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For Queen and country?


The Dutch nation had been a genuine Kingdom since 1813. King William I had taken the thrown - on request - after the French occupation had left the country. The French had before installed a King, King Louis, brother of dictator Napoleon and had called the Dutch vazal state 'Kingdom Pays-Bas'. But that was obviously not a sovereign reign. The new Royal House had its roots in the kin of William of Orange, ruler of the Netherlands under the Spanish King Philips II - Holland being part of the vast Spanish empire - and later initiator of the Dutch upraising against the Spanish reign which resulted into the 80-years War with Spain (1568-1648). The Dutch had in a way disregarded the aristocrates in the period that led up to the French conquest of the country in 1795, but the desire for a true Kingdom was more than vivid when the French had left. From that moment on, The Netherlands had embraced the Kingdom and the Royal Family.

In 1940 the Queen of the Netherlands was Wilhelmina. She was a Queen 'of the old standard'. She was a highly strung woman, that closely monitored Government and didn't hasitate to put her foot between the door once a matter caused her concern. She was feared and respected by the politicians. The Royal House was popular with the Dutch population. The phrase 'for Queen and Country' was - in those days - far more common and accepted than it would be today.

The Queen leaves the country 

On the fourth day of the war, the CIC Winkelman informed the Queen that he considered the military situation so desperate that he strongly advised the Majesty to chose domicile elsewhere. The Queen had to be persuaded though. She herself was not convinced that her moving away from the fate of the country would be beneficial to her people or give the appropriate signal. Winkelman managed to convince her that she served more than the homeland people and that Dutch interest elsewhere in the world were there to be served. She reluctantly submitted to Winkelman's advise and left the country with a British destroyer.  

When late in the afternoon the BBC broadcasted the news that the Queen of the Netherlands had safely reached England, this news travelled quickly through the trenches. The troops were genuinely shocked and devastated. It was seen as proof that Holland was about to capitulate. But that was not all. The vast majority of men considered the evacuation of the Cabinet and the Royal Family a sign of cowardly behaviour. Few men were able to see the sense in the decision and wondered outloud for whom they were still fighting.

In those days the Government of The Netherlands reigned not only over its modest piece of European soil, but it was still in firm possession of the vast territory of the Netherlands East-Indies, Surinam and the Netherlands Antilles. Especially the NEI were of great importance, with their huge reserves of resources and their strategic position in Asia. Considerations that the average Dutch Tom, Dick and Harry did not think of, and as such the regular soldier wondered why he would fight for Queen and Country, when the Queen herself had made a run for it!

The already poor moral of the army descended to below zero. And this time all of the officers - from high to low - sympathized. For what purpose would they have to fight now? Pride and honour? A Government-in-exile?