Military Wiki
King's Dutch Brigade
Prinsenvlag (Regimental Colours)
Active 1799–1802
Country United Kingdom
Branch British Army
Type Rifles
Role Infantry
Size 5000
Garrison/HQ Cowes, Isle of Wight
Hereditary Prince of Orange

The King's Dutch Brigade was a brigade of the British army, organised by the Hereditary Prince of Orange out of former officers and lower ranks of the former Dutch States Army, deserters from the Batavian army, and mutineers from the Batavian fleet that had surrendered to the Royal Navy in the Vlieter Incident during the Anglo-Russian invasion of Holland in 1799, but fully in British service and paid for by the British government. It was commissioned on 21 October 1799 on the Isle of Wight, saw service in Ireland in the first half of 1801, and afterward on the Channel Islands Jersey and Guernsey. The brigade was decommissioned on 12 July 1802, as agreed in the Treaty of Amiens of 25 March 1802. [1] [2]


After the debacle of the Flanders Campaign of 1793–95 and the collapse of the Allied resistance against French revolutionary armies in early 1795, while the Batavian Republic overthrew the Dutch Republic and stadtholder William V fled to England, together with his family and his sons, the Hereditary Prince and Prince Frederick of Orange-Nassau, who had both commanded Dutch troops during the campaign, remnants of the States Army shielded retreating British and Hanoverian troops. These Dutch troops afterwards crossed into neutral Prussian territory, where they were decommissioned. Meanwhile, Prince Frederick traveled to Osnabrück, where he attempted to form a force for an invasion of the Batavian Republic from Prussian territory. Many former officers and other ranks from the States Army joined him there in the spring of 1795 (though 21 battalions of the former States army, out of 96, were reformed to the nucleus of the new Batavian army). A list of officers of the States Army, who went to Osnabrück, numbers 839 names (how many non-commissioned officers and other ranks were present is not known). King Frederick William II of Prussia prohibited further recruitment in the summer of 1795 and Prince Fredericks's project came to nothing. Many of the troops he had recruited went into British service at that time, as the British had been recruiting troops for service in the West Indies. The British offered half-pay to the former States Army officers who had assembled in Prussia after 12 January 1796.[1]

In 1798, a number of these Dutch émigrés were formed into the fifth battalion of the 60th Regiment of Foot (later King's Royal Rifle Corps) of the British Army. This was the signal for the formation of more "Dutch"[3] units in preparation for the Anglo-Russian invasion of Holland, which took place in the late summer of 1799. The Prussian king looked the other way while recruitment was going on in his territories. The invasion was ultimately unsuccessful, but the British netted an appreciable number of Batavian deserters, mutineers, and prisoners of war, who were taken along to Great Britain, during the retreat of the Allied troops after the Convention of Alkmaar. At the same time, the troops that had been recruited for British account in Germany to be part of a new Dutch army, were transported also to Great Britain.[1]

History of the brigade[]

These troops were transported to the Isle of Wight, where the Hereditary Prince started organising a Brigade, consisting of 97 companies total:

  • 4 regiments of infantry, of 18 companies each;
  • 1 regiment of Chasseurs, also of 18 companies;
  • a battalion of artillery, of 6 companies;
  • a corps of engineers

and supporting troops. This brigade was commissioned on 21 October 1799 in the British army as the King's Dutch Brigade. The troops took an oath of allegiance, both to the British Crown, and to the stadtholder.[4]:66 The former Dutch stadtholder was put in nominal supreme command (as Captain-General of the former States Army), but his son, the Hereditary Prince, was given actual command of the brigade. Former officers of the States Army were put in the staff of the brigade and at the head of the regiments and battalions. Among them were the major-generals Frederick Stamford (former tutor of the Hereditary Prince), Carel Bentinck, De Constant Villars, and H.W. van der Duyn, all formerly from the States Army. Below these titular colonels of regiments the actual troop commands were held by lieutenant-colonels Von Dopf, Von Schwartz, MacLeod, Von Schinne, Morack, and Sprecher von Bernegg; the chasseurs were commanded by the lieutenant-colonel Von Heydt, and the artillery by the lieutenant-colonel W. du Pont. Liaison for the British government was colonel Sontag. The paymaster, who made all disbursements, was colonel Van der Maasen. The brigade had a total strength of about 5000 troops. The Hereditary Prince received an annual amount of ₤600 to pay for the troops, and each colonel received ₤500 annually for his regiment from the British government.[1][5]:259–260

