On the Edge of the Gunpowder Barrel: The Netherlands and the Coming of World War I, 1870-1914

Hubert P. van Tuyll
Augusta College
Augusta, Georgia
© 1995 Hubert P. van Tuyll

Between 1870 and 1914, the Kingdom of the Netherlands had to adapt to a rapidly changing and increasingly dangerous European situation. Not only had the rapid victory of the Germans in 1870-71 upset the balance of power in Europe, but the Dutch precautionary mobilization had been sluggish and ineffectual, increasing the sense of vulnerability in the Netherlands. Military reform slowly moved forward after 1870, developing at a much more rapid pace after the war scare of 1905. The crises convinced the Dutch authorities that they had to take numerous steps to overcome the vulnerability inherent in being a wealthy but militarily weak state situated at the strategic junction of three major powers - Germany, Britain, and France.

The recognition of vulnerability -and hence the preference for neutrality - antedated the 1870 crisis. The Netherlands had become an independent state by 1648 by waging war against a powerful but declining Spain, and it built a maritime empire and a naval force that were fully competitive with those of Britain. But the continued existence of the Dutch empire abroad and the Republic at home were dependent on either goodwill or a balance of power among the major states. The loss of New Amsterdam (1664), the destruction of much the army at Malplaquet (1709), and the occupation of the entire country by France during the Revolutionary/Napoleonic era had clearly marked the limits of Dutch power. Nevertheless, between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries, the Netherlands had shown itself capable and willing (although usually with great caution) to tangle with major powers and sometimes win.

In the nineteenth century, however, the Dutch attitude underwent a subtle transformation. In 1815 a new Netherlands state was created which combined Belgium and the old Dutch Republic into one new kingdom. It was an unsuccessful match, made at the Congress of Vienna more to counterbalance French power than because of any natural affinity between the Dutch and the Belgians. In 1830, the Belgians revolted, and with significant French assistance, established the modern Belgian kingdom. The Netherlands accepted the situation with bad grace in 1839, and from that point accepted its marginal strategic position: The Congress of Vienna had formalized the tendency of the Napoleonic era, in which Europe increasingly came to be dominated by a small number of "great powers." The commitment to neutrality can be dated from the recognition of Belgium as an independent state.

The crises that began in 1870, however, would make the Netherlands feel far more vulnerable that before. First, the bungled mobilization had revealed that the army was simply not prepared for a crisis. Second, the rise of a new great power to its east created a new and complicated situation, which the Netherlands had to turn to its advantage (which it did). Third, the Franco-Prussian war demonstrated to Europeans the increasing pace at which war could be waged. This meant that armies had to be mobilized quickly, intelligence information had to be good enough to anticipate war sooner, and the whole country had to be ready for war on shorter notice. Though slowly at first, these were exactly the steps that the Netherlands would take.

The problems to be solved were enormous. The army enjoyed little popularity or prestige. Politically, it had neither the influence nor the financial support enjoyed by its counterparts in France or Germany, or even in Belgium. The army's leaders could only think strategically in terms of retreat to the vaunted waterlinie, which had frustrated invaders for centuries by creating a barrier of water between attackers and the national heartland. The waterlinie remained at the heart of Dutch military thought from 1850 to 1957, but even long before it was rendered impotent by the airplane, it contained an inherent weakness: less than half of the country was protected.(1) It might be the most valuable part, but to cede without a fight even a single province might undermine a claim of neutrality in the eyes of other belligerents. Therefore, outer parts of the Netherlands would have to be defended by a costly field army, and here the anti-military and penurious traditions of the Dutch came together to frustrate the task of planning the defense of the country. The plans inevitably created controversy, as shown by the fact that war ministers fell faster than any others in Dutch cabinets. (2) Nevertheless, the rise of Germany, the increasing tensions, and the crises and war scares made heightened military preparedness imperative.

The Netherlands and Military Preparations, 1870-1905
What could the Dutch government hope to accomplish by expanding and improving its army? The Dutch army could never be strong enough to defeat a determined attack by any of the three major powers in the region. But preparedness was nevertheless necessary. Without a strong Dutch army, another government might decide that the Netherlands could be annexed -or at least used as a convenient passage in wartime - without a fight. With a strong Dutch army, a violation of the Dutch border meant that the aggressor would have to expend military resources that might be needed elsewhere. Second, if the Netherlands did not maintain a reasonably strong army, it might cause otherwise friendly belligerents to worry that the Netherlands was not serious about defending its neutrality, and might invade simply to prevent the Netherlands from falling into the hands of a hostile power. Finally, if an invasion could not be prevented or deterred, the army had to be at least strong enough to slow down an invader until other powers could send troops to help the Dutch. (3)

