The Dutch Armed Forces National Museum, known locally as the Nationaal Militair Museum is located at the former Soesterberg airbase, approximately 50km southeast of Amsterdam. It combines the collections from the former Military Aviation Museum located at the same site with the Army Museum in Delft and the result has to be one of the best national military collections that I have visited.
The exhibits of the museum are organized thematically and although the museum represents all four services, the emphasis is on the land and air forces. The top floor tells the story of the armed forces through a combination of physical objects and interactive displays, which are broken down into sections leading the visitor through the story of the armed forces, the soldiers, conflicts, the relationship with civil society and the future.
The ‘Treasury’ room.
Dress jacket of a high ranking Pilot-Observer qualified Air Force officer in the ‘Treasury’ room. Photo: Julian Tennant
Air Force uniform detail showing the military pilot’s qualification and various decorations. Photo: Julian Tennant
Interactive display at the Nationaal Militair Museum which allows visitors to identify the insignia and qualifications worn by members of the Dutch Armed Forces. Photos: Julian Tennant
Royal Netherlands Air Force 313 Squadron Pilot’s jacket. Photo: Julian Tennant
German parachutists uniform, 1940. On 10 May 1940, German airborne troops captured three airfields around The Hague. Their objective being to capture the Queen, Cabinet and Dutch military leadership. Around the same time other German airborne troops captured the bridges at Moerdijk, Dordrecht and Rotterdam. Photo: Julian Tennant
Dutch troops engaging German aircraft during the invasion of Holland in WW2. Photo: Julian Tennant
Parachutist uniform, Australian Owen gun and insigina from the ‘Police Actions’ which were two short but major offensives against guerillas in Indonesia in 1947 and 1948. Several guerilla leaders were captured but the successes failed to bring about the end of the insurgency and under intense international pressure, the Netherlands finally accepted Indonesian independence in December 1949. Photo: Julian Tennant
Commemorative Batik cloth of the two parachute companies belonging to the Korps Special Troops of the KNIL on display in the museum. They played an important role in the 2nd Police Action against Indonesian separatists in 1948/9. The 1st Para company consisted of Europeans (Dutch and Dutch East Indies soldiers), and the 2nd company of locally recruited Ambonese soldiers.
Beret of the Netherlands East Indies Army (KNIL) 1st Parachute Company. During the Second Police Action (19 December 1948 – 5 January 1949) para commando units executed 3 successful parachute operations. Photo: Julian Tennant
Enamelled metal sleeve badge of the Dutch East Indies (KNIL) Parachute School (School Opleiding Parachutisten), 1945-50. Photo: Julian Tennant
Dutch Special Forces Afghanistan display. The chest-rig shown in the photo on the right was worn by Commando Captain Björn Peterse during operations in 2005. Photo: Julian Tennant
Afghanistan display. Photo: Julian Tennant
Improvised Explosive Device, Afghanistan. Photo: Julian Tennant
Dutch Special Forces vehicle mounted patrol in Afghanistan. Photo: Julian Tennant
Mercedes-Benz 250GD soft top (11kN). This Mercedes was used in between 2004-2006 by Dutch Special Forces of the Korps Commandotroepen in Afghanistan. It was originally an ordinary military Mercedes soft top, but has been adapted to the demands of the commandos. In order to be able to carry out extended patrols, the loading capacity was increased from 750 Kilo (7,5kN) to 1,100 Kilo (11kN). The vehicle is armed with a .50 machine gun on the ring gun, whilst the commander / co-driver operates a MAG machine gun. In addition the vehicles sometimes carried a 60mm mortar plus AT4 or LAW anti-tank weapons and radio systems that permitted communications between the crew, other vehicles and additional assets. Photograph: The Nationaal Militair Museum
Dutch Police Dienst Speciale Interventies (D.S.I.) sniper display. Formed in 2006, is the Dutch elite police anti-terrorist force that combines the SWAT units of the police and marines. It has a unit of specialized water operators (Unit Interventie Mariniers), an assault/intervention unit, comprised of a mix of police and military personnel (Unit Interventie) and police marksmen unit (Unit Expertise & Operationele Ondersteuning). The snipers of the Unit Expertise & Operationele Ondersteuning are armed with Heckler & Koch PSG1 and Mauser SR93 sniper rifles. Photos: Julian Tennant
A Brigade Speciale Beveiligingsopdrachten (BSB) assaulter of the Koninklijke Marechaussee (KMar) Gendarmerie. Photo: Julian Tennant
1971 Pacifist Socialist Party (PSP) Disarming poster. The PSP was a left-wing political party with liberal ideas about sexuality that also conducted provocative campaigns against the Vietnam War and nuclear weapons. Photo: Julian Tennant
The lower level, known as the Arsenaal, concentrates on weapons and the equipment used, from uniforms and field gear through to tanks, artillery and aircraft. The mix between objects and interaction is just right and there are lots… and I mean lots, of things to keep kids or, otherwise bored, spouses entertained. In the middle of the Arsenaal is Xplore which is filled with games activities including an F16 flight simulator, sniping and driving a tank.
Displays in the Arsenaal section of the museum cover 3000 years of weapons and equipment. Here, part of the medieval display. Photo: Julian Tennant
Cutaway model of a Steyr Mannlicher Rifle, Model 1892. Photo: Julian Tennant
Dogtag of Corporal Boortman excavated from the battlefield at Waterloo. Photo: Julian Tennant
Infantryman’s uniform from the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army, 1900. Photo: Julian Tennant
The Order of the Netherlands Lion (De Orde van de Nederlandse Leeuw) is a civilian decoration used to recognise merit in the arts, science, sport and literature. Photo: Julian Tennant
Military variant of the Dutch Eysink Motorcycle which has been adapted to transport a Schwarlose machine gun. Photo: Julian Tennant
BSA G14 with sidecar and M20 Lewis gun which could be fired whilst the bike was moving. Photo: Julian Tennant
Experimental insect-sized UAV camera device on display at the Nationaal Militair Museum. Photo: Julian Tennant
I visited the Nationaal Militair Museum towards the end of a month-long trip dragging the missus through the battlefields of Normandy, the Western Front and Arnhem. I figured that if I was lucky, I’d have a few hours to explore the museum by myself, but when she saw some of the displays decided to hang around and we ended up spending the best part of the day exploring the exhibits. Unfortunately, I did not take as many photos as I should have and snapped most on my old cell-phone, so the images really do not do the museum justice. This museum should definitely be on your itinerary if you are visiting the Netherlands and is easy to reach if you have a car, but is also quite accessible by public transport from Amsterdam and worth a day trip to fully experience what it offers.
The Nationaal Militair Museum
Verlengde Paltzerweg 1
3768 MX Soest
Phone: +31 85 003 6000
Open: Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 to 17:00 excluding Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and Koningsdag (27 April)
Children aged 4 – 12: €7,50
Children under 4: Free
For Dutch citizens, if you have a Defensiepas (Ministry of Defence card), Veteranenpas (Veteran’s Card) or an ICOM card or if you are a Friend of the Museum or member of Vereniging Rembrandt, you can collect a ticket from the cash desk upon presentation of your card. This gives you free access to the museum.
If you are relying on public transport, you can plan your trip online using the Dutch National Travel Planner at 9292.nl
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