Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Dutch Army Shovel, Entrenching Tool, Folding Shovel, Post-War version of German Klapspaten, circa 1940's

Today is a continuation of the "parade of shovels" that I started a week ago!  This will be the last shovel I'll be showcasing for awhile, that is until I find another "can't pass it up" deal.

This shovel is a very early, Post-WW2, Dutch Army folding shovel.  Of all the post-war shovels, this one is probably one of the most confusing (and interesting) to collectors.  My shovel was an "eBay score" and arrived with an original, US M43 Type 2, shovel cover, dated 1957.  Two scores in one deal!

Immediately after WW2, the re-building began for the Royal Dutch Army.  Instead of adopting the "old" uniforms and equipment of the WW2 era, they adopted a mix of British and American equipment and uniform styles.  Most of the first equipment issued was actual war surplus that was donated to the the cause by the UK and US.  The new Dutch Army made it's appearance in the field looking very much like US soldiers with a mix of UK and US equipment........with the following exception.  They carried "German Shovels"!

Surprisingly, the Dutch Army was initially issued with "German Folding Shovels"!  However, they were not exactly German, or were they........
These post-war, Dutch shovels are unmarked, and are nearly indistinguishable from the WW2, German issued shovels.  The ridges pressed into the blade are ever-so-slightly less angular than the German shovels, and when the blade is folded flat, it comes to rest against the wood handle.  The WW2 German shovels fold closed with the blade slightly angled away from the handle, by about 12 degrees.  In all other respects, the shovels are the same.  In fact, they are often mistaken for, or  presented as, "genuine WW2 German shovels" when sold.

Nearly all collectors today go on the assumption that these Dutch shovels are copies of the WW2 German shovels, and were made in the early post-WW2 days by the Dutch themselves.  I however, have my doubts that this is the full story. 
My theory is that the Dutch had a factory that was still operational from the German occupation during WW2, that had been manufacturing shovels for the Germans during the war (possibly kept secret to prevent Allied destruction).  It is my guess that one of two options explains these "Post-War Dutch-German" shovels.  Here are theories about the origins of these Dutch-German shovels:

At the end of the war, there was a stockpile of unfinished, or unissued, shovels that were quickly finished up for issue to the new Dutch Army.  This would make the shovels "Genuine WW2 German".  The second option would be that the Dutch factory was still tooled up for shovel production at the end of the war, so the Dutch just continued production of the German shovels for issue to their new army.  The third option is that the Dutch took the time to meticulously copy and reproduce the WW2 German shovels.  This third possibility seems highly unlikely.  It seems VERY strange that a post-WW2, Dutch Army, that had just recently been occupied by a hostile German Army, that had just adopted a 100% non-German appearance, both in uniforms and equipment, would choose to produce a very iconic piece of German equipment like the WW2 Klapspaten.  To further back up my doubts, the US gave the Dutch a huge supply of unissued WW2 dated US folding shovels immediately after the war.  There really wasn't a need to go to all the effort to tool up a factory to produce a very complicated German folding shovel, only to immediately abandon that style for the US folding shovels.  It just doesn't make sense.  In fact, after that initial "German Shovel" issue, the official Dutch shovel was the US made M43 folding shovel, and later, an all-Dutch version of the M43.

UPDATE:  You can read about my Dutch shovel cover that was made specifically for this shovel over at this fourbees blog posting:
So my thoughts about these "Dutch-German" shovels can be summed up like this.  It is my opinion that these are either actual "end-of war", Dutch produced, German shovels, or shovels produced by the Dutch in one of their factories that had been manufacturing shovels for the Germans during WW2.  Either way, these are very unique, Dutch-German shovels to say the least!

The first clue that a "German folding shovel" is Dutch, is that the metal head has been painted OD Green.  (All green versions are sometimes found, but these are usually Norwegian re-issued,  WW2 German shovels).  The WW2 German shovels are finished in blackened steel.  Under the Dutch green paint, the Dutch shovels are "bright steel".

My shovel has the green painted head, folds flat against the wood handle, and the slightly less angular blade ridges.  The metal under the green paint is bright steel.  It is a Dutch German, Post-War folder!

As my research continues into these shovels, I will be contacting the Royal Dutch Military Museum in the Netherlands to see if they have any information about these shovels and why they were issued.  If they don't have any clues or facts, then the true origin of these shovels may never be discovered.

With all that said, let's take a closer look at this very unique shovel.

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