The preparation of the formation of the 18 NEI Squadron RAAF started in Archerfield, Brisbane and was formalised in Canberra on 4 April 1942. The annual reunion of the children of the 18th squadron will this year be celebrated in Melbourne on 23 April (For enquiries:  Leonie Killeen 18sqnei.aust@gmail.com). The world-wide reunion will take place in Arnhem , also organised by the Kinderen van het 18 NEI RAAF Squadron . One of the NESWA (Netherlands ex-Service Men and Women Association) members, Phillip Barnaart, is planning to attend the world-wide reunion. He will be giving a short Powerpoint presentation on the squadron and the Barnaart family.

Philip’s father (Willem Philip Barnaart) wasn’t present at the inauguration pf the 18th as he had only just escaped from Java and was already on his way to the USA for training.

He joined the squadron in Batchelor, NT, the following year and flew over 37 missions to Japanese-occupied NEI earning the “Vliegerkruis” for his efforts.  

After the Japanese capitulation the squadron continued to fly, carrying out supply drops and other humanitarian tasks.  

There are still four RAAF Australian veterans of the 18 Squadron alive: Brian Coleman, LAC Electrician Alan Day LAC, Dentist Roy Porter Flt Sgt Gunner John Iskov. 

Veterans at the 75th anniversary of the 18 NEI Squadron.
l-r: Colonel Harold Jacobs, Senator Anne Rushton, Allen Day, Brian Coleman, Hans de Vries, and Leesa Vlahos

The 18 NEI Squadron RAAF

After the surrender of Netherlands East Indies to the Japanese, it was the intention of the commander of the ML-KNIL General van Oyen to establish a NEI Squadron using the various aircraft and air crew who were now at Archerfield, Brisbane this included Dutch technical personnel who had been able to evacuate to Australia. Collaboration with the RAAF led to the formation of a combined squadron.

With a heavily under resourced KNIL (NEI army), van Oyen made sure that he had significant control over the 18 Squadron. He was very well connected in the Australian influential social circles, which assisted him in making the right connections to achieve his goal.

The 80 ML-KNIL members from Archerfield together with members of the RAAF now formed the 18 Netherlands East Indies Squadron/RAAF, based in Canberra, as the Archerfield airport had become too busy and therefore not suitable for training purposes.  These airmen were divided into several operational groups under RAAF control. All their stores and equipment were supplied by the American Armed Forces and paid for by the Dutch.  On 18 June 1942, the total number of staff of 18 Squadron consisted of 206 Australians and 242 Dutch/NEI servicemen.

In 1943 under a similar arrangement between the Dutch and Australian military command a second squadron was installed, named 120 NEI Squadron RAAF. This squadron moved from Canberra to Merauke in the southern part of Dutch New Guinea – the only unoccupied territory in NEI.

Whilst stationed at Fairbairn, Canberra, the squadron undertook anti-submarine patrols along the New South Wales coastline. After their training in Canberra, the Squadron relocated to McDonald Airfield in the Northern Territory, with the first operational mission on 18 January 1943. Logistically, McDonald airfield was too far away from intended targets so fully laden bombed up B-25’s were forced to land in Darwin specifically to refuel. The Squadron relocated again, to Batchelor NT and remained there until the squadron relocated finally to Balikpapan in 1945 at the end of WWII. Here they were under the overall command of the No.79 Wing RAAF.

The squadron was now brought to full strength with the arrival of more RAAF personnel and consisted of 40 officers and 210 men from the ML-KNIL and 8 officers and 300 men from the RAAF.

The B-25s however, did have some severe shortcomings. The reach of the planes was only just enough to fly a bombing mission to NEI. Several planes crash landed when they ran out of fuel.  After many casualties and arguments Commander Fiedeldij, put it bluntly, they would not fly anymore unless they received the necessary modifications. This worked and the RAAF agreed that the planes were sent to Eagle Farm in Brisbane where they received a 300-gallon drop tank and more and heavier calibre weapons.

They were involved in many actions across NEI and were able to show the Dutch war effort to the people in NEI. They destroyed many Japanese operations on NEI, sunk 6 Japanese ships and numerous smaller boats. These men really were amazing, they did low level bombing of shipping.  That means they were just above mast height when they were attacking Japanese shipping.  Gus Winkel sunk a submarine is Sydney Harbour in the early part of the war when they were doing anti-submarine patrols.   

More air force personnel were becoming available from the Dutch pilot training school in Jackson, USA. This allowed the Dutch, who wanted to increase the 18th, with two more squadron. The Americans agreed to deliver the pre-ordered (and pre-paid) B25s if the Dutch were able to provide sufficient personnel.  This also required additional ground personnel and this needed to be provided by the Australians. While the Australians wanted this to be led by the RAAF and were keen to lay their hands on the extra planes. However, the Americans supported the Dutch and Australia eventually agreed to provide 600 to 700 staff. This was under the provision that under the White Australia Policy, only white staff would be allowed to man the squadrons. The Dutch were able to start the 2nd squadron in May 1943.

The planes remained operational until 1950, when the equipment from the squadron was handed over to the Indonesian Airforce.

Paul Budde with the assistance of Ingrid Schodel

The “Pulk” restored B25 bomber from the 18 NEI Squadron RAAF

Celebrations of the 75th anniversary of the 18 Squadron

Profile of Joop van Doorn former radio/telegraphist/navigator of the 18 Squadron

There are also a number of records of 18 Squadron in the Australian War Memorial archives.

The following video shows the ceremony during which the six new officers were sworn in at the Canberra airport 30 August 1942. These officers are J. Daanen, A. Hagers, A.L.N. Swane, F. Olsen, F. Pelder en C. Busser. The function was carried out by Major Fiedeldij, commanding officer of the 18 Squadron. Source: Nederlands Instituut voor Militaire Historie

https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1911733265757602

Personnel and aircrew of No 18 Squadron, in front of their North American B-25 Mitchell bomber, (aircraft number N5-131), named Pulk, after returning from a raid against the Japanese. Also visible is a quarter ton truck, Jeep (left) and a small motorcycle (right). Source Australian War Memorial
B-25 Mitchell bombers from No. 18 (NEI) Squadron flying in formation near Darwin in 1943