Prinses Irene Brigade

Back to change notice


(Nortons and the Dutch armed forces in wartime, 1940-1945)  

After the capitulation of General Winkelmann in May 1940 the Dutch armed forces were in a rather desolate state. The armies BSA’s and BMW’s were either destroyed or captured by the Germans. Only a very few vehicles came to England during the "retreat" of a number of armed forces personnel.

(One of the twin cylinder BSA's purchased by the Dutch pre-war army has surfaced in Belgium!).

As can be expected, a number of people did not want to be subjected to the German tyranny.  Able bodied men with Dutch ancestry from Australia, South Africa, Canada, etc. etc. merged towards England, and together with the men (and women) who fled during the German advance and after the occupation, named the "Engeland vaarders”, formed the "Free Dutch Forces". In 1940 the Dutch government in exile started the formation of a armed contingency to fight the Germans for the allied cause.

This armed force was instituted on January 11th 1941 at Congleton (Cheshire, England). It was named  “Koninklijke Nederlandse Brigade" (Royal Netherlands Brigade). On August 27th 1941, the forces were renamed Koninklijke Nederlandsche Brigade ”Prinses Irene”. Prinses Irene was the latest daughter born in the Dutch Royal family shortly before the outbreak of the war. 



Shoulder badge (repro)

 Lion insignia(original)


Due to transfer of men to naval and air forces the unit consisted of 1000 to 1200 men, and contained many nationalities from all over the world. Men who wanted to liberate a 'fatherland" which a number of them had never even seen. After years of training and guard duties, the action came for the first time in August 1944 when the Brigade disembarked on the Normandy beaches. Under the command of British and Canadian divisions, the forces deployed Northwards towards Holland. Battles mentioned on the regimental pennant are: St Come, Pont Audemer, Beeringen, Tilburg (1944) en Hedel (1945).
The Brigade was "demobbed"as a unit in the second half of 1945. 

After the war, the "old boys network, old fashioned, inadequately trained, prewar officers" who stayed in Holland during the German occupation (of which the majority had been at home for 5 years), quickly regained control of their old posts, relegating properly trained, combat veterans with most up to date experience with the then modern equipment, to the sidelines. They could rejoin the army as new recruits, or accept a lower rank then what they were trained for during the war. This understandably led to frustration by the volunteer soldiers which did their duty for Queen and Country (with the ultimate sacrifice for a number of them). A properly "poor show".    

If you're interested in more information on the Prinses Irene Brigade, a visit to the regimental  museum at Oirschot, or the website (click on badge at bottom of page) is a must.

Information from the "Rijksarchief" shows that even before the Dutch armed forces were officially formed, a number of motorcycles was received being  30 Norton 16H’s (Nov.-Dec. 1940). In June 1941, this number was augmented with 55 BSA M20’s.

The Norton (and BSA) census numbers and individual motorcycle numbers are known, see PIB census number page for Norton numbers. The lists are just correct for the date as given. The mutations afterwards are not known at present. Anybody who can help is welcome. Maybe more information is waiting to be dug up somewhere in the "Rijksarchief"? Until now I do not have a photograph on which a PIB Norton is clearly visible (with eligible census numbers). Some BSA photo's I have show different numbers than given in the original lists. See PIB Pictures for photographs.   

If somebody can send me photographs of PIB motorcycles I would be very pleased. Especially early (1940 - 1943) photographs are intriguing, but even postwar are wanted to be able to understand the use of Norton's in the Dutch armed forces.

CLICK TO ENTER GARDEREGIMENT FUSELIERS PRINSES IRENE SITE  Badge (post war) and lanyard ("invasiekoord")