The ability to expand the army was limited. This was partly because the Netherlands (unlike Belgium) had a substantial naval budget, which had been growing since the 1850s (before Britain's did the same) and risen by more than 50% between 1888 and 1913.(4) The services also competed for officers and recruits. Like its larger neigbor to the east, however, the Dutch army solved this problem partly by recruiting more middle-class officers, including C. J. Snijders, the World War I-era Supreme Commander who was the first non-royal to hold that post.(5) And despite widespread reluctance, the army budget did begin to grow, with occasional large increases. After World War I, Lieutenant General H. A. F. G. van Ermel Scherer would argue that the significant army improvement program of 1904 was responsible for Germany's avoidance of Holland in 1914.(6)

The expansion and improvement in the army, so haltingly begun after 1870, would not have taken place at all but for the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71. The Dutch response then, as in the wars of the twentieth century, was to mobilize the army as a precaution. But in contrast to the rapid and efficient mobilization of 1914, the 1870 mobilization was a fiasco. In the words of a modern study by a Dutch army officer, the 1870 mobilization had shown "what a mess the Dutch army really was."(7) In particular, the mobilization had been much too slow, with many recruits arriving long after an invading army would have conquered the country, and a general atmosphere of chaos prevailed. The mobilization of 1870 had established an army too weak to actually do much to protect the country, but sufficiently numerous to irritate the Germans, who actually protested the posting of Dutch brigades along the northern part of the German-Dutch frontier.(8) This protest must have caught the Dutch government by surprise, not only because it was more aware than Germany of the Dutch army's weakness, but because the Dutch government was primarily concerned that the German army might march through the Dutch southernmost province of Limburg to outflank the French via Belgium.(9) This was farsighted, because this was exactly the plan developed by the Germans in 1905-6, although not yet in 1870.

Despite all the concerns raised by the problems of the 1870 mobilization, however, far-reaching reform did not take place until nearly the end of the century. There were several reasons for this. First, the relationship with Germany was fairly cordial. This was important not only because Germany was geographically the greatest threat, but because extreme Pan-Germanists saw the Netherlands as a natural part of a greater German Reich. But none of Germany's most visible leaders in the 1870s and 1880s -Chancellor Bismarck, Chief of Staff Moltke, or Emperor Wilhelm I -were Pan-Germanists, although Bismarck thought Holland might annex itself to the Reich for economic reasons. Even so, Germany did not ignore the Dutch military improvements, slow as they were: in 1877, the German foreign ministry expressed concern about the growth of the Dutch army budget and the comments made by the Dutch war minister at the time of the budget's introduction.(10) In fact, in some German military circles the Dutch army was viewed as a luxury which should be abolished.(11)

But by the last decade of the nineteenth century the situation had changed. While the Netherlands carefully had to preserve the fiction that it regarded no country as a greater threat than any other, the rhetoric and behavior of Germany could not be ignored. In 1888 Wilhelm II became emperor of Germany and Moltke was replaced as Chief of Staff by the more aggressive Waldersee.(12) Bismarck, of course, was expelled in 1890. The Dutch became more pessimistic about the future. In 1890, future Prime Minister Abraham Kuyper anticipated that Germany would enter the Netherlands in the next war, but asked, "what could our small army do?" He added that the German cavalry would probably advance so fast that the Dutch mobilization would be disrupted.(13) Kuyper's comment is significant for three reasons. First, he obviously fears Germany despite his well-documented pro-German leanings. Second, it suggests that the slow-mobilization problems of 1870 had not been solved - at least in his opinion. Finally, the one area where the Netherlands would do much better in the future was the speed of mobilization. As fin de siècle Europe became more tense, politicians were listening more and more to soldiers - in fact, in some countries, too much so - but in the Netherlands, the army's weaknesses were finally going to get some methodical redress.

The timing of the Netherlands' military improvements is interesting, because it precedes the famous Moroccan crisis of 1905 by the better part of a decade. In 1898, the military service law was amended to broaden service requirements.(14) In 1901 war minister K. Eland introduced a whole series of reforms during his last months in office, including the abolition of the inefficient militia known as the schutterij, which lacked uniform training and weaponry, replacing it with a more efficient organization known as the landweer, and increasing the size of the annual contingent of conscripts.(15) His successor, A. Kool, was able to make a series of improvements on the landweer law(16) - no mean achievement, as he only spent four months in office.

