Most of the historical characters mentioned in “The Java Gold” and my other books have led a long and active life and as a result their biographies are massive. I therefore have decided to mention only those parts relevant to my stories. Those who want to know more about their lives and deeds should query the internet, with ‘Wikipedia’ as an excellent starting point.
Bakar, Sahid Abu Religious teacher who lived in Kedah (Aceh) He collaborated with the Japanese in 1941 – 1942 to undermine Dutch authority, sabotage railroads and disrupt communications. He organized, with Fujiwara and PUSA, the March 11, 1942 uprising in Banda Aceh, prior to the arrival of the first Japanese occupation troops.
Berenschot, Lieutenant General Johannes July 24, 1887 – October 13, 1941. Berenschot was commander in chief Dutch (KNIL) forces.in the Dutch East-Indies between 1939 and 1941. He participated in the so-called ‘Singapore Conferences’ during which the British, Americans and Dutch tried to establish a common strategy for the defence of south-east Asia. Coming back from a Singapore conference, Berenschot was killed when, the Lockheed Lodestar carrying him and Air Chief Marshal Brooke-Popham crashed while approaching Kemajoran (Batavia, now Jakarta). He is professionally known as ‘…the best C in C the Dutch East Indies Army (KNIL) has ever had…’
Blackwell, Brigadier Arthur Seaforth, VC,CMG, CBE, ED November 25, 1892 – November 24, 1960.
In February 1942, Blackwell was promoted brigadier and sent to Java with a small Australian force (the ‘Blackforce’) to assist the Dutch against the rapidly advancing Japanese. The ‘Blackforce’ fought stubbornly and well for three weeks. Despite Blackwell’s resistance the Allied forces surrendered on March 9, 1942. Blackwell was made POW by the Japanese and was liberated in September 1945 in Mukden (Manchuria)
Calwell, Arthur August 28, 1896 – July 8, 1973
Calwell was an Australian politician and member of the Australian House of Representatives for 32 years from 1940 to 1972. As the Immigration Minister in the government of Ben Chifley from 1945 to 1949 he tried to enforce the ‘White Australia’ policy, wanting to deport or expel all wartime displaced persons of mixed race. He was leader of the Australian Labor Party from 1960 to 1967
Chiang Kai-sjek, October 31, 1887 – April 5, 1975
Chiang Kai-sjek was a Chinese political and military leader who was socially conservative, in favor of an authoritarian government. He was not able to maintain good relations with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and fought a civil war with them from 1927 until the Japanese invasion in 1937. Thereafter Chiang led China in the Second Sino-Japanese War (the Chinese theater of World War II). After American-sponsored attempts to negotiate a coalition government failed in 1946, the Chinese Civil War resumed. The CCP defeated the Nationalists in 1949 and Chiang’s government and army retreated to Taiwan.
Churchill, Sir Winston S, November 30, 1874 – January 24, 1965.
Sir Winston Churchill was prime minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 until 1945. Together with the US president Franklin Delano Roosevelt he co-authored the pivotal ‘Atlantic Charter’. It was issued August 14, 1941 and defined the Allies post-WW2 goals. It contained eight principal points of which the third was ‘…all people have a right to self-determination…’ In 2002 Winston Churchill was chosen as ‘The Greatest Briton’ in a BBC television poll.
Doorman, Rear Admiral Karel W.F.M.
Doorman commanded the ABDACOM ‘Combined Striking Force’ during the climactic battle of the Java Sea (February 27, 1942). During this battle Doorman’s force (consisting of two heavy cruisers, three light cruisers and nine destroyers) met Rear-Admiral Takeo Tagaki’s screening force (two heavy cruisers, two light cruisers and fourteen destroyers). The Japanese ships carried much heavier cannons and superb torpedoes, whereas the Allied ships had lighter weapons and unreliable torpedoes. Doorman’s flagship ‘De Ruyter’ and the cruiser ‘Java’ were almost simultaneously hit by Japanese torpedoes and sank shortly afterwards. Only 111 survivors from both ships were picked up. Doorman was not one of them; he chose to go down with his ship.
Fujiwara, Iwaichi, March 1, 1908 – February 24, 1986
Commander of the F-Kikan special operations unit, tasked with developing and assisting independence movements in British India, Malaya and the Dutch East-Indies. Worked closely with Sahid Abu Bakar and PUSA (Islamic nationalist organization Aceh) and orchestrated, amongst others, the March 11, 1942 uprising in Banda Aceh, handing over the city to the Japanese Imperial Guard division next morning. After the war Fujiwara was one of the few officers who transferred to the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force. He retired with the rank of Lieutenant-General.
Gerbrandy, Pieter S. April 13, 1885 – September 7, 1961,
Pieter Gerbrandy was prime minister of the Dutch government in exile during WW2. After the German invasion of the Netherlands (May 10, 1940) the Dutch royal family and leading politicians fled to London. Once there, Queen Wilhelmina sacked Prime Minister De Geer (he had advocated a peace settlement with the Germans…) and appointed Gerbrandy in his place. The relations between the Queen and Gerbrandy were not always very easy.
