The Dutch involvement in the early period of WW 2 had two distinct theatres – the better-known defense of the Netherlands in May 1940 against the Wehrmacht’s sudden attack, and the less well-known defense of their vast Asian colonies – in particular the Dutch East Indies.
Aware of the threat from an aggressive Japanese empire, the Dutch sought to rapidly modernize the K.N.I.L. – “Koninklijk Nederlands Indisch Leger”, or Royal Netherlands East Indies Army. This force, comprised of both European and local troops, had formerly acted more as an internal security force, but in 1940- 1941 efforts were made to put it on a proper war footing.
Among the efforts made was the acquiring armoured vehicles, and this lead t0 the building of armoured personnel carriers. This itself was far ahead of its time, and the design, cumulating in the Bratt Overvalwagen, is all the more impressive, given the circumstances and conditions in which they were manufactured.
Sources of information of the truck on which this vehicle was based on are often conflicting. The Dutch were purchasing anything they could acquire, and among the possible truck frames suggested in various sources are Ford, Chevrolet/GMC and even Marmon-Herrington trucks. The truck design was a “cab-over” or “COE” (“Cab Over Engine”), and the rear axle mounted dual wheels. Some sources state the drive was rear wheel drive only, while other sources state they had four wheel drivetrain. The armour plate on the front was an impressive 20 mm, which would be similar to many light tanks for the day, 12mm on the remaining areas, and the plate on all sides is sloped. Dutch Captain-Engineer Lyuke Roskott supervised the work. The work was carried out in Surabaya, East Java. There were variations among the hull design in the limited production run, but the vehicles present very clean lines and were years ahead of most other nations in both appearance and concept.
It addition to the standard troop carrier, which had a hull mounted MMG as well as mounting multiple pintle MMGs in the back bed, there were various support models, one for airfield protection, mounting a water cooled .50 HMG for both AA and ground use, as well as a “Marine” version, which mounted an old 37mm naval deck gun dating from the 1890s. (In Bolt Action this gun is credited as a “light howitzer”). This gun has a small shield and was mounted facing the rear.
Following the Japanese conquest of the East Indies, the Japanese continued to use captured models of the Overvalwagen, and when the allies returned in 1945, they were again used put into action in the subsequent Indonesian war of independence, including the use of them as railway draisines. Photos of this AFV in IJA use as well as a post war draisine are appended to this entry.