Nationalisation

17  Westerling

Raymond Westerling, ‘The Soloist’

Raymond Westerling
Raymond Westerling
The period from late 1948 till early 1949 was actually one of unbelievable contradictions. Captain Raymond Westerling, nick-named “the Turk” because he was born in Turkey, played an important role in this. He was commander of many Indonesian soldiers within the Dutch Corps Special Troops. He felt a lot of sympathy for the ups and downs of the Indonesian people, for whom he wished a good future. With his Corps Special Troops he had first put things right on Sumatra and then on Celebes, which is now Sulawesi. He was notorious for his ‘summary justice’ on Celebes. When conducting a thorough search in the rebellious regions, he came across groups of heavily armed freedom fighters; freedom fighters in the positive way, they were mopping up Indonesian terrorists and extremists who were terrorising their own people. They were allowed to continue their task of protecting their own Indonesian fellow citizens. But if Captain Raymond Westerling had to do with extremists and terrorists who were terrorising their own people, he applied summary justice and they were executed mercilessly. Many of his Indonesian soldiers would later, after the transfer, move on to the TRIS, the Tentara Republik Indonesia Serikat, the army of the United States of Indonesia, which existed only for a short period of time and later became the Republic of Indonesia. But before that, these Indonesian soldiers had settled on Java early 1949, after their ‘Celebes-adventure’, under the command of Captain Raymond Westerling. This army continued on under the name APRA, i.e. Angkatan Perang Ratu Adil, or in a free translation: the Army of Lady Justice, where strong discipline prevailed and misconduct was severely punished. This army took action to ‘set the city of Bandung free' of opposing and rebellious Indonesian leaders of the so-called “Indonesian government in the transition stage to the Republic of Indonesia”, and occupied the government buildings in which they had their offices.

Article about the funeral of R. Westerling Article about the funeral of R. Westerling
The operation by this heavily armed group went virtually unnoticed by the people of Bandung: life went on as usual and people noticed next to nothing of this very successful operation. Dutch soldiers and Indonesian authorities who would come across this Captain Raymond Westerling during his military operations, would ask whether his Indonesian soldiers were part of the KNIL, the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army, or of the TRI, the Tentara Republik Indonesia. To which Captain Westerling would answer dryly that they belonged to the APRA, the Angkatan Perang Ratu Adil, which would leave them puzzled as this name was unknown to most. Many years onwards, Raymond Westerling wrote a book about his life in the military, describing all of these experiences. During his life, this ‘military war-horse’ was also a man of opposites: he became a recreational tenor singer in classical music after his military service.

A house in the middle of the rice paddies
A house in the middle of the rice paddies

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