Places in the Diary

Ambon (2010 pop. 330,335) is the main city and seaport of Ambon Island, and is the capital of Maluku province of Indonesia.  Ambon was colonized by Portugal in 1526. The Portuguese were driven out by the Dutch in 1609. Except for brief periods of British rule, the island remained under Dutch control until Indonesia’s independence in 1945.  Ambon Island was the site of a major Dutch naval base, captured by the Japanese in 1942.,_Maluku

Balikpapan.  Balikpapan, on the Sumbir River on the southeast coast of Borneo, boasted a significant oil field  and a refinery and a newly constructed port with just enough facilities to load tankers.  It was the largest town of Dutch Borneo.  The Dutch army in Balikpapan numbered approximately 1,100 troops, The city itself was protected by coast, anti-aircraft, and field batteries. The entrance of the harbor was protected by a minefield.

On 18th January 1942, the Dutch commander ordered the destruction of oil installations in Balikpapan and started to evacuate his staff to Samarinda. However, the destruction was not complete; the only serious damage was to tanks, pipes and special quays in the harbor area.  On the night of 25 January, the Japanese entered the city without a fight after the Dutch garrison troops had been withdrawn.  Balikpapan remained under Japanese control until July 1945, when the Japanese force was defeated by Australian troops in the 1945 Battle of Balikpapan.

Balawan/Belawan is a port city on the northeast coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, located on the Deli River near the city of Medan.  Now Indonesia’s busiest port outside Java.

Bandjermasin (Banjarmasin) is the capital of South Kalimantan.  Banjarmasin was the capital of Dutch Borneo. It was therefore an objective for the Japanese during the Japanese Occupation of Indonesia during World War II. Banjarmasin was occupied on 10 February 1942.

Bengkulu City (Indonesian: Kota Bengkulu; English historic name: Bencoolen, Dutch historic: Benkulen or Benkoelen) is a city on the west coast of Sumatra and the capital and largest city of Bengkulu Province.

The English East India Company established a pepper-trading center and garrison at Bengkulu (Bencoolen) in 1685. In 1714 the British built Fort Marlborough, which still stands. The trading post was never profitable for the British, being hampered by a location which Europeans found unpleasant, and by an inability to find sufficient pepper to buy.

Despite these difficulties, the British persisted, maintaining their presence for roughly 140 years before ceding it to the Dutch as part of the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824 in exchange for Singapore. Bengkulu remained part of the Dutch Easts Indies until the Japanese occupation in World War 2.

Source:  Adapted from

Benkoelen.  See Bengkulu City.

Djambi.  Now known as Jambi.   The capital city of Jambi Province, located on the east coast of central Sumatra.

Emmahaven.  The port for Padang.  Now called Teluk Bayur.

Kabanjahe.  Kabanjahe is a city approximately 2 hours from Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia.  Kabanjahe is to the south of Berastagi.  Frequent buses connect the two towns and a journey takes about 45 minutes.  Most of the local people are Karo who speak the Batak Karo language.  A favorite food among locals is roast pork.

Kendari.  Kendari is the capital of the Indonesian province of Southeast Sulawesi.  Kendari was an important objective of the Japanese in World War II because of the nearby airfield, which could be used to interdict the sea lanes between Australia and the Dutch East Indies and to bomb Dutch bases on Java and other Islands.  The garrison of Kendari was surprised by a Japanese landing on the night of 23–24 January 1942 and put up little resistance before Kendari and the intact airfield were captured.

Makassar is the provincial capital of South Sulawesi, Indonesia, and the largest city on Sulawesi Island and Indonesian Sixth Largest City after Jakarta, Surabaya, Bandung, Medan, and Semarang.  Beginning in the sixteenth century, Makassar was the dominant trading center of eastern Indonesia, and soon became one of the largest cities in island Southeast Asia. The Makassarese kings maintained a policy of free trade, insisting on the right of any visitor to do business in the city.

The arrival of the Dutch in the early 17th century, altered events dramatically. They finally replaced the Portuguese as colonial masters in 1667.  Gradually, in defiance of the Dutch, the Arabs, Malays and Buddhist returned to trade outside the grim fortress walls and later also the Chinese.The town again became a collecting point for the produce of eastern Indonesia – the copra, rattan, pearls, trepang and sandalwood and the famous oil made from bado nuts used in Europe as girl’s hair dressing – hence the anti-macassars (embroidered cloths placed at head rests of upholstered chairs).

In World War II the Makassar area was defended by approximately 1000 men of the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army commanded by Colonel M. Vooren. He decided he couldn’t defend on the coast and was planning to fight a guerilla war inland. The Japanese landed near Makassar on 9 February 1942. The defenders retreated but were soon overtaken and captured.


