Dutch East Indies

Republiek Indonesië

After Japan’s surrender, Sukarno proclaimed the Dutch East Indies as the Republic of Indonesia on 17 August 1945. This ended the freedom Hugo Wilmar had found in America. Hugo Wilmar is sent to the Dutch East Indies with the first 2,000 Dutch marines on 17 November 1945.

S.S. Noordam

Hugo Wilmar is assigned to the Naval Information Service. He has since been promoted to lieutenant. As a cinematographer, Hugo films the departure of the Dutch Marines from Camp Davis. The 2,000 men embark aboard the S.S. Noordam, which will take them to the East Indies.

The voyage leads via the Mediterranean Sea past Port Said and Aden, towards Ceylon (Sri Lanka). Thereafter, the Noordam leaves for Batavia. However, the British reported that a course should be set towards Malacca (Malaysia). On 17 December 1945, S.S. Noordam arrives in Port Swettenham (now port Klang, Malaysia).

It was not until March 1946 that the Noordam received permission to dock in Indonesia. The Marine brigade will be stationed in Surabaya..

“|t was only here that everyone began to realise with crystal clarity that we were really at the mercy of the British, who are not unjustly called “Focking Limeys” by the Yanks. We were not allowed to go to India or even to land.” (letter dated 2 Jan. ’46)

Skirmishes in East-Java

De mariniers gaan vroeg in de ochtend tot de aanval over
De mariniers gaan vroeg in de ochtend tot de aanval over in Gedangan, Oost-Java. (Bron: Louis Zweers, Front Indië, foto: © NIMH

Hugo Wilmar captures Marines’ battles with Indonesian freedom fighters from the front lines. The situation is life-threatening. Resistance from the Indonesian freedom fighters is greater than expected. Moreover, supplies to the troops are inadequate. Soldiers are dying daily.

Much to Hugo Wilmar’s fury, only his “good-news footage” is released by the information service in the Netherlands. The wretched conditions under which the marines have to live and the bloody fighting are left in the dark room. For Hugo, this censorship embodies the oppressive and petty bourgeois nature of Dutch culture. It is with some disillusionment and irritation that Hugo waves goodbye as a soldier in May 1947.

(…) As for publication – it is blocked and countered as much as possible. Shameful! The Dutch People live in it in the firm conviction that we are mieters rusting here in our beautiful Indie there after all.” (Letter to parents, 26 May 1946)

Spaarnestad Publishers

Employed by Uitgeverij De Spaarnestad, Hugo returns to the Dutch East Indies as a journalist. On 21 July 1947, Hugo photographs the landing of Marines in Pasir Poetih. This landing, Operation Product, marks the beginning of the first Police Actions, or the Decolonisation War.In December 1957, Hugo Wilmar travels to Djocjacarta (now: Yogyakarta). He uses his press card from the US photo agency International News Agency. With it, he enters the lion’s den. He succeeds in making a photo series of Republican leader Sukarno. Publisher de Spaarnestad publishes the reportage, as anonymously purchased American reportage, in Dutch magazines.

Photos Dutch East Indies 1946-1948

The photo gallery below is an overview of Hugo Wilmar’s photos from the family archive. More photos can be found in various Dutch Archives. The vast majority of the photographs of the violence in Indonesia from the family archive were taken by Hugo Wilmar while employed by Spaarnestad. There is an overlap between the photos from the family archive and the collections of the Netherlands Institute of Military History (NIMH) and the Spaarnestad archive.

Time line

Op weg naar Nederlands-Indië

Hugo Wilmar scheept zich samen met de eerste 2000 Mariniers in aan boord van de Noordam. Hij vertrekt vanuit Camp Davis (NC) richting Indië

Oponthoud in Maleisië

14 december 1945. De Noordam vertrekt vanuit Ceylon (Sri Lanka) richting Batavia. De Engelsen berichten dat de Noordam koers moet zetten richting Malakka (nu: Melaka, Maleisië). De nederlandse Mariniers mogen niet naar Indië.

Debarkeren in Batavia

Op 1 januari 1946 komt de Noordam aan in Batavia. De Mariniers mogen van de Engelsen niet debarkeren. De Noordam moet terugkeren naar Malakka. Bij een Dunlop rubberplantage in de buurt van Ladang Geddes slaat de Mariniersbrigade hun kamp op.

Frontlinie foto’s
Nederlandse mariniers tijdens een vuurgevecht, waarbij ze gedekt worden door een natuurlijke verhoging, Indonesië, 1946.

Hugo Wilmar fotografeerd de gevechten van de Nederlandse Mariniers tegen het Indonesische vrijheidsleger leger. De foto is genomen in Ploemboenang op Oost-Java (Bron: Louis Zweers, Front Indië pagina 19 - foto: © Spaarnestad)

Gedangan – Oost-Java
De mariniers gaan vroeg in de ochtend tot de aanval over

De mariniers gaan vroeg in de ochtend tot de aanval over. Een niet-gepubliceerde foto van Hugo Wilmar. (Bron: Front Indië - Louis Zweers, Foto: ©NIMH)

Hugo Wilmar zwaait af als Militair

In mei 1947 zwaait Hugo Wilmar af als militair. Hij is het niet eens met de censuur van de Nederlandse Marine Voorlichtingsdienst. Alleen zijn "goed nieuws" foto's worden in Nederlands gepubliceerd. De foto's van de ware (en zware) omstandigheden, waarin de Nederlandse Mariniers moeten opereren blijft in de donkere kamer

Eerste Politionele Acties
Eerste Politionele Acties

Op 21 juli 1947 beginnen de Eerste Politionele Acties. Hugo Wilmar legt de landing van de Mariniersbrigade in Passir Poetih vast. Hij is als (onafhankelijk) journalist in dienst van Uitgeverij De Spaarnestad.

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