Jump to content
Free downloads from TNA ×
The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Dutch East Indies during WW1?


Recommended Posts

Given that the Netherlands was neutral during WW1, I got curious to know a bit about what was going on in their East Indies colony. Could anyone recommend some sources on the topic, or perhaps just help me out with a bit of an overview?


For example, a couple things I was wondering about:


1) Was there much commercial traffic from here to belligerent nations? For example ships (Dutch, other neutral, or belligerent) running goods (legally or illegally) from Indonesia into places like Britain, Germany, etc.? Would the Dutch colonial authorities have been able to closely monitor it? Any records of smuggling? Apart from foodstuffs, I can see Indonesian goods like rubber, oil, and tobacco being easily marketable in belligerent nations.


2) What sort of figures are we looking at regarding belligerent expats in the Dutch East Indies at this time? Any records of what Germans, Brits, etc. might have been up to if resident in this region during the war?


Any info on this topic would be appreciated.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ah, véry good question!

I am not aware of any study into this (but móre than happy to be proven wrong!)


I'll check the Dutch East Indies' newspapers of the time.

In the Ships Tidings I noticed some vessels going from Batavia to London and Bordeaux e.g., but it usually doesn't mention the cargo.


I found a report about the smuggle of tobacco and rubber, consigned to Dutch citizens in the Netherlands (but destined for Germany, where, if it had not been discovered, the price was some 5x more than the current market-price in Amsterdam, making the smuggler a rich man). All that in the "Daily News for the Dutch East Indies" of 1st April 1915 (first reported in the "Soerabaya trademagazine")


As for the number of  "belligerent expats": I don't know.

There were British trading-houses, Germans, French, Swiss (my extended family), Russians (I remember reading something about a Russian Balalaika orchestra or something trapped in the East Indies) etc. But no idea of the numbers. Some serious snooping the East Indies newspapers is required!


This will keep me busy for a few days!


PS: Oh, and "the Hound of the Baskervilles" was showing at the Centrale cinema in Meester-Cornelis on 1st April 1915.




Edited by JWK
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The following are available online, but don't know if they answer what the OP is after.


Military Report on the Netherlands’ Possessions in the East Indies Prepared by the General Staff, War Office 1919. Website of the Australian Army. This appears to be an internal British Army document which is marked Confidential.


The Netherlands Indies and the Great War, 1914-1918 by Kees van Dijk 2007. Open Access oapen.org.  Note the underlying file seems very slow to open, so you  may have have to wait a while.


A Manual of Netherlands India (Dutch East Indies) by Naval Intelligence Division, Naval Staff, Admiralty. HMSO 1920. Archive.org


3 hours ago, JWK said:

Some serious snooping the East Indies newspapers is required!


 I would be interested to know what websites there were East Indies newspapers, for documentary purposes.




Link to comment
Share on other sites

22 hours ago, Maureene said:

I would be interested to know what websites there were East Indies newspapers, for documentary purposes


Via  www.delpher.nl

More than 100 million pages from Dutch (language) newspapers, books and magazines. 1618 to 1995.

(includes Dutch East Indies, Dutch West Indies, Surinam, USA (Dutch immigrant newspapers) etc)


But the whole website (and the newspapers) is all in Dutch I'm afraid.

It's completely free.

No subscription or registration required.



In January 1915 there was talk in the newspapers of smuggling rubber, hidden in bales of tobacco, by a certain  Mr C.A.Koning from Amsterdam.

He had chartered the SS Rijnsbergen, and the plan was, once it was in Dutch territorial waters, to redirect it to Hamburg.

Newspaper says "It was still possible at that time as the SS Rijnsbergen was a neutral ship, and the cargo did not contain any contrabande"


In March 1915 more clandestine rubber, this time in the SS Grotius, and again mr C.A.Koning was involved. Cargo was adressed to Amsterdam, but final destination was Germany.


Here for the article





Edited by JWK
Link to comment
Share on other sites

@JWK Thank you so much for looking in to this for me, if you find any more details or stories like this I'd love to hear them. Can I ask, does the report say which port in the East Indies the S.S. Rijnsbergen and S.S. Grotius left from? Also, since the newspapers got wind of the story, I assume both ships were caught before they could deliver their cargoes to Germany? Do you know who apprehended them (Dutch authorities or someone else)?

Edited by Sawpatin
Link to comment
Share on other sites

@Sawpatin Read up a bit more on the S.S. Rijnsbergen and S.S. Grotius cargo, and found :

-Rubber hidden in bales of Besoeki-tobacco

-Shipped from Probollingo via Sourabaja (East-Java)

-Price in Germany at the time (this is end 1914/early 1915) was DM 30,- per kg, whereas the price in Amsterdam was Dfl 3 per kg, so a 500% percent profit.

-Mr C.A. Koning's representative in Sourabaja was destitute after the outbreak of war, but by January 1915 he was a well-off man.

-Bales of tobacco with rubber inside were "bouncy" (they'd "jump" around when dropped from a height, as opposed to bales of just tobacco which would just drop flat).

-This was already noted in Sourabaja, but no action was taken. It was noted and reported though in the Netherlands upon discharge (in Rotterdam or Amsterdam, papers seem to disagree)

-The suspect bales also drew suspicion by being 10-20 kg heavier than normal.

-And the hooks used to discharge the bales did not catch on the rubber.

-Apparently the same method was used to smuggle rubber on the S.S. Vondel and the S.S. Kambangan, but seems they got through.

