During the mid 1930s, as the Dutch East Indies started to rethink their defence strategy, K.N.I.L.
contacted the Vickers company in Britain and ordered a small number of light tanks. After these first
small steps K.N.I.L. purchased a large quantitiy of more than a hundred Vickers tanks of two main
types. By acquiring tanks, K.N.I.L. was years ahead of the Dutch army in Holland and showed again
that it had vision. The full story of the Vickers tanks in KNIL has been well researched by Jacques
Jost in his article: Vickers-Carden-Loyd Light tanks in the Netherlands East Indies, originally
published in Tracklink, 1994. We highly recommend you read this article together with this chapter
that contains accompanying pictures and some minor updates.
The first K.N.I.L. order to Vickers consisited
of two Vickers-Carden-Loyd light tanks as
well as two Vickers-Carden
-Loyd Amphibious tanks (delivered in
1937). These were sold all over the world
during the 1930s to a large number of
countries, but usually in very small
numbers. On this picture one of the K.N.I.L
amphibious tanks is entering the water at
Tandjong Priok, Batavia's port (Java).
Here it is again, now fully afloat! In
1942, at the time of the Japanese
assault on the Netherlands East Indies,
one of the two K.N.I.L. amphibious tanks
was out of service, the other one was
deployed (together with two
Vickers-Carden-Loyd light tanks) on
Western-Borneo, where it was lost in
As stated above, K.N.I.L. also received two
Vickers-Carden-Loyd light tanks, a type that
was commercially available and sold to many
other nations, including Belgium (with a
different, conically shaped turret). On this
excellent picture (Wheels and Tracks Magazine)
you can see beautifully restored Vickers light
tank. Note the camouflage scheme was used by
VIckers and not by any of army at the time.
tanks arrived in 1937
together with the
amphibious tanks. Contrary
to the amphibious tanks
that were fitted with a single
machine gun, they were
fitted with two air cooled
Here's one during a
demonstration to K.N.I.L.
In 1938 the Netherlands
East Indies authorities
ordered a further 73 light
tanks at Vickers. Delivery
was to take place form July
1939 at a rate of 4 tanks
per month. The turrets were
to be fitted with a single
medium machine gun.
A classic picture from one of the
publications of Colonel
Heshusius. K.N.I.L. tankmen
running to their vehicles.
The 20 Vickers-Carden-Loyd
tanks that arrived before the
outbreak of the war in Europe
were assigned to a tank training
unit on Java.
Later, the Mobiele Eenheid (Mobile
Unit) was set up, the only K.N.I.L.
tank battalion, that by March 1942
integrated the 17 remaining Vickers
tanks on Java (together with 7
Marmon-Herrington tanks delivered
in February 1942).
At the outbreak of war in
Europe, Britain confiscated the
49 remaining tanks of the
K.N.I.L. order and these were
designated as Light Tank Mark
III, nicknamed "Dutchmen".
Shown on this picture is a
"Dutchman"in British service.
Note the British early war
The British used them for training and
when the Axis-invasion of Greece
gathered momentum, they delivered a
yet unknown number of the ex-K.N.I.L
tanks to Greece!. This picture shows
one that fell in German hands (source
Several Vickers light tanks were
destroyed in the battle at Tjiater
(Ciater) Pass near Bandung in March
1942. Several survived the war however
and this one was in service with the
Indonesian nationalist forces during the
Indonesian Independence War
(1945-49). Picture from the Beeldbank
of the Dutch National Archives.
Also in 1939 K.N.I.L. ordered 45 tanks of a heavier model, the Vickers Command tank. This
tank was to be armed with a British 2 pounder gun.
Little is known about this tank and apart from the prototype
(that was scrapped after the war) none seemed to have been
built. The K.N.I.L. tanks were to be built in Belgium and the
delivery schedule for this new model would in retrospect make
sure none were to be delivered (starting in April 1940 at a rate
of two per week). Though unproven, this vehicle might have
been quite adequate as the 2 pounder gun could deal with most
enemy tanks at the time (Picture from David Fletcher,