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Dutch Soldiers In Sparrow Force

Gerard van Haren

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I have 2 pictures taken at the day my father was decorated  with the Bronze Cross (a high Dutch military award) for his actions during the defense of the airport at Dilly (Dili)  Timor, February 1942. My father  fought with Sparrow Force in Timor for ten months. I have uploaded one picture on the Gallery-section. On this picture you see several Australian soldiers, probably from the 2/2 or 2/4 Independent Company and my father on the right side.  Who knows these soldiers and women?
The decoration ceremony took place on February 3, 1943 at Darley Camp, Bacchus Marsh nearby Melbourne. See also https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C12814
My father, Sergeant Major H.G.P. (Henri) van Haren, was commander of a section (10 men and 3) heavy machine-guns of the “Timor Dilly Expeditie leger”. Also the 2/2 Independent Company was part of this expedition army.
For a documentary of the Slag om Timor (Battle of Timor) we are looking for Timor 1942 veterans (or family). For reactions please send a mail to: g.vanharen@chello.nl
Gerard van Haren

1943 bronzen kruis nagaan.jpg

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Dear Gerard:

Thank you for contacting the Association with the information about your father’s service as a member of Sparrow Force, his award of a decoration and uploading a photo of the award ceremony.

I have located some newspaper reports of the award ceremony:

Dutch V.C. For Man Who Led Guerrillas Against Japanese (1943, February 3). The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 - 1954), p. 3. Retrieved June 18, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article245957574

HIGH AWARDS FOR NEI MEN FROM TIMOR (1943, February 4). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 5. Retrieved June 18, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article11342733

AWARD OF THE DUTCH V.C. (1943, February 4). The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954), p. 2. Retrieved June 18, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article206844670

HEROISM IN TIMOR RECOGNISED AT IMPRESSIVE CEREMONY (1943, February 13). The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 - 1946), p. 4. Retrieved June 18, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article142146160

I don’t think the soldiers in the photo were members of the 2/2 or 2/4 – both units were elsewhere at the time.  One of the newspaper reports states: ‘On the flank, within an enclosure, Australian generals and army nurses stood with sailors of the N.E.I. and American officers, as well as womenfolk of prisoners’ of war in Java, Sumatra, Borneo and the. Celebes, …’

It is interesting to know that your father was a member of the Dutch team that defended the Dili airfield – unfortunately little has been published in Australia detailing the Dutch contribution to the campaign against the Japanese on Portuguese Timor.  However, I have attached one item from the Association’s archives: ‘Fighting in the jungle of Timor, 1941-1942’ by A.J. (Ben) Brodie, Retired Warrant Officer of KNIL.  Brodie states ‘With my machine gun unit, I was sent to the southern edge of the airstrip to try to block the Japanese push towards Dili, but without success’.  So he may have been a member of the same unit as your father.

As far as we know there are now no surviving members of the 2/2 and 2/4.

There is a wealth of other information on our Website about the Timor campaign that you are welcome to access and use.  Please make contact again if you are seeking additional information.

Good luck with your documentary production.  Please keep us informed about your progress with this project.

Kind regards

Ed Willis - Vice President

A.J. Brodie - Fighting in the jungle of Timor 1941-1942 - scan.pdf

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Gerard, thank you for creating this post. I have also recently been contacted regarding the documentary, and am looking forward to contributing however possible.

Mr Willis, thank you for linking the article by Ben Brodie, I had this provided to me many years ago by the Netherlands Ex-Servicemens and Women's Association in Sydney, but unfortunately lost my electronic copy. Finding this post is tremendous. The linked NLA articles I haven't seen before; I'm grateful for the additional history you've supplied. 

My grandfather, Jan Zijlstra, was Ben's CO, commander No. 3 Timor Company, and a Bronze Cross recipient for actions near Ossu. 

He played a small part in Syd Wadeys rescue, and after the war corresponded with, and at one point hosted Bernard Callinan while he was compiling his book, being mentioned by Callinan in his introduction to 'Independent Company'.

With this exciting documentary project underway, I've this week brought Jan's wartime papers out for the first time in several years. 

There's a small number of documents from the campaign, and I'd be honoured to share any information I have on these forums in the near future.


Regards, Bradley Zylstra 


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Mr Willis, thanks for your detailed reply. On the picture MEN WHO EXCELLED IN TIMOR in The Australasian 4 left my father.  

From left to right: Th. de Winter (1Lieutenant Artillery), D.M.Ph de Jong (Captain Infantry), Ch.W. Schreuder (1Lt Intendance), my dad H.G.P van Haren (Sergeant-major instructor Inf), G.van der Kolk (Sergeant  Art), N. Strik (Sergeant Engineers), H. de Man (Brigadier Eng), Hitahiron (Sergeant Inf), M. Vrijens (Sergeant Eng) Tahaparij (Sergeant Inf) W. Broekstra (Kanonnier  Art). One not present at the ceremony.

Later on 9 other soldiers where honored with the Bronze Cross for there actions in Portuguese Timor 1942. One of them was J.F. Dengah for his actions at the airport of Dilly. He was a light machine-gunner (karabijn-mitrailleur) 

In the Timor Dilly Expeditie Leger there where 3 heavy and 2 light Dutch machine-gun sections. Sergeant 1 kl Ben Brodie was a commander of light machine-gun section. My father of a heavy machine-gun section.     

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Dear Gerard and Brad:

Thank you both for your replies and providing additional interesting information and images.  As I said in my earlier reply unfortunately little has been published in Australia detailing the Dutch contribution to the campaign against the Japanese on Portuguese Timor - ready access to Dutch sources on the campaign, especially in English translations, is a problem, so your offer to share some documents (Brad) is welcome.


Ed Willis

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