Armored vehicles used by The Netherlands until 1945
- Carden-Loyd Mk.VI in Dutch Service
- Marmon-Herrington CTLS-4TA
- Marmon-Herrington CTMS-ITB1
- Marmon-Herrington MTLS-1GI4
- Renault FT in Dutch Service
- C.P.I.M. Improvised Armored Car
- Ehrhardt Potkachel
- GMC Improvised Armored Cars
- Morris ‘Koekblikje’ Armored Car
- Wilton-Fijenoord Armored Car
A short history of the Netherlands
The Netherlands is situated on a major hub between continental Europe and the rest of the world and has been a hub for sea trade since at least the time of the Romans. With a key strategic position at the head of the Rhine River and with easy access to the North Sea, the country became a major player in international trade that brought great wealth to the nation in the seventeenth century. Home of the well-known Dutch East India Company (Dutch: Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie, shortened to VOC), as well as the lesser-known Dutch West India Company (Dutch: West Indische Compagnie, shortened to WIC), which established Dutch colonies in Africa and Asia and in the Americas respectively, the country was a leading economic, political, cultural, and scientific power. This position declined in the eighteenth century and culminated in the foundation of the Batavian Republic in 1795, which was a satellite state of Napoleonic France that in turn resulted in the partial British occupation of Dutch overseas territories. In 1810, the country was integrated into the French Empire.
After Napoleon’s defeat at the Battles of Leipzig and Arnhem in 1813, the son of the former stadtholder (a type of Baronial steward) returned and was crowned King of the Netherlands in 1815, this time including the southern Netherlands and the Duchy of Luxembourg. The Belgian Revolt of 1830 made an end to the unification of the northern and southern parts of the Low Countries. It was not until 1839 that Belgian independence was accepted by the Dutch government. In 1848, liberal amendments were made to the constitution, limiting the power of the King and starting the process of the Netherlands developing into a liberal state. To safeguard its interests as both a trading nation and colonial power, the nation steered a neutral course and stayed out of war with other countries, but was not shy using brutal military force in its colonies, as was shown during the Aceh War (1873-1914).
This neutral policy was also of interest to the larger powers in Europe and one of the reasons why the Netherlands could retain its neutrality during the First World War. As such, the Netherlands was spared of military aggression and destruction, but the war led to a dramatic deterioration of economic and social conditions. After the war, the Netherlands was accused by the Allies of having a pro-German stance, and Belgium demanded Dutch territory to be ceded to them. Diplomatic friction mostly settled down in 1920, when the Netherlands became one of the founding members of the League of Nations, showing its willingness to contribute to international stability. The years after the war were dominated by optimism and loosening of European tension, from which the Netherlands also benefited. This stable period ended in 1929 when the worldwide economic crisis struck. This led to economic decline and a high unemployment rate. Due to a failing government policy, the effects were felt relatively long compared to other countries, causing social unrest in 1934.
When Germany started to rearm itself under Nazi rule, international tensions started to rise again and, as its western neighbor, the Netherlands looked anxiously to the east. They resorted to putting their own neutrality back at the top of priorities. The primary concern was to safeguard all economic interests, only to be followed by security policies. Attempts to reinforce and modernize the defenses mostly came too late. On 10 May 1940, the country was invaded. For the first time since 1813, the country was occupied by foreign troops.
The government and the Queen went into exile in Great Britain. A part of the Dutch Navy and only a very small part of the Army managed to escape to Britain. A small Dutch unit was formed, known as the Princess Irene Brigade and this unit saw limited action during the 1944-1945 French, Belgian, and Dutch campaigns. The East Indies, protected not by the Royal Army, but by the distinct Royal Dutch East Indies Army, remained free but declared war on Japan on 8 December 1941. Japan officially declared war on 11 January 1942 and, during the following campaign, forced the Dutch to surrender in March. By now, the West Indies was the only part of the Dutch Kingdom not occupied by the Axis forces. The defenses of these islands were not trusted by the Allies and were strengthened, first by British and French, but later by American forces.
The first deployment of armor was during the bloody colonial Aceh war (1873-1914). At the end of 1890, two armored train carriages were constructed and deployed on the Kota Radja Tramway. For how long they were used, and if they were successful is unknown.
