Willy de Eerens

Willy de Eerens’ dog tag was found by Danny Sleath and Keith Stoneman at Camp Columbia.
Willy de Eerens was born on 27 February 1921 in Tjilatjap, an important port on the south coast of Java.

During the Japanese invasion he was evacuated to Australia as one of the 99 student pilots from the class of 1 July 1941 of the Vlieg- en Waarnemersschool  (V.W.S. – Flying and Observer School). They left from Tandjung Priok on the 18th of February on board the ms Boissevain.

From February to April 1942 he was at the Flying School and the Observer School of the Army Aviation Corps of the Royal Netherlands Indies Army- KNIL, at the number 6 RAAF Service Flying Training School (6 SFTS) at Mallala, Adelaide. He was trained on the CAC Wirraway aircraft.

Packet of cigarettes specially made by the Americans for the Dutch at the Flying School. Collection Jack Ford.

According to Dutch military historian Dr. Peter Boer Willy was part of the evacuation and posting in Australia of the Flying and Observer School of the Army Aviation Corps KNIL took place in February-April 1942. From Australia he went with the other students to the Royal Netherlands Military Flying School RNMFS) in America. He was tested as an apprentice pilot (ll vl) and trained as a radio telegraphist-air gunner.

He received basic training with the USAAF to become a wireless operator at Sioux Falls, South Dakota and graduated in March 1943. He was then trained as an air-gunner at Tyndall Field, Florida and Jackson, Mississippi. He was certified as a radio telegraphist-air gunner on 30 June 1943 and transferred to Australia on 9 August 1943, destination 18 NEI Squadron.

Casualties plane crash Willy de Eerens.

On 6 March 1944, he was on board the North American B-25D-25 Mitchell bomber plane, registration number N5-179 who left from Batchelor Air Field, NT destination NEI.

The plane was most likely shot down during a night attack on Toeal, a city in the current Maluku Province of Indonesia. The city, called Kota Tual in Indonesian, is within the Kei Islands, on Dullah Island.

All 6 crew members died in the crash and the wreck was written off.  In the relevant documents of the crash, he is listed as Sgt ML KNIL a/b N5-179. (Sergeant Pilot Netherlands East Indies Air Force on board N5-179). They all will have been close colleagues and friends as most, if not all, went through the same training facilities and would have flown together on many missions.

The following is background information on the Dutch Flight School. 

Just before the Fall of NEI, it was decided to evacuate the flight-school and the 300 students and staff from Tasikmalaja (south east of Bandung) to Australia.  In all 450 people boarded the MS Boissevain on February 14 1942. They re-established themselves at the RAAF Airfields of Mallala and Parafield, near Adelaide. The students of the Naval Aviation Service settled at Rathmines on Lake Macquarie. In Adelaide the people were lodged in the buildings at the Show Ground. However, it rapidly became clear that there were not enough planes and maintenance material available and a new decision was made to establish a flight-school in the USA, where the training could be undertaken far more efficient and without the interruption’s because of the war theatre so close by. The Americans cooperated and in April the move started to Jackson, Mississippi. The school would be one of the major contributions from the Dutch to the war efforts. Hundreds of pilots and flight-engineers were trained here and than brought to Australia to be deployed in the various squadrons.

More remnants found at the site: Remnants of Camp Columbia at Pooh Corner Reserve

See also: The evacuation of the Netherlands East Indies Flying Schools to Australia

Return to Camp Columbia Heritage Park, Wacol, Brisbane TOC

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