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Koninklijk Nederlands Indisch Leger - KNIL
KNIL Uniforms 1918-1942

To have a good understanding of what was worn by the military forces in the 1942 campaigns. We have to look back to the year 1912. Because in that year the army basic field and garrison uniform was introduced which was worn straight into the 1942 period. With some minor changes which will be described later on.

The field uniform of 1912 for all ranks

This was made of cotton in a gray green notice I have seen uniforms varying in color from deep to light green and even brownish shades-color, with an approximately 5 cm stand and fall collar closed with two hooks {so-called box shaped}. On the inside there was a piece of cloth attached to prevent scratching of the throat. At the front we see 7 flat buttons made of brown metal 20 mm in diameter {see picture 2}. On the front 2 box pleated external pockets closed with a 13 mm brown button. On the side two external pockets also closed with a button. The shoulder lapels are broad outside and small at the inside with rounded edges closed with a small button. On the lapels we see the following branch of service insignia, all made of metal with a brown or silver dull paint.

two crossed swords
two crossed cannons
Pay corps
lion of orange in gold
General staff
big star
Machine Gun units
wheel with flames above the wheel
Greek helmet
Medical personnel
escallop in gold or silver
Topographical service

Furthermore we see between the second and third button, an inside small pocket to hold the watch. The tunic has at the back a split 12 to 15 cm in length. Later that became two splits of the same size on either side of the tunic.

The field uniform of 1938

In 1938 there came a not to be unmentioned changement in the collar in a way that the collar became much more lower and now fastened with one hook, and also of a much more steeper design. The collar was also much more pointed in such a way that the detachable collar rank sign became shaped more in the form of a parelogram. Also this uniform had a much more better quality of cotton made in the Dutch Indies in the place called garoet. That is also the reason why this type of cotton is called the garoet type b cloth-an interesting thing is that a collector can easily spot garoet b type cotton because there is an orange thread intertwined between the normal green threads- I have no evidence that this type of uniform, became a walking out, nor that this uniform was used as a parade dress. To my opinion this uniform stayed the undress uniform for all ranks {see picture 4}.

The walking out uniforms for all ranks

The uniform for walking out purposes came available also in 1912 for all ranks. But in a much better quality of cloth. Officers had the uniforms also made to fit from all kinds of tailors, and also they could have a uniform made in Holland, when they were on leave. So there was a great variation in the colours of the different uniforms. The other distinctive features, which let you know if it is a walking out, parade or field uniform are the buttons. They were instead of the normal ones now embossed with the Dutch lion. Furthermore the rankings on the collar were coloured according to branch of service. And the emblems on the lapels were in gold or silver metal.

The parade and ceremonial uniforms

In 1936 the walking out uniform of this type became also the ceremonial and parade dress for all ranks. All made in the garoet by type cotton introduced in that year. This became also standard for the so called made to fit uniforms which had to be purchased by the officer himself. And this means also that the Attila period became to an end, except for generals who continued to wear the Attila as a ceremonial, and parade dress. So that we can say that all the ranks of the KNIL, except for generals, who were fitted with a much more alike uniform unto 1942 in the same color and cotton material.

The change to the collar made in 1938 to field uniforms was not taken over for the garrison, walking out, and in the ceremonial, and parade uniform, they retained their box shaped collar well into 1942.

In 1941 a further uniform and also the last one before the war started in 1942, was introduced. This was a shirt made of garoet C type cotton. It had five buttons at front {the ARP wardens had them concealed}. The shirt was tucked into the trousers which where either shorts or long trousers. It also had two box pleated external pockets on the above side. The collar was open and was not closed at all. The collar was a soft one lying all the way down. The rank insignia were worn on the collar on a gray triangular piece of cloth. The senior officers had a bar and the generals wore an oakleaf in light metal. This type of uniform was not handed out to the fighting forces because of the time given was to short. Only the ARP and city watch troops {both of para military nature} had them handed out and were actually in this type of uniform during the Java campaign in 1942. This uniform was clearly only intended to be a field uniform. The dress uniform stayed the earlier described boxed type gray green uniform introduced in 1912 and appointed ceremonial and parade dress in 1936.

Uniform Index . Bibliography . Article List
Forgotten Campaign: The Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941-1942
Copyright Klemen. L. 1999-2000