The start of the twentieth century saw the development of the first armored cars which were offered to and tested by the various major powers in Europe, but in the Netherlands, they only found their way into the popular press. As the Netherlands could retain their neutrality during the First World War, its course was mostly followed from the sideline. In October 1914, a Belgian armored car crossed the border and was interned by Dutch border troops, and subsequently stored. This was the first armored car on Dutch soil. At the end of 1914, probably inspired by this Belgian car, plans were made to construct several armored cars, armed with machine guns, however, these plans were never executed. At war’s end, a German semi-armored SPAAG, an Ehrhardt BAK 1913, was interned in the Dutch province of Limburg but put in storage as well. The Belgian armored car was returned to Belgium in 1919.
The technical and tactical developments made during the war were studied by the Dutch General Staff. However, it was thought that one of the new developments, the tank, was not very relevant as the Dutch polder (low-lying reclaimed land) landscape was deemed unsuitable for tank warfare. The new weapon was not considered a large future threat and it would play no part in the defensive role of the Dutch forces. Furthermore, the political and social landscape strived for disarmament and budget cuts in military spending, meaning no money was allocated for the acquisition of expensive armored vehicles in the first place. It was also thought unlikely that the Dutch Army would get involved in a military conflict in the near future. However, to further investigate the ‘tank question’, in 1920, a deputy was sent to France to gather information about the deployment of tanks. He came to the conclusion that the military should familiarize itself with the novel vehicles. His findings were neglected.
First interest in armored vehicles appeared in 1924 when several mock-up armored cars were used during the large autumn maneuvers. In 1925, the Minister of War decided that a single Renault FT tank without armament should be acquired for testing purposes. The tank arrived in 1927 and underwent several trials and demonstrations throughout the country. The early 1930s saw an increase in the acquisition of armored vehicles. Five Carden-Loyd Mk.VI tankettes were bought in Great Britain, three armored cars were built for the police, followed by another three for the army, and the German Ehrhardt that was interned in 1918 was now completely armored. However, what all these vehicles had in common was that they had little to no combat value, and were mainly suited for training or policing duties.
Finally, in 1934, a special armored car commission evaluated several types of armored cars from FIAT, Citroën, Renault, and Landsverk. Eventually, a contract was signed with the Swedish company Landsverk for the delivery of twelve L-181 armored cars. They arrived at the end of 1935 and became part of the newly founded ‘1e Eskadron Pantserwagens’ in 1936. They were the first battle-worthy armored vehicles the Royal Army had in its possession.
Developments within the Royal Army
By 1935, the then Chief of the General Staff, General-Major I.H. Reijnders saw the rearmament of Germany as a serious threat for the near future and considered that the Netherlands would not be able to avoid a war like it did in 1914. The army was weak since, after 1922, military expenditure was decreased by 25% and the few conscripts were badly trained and inexperienced. Although this could not be fixed in the short term, better materiel would certainly increase the battle worthiness of the Army. In 1936, a special defense fund was established with support from the whole government. This fund had a worth of tens of millions of guilders. In February 1937, Reijnders released a so-called urgency program that called for a massive reorganization of doctrine and consisted of a list of military equipment that had to be acquired. This included new armored cars to form a second squadron, sixty tanks, field guns, anti-tank guns, and anti-tank rifles, among other essential materiel.
Although there was technically enough money available, the next problem was that there were not many producers to buy from. Most domestic industries did not have the technological knowledge that was required to build advanced modern military equipment, nor building experience. Foreign industries were already busy with orders from their respective home armies. This led to small numbers of modern equipment being bought wherever possible. In Sweden, a new batch of armored cars was bought, anti-tank guns were bought from Böhler in Austria, mortars were acquired in France, anti-air guns came from Poland, Hungary, Italy, and Great Britain, while anti-tank rifles were bought in Switzerland. Several orders were also placed at German industries. The batch of Swedish Landsverk armored cars that was ordered in 1937, arrived in 1938 and formed the 2nd Armored Car Squadron. During that year, the army received the single Wilton-Fijenoord armored car that was until then in storage at the company’s facilities. However, it was useless for combat as no armament was fitted.
