Table of Contents
- 1 Aircraft
- 2 V1 and V2 weapons
- 3 Tanks and Vehicles
- 4 Guns & Artillery
- 5 May 1940 invasion on IMAX
- 6 Soesterberg Air Base Park
- 7 Visit the National Military Museum
The NMM or National Military Museum is one of the largest museums of the Dutch armed forces. Both inside and outside the museum is a large collection on display dating from early past to present day.
The NMM museum opened it’s doors in 2015 and it’s collection is a merger of the former Army Museum of Delft and the Military Aviation Museum of Soesterberg. Of the latter we have an earlier article dating from 2008, if you wish to read it you can find it here.
The museum has a lot of different airplanes on display, but only a small number really dates from WWII. The fact that most of these planes are hanging from the ceiling doesn’t make admiring or photographing them any easier, but we have done our best to give you a nice selection.
Fokker D.XXI 221 (Replica)
Even though this is a replica, it’s such a shame that this Fokker D.XXI 221 is hanging from the ceiling in one of the darkest display halls of the museum. The hall is dedicated to the WWII time frame. Poorly lighted, many visitors would miss the plane even being on display.
Designed in 1935, the Fokker D.XXI was a fighter plane made for the Royal Netherlands East Indies Air Force and entered service in 1938. The plane played a huge role in the defense of the Netherlands, during it’s invasion by the Germans in May 1940. Although it wasn’t as fast and advanced and well armed as the Bf 109 and Ju 87 “Stuka” planes of the Luftwaffe, the Fokker’s maneuverability proved very valuable. Still, the number of Fokker planes was far too little to resist the Luftwaffe for very long.
The Fokker was also used by the Finnish Air Force during the “Winter War” against the Soviets with more succes. A Fokker D.XXI that was used during the war is on display at the Central Finland Aviation Museum.
The Fokker comes from the former collection of the now closed Military Aviation Museum, where it had a much more prominent display. We have some better pictures of the plane dating from a visit to that museum in 2010.
Fokker D VII F 266
We couldn’t leave this one out, even though this is a fighter plane from WWI.
The Fokker D VII was a leap forward in military aviation and one of the best performing airplanes of it’s time. It performed so well, that at the end of WWI, it was the only weapon specifically mentioned in the Armistice to be handed over to the Allies.
What ties it to WWII is that the aircraft was flown by German Aces like Hermann Göring and Ernst Udet, whom both would later become leaders of the Third Reich’s Luftwaffe.
Nowadays there are only seven Fokker D VII’s left with an original air frame and the “266” is one of them. It was bought back by the Fokker Company and completely restored in 1981, after which it was put in the collection of the museum.
Dornier Do-24 T-3 (K-1 “X-24”)
This tri-engine Dornier Do-24 T-3 flying-boat is without a doubt one of the most impressive pieces on display at this museum. A fairly unique exhibit too, since it is one of only four remaining Do-24’s today. With its beautifully arched fuselage of 21,95 meters and a wingspan of 27 meters, the flying-boat takes up a large space in the museum hall.
The Do-24 K version was built according to requirements of the Royal Netherlands Navy for the East Indies where it would replace the Dornier Do J “Wal” (Eng: Whale). The “K” designation stands for “Koloniën”, which in English translates to Colonies. The first design of this plane came from Dutch Naval Officer C. Sanders, who unfortunately passed away before he could see his vision become reality.
The flying-boat had to perform in multiple roles, like maritime patrol, search & rescue, air supply duties and even as a bomber. According to the Dutch requirements, the Do-24 also had to be capable of carrying 1.200 kilograms of bombs under it’s wings and was fitted with three gun turrets placed at the nose (A-stand), dorsal (B-stand) and tail (C-stand) position as defensive armament. A and C stands were armed with a 7.9 mm machine gun, B-stand with a 20 mm canon.
The Dornier is a mysterious beauty on display, because looks can be deceiving and the information that the museum provides is not quite correct.
The information sign states that this is a Dornier Do-24K on display. The museum website even states that the flying-boat is the Dornier Do-24 K-1 “X-24”. But the Dornier Do-24 records state that the X-24 (K-1) was scrapped on the 20th of December 1944 at the then secret air-base of Lake Boga, Australia due to lack of parts. It had been grounded there since May of that year.
What is actually on display is a Dornier Do-24 T-3, made to appear like a “K” version. The T-3 version was built by Aviolanda from the Netherlands, who produced the Do-24 under license and was made to continue the manufacturing for the German invaders when it’s production lines fell into their hands unharmed.
