ company of  a Dutch infantry batalion at
Poerbolinggo. The picture can be found in a book by Hans Gerritsen, Hinderlaag bij Sindoeradja. The
overvalwagen has been "cut down" at the rear where a low placed Vickers machine gun is visible. The
chassis is by no means original and a discussion by Wheels and Tracks Magazine several years back,
revealed that this was a 4x4 CMP truck chassis.
Hans Heesakkers provided this picture of a similar vehicle (or possibly
the same?) employed by the Dutch Army in the same period. The
driver's  and commander's hatches have been improved to provide
better visibility. The front bumper is most likely an ex-CMP truck's
bumper. Radiator louvres have been added to improve colling of the
engine. A spare wheel is fitted behind the left mudguard. Overall, this
overvalwagen looks much better and since it seems to be based on a
4x4 chassis, it must have been a usefull vehicle.
The headlights suggest this is an ex-Batavia Stadswacht vehicle.
The Soerakarta Stadswacht in Central Java possessed one vehicle. Note the
different headlights: these are built against front mudguards. Many
overvalwagens carried ladders on the outsides of the hull. This vehicle boasts
an antenna and must be equipped with a radio, which was rare. Note crew
wearing German Stahlhelm and brandishing Mauser guns. Some NEI auxiliary
forces used this type of helmet, most notably the Soerakarta and Medan
Stadswacht (pic: Stabelan Magazine).
Rear view of same vehicle, showing
rear door. Note vulnerability of troops
standing (Picture from Djokja
en Solo).
Yokyakarta, 1949. The Indonesain Independence War
is ending. The Dutch forces abandon the city. An
Overvalwagen is still in use with them. It is of the same
"Eastern Java" series as the Soerakarta and
Soerabaja vehicles (headlights built against front
mudguards). Note steel plate covering front wheel is
missing (pic: Marsroutes en dwaalsporen).
Parade of Soerabaja (Surabaya) Stadswacht in 1941. A city
with a large European population it had a 1200 strong
Stadswacht with an unknown number of Overvalwagens. Here
are two with similar headlights as the Soerakarta type.
Leading the way is a 1941 civilian Chevrolet 4x2 1,5 ton truck,
locally converted to open troopcarrier or squadcar (Picture
from Soerabaja: Beeld van een Stad).
Overvalwagen of the Makassar Stadswacht (on the
island of Celebes/Sulawesi. The Makassar Home
guards had at least 3 vehicles. Note the streamlined
headlights (Picture from Zwaan: Gouvernementeel
Remnants of an Overvalwagen on Timor, 1945.
The Australian Forces defending Timor in 1942
operated a small number of Overvalwagens.
Headlights built to the front of mudguards. Same
series as Makassar vehicles (picture from
Overvalwagens of the Medan (Sumatra) Stadswacht. One of a series of five
vehicles delivered, these cars have the headlights fitted to the bonnet sides.
These Overvalwagens were to be used intensively by K.N.I.L. Landstorm and
Militie companies during the Japanese assault on Northern Sumatra. (pic:
Medan Stadswacht Overvalwagen. Headlights
as above. Crew and troops in German
Stahlhelm (picture from: Medan, beeld van
een stad).
In september 1945 the Imperial Japanese Army handed in its
equipment on the island of New Britain to the Allies after
surrender. Hundreds of tanks and other vehicles were parked
on an airstrip. On this picture 3 ex-Stadswacht Overvalwagens
can be seen. The first one can be identified by its headlights
as an ex-Medan (Northern Sumatra) vehicle (picture from the
Australian War Memorial).