Did the creation of the landweer and the increase in the number of draftees make any difference? In the absence of mobilization or battle, it is not easy to be sure. The British military attache in Brussels and the Hague, Col. Charles à Court Repington, was optimistic about Dutch defenses in 1901-2, and praised the Dutch for their enthusiasm while deploring a certain tendency toward cheapness.(17) The Germans, on the other hand, noted many inadequacies(18) - which was serious, as Germany was the more likely invader. Scholarly assessments tended to be moderately negative. The Eland reforms were considered unsuccessful, mainly because the of the shortness of the training period.(19) The Kool reforms were considered better, but the training period problem was still unresolved.(20) Equipment problems were magnified by the dependence on French and German weaponry, especially the products of the famous Krupp works.(21) Appropriations for heavy weaponry were therefore especially unpopular, as the entire expenditure would wind up in the pockets of foreign industrialists.

The Pace Quickens, 1905-1914

The desultory pace of the post-1870 reforms was natural, given the Netherlands' reluctance to spend on its military, the fact that much of its defense spending had to be allocated to the navy, and - perhaps most significantly - the relative absence of major crises in northwestern Europe. The army's generals understood that the military could not be quickly built up in the midst of a crisis, but it would require both a tense atmosphere and a specific crisis for anything meaningful to be done. Germany supplied both the tense atmosphere and the crisis. The militaristic rhetoric of Wilhelminian Germany was not aimed at the Netherlands, any more than the German naval buildup after 1890 had anything to do with the Dutch navy. Both, however, increased the risk of war, and as the naval buildup in particular increased German-British tensions, the Netherlands faced the danger of being right in between two major combatants in the next war (as indeed happened). As for a crisis, the 1905 Moroccan crisis was more than enough. In 1905 Germany made threatening statements toward France, regarding the latter's gains in Morocco, because Germany felt that it was being excluded from African colonization. While Germany probably did not intend to risk war in 1905 (the Germans may just have been taking advantage of the weakness of Russia, France's most important ally) virtually every European government saw the event as turning point. Every country in Europe further modified its military and strategic plans, including the Netherlands. The Dutch modifications went beyond merely increasing the size of the military; qualitative improvements were made, fortifications were expanded, and major efforts were made to find out more about the intentions of the Germans.

Another Moroccan crisis, during which Germany sent the gunboat Panther to Agadir in 1911, stimulated the Dutch further. The Dutch foreign ministry informed the British ambassador that 2 divisions totalling 46,000 soldiers (half the field army) would immediately oppose any invasion.(22) This suggests that the army's mobilization was somewhat more efficient that in 1870. Confidence was also higher; on September 12, 1911, at the peak of the second Moroccan crisis, war minister H. Colijn told the British military attaché that a Dutch division would maneuver near the German border to express displeasure with German maneuvers on the other side.(23) These statements were partly made to reassure the British; the Dutch army staff was convinced that Britain would enter the next major war as an ally of a continental power (and appear to have been much more sure about this than the British),(24) and the Netherlands could not risk a British belief that the Netherlands would not defend itself (otherwise the British might occupy Holland themselves). But Holland was also exaggerating its preparedness. The 1911 crisis further galvanized the government, leading to larger draft calls (by 23,000 a year), longer training, and more extensive recall authority.(25)

Peacetime military spending did not dominate the budget. The army and navy together consumed about a fifth of the national budget in 1913, on the eve of World War I, although this did constitute the single largest area of expenditures.(26) Aviation was still in its infancy. Ten modern airplanes were ordered the year before the war, but only 6 had been delivered. The navy's best ships were deployed to the colonies, with the home fleet only containing 3 light cruisers, 4 submarines, and some 42 small vessels - manned by sailors with an increasing tendency toward insubordination.(27) For a nation so conscious of its naval history, the Dutch navy's weakness is surprising. While advocates of naval growth gained great following in late nineteenth-century America, Britain, and Germany, their voices were not heard in Holland until 1912-13 (perhaps because the famous works of Alfred Thayer Mahan were not translated into Dutch). They were too late; the navy was smaller in 1914 than in 1905, and even shrank during the war.(28) The army fared better. Strengthened in stages after 1905, but especially during the war ministry of H. Colijn (1911-13) (29) the army could mobilize more than 200,000 soldiers by 1914 (the number would almost double during the war), half allocated to the Field Army, the country's mobile force, with most of the balance used to defend the waterlinie.(30) The army's numerical strength equalled about 11.5 German divisions, or one-tenth the total German strength.

