1940 - 1945

10th May 1940 - Germany launches an unprovoked terror bombardment on the centre of Rotterdam, killing 700 people, and threatens the same for Utrecht if there is not an immediate surrender.

From this hammer blow, some of the Dutch forces escaped and made it to Dunkirk to be evacuated to England to fight another day. A total number of 1.460 Officers and men were eventually to make it and were assembled in a tented camp in Haverfordwest - Wales. They were soon joined by fellow countrymen from all over the world, plus more escapees from now occupied Holland. By June the Dutch forces totalled more than 2,700 personnel which were quickly organised into a mobile Infantry Battalion Known as "Detachment Koninklijke Nederlands Troeper en Groot Brittania" under command of Gen.Maj. G.B. Noothoven Van Goor. The various international uniforms were replaced by the British Kahki and the Dutch Lion with word "Nederlands" underneath was worn on the left sleeve.

January 1941 - Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands confers the title " Koninklijke
Nederlands Brigade Prinses Irene" (The Princess Irene Brigade)

and in August the same year presented the Brigade Standard. Those that could fly went off to form the Dutch arm of the Royal Air Force and others were selected for special training with the SAS and SOE in espionage for service overseas organising resistance behind enemy lines. Others went to train in the Nr. 2nd Dutch Commando Troop - operating in Burma in 1943 and in 1944 landing in Walcheren, Holland. Finally a camp was built for the Dutch Bde at Wrottersley near Wolverhampton, now under command of Lt.Col A.C. de Ruyter Van Steveninck. During the following two years the Bde trained as a unit and performed coastal defence duties in Harwich, Frinton-on-Sea, and Dovercourt.

June 6th 1944 : D-Day; The Dutch and Belgium forces were held back from the initial landings, and the Princess Irene Brigade landed on Juno Beach, Arrowmanches on the 7th August.

They were soon in action near St.Come On 28th August the Bde liberated Pont St.Audemer. They joined the march through France crossing the Seine 2nd October 1944 continuing through Belgium, and on the 20th September they crossed the Belgium-Dutch border- HOME AGAIN, and for these brave Dutchmen a chance to avenge their countrymen. On 24th October 1944 the Brigade came under command of the 4th Armoured Brigade and moved to Hilvarenbeek 5km south of Tilburg and prepared for the attack on the town.

The next day the Bde began its advance. The attack is preceded by an artillery bombardment by the 4th Regt Royal Horse Artillery (RHA) including six 25pd field guns of the Dutch Artillery, by the 26th Oct. they were meeting fanatical resistance, the ground was undermined by mines and booby traps, making the advance hazardous.

The attack was due to continue into the night, however, without explanation, the C/O 15th Scottish Div. Declined permission and decided to take over the Dutch positions and replace them with units of the 15th(S) Division. This was a bitter disappointment to the Dutch soldiers who felt that liberation was within their reach, 0nly the Dutch Artillery remained, while their Infantry assembled on the Dutch border, their positions being taken over by the Infantry of 44 and 227 Bde's 15th(S)Div. The Artillery of the Dutch Brigade together with the guns of the British Artillery opened fire on the Tilburg at 1300 hrs 27th Oct. The results were dramatic 78 civilians were killed 360 injured and 250 houses destroyed. Sadly the bombardment was unnecessary as the German troops had left one hour before. Unfortunately intelligence was inadequate, and the Infantry needed artillery support, the ground was unsuitable for armour and the weather too foul for air support. During the bombardment Dutch civilians managed to reach the guns and pleaded with them to cease firing. A bridge was quickly built over the small river Liej - and an armoured recce made to the centre of Tilburg. This was quickly followed by units of the 15th(S)Div.

The 'Red Lions' rolled into Tilburg from three directions, to be met by the inhabitants of Tilburg and Friendships forged that have lasted a lifetime and passed down to this day. The Dutch Artillery followed them in and were quickly deployed to the North of the town to counter any German attack. The liberation of Tilburg was a jubilant occasion, but was tinged with sadness for the casualties of the previous hour in the moment of freedom. Many in the Dutch Brigade had bitter feelings that they could not share in the welcome - indeed inexplicably, some days later the C/O 15th(S)Div, Gen.Barber supposedly told the Burgomaster "You have to thank your Brigade for the liberation of Tilburg.
The Brigade was now able to recruit from the liberated areas of Holland. On 27/4/03 The Brigade crossed the River Maas, due to poor intelligence the German force was underestimated and there was fierce hand to hand fighting with bayonets and hand-grenades. The German Army surrended its forces in Holland on 5th April 1945.

Princess Irene Brigade Was given the honour of being the first of the allied armies into the Hague.


18/8/45 - Sukarno declares independent war against the Netherlands. The guerrilla war starts with the slaughter of thousands of innocent Dutch and European civilians, who had survived the Japanese camps. Holland quickly organised an expeditionary force.

The Brigade was finally disbanded on the 13th July 1945 and decorated with the Militaire Willems Orde. From then on the tradition of the Brigade was continued by the "Garde Regiment Fusilers Princess Irene" which hold the Colours bearing the honours - St.Come 1944 ; Pont Audemer 1944 ; Beeringen 1944 ; Tilburg 1944 ;

Hedel 1944 . During WW2 operations the Brigade lost 45 men. Between 1945-50 five Battalions of the new Regiment fought in the Dutch East-Indies where they lost 136 men, adding - West Java 1946-49 ; East Java 1947-49 ; Sumatra 1947-49 to its battle honours.

The present Mother garrison is based in Schalkaar near Deventer, Westenbergkazerne, together with a monument to the fallen. The Regimental Museum is located in Oirschot near Eindhoven. In the centre of Tilburg there are monuments to the dutch Brigade and the 15th Scottish division.
My thanks to Frans P.M. Janse who supplied with all the information, I hope this article puts in to perspective the Part played by the Pricess Irene Brigade during the liberation of Tilburg and operations in North-West Europe.