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1942-03-01 Loss of PK-AFZ Sumatra

A summary of what I know about the fate of PK-AFZ and its crew is as follows:

Between February 27 and March 1 1942, (possibly after being attacked by a Japanese fighter), PK-AFZ carried out a successful emergency landing in the jungle near the village of Muara Kuang, on the west side of the river Ogan, some 75 kilometers South of Palembang on the island of Sumatra.

With 1 engine running, Wireless - operator P. Pronk searched for radio contact with Java and possibly also with Palembang. It is unclear whether he had actually been successful.

In the course of the 1 March 1942, the crew left their plane (a DC-3 serial 1981, the former PH-ARE Emoe shown right) and set off on foot in eastern direction to the river Ogan, taking with them a 'large amount of gold' - part of the airplane's cargo.

Not far north of Muara Kuang, on the road towards Seri Kembang, the crew spoke with a local (Sori Bin D.). The crew asked him to make purchases for them in a toko in nearby Muara Kuang. After doing so the local joined the crew as a guide. The crew continued their way north following the river Ogan towards Palembang. The next day, while the crew was staying in a shelter near the village of Soeka Tjinta, the local guide went off towards the north to arrange more supplies. In the afternoon he arrived back at the shelter with supplies and a car. Together they followed their way north towards the village of Lubuk Keliat. Some 4 kilometers south of the village they were housed in a Pondok (shelter). At the request of the crew the guide went off again to arrange a boat (proa) with rowers in order to make a possible escape following the rivers Ogan and the Kali Mesuji towards the Java Sea in the east.

Earlier that day a plan was already being forged to rob the crew.

In the early evening of March 2 1942, the crew was brought under false pretenses to the other side (east side) of the river by a local criminal named 'Loengsin' and another villager named Amir. Probably Amir been suggested as their new guide. In the jungle by Kilometer Marker 93 and in the vicinity of some gardens, the crew is housed in the Pondok of (guide) Amir. Amir and Loengsin then returned to the west side of the river.

In the early evening, at the house of Madjid Bin L. which was in the vicinity of Kilometer Marker 93, a number of villagers gathered, amongst them Amir, who invited the group to 'see' the Europeans on the other side of the river. That evening there have been several people visiting the crew in their Pondok.

I think the crew must have felt more and more vulnerable during that night. Although they were armed, they were now clearly in the minority and already 1 of their revolvers had been stolen. Probably with this knowledge the crew abandoned the plan to get away via the Kali Mesuji. They probably made a trade-off and decided to surrender to the Japanese in Palembang. However, this never happened.

Exhausted and distracted by the regular visits that night, they were awaiting their departure with the guide and rowers. One of the crew members, probably Nieuwdorp, was standing guard, armed with a revolver. He called out to some figures approaching the Pondok in the dark. The remaining crew members stayed quiet.

Around 04:00 o'clock in the early morning of March 3, 1942 a battle erupted. During this fight in and around the Pondok, Captain C. Blaak, Engineer M. Veenendaal (or Second Pilot W. Nieuwdorp) and the so-called guide Amir were killed. Second Pilot W. Nieuwdorp, or Engineer Marinus Veenendaal (shown left) and Wireless-Operator P. Pronk were injured but managed to escape. Nieuwdorp (or Veenendaal) jumped in the river Ogan and drowned, Pronk managed to hide in the surrounding jungle.

Later that morning Pronk managed to find protection at the house of the Pasirah (local authority) of the village of Lubuk Keliat. Later that day Pronk and some bags with the belongings of the killed crew members were transported (joined by a group of locals ) to the town of Tandjung Radja to be handed over to the local (Dutch) authority. Instead Pronk was handed over to a Japanese patrol that had just entered the town. The wounded and exhausted Pronk was forced to lie down in the sun on the burning hot asphalt all afternoon.

In the evening the Japanese took him to a house where they were staying and summoned the local Government doctor, Chinese Dr. Ghan Tjoe Ham, to treat the wounded Pronk at the house. Dr. Ghan treated Pronk on the following two mornings. During these treatments Pronk told him what had happened where they landed and that they were robbed because of the large amount of gold they were carrying.