Despite this attempt at rearming, tanks would still not be bought. Many officers still did not believe in the importance of tracked armored fighting vehicles, and the leading anti-tank figure was the Minister of Defence, Mr. Dijxhoorn. He thought the age of tanks had passed and saw the bad performance of them during the Spanish Civil War as proof. Instead of buying tanks, he decided to make funds available to improve the anti-tank capabilities of the Dutch defensive lines. For example, during the winter of 1939, he made two million guilders available to increase the slopes of anti-tank ridges.
The story of DAF
The company DAF, based in Eindhoven, was the single Dutch company that managed to successfully build an armored car by itself, although the turrets were developed by Landsverk from Sweden. From 1935 onwards, they designed several kinds of armored vehicles. These designs would culminate in the Pantrado 3 design of which, after one prototype, a series of twelve vehicles was built. It featured an all-welded monocoque design, making the DAF one of the most modern armored vehicles of its time, while the novel suspension gave it good off-road capabilities as well. Not all of the twelve vehicles had been completed, and the crews had not finished their training, when war broke out, resulting in that, out of twelve, only a few would see actual combat.
The invasion of the Netherlands, Operation Fall Gelb
In the early morning of 10 May 1940, the Netherlands was attacked by its German neighbors during Operation Fall Gelb (Eng: Case Yellow) which aimed to occupy France and the Low Countries. Paratroopers landed near The Hague and Rotterdam, while German divisions crossed the eastern border into a country that had not seen war for over a hundred years. During several days of fighting, Dutch armored cars played an important role in the defense of airfields. For a small and relatively poorly equipped military, the Dutch forces proved to be tenacious and resisted more strongly than the Germans had expected. Hoping to force the Dutch to capitulate, the German High Command threatened to bomb major cities. Following this threat, negotiations about surrender started, but two bomber formations that had already left to bomb the city of Rotterdam never received recall orders. Red flares fired were only seen by one formation, while the second formation dropped all its bombs on Rotterdam, devastating the city. Rotterdam capitulated and after threats that the city of Utrecht would also be bombed, the Army followed suit and capitulated on 14 May, except for Dutch troops in the southern province of Zeeland, where French troops had arrived to aid the Dutch. The last piece of Dutch soil was abandoned by Allied troops on 27 May.
Dutch forces in the UK
The Dutch troops that managed to escape to Great Britain during World War II were incorporated into the Royal Netherlands Motorized Infantry Brigade, also known as the Princess Irene Brigade, after a Dutch princess. Until the end of 1942, they were equipped with fifteen Humber LRC Mk.I and three to five Guy Mk. I armored cars. They were replaced by Loyd Carriers, Universal Carriers, Daimler Dingos, and several M3A1 White Scout Cars.
The Dutch East Indies
The colonies were protected by a different army than the homeland, namely the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army (NL: Koninklijk Nederlands Indisch Leger, abbreviated to KNIL). It fell under the responsibility of the Ministry of Colonies, not under the Ministry of Defence like the regular army. During the 1920s, it was gradually reduced to a smaller force. In 1933, it was decided to completely reorganize the army as budgets were to be cut by a third. This included a big reduction of cavalry forces, but this was justified by plans that were being made to replace the cavalry with armored cars. In August, three armored cars were ordered at the Dutch shipyard Wilton-Fijenoord, which were developed by the German firm of Krupp. The vehicles performed badly in the warm environment, however, and were rejected. The KNIL continued the search for another armored car.
In 1935 and 1936, vehicles from several European manufacturers were evaluated. During 1936, it was also realized that with growing international tensions, the army had to be completely modernized, much of the military materiel dated back to 1918 or before. More funds were made available for the acquisition of tanks and armored cars. In August, 1936, an order was placed at the British firm of Alvis-Straussler for delivery of twelve AC3D armored cars. These vehicles were delivered at the very end of 1937 and early 1938. Another important step was the acquisition of tanks. In December 1936, two light tanks and two amphibious tanks were ordered at Vickers. These tanks were delivered in November 1937 and tested by a special unit.
The amphibious tanks did not perform very well and no consecutive order followed. The light tanks were quite successful and a second order was placed for 73 vehicles. Forty-five Command tanks were also ordered, they were similar to the light tanks but armed with an actual gun, instead of only one machine gun. Due to the outbreak of World War 2, only 24 light tanks were sent to the Indies, the remainder was confiscated by the British Army, while production of the Command Tanks was never initiated. Four out of 24 light tanks disappeared en route, likely in the harbor of Rotterdam during the German invasion of May 1940.
