Visiting a WW2 forum, I was stung by someone’s question why the Dutch had done so little to help the British and Australians during the hectic battle for Malaya and Singapore.
Ashley Jackson, in his book “The British Empire and the Second World War”, points out that ‘… when war came, the Dutch committed some of their best forces to the Malayan campaign. They defended the British territories in Borneo from Japanese naval attack and reinforced Singapore with two squadrons of Glenn Martins and one squadron of Brewster Buffaloes. In doing so they lost many aircraft, as well as quite a few of their best crews…’
On December 9, 1941 and barely 24 hours after the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor, Hong Kong and Singapore, Dutch reinforcements arrived at Singapore. They consisted of three Glenn Martin bomber squadrons and a single squadron of 12 Brewster Buffaloes.
The Buffalo squadron (2-VLG-V (2nd squadron, 5th Aircraft Group) was dispatched from Buitenzorg (West Java) to Singapore under a pre-war mutual (and unofficial) defense agreement. The squadron, commanded by Captain J.P. (“Piet”) van Helsdingen, was based at Kallang airfield, where they joined up with 453 Squadron (Australian) and 243 and 488 (New Zealand). For the rest of the year, the Dutch squadron joined the New Zealanders on extensive convoy protection duties, while 453 (Australian) squadron was sent north to Ipoh. This squadron was virtually wiped out during the battle for Ipoh, its three remaining Buffaloes came limping back to Kallang on Dec. 22. 1941
With the beginning of January ’42, the air war over Singapore intensified.
The Dutch Buffaloes first came into action on January 12, 1942, when they intercepted 5 Nakajima KI-27’s. The Japanese were driven off by ensigns Swarts and Scheffer and Sgt. Bruggink. Swarts claimed a “probable” having seen his target turn away with a smoking engine.
That afternoon, the Ki.27’s came back for more. A three ship flight crewed by Capt. van Helsdingen, Lt. Deibel and Sgt. Bruggink engaged 9 of them at 4.000 ft. Deibel shot down two, van Helsdingen and Bruggink claimed one each. Deibel’s Buffalo was lost. He had to bail out and was hospitalized for four days with a slight head wound. In this action, 488 (NZ) Sqn lost two Buffaloes and had 5 seriously damaged.
January 15 saw van Helsdingen, Swarts and Bruggink in action again, this time against a large number of Mitusbishi A6M Zeros. No kills were claimed but Ensign Swarts was shot down and killed. On January 16, Bruggink attacked a Japanese bomber formation but without results.
By January 17, the Dutch squadron had lost five Buffaloes, had two pilots killed and two seriously injured. The Aussie and Kiwi squadrons had jointly lost 32 aircraft and had 14 pilots killed. A shipment of 51 Hawker Hurricanes had arrived and it was decided to re-organize the defense of Singapore. One of the decisions was to send the remnants of the Dutch squadron back to Java…
Honour Roll: The Dutch fighter pilots assigned to Kallang:
|Capt. J.P. van Helsdingen||B-3110||Comnmanding officer|
|Sgt. G.M. Bruggink||B-3107|
|1st Lt. A.G. Deibel||B-3100||Shot down Jan. 12, 1942, switched to B-398|
|Ens. J.H.A. Ellecom||B3108||Crashed Palembang 1, Jan.6, 1942, pilot seriously injured|
|Sgt. N. G. de Groot||?|
|2nd Lt. P.A.Hoyer||?|
|Ens. F. Pelder||B-3111|
|Ens. R.A. Rothkrans||B-3115|
|Ens. J.F. Scheffer||B-399||Crashed + w/o Jan 7, 1942, pilot injured|
|Ens. F. Swarts||B-3103||Shot down, pilot killed January 15, 1942|
|Sgt. A. Voorbij||B-3105||Ditched + lost at sea near Billiton, Jan.15, 1942|