the Royal Netherlands Air Force

History 1913-1945

1913 - Foundation Dutch Army Aviation Department

On 16 April 1913 Her Majesty Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands signed Koninklijk Besluit nummer 29 (Royal Decision number 29) that a Luchtvaartafdeling (LVA - Aviation department) was to be founded within the Koninklijke Landmacht (Royal Army) on first of July 1913. Captain H. Walaardt Sacré would be the commander of the LVA, its four pilots and an sergeant-major-administrator.

The LVA started with one car and one rented aircraft de Brik, which was an improved Farman biplane design by Marinus van Meel. Soon afterwards the aircraft was bought and became the first military owned aircraft in the Netherlands. The LVA was based at Soesterberg near Utrecht, the Vliegkamp Soesterberg airfield consisted of an area of heath as runway and a couple of wooden sheds.

On 30 May 1914 Proefvliegafdeling Militaire Luchtvaart (Trail aviation department Military Aviation) was founded as part of the Koninklijk Nederlands Indisch Leger (KNIL - Royal Dutch Indian Army) based in the Dutch Indies. (independent Indonesia of today used to be part of the Dutch empire)

Farman Biplane

Farman Biplane1914-1918 - First World War

When on 14 August 1914 the first World War began consisted the LVA of 10 officers and 31 other personnel. The fleet consisted of nine aircraft, seven Farman biplanes and two Van Meels biplanes. Although the Netherlands was neutral during the war, after mobilisation of the Army the LVA flew many sorties patrolling the country borders. The aircraft production was effected by the war, and two aircraft on order could not be delivered. However a total of 107 foreign airplanes were captured after they made emergency landings in the Netherlands.

1918-1939 - LVA between wars

Fokker D.XXI

At the end of World War One, the LVA consisted of 110 aircraft and 300 personnel. The department was reduced to a 'peace organisation' heavily reduced in number and limited to the reconnaissance mission.

However in 1930s the fear of war increased because of Hitler, German re-arming and general restless feel in Europe. The government decided the rise the defence budget starting in 1935. The LVA fleet of reconnaissance aircraft was soon strengthened by Fokker G-I and D-XXI fighter/escorts, Fokker T-V bombers and the American Douglas DB-8A-3N light bomber/recce airplane.

Fokker T-V bomber

On 1 July 1939 the LVA was renamed Wapen der Militaire Luchtvaart (Weapon of Military Aviation) and transformed into an aviation brigade, which consisted of three aviation regiments. Earlier on 30 March 1939 the aviation department of the KNIL was converted into an independent air arm designated ML/KNIL (ML standing for Militaire Luchtvaart or Military Aviation)

1939-1945 - Second World War

Douglas DB-8A-3N bomber/recce

At the start of World War Two on 1 September 1939, only 125 combat-ready aircraft were available to the Netherlands. Although the Netherlands was hoping to remain neutral, it was attack by Germany on 10 mei 1940. Germany deployed about 1000 aircraft of the Luftwaffe and gained air superiority on the first day. The Luftwaffe lost about 350 aircraft, the Netherlands 94. When on 14 May 1940 Germany heavily bombed the major Dutch city of Rotterdam, the Netherlands surrendered.

However the fight was not over, like the government and royal family, many Dutch young man succeeded in fleeing to the United Kingdom. In June 1940 the first Dutch squadron was formed, 320 Squadrons Royal Naval Air Service was formed and its fleet consisted of Fokker T-VIIIW, then the Lockheed Hudson, and finally the North American B-25 Mitchell.

When the Casteltown based RAF 167 Squadron with several Dutch pilots was transferred to airfield Woodvale near Liverpool, it was renamed 322 (Dutch) Squadron RAF. Equipped with Spitfires, the squadrons was deployed for air defence of the British airspace, especially against V-1 rockets. The squadron also carried out ground attacks supporting allied troops in their advance, following the landings in Normandy.

Dutch Spitfire

On 26 July 1944 the Netherlands government based in London founded the Directoraat der Nederlandse Luchtstrijdkrachten (DNLSK - Dutch Air Force Command). It consisted of the Militaire Luchtvaart and the ML/KNIL as well as the Marineluchtvaartdienst (MLD - Naval Aviation Service). The DNLSK gained command over the Dutch personnel in the RAF and signed agreements with the British Air Ministry for the training, organisation and equipment of the Dutch air forces.