On the third morning (6 March 1942) the Japanese no longer allowed any treatment, and their attitude towards the doctor became hostile. Later that morning they took Pronk to the local cemetery and had him dig a shallow grave. Pronk was then forced to kneel in front of the grave and was then beheaded by a single strike of a Japanese sword.

Pronk was left covered by a thin layer of sand, while the Japanese patrol left Tandjung Radja.

The remains of Pronk were recovered after the war, the remains of Blaak, Veenendaal and Nieuwdorp were never found, although pointed out by locals during the investigation, their graves remain unknown.

All the local perpetrators but local criminal 'Loengsin' were arrested and interrogated after the war. Several witnesses have been heard and their statements noted. Nevertheless for unknown reasons nobody has ever been prosecuted for the crimes committed. Most of the files and documents on this case have vanished, amongst them a written report and letter from deceased (in captivity) Controleur Poggemeier of Tandjung Radja containing the full statement of P. Pronk. This important report and some other papers have been handed over by Dr. Ghan Tjoe Ham to a Dutch Navy officer (Tageman) in Lahat in September 1945.

'Officially' no trace of PK-AFZ and its cargo was ever found.

Sources:

  • Part of Investigation report of T.I.V.G of the Territorial Troop Command South Sumatra
  • Handwritten letters from Dr. Ghan Tjoe Ham.

This report researched and prepared by Geert Veenendaal (grandson of Marinus Veenendaal) to whom we are grateful for providing this important addition to the historical record.

https://oorlogsgravenstichting.nl/persoon/157513/m...

A film of this actual plane's departure from somewhere in Java in 1938 - 4 years before it was shot down - has surfaced. This plane was subsequently renamed as PK-AFZ.




Geert Veenendaal contacted us with additional updates to his research from the local investigation he conducted on 1st and 2nd March 2020

Kuang Dalem;

In the official militairy investigation report of T.I.V.G. in Muara Kuang dated 1948 there is a statement of “Karim bin S. ”. Karim states: “end of February 1942, in the afternoon, a KNILM passenger airplane has come down in Kuang Dalem”.

With the help of a local guide and the Kapala Desa (chief) of Lubuk Keliat, I have conducted an investigation in the districts of Lubuk Keliat, Muara Kuang and Rambang Kuang in the Ogan ilir regency on south Sumatra.

From Inquiry in the Muara Kuang and Rambang Kuang districts has indeed emerged that an airplane had come down in the jungle some 13 kilometers south west of Muara Kuang, in an area named “Kuang Dalem”. The airplane had made an emergency landing on a dirt-road next to the “Candlenut” plantation of Hadji Awas. The landing site, +/- 3°43'4"South - 104°26'58"East, was situated just south-west of the village of Kuang Dalem. The Area is localy known as “Lebak Kapal” or “field of ship”. The crew consisted of 4 people. It is said that the crew submitted a request with the village chief, mr. Kerio Acan, of Kuang Dalem. They requested him to make sure that the locals would stay clear of the landing site but the chief refused their request. The crew set the airplane on fire and left the site in eastern direction towards Muara Kuang at westbank of the Ogan River. The local villagers have over time disassembled the airplane remains and utilized the materials for the manufacturing of pots, pans, tools etc…

During my investigation the area of the landing site consists of a mixture of plantations and jungle, the dirt road no longer exists at its original position. The current owner of the land guided me around the area. He confirmed that his land is situated directly next to the land of the family of Hadji Awas and that in the past Candlenuts were grown in the area. He also declared scattered in the area, where his land connects to the former land of Hadji Awas, over time different pieces of metal were found by locals. For example he mentioned, pieces of metal sticking out of the ground, several large gears and a large, what he describes as “a large tub” made out of thick aluminum. It is said that a piece of the airplane remained in the house of Hadji Awas, the house as such no longer exists.

