KNIL: Lies and Truth

I know for certain some (parts of) books and articles about KNIL matters are lied or exaggerated - in most cases those about anti-KNIL issues. Other writers, publishers, historians or researchers have published their findings. Personally I think the reason for people to lie or exaggerate about these anti-KNIL issues is the fact that the general public is more interested in the stories when they do so. 

Now my grandfather was a Gadja Merah battalion soldier, to be more specific a Sergeant-Major (Instructor) section leader of XII Infanterie Battalion - Korps Prajoda. I have his entire military career (and life) charted from 1936 - 1958. This means his military career before and during World War 2, his experiences as POW for 3,5 years and his KNIL career after World War 2, in between 1945 and 1950.


Battle of Margarana / Puputan Margarana - 20 november 1946

During my research of his time after World War 2 I found many never before mentioned actions, stories and facts - all of these never published  as far as I can see. One big surprise was a major action which is completely differently told nowadays in mainstream media and books when compared to the official and undeniable correct reports of 1946 itself. As a matter of fact it is the largest action on Bali performed by the KNIL and the TNI ever. To understand the battle and real story behind it previous history has to be told. But to immediately cut to the chase these are the big differences:

Story nowadays True story 1946 reports
Number of KNIL troops 4 Batallions: 8RS, X, XI, XII 2 Batallions: XII, Korps Prajoda (a combined total of 31 sections: about 310 infantry)
Number of TNI troops 1 Batallion Group of 96
KNIL deaths 400 0
TNI deaths 96 96
KNIL air support 1x B25 bomber 1x Piper Cub reconnaissance


To give an indication of a 1946 battalion strenght: the XII had 868 infantry soldiers as of September 1946 - not counting the staff, medical, logistic and administrative personell. This amount of infantry soldiers was under normal strength - one section should have 20 soldiers.

*The differences between the true facts and the story told nowadays are staggering: TNI troops being bombed by a B25 Mitchell bomber is quite something different then having a Piper Cub flying overhead for reconnaissance! 

*Also the differences in casualties are shaming: it is told 400 KNIL soldiers got killed - there did not even participate 400 KNIL soldiers actively during this action... afterwards 4 were wounded (2 badly). The entire TNI group was killed though, all 96. These did not surrender and fought to the death on purpose, commiting 'puputan', during which meant they either committed suicide by using a Kris dagger or fought to the death. It was their very understandable choice not to surrender - the KNIL soldiers would have killed or tortured them most likely. The KNIL soldiers on the other hand had no intentions to take any prisoners since they already knew who they dealt with.

*The amount of participating forces is also completely wrong: it is said 4 batallions fought against 1 battallion, which based on strength during this period would indicate about 3.600 KNIL soldiers fighting 900 TNI soldiers, while in fact this were only about 310 battling 96...... - a very smaller and different battle! - It must be noted that the wrong casualties of 400/96 are in better ratio to the same wrong total number of 3.600/900. About the 4 batalions: the 8RS, X and XI batalion had already departed with Y-Brigade to Sumatra (Palembang) - this can be found in their unit histories and all kind of (history) books, this is a widely known fact. So these could never have participated in the battle of Margarana. The XII had to take over all tasks of its sister units, which it did successfully. The Korps Prajoda, consisting of Balinese fighters coming from a long heritage of ancient warriors, was extended into a battalion for this purpose.


Source of the modern day story:

Just type 'Battle of Marga(rana)' in google and you will find many sources all telling relatively the same story. These can also be found on related pdf published files.

One very easy to find example:


Source of the true story:

In the case of the true story of the Battle of Margarana I will substantiate all points of differences and publish the original documents for everyone to read.


I Gusti Ngurah Rai

The group of 96 TRI soldiers was commanded by Lt.Col. I Gusti Ngurah Rai. He was born in 1938 and died during the battle together with his fellow soldiers. For his actions and sacrifice he is honored by Indonesia as a National Hero.

Every year I Gusti Ngurah Rai, all fallen TRI soldiers and the Battle of Margarana are commemorated at the Marga memorial site. Parades of schoolchildren, police and army are performed and flowers are brought to their graves. As a National Hero of Indonesia I Gusti Ngurah Rai's face is depicted on the 50.000 rupiah banknote, the national airport of Bali is named after him as well as many streets and places on Bali itself. He is seen as the symbol of the Indonesian Revolution and defiance towards their former Dutch enemy.

This makes it difficult to discuss this specific battle, since it is not my intention to undermine in any way Indonesian commemorations and their historical perspective. But since my own grandfather served on Bali, and very much likely participated in this battle, this is also more like a personal issue - as well as being a perfect example of how events can be corrupted throughout the years. Which is an important fact kept in mind related to the many discussed KNIL 'atrocities' nowadays.