The flying-boat is on lend from the Royal Air Force Museum in England. It has three 1000hp BMW Bramo engines instead of three 887hp Curtiss-Wright R-1820-F52 Cyclone Radial engines that the Royal Netherlands Navy required for the K-1 version. It also has upgraded radio equipment. But the most notable visual differences are the big rescue hatches on the port side in the fuselage, which were added to this version to meet Luftwaffe requirements.
Super Marine Spitfire F Mk.IXc “H-1”
This type of plane was widely used by the RAF during WW2. Since it’s formation in 1943 the Dutch 322 RAF Squadron flew Spitfires until 1954. The Super Marine Spitfire of the Royal Dutch Air Force on display here is a later model and dates from just after the war (1946).
North American B-25 J “Mitchell” M-464
After it’s introduction in 1941, the North American B-25 Mitchell medium bomber was widely used by many Allied Air Forces during WWII and after. The Dutch Air Force put the B-25 into action in the Pacific and European theaters of war.
In 1941 the Dutch Government-in-exile bought 162 B-25 Mitchell medium bombers that were provided to the newly formed (NEIAF) 18th Squadron in Australia, which flew numerous missions against mainly Japanese targets in the East Indies.
In Europe the Dutch 320 RAF Squadron flew the B-25 Mitchell from September 1943 on tactical bombing missions above Europe until it was disbanded in August of 1945.
After WWII the remaining B-25’s were used in Indonesia during the War of Independence. The former 18th Squadron B-25 on display is one of the planes that were left behind when the conflict ended in 1949. The aircraft came in the service of the Indonesian Air Force where it performed in active duty until the late 1960’s.
During a visit to Indonesia in 1970, Prince Bernhard of the Royal Dutch Family found the airplane together with other B-25’s waiting for their turn to be scrapped on an Indonesian Military Air Base.
Prince Bernhard, having been a B-25 pilot himself, managed to have it transferred back to the Netherlands for the preservation of Dutch Aviation history. In 1971 he donated it to the Aviation Museum in Soesterberg.
North American P51D/K Mustang H-307
This North American P51 maybe lesser known by the main public than the iconic Spitfire, but this long range escort fighter and light bomber changed the odds against former superior fighters of the Luftwaffe and the Imperial Japanese AF. It’s main task was to defend the squadrons of long range bombers, like the B-17 Flying Fortress, on their missions above Germany and could even travel the distance to Berlin. In the Pacific theater it did the same for the waves of B-29 Super Fortress bombers on route to targets in Japan and the Pacific Islands.
When the Dutch Army first ordered the P51 Mustang for the East Indies, the order was denied by the American Government. But when it was placed again in 1945, 40 P-51’s were delivered for the ML/KNIL to Australia in June of that year. The plane was in the service of the Netherlands until 1950.
V1 and V2 weapons
Also on display are a V1 (Fiesler Fi 103) and V2 (A4) rocket on display, the so called “Vergeltungswaffen” of the Third Reich. Although we couldn’t find any concrete information about the origin of the “V” weapons on display provided by the museum, it is interesting to tell a little bit more about the relationship of the Netherlands with in particular the V2 rocket.
Most of the more than 3000 V2 rockets fired on cities like Antwerp and London between 1944 and 1945, were launched from the Netherlands with mobile launching stations. These were heavily concentrated in the area of the city of The Hague.
Drs. J.R. Verbeek has done an impressive study on this subject and published a book (also in English), if you’d like to know more about this.
Tanks and Vehicles
Renault FT17 tank
This is of course a WWI tank, but the Renault FT17 was still used by the French and Belgian Armies when the Wehrmacht stood at their doorstep in 1940. The Dutch Army bought one Renault FT17 for testing and demonstration purposes in 1927 and even used it for testing of the defensive Dutch Waterline between 1939 and 1940. The tank then disappeared in the turmoil of WWII.
The FT17 tank on display bears no markings and it’s origin is unknown according to the museum. When it was acquired for the collection it was painted in a German camouflage pattern, which was eventually painted over in Army green during it’s restoration.
The German Army used captured FT17’s for the defense of military objects and installations in mainly Western Europe, where it could still be quite effective.
Sherman M4A1 wreck
In the center of the large hall near the entrance stands the wreck of a Sherman M4A1 tank. This Sherman was used for target practice at the Military practice grounds, her cast slowly eaten away by the weather and the many impacts. If only metal could talk..
Eysink Motorcycle “M 7829” with Schwarzlose Machine Gun
This Dutch Eysink army motorcycle was adapted to carry the 6.5mm Schwarzlose machine gun, which was the standard machine gun for the army until 1940. The driver had to get off the motorcycle to fire the gun using the motorcycle as a MG stand. This configuration was used by the Dutch Army from 1916 until the German invasion in 1940.
