Monday, 1 August 2011

The Dutch East Indies

In the mid 19th century the islands that we now know as Indonesia were the Dutch East Indies. Well, most of it. Some parts such as Batavia (modern Jakata) had been Dutch since the 1600s, other Sultanates and kingdoms were only acquired during the late 19th century, such as the Sultanate of Aceh, whose conquest took from 1873 to 1913, and the Balinese kingdoms in 1906 and 1908.

The Cities

Batavia (modern Jakarta)

Batavia Bay

Bataivia had been Dutch for centuries and was the administrative capital. Situated on the island of Java, it was where most technological developments tended to be introduced, such as horse trams and railways.

Buitenzorg (Bogor)
About 60kn from Batavia, and Dutch since 1694, it was the summer residence of the Governor General. The city was famous for it's botanical garden, which rather like an eastern Kew, was designed to both to increase knowledge of plants and to encourage agricultural development in the colony.
A Dutch sugar factory 1851

Soerabaia (Surabaya)
On the north coast of Java, and site of the main naval base due to a safe deep water harbour. In 1868*** the population was about 100,000 and the port included shipyards, docks, construction and retail warehouses. Soerabaia was defended by Fort Erfprins,on the seaward side and Fort Prins Hendrik on the landward side, with a substantial garrison. The Resident lived outside the city in the more congenial Simpang.

Located 2,500 ft above sea level and surrounded by mountains, Bandung has a cooler climate than most of Java and was the centre of the tea industry, as well as the growth of cinchona plants, introduced for quinine production.

Main port on the island of Celebes (Sulawesi) . Much of the island was under local rulers at this time, but Makassar was Dutch, protected by Fort Rotterdam and the Dutch enclave was named Vlaardingen. It was, and is, a major trading port, including the hair oil named after it (hence anti-makassars are cloths placed on the head rests of chairs to protect the upholstery from oil).

The capital of Dutch Borneo and a Dutch protectorate from 1794 until 1860 when it was formerly annexed after the Banjarmasin war.

The Celebes in action against Dayack tribesmen in Borneo in 1859

The Army

The Dutch East Indies Army (Koninklijk Nederlands Indisch Leger; KNIL) was technically separate from the Dutch army as such, and it was actually illegal to send Dutch conscripts from Europe to the Dutch East Indies. Of course Dutch volunteers were welcome, and also many from Switzerland, Germany and Belgium, but at this time only about 40% of troops were of European descent, the rest a mixture of local Javanese, Timorese and other groups including Africans from Ghana. The officers and artillery gunners were always Dutch, but the sergeants often of the same race as the troops. In fact the various ethnic groups were usually quartered in separate buildings. In 1868 the army was approximately 20,000 strong*** divided amongst numerous garrisons and forts.

KNIL Malay soldiers in Sumatra 1873

There was no real external threat to the Dutch possessions at this time, but numerous operations expanding Dutch possessions, putting down revolts, or against pirates

1859-63 Bandjermasin War (Borneo)
1860 Riots on Ceram (Moluccan Islands)
1860 Revolt of Swiss army mercenaries at Semarang
1861 Defeat of pirates on the island of Saljusu
1862 Destruction of a pirates’ fleet near the Sangir Islands
1862 Expedition to Manipi, Tutungan and Mandar on Celebes / Sulawesi
1863 Expedition to Nias
1863 Expedition to the Toradja area on Celebes / Sulawesi
1864 Expeditions to Sintang and Marahunu
1865 Expedition to pirates near Menado / Manado, North-Celebes / Sulawesi
1865 Riots on Ceram (Moluccan Islands)
1865 Riots at Amunthai on Borneo
1866 Expedition to Pasumah, near Palembang on Sumatra
1866 Expedition to Ceram (Moluccan Islands)
1867 Expedition to Mandar on Celebes / Sulawesi
1868 Riots on Bali

The Navy

The Medusa in Japan 1864

Dutch naval forces in contrast remained part of the Royal Netherlands Navy. The Dutch navy was relatively strong and had a good reputation, but with Europe becoming an increasingly dangerous place the strongest vessels were kept in home waters. In 1859 it was composed as follows*

2 ships of the line of 84 guns each
3 ships of the line of 74 guns
7 first-class frigates (3 of them screws), 54 to 45 guns
8 second-class frigates, 38 to 36 guns
1 second-class rasee, 28 guns
10 corvettes (5 of them screws), 19 to 12 guns
7 brigs, 18 to 12 guns
10 screw schooners of 8 guns
27 smaller craft, mounting together 98 guns.
57 gunboats, (2 of them screw) mounting together 178 guns

In Asian waters, HNLMS Celebes was involved in operations in Borneo in 1859, and the squadron under de Man involved in the bombardment of Shimonoseki in 1864 was as follows;**

Medusa; Steam corvette. 18 guns, Captain Casembroot

Metalen Kruis.Screw corvette, 16 guns, Captain de Man, arrived from the Netherlands

Djambi. Screw corvette 1st class, 16 guns, Captain Van Rees

Amsterdam. Paddle steamer, 8 guns, Captain Muller

On separate occasions a party from the Medusa under Capt Casembroot and 200 Dutch sailors and marines under Lt Binkis were involved in landing operations against onshore fortifications.

*The navies of the world; their present state and future capabilities By Hans Busk 1859
**De Medusa in de wateren van Japan in 1863 en 1864 By F. de Casembroot 1865
*** Nederland, zijne Provincien en Kolonien: Land en Volk beschreven door By J. Kuijper 1868

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