In one sense, being outnumbered 10 to 1 by a potential adversary did not matter. The Dutch army was as much an instrument of foreign policy as an instrument of war. Its very existence (and its slowly growing strength) was a signal that Holland would be defended, and that an invasion would not be 'free.' On the other hand, the army alone could hardly maintain a sustained defense against such odds, let alone protect the country's lengthy coastline. Fortifications offered one way out of this conundrum, and appealed to a country with a necessarily defensive mentality. Fortifications were also another way of signalling each potential belligerent that Holland would defend itself against the others; for example, coastal fortifications would signal Germany that a British invasion would be resisted. And this is indeed what happened.(31)

At first glance, coastal fortifications might seem to have a rather obvious purpose: to defend the coast - primarily from the British, secondarily from the Germans, if the latter should formulate a plan to capture Dutch ports from the sea (as was indeed the case). But the biggest coast defense project - the planned fortification at Vlissingen - was aimed as much at the German mind as the British fleet. Vlissingen lies astride the Schelde river, which provides the sole sea access for Antwerp, Belgium. For geographical reasons, it is not a particularly promising place to invade the Netherlands. But the Schelde is the only way a British fleet carrying troops to relieve Belgium directly could go. The Netherlands was rightly concerned that a failure to defend the Schelde might be interpreted by Germany as a non-neutral position. In 1908 rumors even circulated in Holland that the Kaiser had threatened invasion in case of war if the Netherlands did not protect its coasts and harbors from the British. German pressure for the building of Dutch coast defenses apparently dated from somewhat earlier, during the prime ministership of Abraham Kuyper (1901-1905).(32)

The result was the initiation of an armored fort at Vlissingen that must rank as one of the oddest such project in modern military history. It was built facing one major power at the behest of another, who was actually the more likely violator of Dutch neutrality; it primarily harmed the strategic position of Belgium, a country with whom the Netherlands had long ties and from whom it certainly felt no threat (until after World War I); its construction began at a time when the emphasis was beginning to shift from fortifications building to the Field Army; and it was never finished. When the plan was made public in 1910, some newspapers understandably misread it as a "pro-German" action, especially as the Maas fortifications facing Germany were not strengthened (although they were in 1912-13 with the building of a new post near Maastricht near the German border).(33) Nor were the newspapers alone in their view. While the Netherlands defended the action as a normal, internal act of a sovereign state, Belgium, Britain and France argued that it threatened the ability of the guarantors of Belgian neutrality and independence to help Belgium in wartime. Germany, one of those guarantors, however, endorsed the fort.(34) Privately, British Foreign Minister Edward Grey understood that the fort was primarily to convince Germany of Holland's intent to protect its neutrality.(35) Nevertheless, the project cause "great consternation" in Belgian, French and British circles.(36)

The Vlissingen fort fared much better as a military-diplomatic signal than as an army post. Military opposition against the expensive and militarily marginal fort surfaced as soon as the plan became public, among others from Lt.-General W. G. F. Snijders, brother of the future wartime commander in chief, C. J. Snijders. The project would unquestionably place a drain on the military budget. The 1910 project provided for an 8-year, Fl. 40 million fort (at a time when the War Department had a budget of about Fl. 30 million per year), which would be followed by the construction of versperringen, devices designed to block the Schelde in wartime. Parliamentary criticism of Vlissingen might have been fatal if their had not been an anry reaction against French parliamentary attacks on the plan.(37) Public critiques even came from across the Atlantic, where the New York Outlook published articles criticizing the Dutch for spending on coast defense rather than fortifying the border with Germany, thereby making the Netherlands an extension of German military policy. There was even a hint (incorrectly) of a secret German-Dutch understanding. The articles even challenged the Dutch claim that fortifying Vlissingen (which the Outlook located at the wrong end of the country) was nothing more than a traditional act of sovereignty.(38) Even C. J. Snijders, a lifelong engineer devoted to fortification construction, increasingly supported spending on Field Army modernization, not fortification expansion.(39)

But the army was not uniformly opposed to the Vlissingen fort by any stretch of the imagination. In 1908 the chief of staff, F. M. Thiange, noted that failure to defend the province of Zeeland and its port of Vlissingen might create an excuse for one of Holland's neighbors to occupy the region; its defense had to be upgrade "in order to permit us to meet our international obligations." Gunfire, General Thiange, pointed out, could not alone block the Schelde.(40) Whatever the army's reservations, the fort plan clearly had its supporters. In any event, the Vlissingen fort caused the army few problems. In 1912, the Fl. 40 million plan became a Fl. 12 million plan; the Belgian objections faded away (until the post-World War I era); by 1914 only the foundations of the fort had been completed; and the building could not be continued because, in the ultimate irony, the fort's guns were never delivered - they had been ordered from ... the German Krupp firm.(41) As a strategic signal, however, the unbuilt fort outperformed many military projects around the world.