BSA G14 with sidecar “III M 2604”
This is the British built BSA G14 motorcycle with a M20 Lewis machine gun mounted on the sidecar. The light Lewis machine gun could be fired by the gunner from the sidecar. The height of the gun stand could be adapted manually.
In practice it turned out that this setup was not very effective when the gun was fired while driving. These motorcycles were in use by the Dutch “Hussars” cavalry regiment and were used for Anti Tank, Artillery and AA defense. Although partly motorized, these regiments still relied on horses for a large part during the mobilization in 1939.
Guns & Artillery
Schwartzlose Machine Gun
This is a Schwarzlose 6.5 mm water-cooled machine gun mounted on a field stand of a design dating from 1900. In 1908, after a careful selection by an army “MG” committee, this committee advised to require this gun as the standard machine gun. The army put in an order to acquire them that same year. These Schwarzlose guns carry the M.08 designation. By then, the design was already outdated.
Starting from 1910, production of the Schwarzlose gun was done in the Netherlands under license. These guns carry the M.08/15 designation. The Dutch Army had more than 2,000 Schwarzlose machine guns at her disposal when the German invasion of 1940 started.
5 cm Siderius No.2 Casemate gun
This is a 5 cm 1/50 semi automatic Siderius No.2 canon. These were used for anti tank defense in 1940. Some Casemates at defense line Kornwerderzand near the Afsluitdijk were fitted with these canons. This defense line successfully held off the German attacks during the invasion, until it was forced to surrender after Germany bombed Rotterdam.
12 Lang Staal Artillery/Casemate Canon
This 12.5 cm canon dating from 1877(!) illustrates the lack of modern military technology of the Dutch Army at the beginning of WWII. The Netherlands had cut back on it’s military budget heavily during the 1920’s. But even though the army had eventually received the go-ahead and the funds to replace these 12 Lang Staal canons in 1935, for some reason it hadn’t succeeded in doing so when the Dutch army was mobilized in 1939/1940.
This meant that a 144 of these heavily outdated artillery pieces were put into action along the major defense lines like the Betuwe line, Grebben line and Fortress Holland.
Four complete Artillery Regiments were assigned with the ancient canons. Together with their larger brothers of 15 cm, which were pulled from the military storage depots to fill the gaps, these 19th century canons made up for almost a quarter of the total artillery strength.
Only the Artillery Regiment (19.RA) positioned on the Grebben line would see heavy action during the invasion and even managed to stop the invaders in their tracks for some time. The other regiments were quickly overrun or would have no strategic value or contribution during the fighting thanks to their position.
Most of the 12 and 15 Lang Staal canons were taken away by the German invaders and never seen again. Some of them were kept for the sake of military history.
May 1940 invasion on IMAX
In the center of the WWII section of the museum, it has an interesting IMAX movie on display. The movie pictures the historic events of the invasion of the Netherlands in May 1940 hour by hour, combined with quick facts and information about used equipment, weapons and vehicles on both sides, etc.
Even if you are familiar with the events that took place, we can recommend it if you have the time to sit down and watch it.
Soesterberg Air Base Park
Another interesting fact is that the museum is situated on the former Air Base of the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF), which started it’s development here in 1913. The Air Base in Soesterberg has a rich history, having been used by the RNLAF, the Luftwaffe during the occupation in WWII and later the RNLAF again together with the United States Air Force Europe (USAFE) during the Cold War. The Air Base was finally closed in December 2008.
The former Air Base is now freely accessible for the public as a recreational area. You can wander around the large base and take a look at former cold war bunkers and hangars still located on the air base. Hangar 8 even dates from 1928.
There are also two interesting memorials you can visit; one is the memorial for fallen members of the Royal Netherlands Air Force. The other is for 33 resistance fighters, whom were secretly executed here in the woods of the air base. The mass grave was discovered after the war.
Visit the National Military Museum
The collection of the National Military Museum is not limited to WWII related items only of course. The collection is very large and you could easily wander around here for many hours.
The museum is quite young and judging from the fact that sometimes items on display have moved when we visit now and then, we get the feeling the conservators are still looking for the right setup.
A critical note is that the aircraft we were most interested in are hanging too close to the ceiling in most impossible angles or positions to really spectate and enjoy them very well. There are certain platforms and walkways in the large museum hall where you can somtimes get a better look, but it requires going up to the first floor and then figure out how to get to them. Some doors to viewing platforms are not clearly marked and we only discovered them the second time around, so be sharp! This is a large contrast with the former Military Aviation Museum, where the planes were on the museum floor and visitors were even allowed to climb small platforms and view inside the historical airplanes.
Visit the museum website for more information.