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Military colours (The Netherlands)

Militaire vaandels (Nederland)

Last modified: 2005-04-09 by
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Introduction

Royal Netherlands Army (Koninklijke Landmacht)

Netherlands army units carry a color (vaandel) or standard (standaard) depending on whether the unit is considered "mounted" or not.  The difference between the two is the size, the vaandel for foot units being 87 cm square, the vaandel for mechanized units 60 cm square, and the standaard for mounted units 50 cm square.  All of these are made of orange silk, with
the initial of the monarch hand embroidered in metallic gold thread beneath the royal crown in full color on the center.  The field is bordered by orange branches in color.  For army regiments and similar units,  the name of the unit is inscribed in straight lines of gold letters below the royal initial, and the battle honors in arcs of gold letters surrounding it.  The reverse is framed with orange branches like the obverse, but with the royal coat of arms in full color (without the pavilion) encircled by a green oak and laurel wreath.  The flag is trimmed on all four sides with 25 mm gold fringe on all four sides.  The pike is black, 2.5 m long for foot units, 2.2 m for mechanized, and 2 m for mounted, with a gilt bronze finial consisting of a column surrounded by an oak wreath, supporting a rectangular platform 17 x 7 x 7 cm, on which rests a lion couchant holding a sword over his right shoulder, his left forepaw resting on a sheaf of seven arrows.  The platform is inscribed with the royal initial on the short sides and the motto "Konigin en Vaderland (Queen and Fatherland)" on the long sides.  Below the finial are tied a 50 cm gold cord with tassels and, if entitled, an orange cravat embroidered with additional battle honors and orange leaves.  Units that have been cited for valor have the appropriate decoration tied to the wreath portion of the finial on a 30 cm long ribbon.

The flags of guards regiments have, in addition to the above, an 11 mm strip of gold braid surrounding the field in addition to the 25 mm fringe.

The initials of all three of the Netherlands most recent queens appear on current colors and standards, "W" for Wilhelmina, "J" for Juliana, and "B" for Beatrix.  The old initials seem to appear even on new colors of some units.  The regulation on the flags says the following in Dutch which I believe explains the practice; hopefully someone will translate it:

At renewal of the cloth the existing initial will be maintained. Eventual new assigned inscriptions will be added. If the unit carrying the banner or standard gets a new name it will become a new unit, which will inherit the traditional values of the former unit, among which the right to carry its own new banner or standard. The initial of the King, who signed the Royal Resolution for the formation of the unit, will be put on it.

Two units, the Royal Military Academy and the Royal Military School, have somewhat different designs, that of the academy being especially elaborate, but both with the same principle of orange silk field bearing a royal cipher in gold.  I will describe them in a later post in this series.

Source:  DP-20-30, Vaandels en Standaarden bij de Nederlandse Krijgsmacht (Colors and Standards of the Netherlands Armed Forces), available in Dutch online.
Joseph McMillan, 14 Mar 2005


Johan Willem Friso Infantry Regiment (obverse & reverse)

[Johan Willem Friso color]<-ob [Johan Willem Friso color (reverse)]<-re by Joseph McMillan, 14 Mar 2005

The Johan Willem Friso Infantry Regiment was formed in 1950 by amalgamating several units dating back to the Netherlands regaining of independence following the Napoleonic Wars.  It is now an armored infantry battalion. The color has the initial J for Queen Juliana on the center and battle honors for "Tiendaagse Veldtocht 1831" in the upper hoist and "Citadel van Antwerpen 1832" in the upper fly.  A third battle honor, for "Java en Sumatra 1946-1949" appears on a cravat tied below the finial.
The reverse is the same for all Dutch colors and standards with a few special exceptions.
Joseph McMillan, 14 Mar 2005


Koninklijke Marechaussee (obverse & reverse)

[Koninklijke Marechaussee color]<-ob [Johan Willem Friso color (reverse)]<-re by Joseph McMillan, 15 Mar 2005