  • Area of landing site marked on a snapshot of a 1940’s colonial map. (thick red line is a dirt road)

Lubuk Keliat;

On March 2nd I investigated the area south east of the village of Lubuk Keliat where the crew was housed and ambushed. I have spoken to Mr. Pusmadi, who is the younger nephew of the brother of Amir (the owner of the pondok).

The story of the attack on the Dutch pilots in the pondok of Amir bin K. is known in Lubuk Keliat. The 70-year-old son of Sori bin D. (guide at the time) stated to the chief of Lubuk Keliat that his father had told him that he had accompanied the crew, helped them and purchased cigarettes and food etc. for them. This fact is also evident from the 1948 T.I.G.V. report, his father also told him that when he was informed of the plan to ambush the crew, he did everything he could to protect the crew and make the robbers change their minds but he was ultimately unable to stop the group. The T.I.G.V. report contains a statement by Awan bin D., brother of Sori bin D.. Awan stated that he was approached by Amir bin K. to participate in the raiding and killing of the crew. Awan bi D. declined and said he believed these people also had the right to live. Awan bin D. then went looking for his brother Sori bin D., to warn him of the evil plans and the impending doom. This statement supports the story of the 70-year-old son.

A meeting was established with Mr. Pusmadi, who is the younger nephew of the brother (Anwar bin K.) of Amir bin K. (the owner of the pondok). Mr. Pusmadi took us to the land on the east side of the Ogan River, where the plantation and pondok of amir used to be. He remembered that after the war, as a young boy, he regularly helped his uncle (Anwar bin K.) on the plantation in question.

3°31'33"South - 104°35'17"East

When we arrived at the piece of land he was looking for one specific tree stump, which was the stump of a big old "Bungur" tree. This old Bungur served as his reference point for determining the exact location of the pondok. Mr. Pusmadi said the pondok was about 10 meters inland from this Bungur tree.

His uncle Anwar had told him at the time, that at this pondok his brother Amir and some Dutch man had been killed. He had buried his brother Amir near the Bungur tree and two Dutch were buried a bit further away, closer to the bank of the river. Mr. Pusmadi did not speak English but from his story in Indonesian I could conclude that he spoke about Anwar bin K.. I knew this name from the 1948 T.I.G.V. report ...... and the position of the place corresponded to what I had concluded from the report before. Because of this I knew that this mr. Pusmadi was not just telling a story. He weighed his words and visibly oriented from his memory with the Bungur tree stump as a reference point.

Mr. Pusmadi recalled that the grave of Amir was near the tree between the tree and the pondok. On the other side of the tree further up the bank of the river, there were 2 headstones next to each other. The site of the grave of Amir is now heavily overgrown and no sign of a grave is visible.

Over the years, many meters of riverbank have eroded and the graves of the 2 airmen have been washed away. During my research via “Google Earth” I had also noticed this river erosion. Because the area in question is positioned in a bend in the river, the outer bend (east side) erodes and there is sand deposition in the inner bend (west side). On based on Google satellite photos from the past 10 years, I had already estimated that the riverbank has moved approximately 50 meters eastwards since 1942. It is now (2020) a few meters from the Bungur tree. When I asked Pusmadi how at what distance the two graves were located from the tree, he replied +/- 30 meters. To my question how far away the riverbank was, he replied +/- 50 meters. His answers were in line with my own estimations and moreover, it is in line with the initial statement from the 1948 T.I.V.G. report. There it is stated that the graves were located +/- 20 meters from the riverbank.

  • Situation sketch of statement Mr. Pusmadi

It seems that the military researchers of T.I.G.V. have searched in the wrong place. According to Mr. Pusmadi, the graves were there for many years before they were washed away. A shocking fact when you consider that 50 meters of erosion in 87 years equates to approximately 60cm of erosion per year. That would indicate that the graves were only washed away in +/- 1970. Although the remains will never be found, we now know where they were located in the past and that eventually they have ended up in the Ogan River.

  • Location at 3°31'33"South - 104°35'17"East

GV 19-03-2020.



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