History of the Royal Netherlands Brigade “Prinses Irene”
(shortened forms: “Irene Brigade or “Brigade”)
After May 1940 the Irene Brigade was established in England from Netherlands military personnel that had escaped from the Netherlands, from Dutchman who had been recruited in England, America, Canada and South Africa and from volunteers.
Efforts to form a complete Brigade (regiment), reinforced with artillery and a tank unit were not successful.
In the end the Brigade included: headquarters, three combat teams (companies with machineguns, mortars, anti-tank guns and a light AA), a reconnaissance unit (with armoured vehicles), an artillery battery and the train.
Moreover, a replacement company had been formed, which was intended to follow the Brigade in the field. The 2nd combat team consisted mainly of mariners who had been trained in America.
In July 1943 the Brigade(under command of Lieutenant Colonel A.C. de Ruyter van Steveninck) was assigned to the XXIst Army Group (under the command of General Montgomery).
Then they were trained together with British units and assigned to the coastal defence in the neighbourhood of Harwich.
On august 6, 1944 the Brigade embarked and on August 7 and 8 it disembarked in Normandy, where it was assigned to the 6th Airborne division east of the Orne; on August 12 it took up a frontline position.
From August 17-31 the Brigade took part in the advance towards the Seine and on August 26 it was the first unit to occupy Pont Audemer.
While the Brigade was at first assigned to the 1st Canadian Army during the advance across the Seine, it was transferred to the 2nd British Army on September 5. After rapid marches via Brussels the Albert Canal near Beringen was reached, where the Brigade took an active part in the combat.
During the operation Market Garden, which was started on September 17, the Brigade was transferred to Grave on September 20 and 21; in the neighbourhood of this town it carried out guard and reconnaissance duties until October 17. At this late day the Brigade was transferred to the Wilhemina Canal south of Oirschot and assigned to the 51st Division. It took part in the operations during which the Germans were explelled from central- and western North Brabant. On October 25 and 26 an attack position opposite Broekhoven was taken after prolonged fights for the attack of Tilburg.
After the fall of Tilburg the brigade was transferred successively to the neighbourhood of Weelde, Rijen and Raamsdonk. Then from November 5 - 11 it was charged with the guarding of the Maas in the neighbourhood of Waalwijk, On November 9 the commander of the Brigade was promoted to the rank of Colonel.
After the Brigade had moved to Wuustwezel in Belgium on November 11, it was transferred to Zeeland where guard duties were carried out during the whole winter, especially in Noord-Beveland and Walcheren. During this period the Brigade was assigned respectively to the 52nd British Division up to the end of November, to the 4th British Commando Brigade until March 23, 1945, and to the “Netherlands District”.
In March 1945 Her Majesty the Queen visited Walcheren and the Irene Brigade.
The mariners contingent was re-assigned and left on March 31. This resulted in a reorganisation that implied the disbandment of the reconnaissance unit.
Between April 10 and 14, 1945, when the allied advance in the eastern Netherlands and Germany was in full process, the Brigade was released by a Battalion of the Belgian Brigade and transferred to the Maas district Heusden - Hedel.
The Brigade was assigned to the British 116th Mariners Brigade and captured a bridgehead in Hedel on April 23 for the advance in the Bommelerwaard. It managed to hold the bridgehead in spite of heavy German attacks; however, when relative orders were received the Brigade withdrew to the south of the Maas because the advance could not be effected.
On May 4 the 116th Brigade was released by the 308th Infantry Brigade. After the capitulation of the Germans on May 5 the Irene Brigade was transferred to Wageningen on May 6, while on May 8 it left for the Hague where they entered as the first allied unit.
By the end of 1945 the Irene Brigade was disbanded and on April 15, 1946, the Prinses Irene Regiment (later on Guards Regiment) was established, which still continues the traditions of the Brigade.