Having only 20 tanks at their disposal, as well as the four tanks bought for testing, plans to form six mechanized brigades equipped with ninety tanks each could not be executed. To get the necessary tanks, the US Army was approached, as well as the firm of Marmon-Herrington. At Marmon-Herrington, 234 CTLS-4TA, 194 CTMS-ITB1, and 200 MTLS-1G14 tanks were ordered. With the US Army, a deal was signed for the delivery of M2A4 tanks. After production of this model ceased, the order was replaced by M3 Stuart tanks. Although most of the ordered tanks were produced, only a small number of CTLS actually arrived in the Dutch East Indies in time before the Japanese invasion, and only seven of them could be made operational.
The KNIL booked more successes in the acquisition of armored cars. By 1940, production was initiated of Overvalwagens, locally produced armored cars on truck chassis. Two types were built, one specifically for the Army and known as the Braat. It is estimated that around thirty of these were built. The other type was built for the Stadswacht, a volunteer paramilitary force, similar to the British Home Guard units. Photographs show at least two other designs being built, but no official information about these vehicles has survived. In 1941, the US delivered forty M3A1 White Scout Cars. Furthermore, just before the Japanese invasion, a shipment arrived from South Africa with Marmon-Herrington armored cars and 49 of these were made operational.
The invasion of the Dutch East Indies
On 11 January 1942, the first Japanese invasion forces landed in the Dutch East Indies. One by one, the Sunda islands fell into Japanese hands. The campaign climaxed with the Japanese victory during the Battle of the Java Sea and Battle of Sunda Strait late February and the invasion of Java on 1 March. Java was swiftly occupied and capitulated on 9 March. Fighting continued on Sumatra until the remaining force capitulated on 28 March. The roughly 200 armored vehicles that were deployed by the KNIL could not turn the tide.
The most notable use of Dutch armored vehicles was by the ‘Mobile Unit’ during the Battle of Subang. In terms of armor, the unit was equipped with seventeen Vickers Light Tanks, seven Marmon-Herrington CTLS tanks, sixteen Braat Overvalwagens, three Marmon-Herrington Mark III armored cars, and one White Scout Car. On 2 March, this unit launched an attack on a Japanese unit located in the city of Subang, in order to recapture the nearby airfield. The attack was successful at first, but the supporting infantry got locked down and the tanks could not advance without infantry. Due to losses, the attack was called off. Eight tanks were lost while only seven to nine remained in a serviceable state.
The Dutch West Indies
The Dutch Antilles and Suriname are very often overlooked in the war, as there was no real armed conflict going on, except for some occasions with German U-boats. However, these Dutch possessions were vital for the war, as they delivered a very big majority of the fuel and bauxite (aluminum ore). These resources were of great importance for the Allied war effort. For defense, the variety of Dutch soldiers were joined by British and French soldiers. After Vichy France was established, the French troops were replaced by British troops, and after the US joined the war, American troops replaced the British. Various armored vehicle left-overs were sent to these Dutch territories in 1942. Aruba received one CTMS and six CTLS tanks, as well as two M3A1 White Scout Cars. The garrison of Curaçao was strengthened with two CTMS, seven CTLS, and two M3A1 Whites. The Dutch forces in Suriname received the most vehicles, 28 CTMS, 26 CTLS, and nineteen MTLS tanks, as well as several unarmored Ford T8 GMCs.
Armored vehicles of the Royal Army
Belgian Armored Car (1) 1914-1919
One Belgian armored vehicle, a standardized Minerva, was captured by the Dutch army when it crossed the border in late 1914. In 1919, it was returned to Belgium. The vehicle was likely never actively used by Dutch troops.
Ehrhardt Potkachel (1) 1918-1940
One Ehrhardt Kraftwagen-Flugabwehrkanone was seized from the Germans in 1918. In the early 1920s, the 77 mm gun was replaced by a 57 mm Krupp gun. During the early 1930s, final changes were made and the Krupp gun was replaced by a 37 mm gun. The vehicle would remain in the inventory of the Dutch Army until the Second World War. It did not see fighting and was scrapped by the Germans.
