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Military colours and standards (The Netherlands)

Militaire vaandels en standaarden (Nederland)

Last modified: 2003-07-18 by jarig bakker
Keywords: netherlands | colours | standards | army |
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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:

  • Gegevens over vaandels en standaarden, by H. Ringoir ('s-Gravenhage, Army H.Q., 1966)
  • Vlaggen, vaandels, & standaarden van het Rijksmuseum te Amsterdam, by Marijke van den Brandhof (Amsterdam, The Museum, 1977)

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