Back to M-H vehicles in service: Netherlands

Marmon-Herrington tanks: 
The Dutch Connection
by Hanno L. Spoelstra
- work in progress -

Dutch need for tanks

Around 1936, when the Koninklijk Nederlandsch-Indisch Leger (KNIL; Royal Netherlands East-Indies Army) had started to modernise its Java-Army, it was planned to form five or six motorised, partly mechanised brigades each with one battalion of light and medium AFVs. Companies of 24 platoons of seven vehicles each were envisaged, which were to be manned by personnel from the Infantry. The Cavalry had to form one squadron of motorised Cavalry with one platoon of Armoured Cars and one platoon of Armoured Fighting Vehicles (tanks) for each brigade.
Because of severe cut-backs and anti-military politics, orders were postponed until war loomed. By that time hardly any material was obtainable, because all producing countries tried to equip their own neglected armed forces. However, the KNIL managed to order 70 Vickers-Carden-Loyd Commercial Light Tanks Model 1936 in Great Britain.
The Netherlands Purchasing Commission, buying equipment in the U.S.A. for the KNIL, had to buy from commercial sources. As the KNIL had already tested and bought some Marmon-Herrington vehicles (e.g. the TA-30 Artillery Tractor), the N.P.C. placed an order for artillery tractors, trucks and 628 tanks at Marmon-Herrington {in 1938/39}.
The CTL-4TAC, an improved and turreted model of the CTL-6, was ordered along with its complementary CTLS-4TAY model. The CTMS-1TBI (which was based on the CTM-3TBD) and the MTLS-1GI4 (which was in its turn based on the CTMS-1TBI) were also ordered. According to a Dutch source the CTLS-4TAC was a light 7.5 ton two man tank armed with two .30 cal Browning machine guns, one in the turret offset to the left. It had right-hand drive because traffic was left-handed in the Dutch East-Indies. An identical model, the CTLS-4TAY had its turret on the right and left-hand drive. Because the turret rotation was fouled by the drivers position and could only rotate through an arc of 240o (!), the CTLS-4TAC and -4TAY had to be used in action in pairs.
The CTMS-1TBI ("Dutch Three Man Tank") was a 13 ton three man tank armed with a 20 mm Bofors QF gun (another source states 37 mm) and one coaxial and two hull .30 cal Browning MGs.
The MTLS-1GI4 ("Dutch Four Man Tank") had a weight of 22 tons, had a crew of four and was armed with two 20 mm (other source: 37 mm) guns and three (also quoted as up to eight!) .30 cal Browning MGs.
The NPC and Marmon-Herrington {overeenkomen} that the following numbers of Marmon-Herrington tanks were to be delivered at the following dates:
1 Jan 1942
1 July 1942 
1 Jan 1943

This adds up to a total of 628 CTLS, CTMS MTLS tanks.

In the meantime 20 of the 70 Vickers-Carden-Loyd Light Tanks had arrived, on which five-hundred troops and 30 officers could be partially trained, who meanwhile were waiting in vain for the few hundred vehicles which had been ordered.

Japanese invasion

When the Japanese Army invaded the Dutch East-Indies, an officer managed to unload the first shipment of seven Marmon-Herrington CTLS-4TAY tanks; these were immediately put into action together with the Vickers tanks. {On 2 March 1942 the Japanese landed near Soebang on West-Java and the 24 operational machine-gun equipped tanks obtained "a considerable success".}
A ship loaded with Marmon-Herrington tanks was sunk by the Japanese in 1942 and after they overran the archipelago a shipment of 52 Marmon-Herrington CTLS-4TAC/-4TAY tanks was diverted to Australia.
(The rest of the Dutch Vickers tanks were subsequently used by the British Army where the type was known as the "Dutchman". One of these non-delivered Vickers Dutchman tanks survives today in Great Britain at The Tank Museum, Bovington Camp, Wareham, Dorset.)

Post-war use

But the use of the Marmon-Herrington tank in the Dutch Army was not over yet. After the capture of the Indies by the Japanese and the Netherlands by the Germans, the only non-occupied parts of the Kingdom of the Netherlands were the Netherlands-Antilles and Dutch Guiana (now Suriname) in South-America.
Some of the staff of the yet to be formed Bataljon Vechtwagens (fighting vehicles battalion) were sent to the U.S.A. for training and in 1942 Marmon-Herrington tanks were delivered to the troops in Dutch Guiana. In May 1942 the formation of the Bataljon Vechtwagens, part of the Gemotoriseerde Gemengde Brigade (mixed motorized brigade), was initiated. The personnel came from the Marines detachment in Dutch Guiana (80+ men) and from the Royal Dutch Brigade Prinses Irene (225 men).
At first there were only CTLS-4TAC and -4TAY tanks but later also the CTMS-1TBI and MTLS-1GI4 types arrived. The following numbers were supplied: 28 CTLS-4TAC and -TAY, 26 CTMS-1TBI and 20 MTLS-1GI4, totalling 74 tanks. They were delivered with other equipment, such as Jeeps and trucks.
It was of vital importance to have a defence force stationed in Dutch Guiana as it was of strategic importance, not so much geographically but for its natural resources: throughout WW-II the Dutch Guiana mines produced 50% of the U.S. demand for bauxite (raw material for the aluminium industry).
In spite of lack of personnel and an initial deficiency of accommodation, the formation of a half-battalion was completed in mid-1943. Because the Marines left for training in the U.S.A. in September 1943, development to full battalion strength came to a stall. It is therefore questionable whether all 74 tanks were used. Also, during 1943 the Prinses Irene Brigade left for England, and in 1944 large numbers of volunteers left for Australia. This resulted in a drastic reduction of troops and when in 1946 the drafted soldiers were sent home, the local {Suriname} Army was left with very little personnel. This meant the end of the tank unit and the Marmon-Herringtons were parked in a shed.
{{Some sources state that a number of Marmon-Herrington tanks were shipped to the Dutch East-Indies towards the end of 1946. Althought none were not used in action against the troops of the Republic of Indonesia, post-war photos show some of them. If indeed only some - and not all - tanks had been shipped from Suriname to the Dutch East-Indies, it must have been the ones equipped with guns, as already in March 1942 the MG-equipped tanks proved of little value. It is far more likely that the CTLS-types present in the Dutch East-Indies were left-overs from the 25 that had arrived before WW-II and survived the Japanese occupation.}}
In 1947 the tank unit was reformed and a small operational cavalry unit was reinstated. In 1954 no more than 10 out of the 74 tanks were operational. Some turrets were rusted solid and the armament was not complete. One was in use as a recovery vehicle. By cannibalising the others these few were kept running with lots of trouble.
According to an eyewitness there were eight serviceable tanks in 1952 while forty were on a scrap heap. Of these eight only two were left in 1956.
Finally, in 1957 the tank unit was disbanded because of total unserviceability of the Marmon-Herringtons. After 16 years and one world war, the curtain dropped for the Marmon-Herrington tanks in Dutch service. Six-hundred ordered and paid for, eighty-one delivered of which only seven had seen action - one can't say its career was glorious.
Copyright  ©  1990-2000 H.L. Spoelstra / All Rights Reserved

Back to M-H vehicles in service: Netherlands

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