GMC training vehicle (1) 1924-1931.
In 1924, a mock-up armored car was built with tin and wood. A 37 mm gun was installed on a pivot in the back of the truck and a wooden dome turret was placed on top. It was used during exercises and training until it was dismantled in 1931.
Renault FT (1) 1927-1940.
One second-hand Renault FT tank was acquired from France in 1927. It was used to see what effect the Dutch landscape had on the use of tanks. After tests, it was put in storage, but reactivated for a short time in 1939 to test the anti-tank capabilities of the Dutch defensive lines. When the country was invaded, it was in use as a gate guard and disappeared during the war.
Improvised GMC ‘kippenhok’ (3) 1931-1934.
In 1931, three improvised armored cars were made by the ‘motor service’, based in the city of Haarlem. They were allocated to the police. Two of them saw action during the 1934 Jordaan riots but performed poorly and all three were scrapped in 1934.
Carden-Loyd Mk.VI (5) 1931-1940.
Six tankettes were ordered, but only five could be delivered. Two saw action when they defended Airfield Waalhaven near Rotterdam in 1940. The others also performed patrol duties. All five fell, mostly undamaged, in German hands. They were probably scrapped.
Morris Wijnman (3) 1932-1940.
Based on the design of the latest improvised GMC armored cars, three new cars were made based on a Morris chassis in 1932 after a design of mr. Wijnman. They took part in exercises and were deployed in May 1940, to perform reconnaissance duties, but they did not see fighting. Their fate is unknown.
Wilton-Fijenoord (3) (1933) 1938-1940.
Three Wilton-Fijenoord armored cars, based on Krupp chassis, were ordered in 1933 by the KNIL, but they performed badly and were rejected. Instead, two were sold to Brazil, while the third was put in storage at the factory until the army acquired it in 1938. In 1940, it was unarmed and not used against the Germans. They took over the vehicle and it ended up defending the Reichstag in Berlin against the Soviets in 1945, where it was destroyed.
Wilton-Fijenoord APC (2) 1935
Two wheeled armored personnel carriers were built in 1935 by Wilton-Fijenoord and sold to Brazil, together with two armored cars that had been rejected by the KNIL.
M.36 Landsverk 181 (12) 1936-1940.
Twelve L-181 armored cars arrived in 1936 from Sweden. They formed the 1st Squadron Armored Cars. After the fighting in 1940, some were deployed by the Germans. None survived the war.
M.38 Landsverk 180 (14) 1938-1940.
Fourteen L-180 armored cars, among which were two command versions, were delivered by the Swedish company Landsverk in 1938. They formed the 2nd Squadron Armored Cars, while one command version was added to the 1st Squadron. They were deployed in May 1940 and some of them were taken over by the Germans.
M.39 DAF (12) 1939-1940.
From 1935 onwards, the firm of DAF and Lieutenant Van Der Trappen developed an armored car, based on their Trado chassis. They were partially ready in 1940 and saw action against the Germans. Some were taken over and saw service with the Wehrmacht, but none survived the war.
Armored vehicles of the KNIL
Vickers Light tank ‘Dutchman’ (22) 1937-1942
The first two Light Tanks were bought in 1937 and after successful tests, 73 more were ordered. However, only twenty were delivered while the remainder was withheld by Britain from export.
Vickers Light Amphibious tank (2) 1937-1942
Along with two Vickers Light Tanks, two Amphibious tanks were bought as experimental vehicles. They were not very successful and no further orders were placed but the two were kept for training and were still around in 1942.
Alvis-Straussler AC3D (12) 1937-1942
After the Wilton-Fijenoord armored car failed and was not accepted, a new armored car was sought which was found in the AC3 built by Alvis Straussler. Twelve vehicles were bought in 1936 and delivered from December 1937 onwards. They were a much needed reinforcement of the cavalry regiments and used against the Japanese in 1942.
Stadswacht Overvalwagen (65 planned) 1940-1942
Production of Overvalwagens was initiated in 1940 to equip the newly established Home Guard units. They were produced in several series. It is unknown how many were eventually made, but the original plans called for around 65 vehicles. During the Japanese invasion they were used by the Army instead, in a role they were not designed for.