The Koninklijke Marechaussee is one of the four Dutch military services.  It is a police force with both military and civil roles, similar to the French Gendarmerie or the Italian Carabinieri, and functions under the supervision of several different ministries depending on the duties being carried out. As a historically mounted unit (and it still has a horse-mounted component, which provides an escort to the Queen on ceremonial occasions) the Marechaussee carries a standard (standaard), 50 x 50 cm, of the same design as other colors and standards.  Since the Koninklijke Marechaussee's first standard was presented in 1931 by Queen Wilhelmina, the standard carries the initial W, but has no battle honors inscribed.  As will be seen by comparing this flag with that of the Johan Willem Friso Infantry Regiment, the size of the royal initial is adjusted depending on the other inscriptions on the flag.  The reverse is the usual reverse with the Netherlands royal arms.
Joseph McMillan, 15 Mar 2005


Koninklijke Marine (obverse & reverse)

[Koninklijke Marine color]<ob [Johan Willem Friso color (reverse)]<-re by Joseph McMillan, 17 Mar 2005

Another military color from the Netherlands, this time turning to the Navy (Koninklijke Marine.)

Most colors (vaandels) of naval commands are of the same basic design as those of the Army.  The principal difference is that the date the organization was established is inscribed on a line above its designation. As with the army, battle honors are inscribed in arcs surrounding the royal initial of the sovereign who presented the organization its first color.

Colors are authorized for the following naval organizations, with the date the first color was presented in parentheses:
- Corps of Cadets of the Royal Institute for the Navy (1904)
- Marine Corps (1929)
- Submarine Service (1964)
- Naval Aviation Service (1964)
- Mine Service (1982)
- Fleet (2002)

Although its history dates back over 500 years, the Fleet (Eskader) of the Royal Netherlands Navy was not issued a color until 2002.  It therefore bears the initial B for Queen Beatrix.  Battle honors are inscribed for Krijgsverrichtingen 's Lands Vloot [War Operations of the National Fleet] 1597-1795, Krijgsverrichtingen 's Lands Vloot 1816-1870, Nederlands-Indie
1817-1927, and Tweede Wereldoorlog [Second World War] 1940-1945.

The reverse is the same as for the army colors.
Joseph McMillan, 17 Mar 2005

The image of the colour posted with your posting, shows the colour of the Fleet with the date 1488.  Now, I am no expert on Dutch history, but to the best of my knowledge the Eighty Years War which eventually led to the recognition of the independence of the Netherlands Republic from Spain, commenced in approximarely 1572  with the capture of Den Briel from the Spanish and ended in 1648 with the Peace of Westphalia (or Münster).
How come the Eskader can claim its date of establishment as 1488 when the Dukes of Burgundy were still their overlords - a century earlier than the commencement of the war of independence?
Andries Burgers, 25 Mar 2005

See the website of the Royal Netherlands Navy:
"The central authority tried to get more influence on the warfleet, but in vain. In 1488 Maximilian of Habsburg issued the Ordinance about the Admiralty, with which for the first time a permanent navy organisation for the Netherlands was founded. The defense at sea was regulated legally and commisiioned to an admiral as replacement of the prince. The headstrong Dutch sea-region however continued to form its own warfleets without knowledge of the admiral."
Mark Sensen, 25 Mar 2005


Korps Mariniers (obverse & reverse)

[Korps Mariniers color]<-ob [Korps Mariniers color (reverse)]<-re by Joseph McMillan, 20 Mar 2005

The Korps Mariniers (Marine Corps) of the Royal Netherlands Navy was established on 10 December 1665 as the Regiment de Marine.  Its present name was adopted in 1817 and its first color (vaandel) was presented by Queen Wilhelmina on 16 September 1929.  The flag generally follows the pattern for other vaandels of the Netherlands armed forces, except that the border wreath of orange branches is interrupted in each corner by a dark blue fouled anchor surrounded by a laurel wreath.  As with other naval units, the name of the Korps Mariniers on the obverse of the flag is preceded by the date of its establishment, 1665.  The obverse is also inscribed with battle honors for Spain, Algiers, West Indies, Sennefe, Kijkduin, Dogger Bank, Atjeh, Bali, Chatham (the daring and devastating raid conducted on the British fleet in the Medway in 1667), Rotterdam, Java Sea, Java and Madoera, and New Guinea.
The ribbon and medal of the Military Order of William, the country's highest honor for gallantry, is tied to the wreath portion of the finial described in an earlier message.