Helfrich, Vice Admiral Conrad, October 11, 1886 – September 20, 1962
In October 1939 Helfrich was appointed overall commander of the naval forces in the Dutch East Indies. At the outbreak of the Pacific war he gave instructions to wage war aggressively. His small force of submarines sank more Japanese ships during the first weeks than the entire British and US Navy together. It earned him the nickname ‘Ship-a-day Helfrich’.
He clashed over strategy with Admiral Thomas C. Hart of the US Navy when Hart was appointed commander of the ABDA naval forces. When ABDA command was dissolved Helfrich was put in charge again. But by that time the Japanese invasions were unstoppable. Helfrich transferred his duties to Admiral van Staveren and was evacuated to Ceylon (Shri Lanka).
He never was given another Allied command, according to some sources because Fleet Admiral Ernest King was pissed off about the way Helfrich had opposed his friend Tom Hart… On September 2, 1945, aboard the battleship USS Missouri, Helfrich signed the ‘Japanese Instrument of surrender’ on behalf of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Imamura, Lieutenant-General Hitoshi, 28 June 1886 – 4 October 1968
Imamura was commander of the 16th Imperial Japanese Army during the invasion of Java. He was later promoted to full general responsible for the 17th army (Solomons Islands campaign) and 18th army (New Guinea campaign). He surrendered at Rabaul to Australian forces on Sept. 5, 1945. He was tried for war crimes by an Australian military tribunal and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. Interesting detail: Imamura requested the Australian commander at Rabaul to expedite his trial so that ‘…those who had committed crimes while under his command could sooner be prosecuted…’
MacArthur, General Douglas, January 26, 1880 – April 5, 1964
Douglas MacArthur was an American five-star general who was recalled to active duty in 1941 and named commander of the US Army Forces in the Far-East (USAFE). (He had been military advisor to the Government of the Philippines between 1937 and 1941) Major-General Lewis H. Brereton received the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in the early morning of December 7, 1941 and immediately asked permission to activate the existing war-plan.
MacArthur however did nothing until later that day, at 12.30, planes from the Japanese 11th Air Fleet attacked Clark and Iba field, both located at the Island of Luzon. Achieving complete strategic surprise they destroyed over half of the US Army’s fighters and bombers. Repeated raids during the next days decimated what remained of air-power and the Philippines became practically indefensible. With most of the US and Philippine forces trapped at Bataan, MacArthur escaped from Corregidor on March 12, 1942 and was flown to Australia. There he was appointed Supreme Commander Allied Forces South-West Pacific (SWPA) on April 18, 1942. Notorious for his autocratic leadership style, his relations with other services, notably the US Navy, were frequently strained…
Oyen, Major-General Hendrik L van, April 25, 1889 – July 28, 1953
Van Oyen was promoted to Major-General and appointed commander of the Air Arm of the Royal Dutch East Indies Army (ML-KNIL) in1940. His task was to expand the air arm to counter a possible Japanese attack. He flew to Australia after the Japanese forces had landed on Java. During the rest of WW2 he was responsible for rebuilding the Dutch forces in the far-east. He resigned his position by the end of 1945 when the British refused to repress the newly proclaimed Republic of Indonesia.
Palliser, Admiral Sir Arthur Francis Eric, ? 1890 – February 22, 1956.
Early 1942, Rear-Admiral Palliser was appointed Deputy Commander Naval Forces of the ill-fated ABDA Command. After the occupation of the Dutch East Indies he was evacuated to Ceylon (Shri Lanka) and was appointed flag-officer and fortress commander at Trincomalee
Phillips, Rear Admiral Sir Thomas S.V, February 19, 1888 – December 10, 1941
Phillips (nicknamed ‘Tom Thumb’ in the service) was appointed Commander-in-Chief China Station. His ‘Force Z’ arrived in Singapore on December 2, 1941. It consisted of two battleships (Prince of Wales and Repulse) and four destroyers. These ships should have been accompanied by the aircraft carrier HMS Indomitable. The carrier, however, ran aground on her maiden voyage in the West-Indies.
After the Japanese landings on the Malayan coast on December 8, Force ‘Z’ sailed without air cover to intercept the Japanese convoys. Next day they were spotted by a Japanese submarine (I-65) and a day later both capital ships were sunk by bombs and torpedoes from Japanese bombers. Australian fighters had been on stand-by to provide air cover but Admiral Phillips decided to maintain radio silence and never asked for assistance…
Poorten, Lieutenant General Hein ter, November 21, 1887 – January 15, 1968
After General Berenschot’s death in an air-crash Ter Poorten was appointed commander of all land forces of the ill-fated ABDA command. He was fated to surrender the island of Java unconditionally to the Japanese on March 8, 1942. He spent the rest of WW2 in various POW camps and returned to the Netherlands in 1945. He was a skilled professional soldier who was able to get on weel with subordinates and colleagues. His relations with the civil administration were often strained…
Rooks, Captain Albert (‘Al’) Harold, December 29, 1891 – March 1, 1942
Rooks was commander of the heavy cruiser ‘Houston’ (CA30) sunk by the Japanese during the battle of Sunda Strait on March 1, 1942. He posthumously received the Congressional Medal of Honour.