Medan is the capital of the North Sumatra province in Indonesia. Located on the northern coast, Medan is the fourth largest city in Indonesia behind Jakarta, Surabaya, Bandung and the largest Indonesian city outside Java.  Medan lies on the Deli River, which feeds into a naturally sheltered harbor and then into the Straits of Malacca, has helped the city grow in significance as a trading port.  Medan did not experience significant development until the 1860s, when the Dutch colonialists began clearing the land for tobacco plantations. Medan quickly became a center of government and commercial activity, dominating development of Indonesia’s western region.

Merak is a city and seaport in Cilegon, Banten, on the northwestern tip of Java.

Mina-Hassa / Minahassa.


Oosthaven.  The port for Telok Betong (or Telukbetung), now part of Bandar Lampung, on the south coast of Sumatra.


Oosthaven, Sumatra, Netherlands East Indies. 1942-02-20. Port facilities destroyed to deny their use by the Japanese as viewed across the water from the RAN ships which evacuated the port. Thick clouds of smoke rise into the sky from the debris of the buildings. (Navy Historical Collection) (Formerly Y055).

Photograph from Australian War Memorial website:

Padang.  The largest city on the west coast of Sumatra.


Palembang.  Palembang was the capital of Sumatra and was located in what was then the richest known oil field in southeast Asia.  The naval Battle of Palembang was fought near the city during the Second World War between 13 and 15 February 1942.

Parepare is a city (kota) in South Sulawesi, Indonesia, located on the southwest coast of Sulawesi, about 155 km (96 mi) north of the provincial capital of Makassar. A port town, it is one of the major population centers of the Bugis people. The city has a population of 129,542 people, according to the 2010 Census.

Pemangtak.   A small town in West Kalimantan

Pontianak.  Pontianak is the capital of the Indonesian province of West Kalimantan. It is a large trading port city on the island of Borneo.

Ratai Baai.  A bay on the Sunda Strait.

Rengat.  A town in the province of Riau, Sumatra.  A major port for the export of rubber.

Sabang.  Sabang is a municipality consisting of a main island (Weh Island) and several smaller islands off the northern tip of Sumatra. The islands form a city within Aceh Special Region, Indonesia,

Sibolga.  Sibolga (formerly sometimes Siboga) is a city and a port located in the natural harbour of Sibolga Bay on the west coast of North Sumatra province, in Indonesia. It is located on the western side of North Sumatra, facing the Indian Ocean.

Soos (Tjilatjap).  The Soos appears to have been a Club of long standing in Tjilatjap.











Photograph held by the National Gallery of Australia, Leo Haks collection.  Available online.

Surabaya.   Also known as Soerabaia

Tanjung Priok.  The port for Batavia (Jakarta)

Tarakan.  On 11 Jan 1942, one day after Japan declared war on the Netherlands, Major General Shizuo Sakaguchi’s troops landed on the island of Tarakan just off the northeast side of Borneo, aiming to take control of the 700 oil wells, oil refinery facilities, and airfields on it. Lieutenant Colonel S. de Waal, commander of the Dutch garrison on the island, detected the invasion fleet a day before the landing, and decided to destroy oil fields before the Japanese could capture them.  After mounting a brief resistance, Colonel Kyohei Yamamoto’s troops and the men of the 2nd Kure Special Naval Landing Force established a strong beachhead and penetrated the Dutch defense. The Dutch defenders that still remained surrendered on 12 Jan, but were executed by the Japanese in retaliation for the destruction of the oil fields.

Tjilatjap.  Refer also to Soos above.

Tjilaoet Eureun.   A town on the south coast of Java.

Tondano.  The MLD (Marine Luchtvaart Dienst, Naval Air Force)operated a support base, MVK Kalkas (MVK = Marinevliegkamp ie naval air facility) located on the south shore of Lake Tondano in the Northern Celebes. 

In his book, The Dutch Naval Air Force Against Japan, Tom Womack states that Kalkas “…had been established on the southeastern edige of Lake Tondano on Northern Celebes in October 1941.  It featured a small workshop, and two squadrons could operate from the base.  The ML (Militaire Luchtvaart (of the KNIL) = Army Air Force) was supposed to have provided air cover for the base from the Kalawiran Airfield, situated some three and a half miles southwest of Lake Tondano near the town of Langoan.  However it appears that a shortage of fighter aircraft meant that none were ever deployed to the airfield during the East Indies campaign.  This would contribute to the tragic losses suffered by two MLD squadrons at Kalkas on December 26, 1941.”

After the Japanese attack on Kalkas, it was abandoned as a base and the personnel of both squadrons evacuated, with only a small ground staff remaining.

Taken from a forum on the Pacific War 1941-1945, available at

Wijnkoopsbaai.  Now the Ratubaai on the southwest coast of Java.


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