Netherlands Military History

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The Netherlands has the oldest standing army in Europe, it was first established as such by Maurice of Nassau. The Dutch army was used throughout the Dutch empire. After the defeat of Napoleon, the Dutch army was transformed into a conscription army. The army was unsuccessfully deployed during the Belgian revolution in 1830. It was deployed mainly in the Dutch colonies, as the Netherlands remained neutral in European wars (including WWI), until the Netherlands were invaded (in WWII), and quickly conquered by the Wehrmacht in May 1940. After WWII, the Netherlands dropped their neutrality and the Dutch army became part of the NATO army strength in Cold War Europe, holding several bases in Germany. In 1996 conscription was ended and the Dutch army was once again transformed into a professional army.

The Dutch were involved in, among others, these military actions:

1568–1648 Eighty Years’ War. The Netherlands fought for its freedom from Spain.

1652–1667 Dutch–English War. The Netherlands fought two wars with England.

1672–1678 Dutch–Franco–English War. The Netherlands warred with France and England.

1805–1815 Napoleonic Wars. When the Netherlands was annexed to the French Empire in 1810, a compulsory conscription plan was introduced, under which all males 20 to 25 years of age were registered. Within a few years, 170,000 men served. Of the 15,000 who participated in the invasion of Russia in 1812, only a few survived.

1914–1918 World War I. The Netherlands remained neutral.

1939–1945 World War II. Germany occupied the Netherlands. Many records of Zeeland were destroyed.

For more historical information about the Netherlands military campaigns, see:

  • Dupuy, R. Ernest and Trevor N. Dupuy. The Encyclopedia of Military History: from 3500 B.C. to the Present. Rev. ed. London: Jane’s Publishing, 1980. (FHL book 355.033 D929e 1980.)

Additional military histories are listed in the Family History Library Catalog under: