NETHERLANDS EAST INDIES
IN EXILE IN AUSTRALIA DURING WWII
After war broke out in the Pacific, with the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, the Japanese invasion of the Netherlands East Indies began in January 1942 with a landing at Tarakan. The Netherlands Minister for the Colonies announced in London on 4 March 1942 that the NEI Government had abandoned Batavia as its headquarters and had moved to Bandoeng. Java eventually fell in March 1942 and many NEI government officials and staff escaped to Australia where they setup offices and various Dutch organisations mainly in Melbourne, Victoria. A number of NEI service personnel, and civilian women and children were also evacuated to Australia on civilian and military ships and aircraft.
Dr. Hubertus Johannes van Mook had been earlier been appointed the Netherlands Minister for the Colonies on 21 November 1941. He was relieved of his function as the Dutch Colonial Minister in early January 1942 to be appointed Lieutenant-Governor-General of the Netherlands East Indies. Dr. van Mook arrived in Sydney on the afternoon of Tuesday 6 January 1942 then fly to Canberra the following day to discuss with the Prime Minister matters of mutual interest to the Netherlands East Indies and the Commonwealth affected by the South-West Pacific Unity of Command agreement. Before he flew to Canberra he had a conference before 7am on Wednesday 7 January with the Minister for the Army, Mr. Frank Forde.
Dr. van Mook flew to Melbourne on the afternoon of 7 January 1942 for talks with Australian service chiefs at Victoria Barracks the following day. He then flew on a 6,000 mile secret flight to San Francisco in a Dutch Air Force PBY Catalina navigated by Captain P. G. Taylor, arriving there on 13 January 1942 on his way to Washington D.C. The rest of the crew of the Catalina comprised N.E.I. Air Force Officers. Dr. van Mook arrived in Washington D.C. on 16 January 1942 and immediately met with Australian Minister Mr. R. G. Casey and had a follow-up meeting the following day.
Dr. van Mook left for Ottawa on 18 January 1942 to visit Princess Juliana and returned to Washington D.C. the following day to attend a reception in his honour by the Netherlands Association. Dr. van Mook met with President Roosevelt for 45 minutes in Washington D.C. on 21 January 1942. He told reporters that "the President gave me a lot of good news regarding the effort to strengthen the south-west Pacific."
Dr. van Mook, the Netherlands Foreign Minister Dr. van Kleffens, and the Netherlands Minister of the United States Dr. Loudon met with President Roosevelt at the White House on 31 January 1942. Mr. van Kleffens and Dr. van Mook met again with President Roosevelt at the White House on 9 February 1942. Dr. van Mook arrived back in Sydney via a trip to Los Angeles on 17 February 1942 and had an hour and a half meeting with Dr. Evatt, the Minister for External Affairs. Dr. van Mook attended the Advisory War Council on 18 February 1942 along with the Australian Chiefs of Staff, Lieutenant General Sturdee (Army), Sir Guy Royle (Navy) and Sir Charles Burnett (Air Force). Dr. van Mook returned to Batavia on 20 February 1942.
On 4 March 1942, the Consul General advised that the Netherlands Government had appointed Dr. van Hoogstraten as Commissioner for External and Maritime Affairs for Australia and New Zealand. On 20 March 1942, "the Australian Government was informed that Dr. van Mook, in his capacity of Lieutenant-Governor-General of the Netherlands Indies, had been specially authorised by the Netherlands Government in London to make such arrangements and enter into such agreements were necessary to safeguard Netherlands East Indies interests in this country."
On 10 March 1942 the Melbourne Argus reported:-
Japanese say they are
closing on Bandoeng
Accompanied by members of the NEI Governing Council and others, Dr. van Mook, Lieutenant-Governor-General of NEI has arrived in Adelaide by plane from Java.
The party which comprises 14 person, includes high officers of NEI fighting services and technical assistants.
Dr. van Mook and his colleagues have come to Australia to rally Dutch sentiment and to mould it into an effective striking force.
Leaving Bandoeng, the HQ of the Dutch Government, at the command of the Governor-General, the plane carrying teh party took off in the very teeth of the Japanese advance from "the last strip of runway available." The plane made 2 flights from Java to the Australian mainland and was not fired on. After arrival the party was flown south, and members reached Adelaide yesterday. In addition to Dr. van Mook it included Mr. O. van der Plas, another member of the governing circle, who came to Australia with the NEI Press delegation.
Among others in the party are Gen. H. van Oyen and Messrs. H. Creutsberg and C. Giebel, Mr. and Mrs. Arens, and Messrs. S. van der Molen and P. Bouten. There is another native member of the Governing Council in Sydney. There was no despondency in the party, but a heightened resolve. A certain amount of grimness was apparent, but there was more dourness and a philosophical acceptance of present reverses, offset by confidence that the future will grant opportunities for the striking of blows as decisive as those now being received.
The Netherlands Consul General in Sydney informed the Australian Government that the Lieutenant-Governor-General of the Netherlands East Indies, the Commander-in-Chief of the Netherlands East Indies Air Force, and Dr. Van der Plas, a member of the Council of the Indies, had arrived in Australia. Dr. van Mook and his party arrived in Melbourne by plane from Adelaide on 10 March 1942. Accompanying him were:-
General van Oyen - Commander-in-Chief of the Netherlands East Indies Air Forces
Mr. van der Plas - member of the Council of the Netherlands East Indies
Lieutenant Colonel Giebel
Lieutenant Colonel Otten
Lieutenant Colonel Sandberg
Dr. van Mook met with Prime Minister John Curtin for an hour in Canberra on Thursday 12 March 1942. Earlier in the day Dr. van Mook and General H. van Oyen, the Commander of the NEI Air Force was received by the Governor-General, Lord Gowrie. After his meeting with the Prime Minister Dr. van Mook told the Press he would be staying in Australia until he had things on a regular footing and he would then travel to Washington D.C. and London in a few days time after returning to Melbourne. He indicated that it was not the intention to set up a provisional government in Australia. The reins of the government would be placed in the hands of the Netherlands authorities in London. Dr. van Mook earned himself the nickname "The Flying Dutchman" based on his frequent flights around the world.
Dr. Van Mook met with General Douglas MacArthur at 9am on Friday 3 April 1942 and also over the weekend.
A number of sites were leased or purchased for use by various NEI organisation including the NEI Commission for Australia and New Zealand which was created in Melbourne on 8 April 1942 and the Netherlands Chancellery in Canberra. Support was also required for the newly appointed Ambassador to Australia and the Consul-General whose office was in Sydney. Dutch staff from diplomatic missions in other countries began to arrive in Australia to overcome the shortage of staff which then led to a need to obtain more premises.
The NEI Commission for Australia and New Zealand was formed to act as representatives of the NEI Government in Australia and New Zealand and would deal with all matters other than those of a military nature. The Chief Commissioner was Dr. J. E. van Hoogstraten, Director of Economic Affairs in the NEI Government. The Commissioners were as follows:-
Mr. Raden L. Djajadiningrat - Director of Education
Dr. R. E. Smits - Managing Director of the Javasche Bank
Dr. J. van Holet Pellekaan - Trade Commissioner and Secretary to the Commission
Dr. van Mook arrived in San Francisco with twelve NEI officials on 16 April 1942 for more talks in Washington D.C. before flying in to London. Captain P. G. Taylor was again navigator for the two Dutch aircraft which flew the delegation from Australia. This was P. G. Taylor's 21st crossing of the Pacific. Dr. van Mook attended the Pacific War Council meeting in Washington D.C. on 22 April 1942. Dr. van Mook met with President Roosevelt after the Pacific War Council meeting.
Dr. van Mook arrived in London on 27 April 1942 met with Dr. P. S. Gerbrandh, Dutch Prime Minister and Mr. Keistens, Economic Minister. Dr. van Mook reported to Queen Wilhelmina on Tuesday 28 April 1942 on his time in Australia and his recent meeting with President Roosevelt.
The Netherlands Indies Government Information Service was established in Melbourne and was responsible for propaganda directed to the Netherlands East Indies and with the collation of information from the Indies. The Netherlands Indies Government Information Service issued the first copy of the fortnightly Netherlands publication "Oranje" in August 1942. The paper was published in Dutch with a special Malay edition named "Penjoeloeh" which meant "Torch". The first edition contained an Editorial, an international review, a Netherlands and Netherlands Indies section, and local news of interest to Netherlanders and Indonesians.
The role of the Netherlands East Indies Commission for Australia and New Zealand was to look after NEI commercial interests in Australia and New Zealand. By the middle of 1943, KNIL headquarters (Koninklijk Nederlands Indisch Leger or Royal Netherlands East Indies Army) was established at an 18-roomed mansion called "Oban" at 431 St Kilda Road, Melbourne and the Netherlands Chancellery and Ambassadorial residence was established at 4 Mugga Way, Canberra.
NEI civilians soon became involved in fund raising events for the NEI and the Dutch homeland in Europe. They also worked in various aid organisations for NEI service personnel. For example NEI civilians worked in the Dutch and Indonesian Women's Association to make clothes for the children of NEI evacuees.
Photo:- AWM Accession No. 141498
Ladies of the Dutch and Indonesian
Association making clothes for evacuee children
In October 1943, the Australian government was advised that General van Oyen had been appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Netherlands Land Forces in the Southwest Pacific Area and was responsible for the creation of a nucleus for an administration for liberated Dutch territories and the establishment in Australia of a Netherlands Indies War Department. General van Oye arrived in Australia in late October 1943.
On 24 December 1943, Baron van Aerssen of the Royal Netherlands Legation in Canberra advised the Prime Minister of Australia that they were in receipt of a telegraphic message from the Netherlands Government in London, announcing the forthcoming arrival in Australia of Dr. van Mook, Minister for the Colonies and Acting Governor General of the Netherlands Indies. The Netherlands Government planned to establish a Netherlands Indies Government organisation in Australia to replace the existing Netherlands Indies Commission for Australia and New Zealand. Dr. van Mook's visit to Australia was to approach the Commonwealth Government on that subject. The Minister for External Affairs, Dr. Herbert Vere Evatt, replied to Baron van Aerssen on 31 December 1943 indicating that the Australian Government was ready to discuss any plans for the establishment in Australia of a Netherlands Indies Government organisation to replace the existing Netherlands Indies Commission for Australia and New Zealand. Early news of the proposal met with significant concern in the Australian Government. Evatt went on in his reply to Baron van Aerssen :-
"I must ask that Dr. van Mook communicate with me as soon as possible after his arrival as my colleagues and I are anxious to learn the full nature and extent of the proposals in question. You will appreciate that in the meantime the Australian Government reserves its views on the principle of the establishment in this country of a Netherlands Indies Government organisation, which it wishes to consider in the light of more definite information."
Dr. van Mook and Baron van Aerssen met with Dr. Evatt 7 March 1944 and the following day Bar van Aerssen handed an Aide-Memoire to Dr. Evatt concerning the establishment in Australia of a Netherlands Indies Government organisation to replace the existing Netherlands Indies Commission for Australia and New Zealand.
By letter of the 24th. December 1943, the Netherlands Minister in Australia informed the Right Honourable John Curtin, Prime Minister, if the forthcoming arrival in Australia of Dr. van Mook, Netherlands Minister for the Colonies, the purpose of whose visit was to acquaint the Commonwealth Government with the intention to establish a Netherlands Indies Government organisation (to replace the existing Netherlands Indies Commission for Australia and New Zealand), and to approach the Commonwealth Government concerning the temporary sojurn of the said Netherlands Indies Government organisation in Australia.
As explained during the visit which Dr. van Mook and the Netherlands Minister Baron van Aerssen paid to the Prime Minister on the 28th. of February 1944 in Melbourne, and to the Minister for External Affairs on the 7th. of March 1944 in Canberra, the reorganisation in question will probably consist of the appointment of a Lieutenant Governor-General and a Council of Heads of Departments. This reorganisation will not affect in any way the relations with the Commonwealth Government, the Minister for the Netherlands continuing in the future, as in the past, to be the accredited representative of her Majesty Queen Wilhelmina with the Commonwealth Government in Australia, for the Netherlands Realm, comprising the Motherland and the overseas territories in East and West Indies.
Canberra, 8th. of March, 1944
Dr. Evatt wrote to Baron van Aerssen on 5 April 1944 informing him that the Australian Government welcomed the "proposal to appoint and establish for the time being in Australia a Lieutenant-Governor-General of the Netherlands Indies and a Council of Heads of Departments."
At the start of 1944, a school for civil administrators was established in Melbourne. They were drawn from among Netherlanders and Indonesians from all over the free world, many of whom had previous experience in the Netherlands East Indies. The normal four year course, once taught at The Hague, was compressed into a six months curriculum including ethnology, native languages and the Islamic religion. This fast tracked course was necessary to turn out a complete new corps of administrators to take the place of those who stayed by their posts and were interned when the Japanese invaded in January 1942. The first graduates from the Netherlands Indies Civil Administration N.I.C.A. School were ready to begin duties by February 1944.
Once the Allies liberated New Guinea and the islands, a member of N.I.C.A. would be sent into the areas. Lieutenant General Robert L. Eichelberger, Commander of the American Forces in those areas, said that "these men are fearlessly doing an invaluable job." The N.I.C.A. men turned out to be a splendid combination of scout, guide, military commander, interpreter, administrator, police chief, judge, food distributor and health inspector. In New Guinea, the Schouten Islands, Biak, Wake and Morotai, Allied Commanders observed that as soon as news spread of the arrival of N.I.C.A. men, the islanders came streaming back from the jungle where they had been hiding from the Japanese.
The Minister for Overseas Territories in the Netherlands Government in London, Dr. Hubertus J. van Mook, returned to Australia from the Southwest Pacific and British India prior to 7 June 1944, and named the heads of the different departments of the Netherlands East Indies Government as follows:-
Dr. J. E. van Hoogstraten - Economic Affairs (previously member of the Netherlands Indies Commission for Australia and New Zealand)
Raden Loekman Djajadiningrat - Education
Lieutenant-General L. H. van Oyen - in charge of Army
Dr. Ch O. van der Plas - temporary head of the Department of Civil Administration
Dr. R. Smits - temporary head of the Department of Finance
Dr. N. S. Blom - Department of Justice
Netherlands East Indies Government officials from Melbourne arrived in Brisbane by Friday 4 August 1944 to establish the Netherlands East Indies Government-in-exile at Camp Columbia at Wacol, which had previously become a Staging Camp for General Kruger's Sixth Army in April 1943. Some NEI organisations remained in Melbourne, such as the office of the NEI Commission which would continue to handle procurements in Australia under the Netherlands Indies Trade Commissioner, Mr. J. van Holst Pellekaan. The Netherlands Naval Headquarters, the Netherlands Indies Government Service and the Netherlands Indies Government Information Service also remained in Melbourne. The Australian Government provided a special train for the NEI government-in-exile to shift its staff and files from Melbourne.
The Netherlands East Indies Forces Intelligence Section NEFIS relocated to Camp Columbia from their leased office in the New Zealand Insurance building at 334-338 Queen Street, Brisbane.
The Dutch flag flying at Camp Columbia
The Bank voor Nederlandsch Indie NV (NEI Bank Ltd) which controlled the currency supply for the liberated parts of the Netherlands East Indies was one of the first organisations to move to Camp Columbia. The Netherlands Indies Civil Administration N.I.C.A. School moved to Camp Columbia from Melbourne. Eventually, nearly 2,000 head office personnel from various Dutch and NEI organisations would be based at Camp Columbia.
The Dutch refurbishment of Camp Columbia had begun earlier in June 1944. All building work needed the approval of the Australian Department of War Organisation and Industry Works’ priorities subcommittee, but the work itself was done by the Dutch. The NEI Labour Battalion – consisting of interned non-European NEI nationals as well as Indonesians who opposed Dutch rule in NEI and overseen by Dutch officers – brought in extra labour from the NEI camp in Casino. They constructed new office buildings, club facilities and a laundry while showers and toilets were added to the accommodation huts. After taking advice from US authorities, the Australian Government took the unusual step of not charging the Dutch for the lease of the site under a Reciprocal Lend-Lease arrangement, allowing for the provision of aid between World War II allies with war materials, such as ammunition, tanks, airplanes, and trucks, and with food and other goods.
There was some criticism about the rather luxurious renovations carried out at Camp Columbia, including the beer gardens provided for the Dutch colonial officers at a time when war time austerity was encouraged. Some of the key activities that took place from these new premises were as follows:-
The Netherlands Government Information Bureau announced on 20 September 1944:-
By royal decree of 14th September, 1944, a provisional government of the Netherlands (East) Indies has been instituted and Dr. J. H. van Mook has been temporarily appointed Lieutenant-Governor-General, acting Governor-General. For the time being his headquarters will be in Australia; the government of the Commonwealth has graciously extended its hospitality to this organisation.
As the present Netherlands Cabinet will resign when the Netherlands are liberated, it was not deemed necessary for Dr. Van Mook now to be relieved of his present post of Minister for the Colonies. Moreover he has been in charge of N.E.I. affairs ever since the occupation by the Japanese of the greater part of that country and the internment of its present Governor-General, Jhr. Tjards Starkenborgh Stachoouwer. The new cabinet in Holland will advise the Crown on the final appointment of a Lieutenant-Governor-General as soon as it is constituted.
The provisional Government consist of a Lieutenant-Governor General and seven department heads, who constitute a council which, together with the Lieutenant-Governor-General will have legislative powers, under supreme control of the Minister for the Colonies, who remains responsible to the Netherlands Parliament for the government of the Netherlands Indies. For legislative purposes the council can be enlarged by the appointment of up to eight extraordinary members. This body will consist of Indonesians as well as of Dutchmen. The fact that the N.E.I. are, for the greater part, still under Japanese occupation renders it impossible to reconstitute the "Volksraad" (the chamber of representatives), even on a temporary basis, but in this way emergency measures may be discussed and taken by as representative a group of Dutchmen and Indonesians as can be found in the free world, including the liberated parts of the Netherlands Indies.
The relation of this organisation to the Allied Commanders-in-Chief of the N.E.I. area has been worked out in broad outline. During the military phase of liberation, in which the Netherlands, once more free, may be expected to take a greatly increased part, the authority of Allied Commander-in-Chief is supreme, but the provisional Government will assist them by providing the personnel and material means for the handling of civil affairs. Where and when the Government assumes responsibility it will continue the work of rehabilitation and reconstruction, at the same time giving every possible assistance for the continuation of the war against Japan.
As soon as the government can move its seat to N.E.I. territory a second decree will come into force, aiming at the re-establishment of civil rights, the abolition of Japanese decrees, the alleviation of the most pressing needs, the reconstruction of the wrecked economy of the country, and the reconstitution of democratic institutions. It envisages, as long as elections are not yet possible, the nomination of a temporary chamber of representatives, with the legislative functions of the "Volksraad" and consisting for at least three-fifths of Indonesians. The reconstitution of local and provincial government and of an independent judicature will also be one of the first objectives.
Dr. Van Hook has left for Australia; his headquarters will be in Camp Columbia near Brisbane.
Baron van Aerssen wrote to the Prime Minister of Australia on 3 November 1944 advising that Dr. H. J. van Mook had been appointed Lieutenant-Governor-General of the Netherlands Indies by Her Majesty's Government in London, and that he had assumed his duties since his arrival in Australia on 23 October 1944. Baron van Aerssen went on to confirm that the Netherlands Indies Government was now established and would have its temporary seat in Camp Columbia in Brisbane. He went on to confirm that the Netherlands Indies Commission had been dissolved. He advised that the Netherlands Indies Government comprised:-
Is this one of the outdoor beer gardens mentioned above?
A number of Dutch Women's Army Corps personnel lived at Camp Columbia but were trained at Camp Yeronga in Brisbane. The American WACs based at Camp Yeronga, threw a welcome party for the Dutch WACs at Camp Yeronga on 26 September 1944.
Dutch WACs being welcomed by American WACs at Camp Yeronga on 26 September 1944
Dutch WACs being welcomed by American WACs at Camp Yeronga on 26 September 1944
NEI Forces at Camp Columbia
Senior NEI officials at Camp Columbia
NEI Service Personnel relaxing at Camp Columbia
NEI Servicemen on parade at Camp Columbia
Dutch WACs at Camp Columbia
NEI Service Personnel relaxing at Camp Columbia
Dutch WACs on Parade at Camp Columbia
Dutch soldier receiving a medal at Camp Columbia
Outdoor picture theatre at Camp Columbia during Dutch occupation
On Wednesday 26 September 1945, the Deputy Director of Information, Lieutenant Van Rijn, confirmed that the Netherlands East Indies Government was planning to re-establish the Government in Batavia in the following week. Officials of the Government were to enter Java with the Allied Occupation Forces that were scheduled to land on 4 October 1945. Camp Columbia remained in use by the NEI Government until well into 1946.
|Dutch aircraft destroyed and at least 70 Dutch evacuees from NEI killed in Japanese air raid on Broome on 3 March 1942||Dutch and Indonesian Women's Association||Dutch Officer's Club, Brisbane "Mornington", Gregory Terrace, Brisbane later in Elizabeth St., Brisbane|
Dutch Officer's Club, in a large wooden dormitory
building at the
University of Western Australia, Perth WA
|Dutch Officer's Club at 23 Wentworth Street, Point Piper, Sydney||Hostel for Dutch & Netherlands East Indies Servicemen Queen's Mansions, 364 Beaconsfield Parade, St. Kilda, Melbourne|
|Netherlands East Indies Naval Forces in the Southwest Pacific area during WWII||Netherlands East Indies Regional Section in Australia during WWII|
|Netherlands East Indies Forces Intelligence Section, Division III (NEFIS III)||Netherlands Indies Welfare Organisation of Evacuees N.I.W.O.E. ran Hostel for NEI evacuees in "Roseville" at 56 Chester St, Teneriffe, possibly known as NEI Camp||Netherlands Indies Welfare Organisation of Evacuees N.I.W.O.E. at Temple Court, 422 Collins St., Melbourne, J. van Holst Pellekaan was the head of this organisation in Melbourne|
|N.E.I. Camp New Farm, See Netherlands Indies Welfare Organisation N.I.W.O.E.||N.E.I. Camp Coolangatta||Royal Netherlands Navy Wireless Telegraphy Station Batchelor, NT|
|Royal Netherlands Navy Wireless Intercept Station Batchelor, NT|
"Allies in adversity, Australia and the Dutch in the Pacific War: The NEI government-in-exile", AWM web page
I'd like to thank Dr. Jack Ford and Paul Budde for their assistance with this web page.
Can anyone help me with more information?
"Australia @ War" WWII Research Products
© Peter Dunn 2015
This page first produced 12 September 2022
This page last updated 17 September 2022