-The intention of the rubber being sent to Germany was discovered in the Netherlands.

-Tobacco-industry in the Dutch East-Indies was in uproar as a possible ban on the export of tobacco loomed, it being classified "contrabande" by the Allies, but luckily that didn't happen.

-The man behind this all, Mr C.A.Koning, was also on the board (or a director) of some British companies: Anglo-Dutch Plantations, Java Loan and Agency, Java United, and Besoeki Plantations.

-Can't find any more reports in the papers for the duration of the war. It seemed this was a one/few times-off occurence in the early stages of the war.

-Can't find anything either on the possible trial of mr C.A.Koning



Link to comment
Share on other sites

@JWK Thank you for supplying those extra details. It's interesting to see that this kind of stuff was indeed happening, tbh I would have been very surprised if it hadn't been at least attempted at some point between 1914-18. Also interesting to hear there were a few ships that made successful smuggling runs (Vondel and Kambangan).

This C.A. Koning sounds like an interesting character, if you ever come across more details about him I would still be interested to hear them.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@SawpatinCarel Albertus Koning, born Soerabaja 1869, died Amsterdam 1942; rubber merchant; company: "C.A. Koning Jr. & Co.", Keizersgracht 209, Amsterdam

Apparently he was in the UK often (he was director of four UK-based rubber companies in 1911)   

In November/December 1915 he was fined Dfl 300,- for violating "the import regulations" (!!! Papers at the time noted "Someone who steals a bread to feed his starving family ends up in jail for months, yet a rubber merchant who made thousands in this illegal trade gets a fine of Dfl 300,-").

In the years following he travels to and from the Netherlands from Windsor/UK (where he lived in 1921), to Brussels, to Bentheim/Germany etc.


For the rest: precious little to be found of this company.


In a newspaper ("De Preanger Bode") of October/November there's a 2-line newsreport saying "Export of rubber to neutral ports is only allowed with an export-license".


Furthermore a report in "Het Nieuws van den dag voor Nederlands Indië" ("News of the day for the Dutch East Indies") on 30 december 1915 :

"It seems like Dutch East Indies are the focal point of conspiracy and action against England"

-Named are the German S.S. Preussen (in the port of Sahang), and the S.S. Offenbach

-Spreading of discontent by the Germans in the outer districts (There's also a report of earlier in the year about Germans trying to fire up the Arab community saying "One day this will be German territory, and you will have your own say")

-Secret meetings in Padang and Soerabaja.

-The [German] Kultur organisation

-Crates full of "old newspapers' were found in Batavia, and they contained pamphlets in Sanskrit urging the British-Indians to revolt, and the Ghurkas to "kill their officers"

-Apparently an earlier shipment of those pamphlets was intercepted in Hong Kong, where it was landed by a Dutch mail-steamer.

-And it concludes that "nothing is being done about this by our government"

-Also "the Dutch Government is entirely pro-German"


Interesting reads!

Never knew the Germans in the Dutch East-Indies were so prolific in spreading "their views".

How was that for the English, the French, (and later) the Americans?

I don't know.


Edited by JWK
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, very interesting to hear they put that sort of propaganda effort in Asia.

Thank you also @JWK for the info on C.A. Koning, interesting to see that he was born in the East Indies too.

Edited by Sawpatin
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...


"The Art of Staying Neutral" on the Netherlands in WW I


The Big Blockade by E Keble Chatterton dealing with the Allied blockade of Germany


"Like Hidden Fire" deals with the German efforts to start revolts in India during WW I 

Link to comment
Share on other sites



Amazingly Marie had not been hit, although four crew members had been killed and four others had been wounded.  On the night of 23rd April the ship slipped out of Sudi Bay and sailed north close to the shore.  When shallows were reached Hinrichs and Leutnant Sprockhoff, also a former member of the Konigsberg’s crew, sailed ahead in a dhow and guided Marie into deeper water.  Sorensen then steamed away from the British blockading squadron to Batavia, now named Jakarta, in neutral Dutch Java, now an Indonesian island.  (The Royal Navy Official History makes no mention whatsoever of the Marie incident.)


You can find the above in my article here:  http://www.kaiserscross.com/188001/476201.html



Link to comment
Share on other sites

40 minutes ago, bushfighter said:

Amazingly Marie had not been hit



in the "Bataviaasch Nieuwsblad" ("Batavian Newspaper") of Monday 15th May 1916 a colourful (and long) report of two(?) journalists who, after having been asked the question "Have you heard already?", went out to investigate, chartered a little boat, and went aboard the "Marie" at Tanjong Priok roads (it had arrived there Saturdaynight) where they were met by some friendly German crewmembers.

They asked the Captain ("A sturdy man in shirtsleeves wearing a grey pith helmet") whether he could tell them something about the dangers of the escape etc, to which he replied "Vorläufig nichts. Vielleicht später" (Not at the moment, maybe later).

They noticed that the ship had suffered quite a lot: parts of the deck were blown away (and repaired with planks), bulletmarks in the funnel and the masts, railing missing, one of the airvents had a hole in it "big enough to put your arm through" etc.

The crew was tightlipped, so they didn't get any further news out of them. The German consul in town said he couldn't comment because he "didn't know anything about this case".

The journalists díd find out the basics of the story though (including "a ship's council" which was held to determine whether or not to go ahead with the escape).


The "Preanger Bode" of 16th May 1916 (Page 2) has a detailed description of the happenings in East-Africa, the bombardment, the damage to the ship, the ship's council, and the escape.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for that JWK - all good background information.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...