THE NEW DUTCH SOLDIER – Some are scattered with the Allies all over the world but most of them wait in the Princess Irene Brigade in England for the day they’ll smash toward home.

By Pvt. Albert Orbaan

A former correspondent for Aneta, the Dutch news agency, and the Netherlands Information Bureau, now training with the Corps of Engineers at Camp Breckinridge, Ky.dutch soldier wwii



dutch soldier wwii

Ten miles from home, with a pocketful of nickels and a pay phone right across the street. That’s the sweet spot a Dutch Commando named Jans found himself in recently during an across-the-channel raid against the Nazis who have overrun his native land—only they weren’t nickels but coins called dubbeltjen.

Jans is neither dumb nor timid. He had shot up his share of German installations for the day and figured that he had a few minutes to spare before catching the raiding party’s boat back to England, so he hopped over to the phone and tried to dial his folks’ number.

But no go. During Jans’ absence from home, the Nazis had confiscated all Dutch coins, substituted German ones of different size and changed all pay-phone slots accordingly. Jans’ dubbeltjen wouldn’t fit and his fondness of Adolf Hitler hit an all-time low.

Which is pretty damn low. There’s probably no better bunch of Hitler haters in the world than Jans and the thousands of boys who serve with him in the Princess Irene Brigade, more often known as the Netherlands Brigade or just the Dutch Brigade, which is now in training in its own camp in the Midlands of England. They’ll never forget the reckless way in which Hitler sacked their country three years ago last May. With these Dutch soldiers, who have pitched into the fight at the call to arms of their Queen Wilhelmina, it’s a grim case of so near and yet so far. For they are nearer their homes now than a lot of GIs are when they’re still at the induction center in the U.S., and yet they haven’t a hope of seeing Mom or Pop or the girl friend again until the Nazis are driven back over the boundaries of Germany itself.

The Dutch Brigade is probably an even more cosmopolitan outfit than the famous old catchall of fighting men, the French Foreign Legion. The Dutch have always been a people whose business interests took them abroad in large numbers, but now that their country is in a jam, thousands of them have come back home—or as near home as they can get at the moment—to join the fight. At least 25 languages are spoken in the brigade’s camp, where the men have rigged up a Dutch windmill to remind them of their homeland. Some of the men who before the war lived in Holland had to travel the farthest to report for duty. Unable to escape across the English Channel, they fled to Finland, and went on from there across Russia, the Pacific, the U.S. and the Atlantic to reach England.

Officially named after Princess Irene, a granddaughter of Queen Wilhelmina, the brigade is now the biggest Dutch Army contingent in the world and its men, operating as a distinct Dutch Army within the framework of combined forces, fully expect to form one of the many spearheads which will be necessary for the successful invasion of the continent. They have yet to see action as a group, but plenty of them, like that fellow Jans, have carried out Commando raids against the rotmoffen, or rotten Huns, as they call the Nazis.

dutch soldier wwii

In Canada, too, the Netherlanders train for the fight against the Axis. These men are charging directly at the camera during vigorous bayonet practice.

The outfit was organized after Germany invaded Holland, when the Dutch began calling up men of military age from all parts of the world. (At present Dutchmen born between the years of 1903 and 1925 are liable for military service in the unit.) The brigade is mechanized and is well equipped with tanks, Bren gun carriers, armored cars, half-tracks, trucks and motorcycles. The equipment is supplied by the British but paid for—as Dutch soldiers are quick to point out—in full and in cash by the Netherlands Government.

The training these Dutch soldiers get is similar to that given to British trips and so are the uniforms they wear. It’s not hard to distinguish members of the brigade, though. All orders are, of course, given in Dutch (op de plaats rust, for example, means “at ease”) and each soldier wears the orange lion of the Netherlands on both shoulders and on his cap. Dutch soldiers who come from South Africa also wear a springbok (small deer) emblem and those from Canada a maple leaf.Men from the U.S.  wear a maple leaf, too, because the basic-training camp for them and the Canadians alike is in Canada—at Guelph, Ontario. Hollanders in the U.S. may join the American armed forces if they prefer.



dutch soldier wwii

In England, attentive Netherlanders learn about the sub-machine gun.

The Dutch soldier loves potatoes and at the brigade’s camp he gets plenty of them, all the peelings being done by one of those goldbricker’s gadgets which spin the spuds around until they look like cakes of soap. The chowhounds favorite dish, however, is a hot pea soup flavored with pigs’ knuckles. No one gets extra KP for snafuing—not even the dumbest “turk,” which is the Dutch sergeant’s expression for eight ball. Restricted to barracks (patoet) or weekend sentry duty (wachie kloppen) is the usual lot of the transgressor.

The boys get the usual day off every week and a two-day pass every fortnight. There’s a town nearby, but most of them seem to prefer to hang around camp. Which has plenty of recreation halls, a library and a stage and movie theater. There’s a camp choir and an army band, which is well known all over England, and a weekly paper called De Kampklok, which means just what it sounds like. There are also two large canteens, one dry and the other selling beer.



dutch soldier wwii

After watching the Dutch Army in England hold maneuvers, Ambassador Biddle enjoys refreshments with the troops. They wear British battle dress.

A Dutch soldier who samples the wares of the latter in moderation becomes aangeschoten, or buzzed. If he hands around all evening he’s likely to get lazarus,or stinko, and will be lucky if he gets off with mere wachie kloppen that week end.

A lot of the men put in for officers’ training and those who are accepted from the infantry get the break of going to Sandhurst, which is the British equivalent of West Point. It’s a pretty good break, too, as they are the first foreigners ever allowed to enter that famous institution.  Officer candidates in other branches of service are trained elsewhere in England. Dutch officers carry orange lanyards and wear the insignia of their ranks on their lapels. Three stars means only a captain, so don’t faint. The old man is the hooge oome.



dutch soldier wwii

Becoming skilled in the art of camouflage during maneuvers staged by the Dutch Brigade in Britain.

In addition to the Dutch Commandos, many other members of the brigade have already seen active duty as gunners in uniform on merchant ships—risky works for which only volunteers are taken. And, of course, no account, however brief, of the Dutch as fighters would be adequate without mention of the “Flying Dutchmen,” members of the Netherlands Air Force, who for well over a year now have been hammering with terribly telling results at Japs and Nazis alike.

Op de plaats rust, men.



dutch soldier wwii

These are “Flying Dutchmen” somewhere over Australia. They’ve been helping plenty in the war against Japan.

dutch soldier wwii

Allies: In Australia a Dutch flyer points to his mute mascot, the famous American cartoon figure Popeye.

dutch soldier wwii

In Australia, 10 members of a Netherlands bomber squadron are decorated.

For More on the Netherlands in WWII Check Out:

Things We Couldn’t Say: A dramatic account of Christian resistance in Holland during WWII




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