Since the anchors in the corners differentiates both sides of this flag from others of the Netherlands Armed Forces, I'm sending images of both sides.
Joseph McMillan, 20 Mar 2005


The original pattern

The short answer to the question [about information about the battle flags carried by the Dutch-Belgian army units at the Battles of Quatre-Bras and Waterloo in 1815] is that these regiments did not carry colours at all.

Until 1814, Dutch and Belgian units were part of the French Army, and there had only been enough time to re-organise the regiments into a non-Bonpartist force before the Campaign of the Hundred Days took place.
A committee, under a Lieut.-General Janssens, was set up in August 1814 to consider the matter of colours and standards, but did not report back until December 1815, and the first issues of the pattern that the committee had decided on were not made until 23rd September 1820!

The colours that you thinking of are the '1815' pattern, which have appeared in at least one book, along with a speculative statement to the effect that these 'might have been carried' in the Waterloo campaign, but this was not the case.

For the record, the body of the flag, both colour and cavalry standard, was orange. On one side (with the staff on the viewer's left) was a crowned letter W, with the regimental designation underneath, both in gold; around the four edges was a wavy gold laurel wreath. On the other side were the arms of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The shield was blue and was strewn with small upright rectangles; the main device was a crowned rampant lion, holding a sword in its upper paw. The lion and rectangles were gold, whilst the blade of the sword was silver. Supporting the shield on either side was a gold rampant lion, facing outwards towards the viewer. There was a gold crown above the shield; whilst below it was a blue scroll with the motto Je Maintiendrai in gold. The shield and lions were surrounded by a wreath of green palm leaves, and there was another wavy gold laurel wreath around the edge.
The infantry colour was 90cm x 60cm, the cavalry standard 50cm square, with a gold fringe. The staff was black wood, the finial was a simple gold laurel wreath at this period.

A company of volunteer riflemen carried a company marker, perhaps 30cm square, which was composed of yellow and green quarters, with a border of the opposite colour, and marked on it in gold capitals conp / vriy // villeg / jager. The unit which carried it is unknown, but it may have been attached to one of those in the field. The line infantry equivalent may have been coloured in blue and white.

My sources are:

Ian Sumner, 03 March 1999

Later modifications

This still is the pattern for Dutch colours and standards. Except the letter is the monogram of the king or queen from which the unit received it; W for Willem (William) I, II and III and Wilhelmina, J for Juliana, and B for Beatrix.

The infantry colours are 87cm square. ("Vlagprotocol", Klaes Sierksma, 1981) The sizes mentioned in Marijke van den Brandhof's book are the sizes of the fragments of the damaged flags in the museum.

On top of the laurel wreath a block with a lying lion holding a bunch of arrows and a sword.

If battle honours are awarded these are added in the corners of the obverse.

The Military Order of William is attached to the colours/standard when awarded.

You can see an example of the colours of the Regiment Engineers. (Click on "vergroting" ("enlargement") for details of the images).
See also the colours of the Corps Marines.

Mark Sensen, 06 March 1999

The block and lion were not part of the original pattern, but were introduced soon afterwards, at some time in the 1820s.

Battle honours were not awarded for the Waterloo campaign until 7th August 1896 for some regiments,; on 3rd November 1913 for others; and for the Engineers, not until 1927. The first award of the Willemsorde was in 1849, to 7th Infantry Battalion, but I don't know if there was any particular reason.

Ian Sumner, 07 March 1999


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