Braat Overvalwagen (approx. 30) 1940-1942
Starting from the second half of 1940, a number of Overvalwagens was produced for the Army after a design of KNIL engineer Captain Luyke Roskott. They appeared in two series. It was named after the Braat Metalworks from Surabaya, a company that participated in the building process. They were probably the most advanced domestically produced armored vehicles of the Dutch East Indies.
M3A1 White Scout Cars (40) 1941-1942
In early 1941, forty Scout Cars arrived in the Dutch East Indies. They equipped the cavalry squadrons and were used during the Japanese campaign. Several survived the Japanese occupation and would remain in service during the Indonesian Independence War.
Stadswacht Pantserauto (approx. 3-4) 1941-1942
Apart from the armored Overvalwagens, some armored cars were made for the Stadswacht as well, likely on Ford chassis. At least one vehicle with a fixed superstructure was made, as well as roughly 2-3 similar armored cars but with machine-gun armed turrets. Little is known about their make and use.
Marmon-Herrington Mk.III armored car (49) 1942
Just before the Japanese invasion, the KNIL received a shipment with South African Reconnaissance Cars Mk.III. 49 were made operational and fought against the Japanese invasion force. After Japanese victory, a substantial number was taken over and many saw service during the Indonesian Independence War.
Marmon-Herrington CTLS-4TA (7 operational) 1942
A large order of Marmon-Herrington tanks was placed but only a small number actually arrived in the Dutch East Indies in time. Only seven were operated by Dutch troops.
Armored vehicles in the West Indies
C.P.I.M. improvised armored car (2 Curaçao) 1929
Two vehicles were crudely built over the course of one night by personnel of the C.P.I.M. refineries on the isle of Curaçao to defend against Venezuelan rebels in 1929. They were never used operationally and quickly dismantled.
Ford T8 GMC (4-7 Suriname) 1941-?
The unarmored T8 was an experimental anti-tank version of the Ford ‘Swamp Buggy’, of which fifteen were built in the USA. A small number was sold to the Dutch West Indies. Details of its service life are scarce.
Marmon-Herrington CTLS-4TA (26 Suriname, 7 Curaçao, 6 Aruba) 1942-1945
Of the CTLS-4TA ordered by the KNIL, a number was still in the USA when the Dutch East Indies capitulated to the Japanese. Several of these were then shipped to the Dutch West Indies
Marmon-Herrington CTMS-ITB1 (28 Suriname, 2 Curaçao, 1 Aruba) 1942-1957
All the CTMS-ITB1 ordered by the KNIL were still in the USA when the Dutch East Indies capitulated to the Japanese. Several of these were then shipped to the Dutch West Indies. They remained in service the longest, only in 1957 the tank unit was disbanded.
Marmon-Herrington MTLS-1GI4 (19 Suriname) 1942-1945
All the MTLS-1G14 ordered by the KNIL were still in the USA when the Dutch East Indies capitulated to the Japanese. Several of these were then shipped to the Dutch West Indies, but they were too heavy to be put to good use.
M3A1 White Scout Cars (2 Aruba, 2 Curaçao)
Only a few Scout Cars were delivered to the islands Aruba and Curaçao. It is unclear how long they were kept in service.
A page by Leander Jobse.
A History of the Netherlands From the Sixteenth Century to the Present Day, Friso Wielenga, Bloomsbury, 2015.
Atjeh: het verhaal van de bloedigste strijd uit de Nederlandse koloniale geschiedenis, Anton Stolwijk, Prometheus, 2016
In de West de Nederlandse Krijgsmacht in het Caribisch gebied, Anita van Dissel, Petra Groen, Van Wijnen, 2010.
KNIL cavalerie 1814-1950, C.A. Heshusius, Sectie Militaire Geschiedenis KL, 1978.
May 1940 The Battle for the Netherlands, Herman Amersfoort & Piet Kamphuis (ed.), Brill, 2010.
Nederlandse pantservoertuigen, C.M. Schulten, J. Theil, Van Holkema & Warendorf publishing, 1979.
Tussen paard en pantser, Jan Hof, Tirion, 1990.
200 jaar koninklijke Landmacht 1814-2014, Ben Schoenmaker, Boom, 2014.