Roosevelt, Franklin Delano (‘FDR’), January 30, 1882 – April 12, 1945
FDR was the 32nd American president. A democrat he was re-elected four times and served as president continuously from 1933 until 1945. He declared war on Japan and Germany on December 7, 1941, calling it ‘… a date which will live in infamy…’
Roosevelt and Winston Churchill co-authored the ‘Atlantic Charter’. He is consistently rated by scholars as one of the three top US presidents, along with Abraham Lincoln and George Washington.
Ivan Smirnoff was a successful Czarist aviator during the 1st World War who came to the west after the Bolshevik revolution. Smirnoff was one of the first aviators hired by the fledgling KLM Company founded in 1919 by Albert Plesman.
Over the years he flew anything and everything the KLM purchased, from single engine ’passenger’ aircraft (that were little more than a skeleton of welded steel tubes covered by painted canvas and held aloft by a plywood covered wing) to DC3’s.
His name became a household word in Holland when he flew the outdated Fokker FXVIII Tri-Motor ‘Pelikaan’ (Pelican) in record time from Amsterdam to Batavia and back to deliver the1934 Christmas mail. His final years with KLM were during WW2 when he flew the Lisbon route. After WW2 he retired to Palma de Majorca.
Spoor, Colonel Simon Hendrik (later Major General) Simon January 12, 1902 – May 25, 1949,
In March 1942 Spoor escaped to Australia and was charged with building the Netherlands Forces Intelligence Service (NEFIS). He became a staff member to the American General Douglas MacArthur.
Rear-Admiral Staveren, Johan Jasper van, August 24, 1889 – March 7, 1942
Van Staveren represented Helfrich during the Singapore conferences. He advocated the formation of an extended cruiser squadron, tasked with offensive actions against the Japanese supply lines. This idea was however not taken up by the allies.
He served as acting C-in-C Dutch Naval forces, both during and after the ABDA command. He went aboard the KPM merchant ship ‘Pulau Bras’ to be evacuated to Australia. The ship was sunk south of Java by Japanese carrier airplanes and Van Staveren perished.
Terauchi, Marshal Count Hisaichi, August 8, 1879 – June 12, 1946,
On November 6, 1941 General Terauchi was appointed commander of the Imperial Japanese Southern Expeditionary Army group. Soon afterwards he and Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto started to finalize their plans for a Pacific war. After the conquest of south-east Asia he was promoted to Marshal. He personally surrendered to Lord Louis Mountbatten in Saigon on November 30, 1945. He died of a stroke in a Malayan POW camp.
Wavelll, General Sir Archibald Percival, May 5, 1883 – May 24, 1950
In July 1941 General Wavell was appointed C-in-C India and on December 29, 1941 as supreme commander of ABDA Command. This ill-fated command lasted until February 23, 1942 when ABDACOM was dissolved (see “Military” for more information).
His effectiveness as a commander was hampered by the injuries he sustained when fell down a pier in Singapore and broke two bones in his back.
After the dissolution of ABDACOM, General Wavell returned to India where his responsibilities now also included the defence of Burma. He was promoted to Field Marshal in January 1943 and later became Viceroy of India (until 1947).
Starkenborg – Stachouwer, Mr. Tjarda van March 7, 1888 – August 16, 1978
Tjarda van Sterkenborch was a Dutch nobleman and statesman, primarily noted for being the last Governor General of the Dutch East Indies. He was taken captive after Java’s unconditional surrender on March 9, 1942. The Japanese offered him house arrest and special treatment but he refused. As a result he was interned in a special POW camp and later transferred to the Camp at Hsien (now Liaoyuan) in Manchuria. He was liberated on August 16, 1945 and returned to the Netherlands with his wife and daughter. Queen Wilhelmina requested him to serve again as her Governor General in Indonesia but he declined and became the Dutch ambassador to France.
Wilhelmina, Queen of the Netherlands, August 31, 1880 – November 28, 1962
Queen Wilhelmina was Queen of the Kingdom of the Netherlands from 1890 until 1948. When the Germans invaded the Low Countries on May 10, 1940, she evacuated to the United Kingdom (aboard HMS Hereward).
Once established in London she immediately formed a Dutch government in exile. The relations between this government and the ageing Queen were tense, with mutual dislike increasing as the war progressed. This became all too obvious when she sacked her prime minister for defeatism (he had suggested negotiating a peace settlement with the Germans…)
She cordially hated career politicians and repeatedly stated a love for the ‘common people’. Immediately after the liberation of The Netherlands at the end of WW2 she travelled through the Dutch countryside to see for herself what damage five years of German occupation had done, sometimes using a bicycle instead of a car.
She became bitterly disappointed when, despite her intention and efforts, the same old political factions were taking power in her liberated country. To her chagrin the people who had really fought and risked their lives for freedom were side-tracked and ignored.. She remained on the throne until September 4, 1948. On that day, worn out by five years of war and exasperated by the return to short-sighted, pre-war political bickering, she abdicated in favour of her daughter Juliana.