Original Dutch Netherlands Pre-WWI KNIL Royal Dutch Indian Army Officer Kepi

Item Description

Original Item: Only one Available. Here we have a very nice example of an early 20th century Dutch Kepie (Kepi), as issued to the Koninklijke Nederlandsch-Indisch Leger (Royal Netherlands East Indies Army), usually abbreviated as KNIL. This area, usually referred to as the "Dutch East Indies", is today known as the country of Indonesia.

Like most European Colonial holdings, military forces were raised from the local population for defense for both external and internal threats. Soldiers in the KNIL were issued these black kepis with leather visors, which were somewhat shorter than the high top versions used in Europe.

The kepi is in very good condition, and we believe is the manschappen (enlisted man) version. It has a black felt exterior, which is well retained, with just a bit of wear and moth damage around the edges. The crown of the cap has orange piping, and there is a gold cord around the kepi which makes a cloverleaf shape in the back. The front has the standard yellow and orange Dutch cockade, held in place by a cord running to a button below. The black patent faux leather chin strap is in good condition, though it definitely has shrunk and curled a bit.

The interior of the cap definitely shows staining and wear, and the entire sweatband is unfortunately missing, most likely rotted away due to the humid climate. There are some numbers on the top of the kepi, most likely indicating who it was issued to. There are several crossed out numbers, so this kepi looks to have been issued to several different people.

Size is approximately 56 cm (US 7). Early 20th century Dutch KNIL caps such as these, are somewhat hard to find, and very collectible.

The Netherlands remained neutral during World War I. This stance arose partly from a strict policy of neutrality in international affairs that started in 1830 with the secession of Belgium from the north. Dutch neutrality was not guaranteed by the major powers in Europe, nor was it a part of the Dutch constitution. The country's neutrality was based on the belief that its strategic position between the German Empire, German-occupied Belgium, and the British guaranteed its safety.

The Royal Netherlands Army was mobilized throughout the conflict, as belligerents regularly attempted to intimidate the Netherlands and place demands on it. In addition to providing a credible deterrence, the army had to house refugees, guard internment camps for captured soldiers, and prevent smuggling. The government also restricted the free movement of people, monitored spies, and took other wartime measures.

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