- Point of Interest
- Place de l'Église, Bréville-les-Monts, France
The Royal Netherlands Princess Irene Brigade landed in Arromanches on 8 August 1944. Attached to the 6th British Airborne Division, the Brigade took part in Operation Paddle for the liberation of the Pays d’Auge area starting on 17 August. The Princess Irene Brigade was thus the first Allied unit to liberate Pont-Audemer on 26 August 1944.
The Dutch Brigade landed at the same day as the Belgian 1st Infantry Brigade, on 8 August 1944, in Graye-sur-mer and Arromanches as part of ongoing reinforcements sent to Normandy. 1,200 men attached to the 6th British Airborne division operated under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Albert de Ruyter van Stevenink. The unit was created in February 1941 in England with Dutch soldiers who had escaped after the German Occupation of the Netherlands in 1940. Numbers were subsequently made up with Dutch men from the United Kingdom, the Unites States, Canada and South Africa.
The resulting Brigade was named ‘Irene’ in honour of one of the granddaughters of Queen Wilhelmina, who had herself taken refuge in Britain. The Dutch Brigade came into action in Normandy on 17 August to the east of the river Orne. It won fame particularly through the heavy fighting at the Saint-Côme Castle near Bréville-les-Monts. On 23 August the troops received the visit of Prince Bernhard, Commander in Chief of the armed forces of the Netherlands. Three days later, together with the British 6th Airborne Division, they liberated the town of Pont-Audemer. Engaged in Operation Paddle, they reached the Seine on 30 August 1944. After the Normandy campaign, the Irene Brigade took part in the liberation of Northern France and Belgium, before returning to liberate the south part of their native land in September 1944 as part of Operation Market Garden.
Fought between the iconic landings on 6 June 1944 and the liberation of Paris on 25 August, the Battle of Normandy is often overlooked. Yet this campaign decided the course of the war in Northwestern Europe. The losses were huge: more than 100.000 people were killed during the 80 days, 20.000 of them civilians.