The regiments received their Colours on 6 August 1800, after a period of basic training led personally by the Hereditary Prince. Each regiment received both the King's Colours,[6] and Regimental Colours after Dutch model (the old Prinsenvlag, emblazoned with the arms of the House of Orange-Nassau).[2]:48–49 Their uniform was also distinctive: nassau-blue for the infantry, and green with black piping for the chasseurs.[5]:259–260

On 27 November 1800 there was a reorganisation in which the Flankeur (Skirmishers) companies, of which each regiment had two, were reformed into two separate battalions of 4 companies each.[1]

The brigade was sent to Ireland (after first being made ready for an expedition to Portugal, which did not take place, to help guard against a threatened French invasion on 11 December 1800.[5]:261 After serving there for half a year the brigade was transported to Wight again on 15 June 1801. Afterwards they helped guard Wight, and the Channel islands Jersey and Guernsey against invasion. In the Treaty of Amiens in which the British concluded peace with the First French Republic and the Batavian Republic, among others, it was agreed that the brigade would be dissolved. The brigade was therefore decommissioned on 12 July 1802.[1]


The officers who did not wish to take up other service, or return to the Netherlands, like Hendrik Detmers, were put on half-pay by the British. Most officers and men returned to the Batavian Republic, profiting from an amnesty which was agreed in the margin of the peace treaty. Many of these troops were hired by the Batavian army for service in the Dutch colonies that had been returned under the provisions of the treaty. A smaller number of brigade troops went to the new Principality of Nassau-Orange-Fulda where they formed a company in the army of the new Prince (the former Hereditary Prince). This army was dissolved by the Capitulation of Erfurt (16 October 1806) the Prince was forced to sign, after he and his Prussian division had been taken prisoner by the French after the Battle of Jena–Auerstedt, whereby the Principality was dissolved, together with its army. The Dutch troops then went to the Kingdom of Holland where they were incorporated in its army.[1]

Not all former personnel of the Dutch brigade left England after 1802. Lieutenant-colonel Willem Benjamin van Panhuys formed a battalion at Yarmouth, Isle of Wight when the Dutch Départements of France (annexed since 1810) rose against the First French Empire in the Fall of 1813 and a provisional government was formed in The Hague which invited the former Hereditary Prince (Prince of Orange since the death of his father in 1806) to take charge of the liberated country. This battalion was commissioned in the new Dutch army on 1 December 1813 as the 10th Battalion of the Line; it arrived in Hellevoetsluis on 27 March 1814. These were apparently the last of the former States Army soldiers who returned to their country after almost twenty years in exile.[1]

Historiographical note[]

Hardly anybody remembers the Dutch Brigade nowadays. Its namesake, the Dutch Brigade, formed by the Kingdom of Holland to fight on the French side under general Chassé in the Peninsular War is actually better known.[7] Nevertheless, the Brigade has some historiographical significance, if only in the controverse that has long surrounded the era of the Batavian Republic and the Kingdom of Holland, or what Orangist historians, both 19th century and modern, prefer to call the Franse tijd ("French Era") in Dutch history and historiography. Contemporary tempers clearly flared, as De Bas notes, when he writes that the Dutch daily newspaper Haagsche Courant called the troops of the Brigade lichtmissen (rakes), ploerten (cads), and "...all kinds of deserters, among whom many Germans, but also many Dutchmen ... who emptied many a keg of Porter beer," though he adds that the newspaper admitted that they looked fine in their uniforms.[5]:260 Indeed, the Brigade was viewed with some trepidation in the Batavian Republic, because it was suspected that it was primarily intended to serve in a future invasion of the Netherlands, as indeed it was.[5]:258 The fact that "Dutch soldiers" in foreign service might again fight against their compatriots on Dutch soil (as in the Helder Expedition) could be expected to generate bad feelings. And such contemporary feelings toward the Brigade and its leadership could easily carry over into historiography.[8] This is something to consider when one reads different historical accounts of the period in question, especially if historical parallels are drawn, as they inevitably are, with other historical events. Captain Ringoir implicitly does this when at the end of his little monograph extensively cited above, he refers to the Dutch Brigade that was organised by the Dutch government-in-exile in British territory during the Second World War. Others make such comparisons explicitly. But this is very dangerous, as the analogies are mostly false: the First French Republic was not Nazi Germany; the Patriots were not the N.S.B; stadtholder William V was not Queen Wilhelmina; and the Hereditary Prince was not Prince Bernhard, the commander of the Dutch armed forces in exile; nor the Dutch Brigade the Princess Irene Brigade. All such easy analogies are false and misleading, as are the opposite comparisons of the Dutch Brigades (both "French" and "British") with the Dutch volunteers that enlisted in the Waffen-SS on the Eastern Front. One should be very careful to not even hint at such comparisons, as the British historian Simon Schama, an expert on the period of the Batavian Republic/"French Era" has pointed out, following the Dutch historian Pieter Geyl, who also warned against this fallacy.[9]:15–23

Notes and references[]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Ringoir, H.. "Het ontstaan van de Hollandse Brigade in Engelse Dienst 1799-1802". Retrieved 6 April 2013. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 De Vaandrig Brauw, J. (1837). Mijne emigratie in Duitschland, Engeland en Ierland in de jaren 1799-1802: met een verslag omtrent de Hollandsche Brigade in dienst van Groot-Brittannien, onder bevel van Z.D.H. den Heere Erfprins. N. van der Monde. Retrieved 11 April 2013. 
  3. Many of the members of the former States Army were professional soldiers from countries other than the Netherlands and did not have Dutch nationality.
  4. Wildeman, M.G. (1894). "De Hollandsche brigade op Wight. Geschiedkundige bijdrage". De Navorscher. Een middel tot gedachtenwisseling en letterkundig verkeer tuschen allen, die iets weten, iets te vragen habben of iets kunnen oplossen, Volume 44. pp. 65–76. Retrieved 11 April 2013. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Bas, François de. Prins Frederik der Nederlanden en zijn tijd, Volume 2. H. A. M. Roelants, 1891.,+Volume+2&hl=en&sa=X&ei=ewxaUeOTM-WujALjqoDwBg&ved=0CDQQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=Prins%20Frederik%20der%20Nederlanden%20en%20zijn%20tijd%2C%20Volume%202&f=false. Retrieved 31 March 2013. 
  6. Brauw writes that the King's colour for his regiment was "the usual English cross." i.e. the old English flag, and apparently not the Union Jack; Cf. Brauw, p. 49
  7. Moor, Jaap de, and H. Ph. Vogel (1991). Duizend miljoen maal vervloekt land: de Hollandse Brigade in Spanje, 1808-1813. Meulenhoff. 
  8. Not as far as De Bas is concerned, however, who apparently saw nothing wrong with the Hereditary Prince taking "the King's guinea," while elsewhere he waxes indignant about the fact that the Patriot exiles of Daendels' brigade fought with the invading French in 1795, not hesitating to use the word landverraad (treason); cf. Bas, François de. Prins Frederik Der Nederlanden en Zijn Tijd, vol. 1. H. A. M. Roelants, 1887. Retrieved 31 March 2013. , p. 118
  9. Schama, Simon (1977). Patriots and Liberators. Revolution in the Netherlands 1780-1813. New York: Vintage books. ISBN 0-679-72949-6. 

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