While the extensive and expensive Vlissingen project received wide publicity, other less publicized improvements were more important militarily. These included the expansion of installations in southern Limburg, the uvula-like appendage that was the country's most vulnerable spot; modernization of some of the forts along the waterlinie; recruitment, planning and intelligence, which will be discussed below; and improvements in weaponry, training, and organization (including the development of a series of mobilization telegrams, such as were used in other European states, which allowed a mobilization to proceed after only a few orders from the top[42]).

The main problem encountered with weaponry was the inevitable expense and controversy associated with buying the larger guns for forts and artillery. Foreign orders not only sent money abroad, but embroiled the government in domestic and diplomatic arguments. The purchase of guns from the German Krupp concern in 1907-9, for example, led to parliamentary accusations of favoritism because an official of the ministry of war had left to become an agent for Krupp, and French complaints that the purchase from Krupp, rather than French competitor Schneider-Creusot, was a quid pro quo for German concessions during the negotiation of a multilateral agreement.(43) The navy also considered ordering foreign-built warships, as bids were solicited in 1913-14 for a battleship in the 20-25 thousand ton range (only slightly smaller than those of Britain or Germany) but after the inevitable wartime cancellation, the navy changed its mind and ordered (post-war) some cruisers, which could be and were built in the Netherlands.(44)

A variety of other improvements ranged from the far-sighted to the mundane. Among the many reforms made in 1907 by war minister Staal (by which time the Netherlands correctly suspected that Germany was planning to cross Dutch Limburg in the next war, as will be discussed later) was the creation of a permanent peacetime headquarters for the field army.(45) The Netherlands was the only country in Europe to have such headquarters (every other army established it only in wartime).(46) This translated into a higher level of preparedness, necessary in a country as small as Holland. Grey uniforms were adopted before World War I, giving the Dutch soldier a fairly Germanic appearance.(47) The French army, by comparison, still marched to war wearing its flaming red trousers - with tragic consequences in 1914. War minister Colijn moved to shift funds from coast defense to improving the militia and increasing the size of the annual draft calls.(48) As will be seen later, much of the army's reform effort was concentrated in building the manpower base and establishing a decent militia.

In general, however, the Dutch as well as foreign observers saw no shortage of problems with the military establishment. Some of these problems were simply inherent in being a small country in a dangerous spot, especially when adherence to strict neutrality required that every spot be defended to some extent - even such a dangerously exposed spot as Limburg - when strictly military thinking might have dictated defending only the interior (in fact, the Belgian general staff told the British military attache in Brussels in 1906 that they did not expect the Dutch to attempt to defend Limburg[49]). Political support for bigger draft calls and budgets was lacking. Even the German ambassador commented (1902) that the unwillingness to spend on the army was a barrier to any potential German-Dutch alliance (favored by a few Dutch generals). How, after all, could the government build popular support for military strength without creating hysteria?(50)

The overall condition of the army itself also received much criticism. British Ambassador to the Netherlands A. Johnstone wrote in 1911 that "the defense system of Holland is an unsatisfactory condition . . . and in spirit, discipline and training [the army] is at the end of 1911 even inferior to what it was at the end of 1909." In 1912, the Belgian ambassador, A. A. Fallon, reported that moral was "deplorable," discipline "mediocre," and training of "poor quality."(51) The Belgians had reasons for their harsh views, although they were exaggerated. Even the Queen of the Netherlands had expressed concern (in 1905) about the shortness of training. Dutch War Minister Kool (1901) admitted to the Belgians that too much of the Field Army and the fortifications were 'old.'(52) The war ministry was described as "dull, narrow-minded, and bureaucratic," as well as inefficient.(53)

Specific problems were still obvious by wartime. When war broke out in 1914, the Field Army was still 10,000 soldiers, 540 NCOs and 570 officers shy of requirements, lacked having enough heavy artillery and modern machine guns, and had too few artillery shells and only two-thirds the estimated required number of rifle bullets. Instead of a thousand shells per modern field gun, as planned in 1912, the army only had 700. The organization of the Field Army was not ideal; while it had grown by 1914, it had retained a 4-division structure which, in the opinion of the wartime war minister, was unwieldy. While many soldiers' training periods had been lengthened to a reasonable 18 months by wartime, some soldiers had only 4 months. Officer education was too theoretical. An unusually high proportion of senior officers retired or left the army in 1913-14, including two thirds of the top commanders. While the Netherlands produced 3 outstanding aircraft designers in this era, it produced no aircraft; all three, including the famous A. Fokker, went abroad.(54) Many other items were in short supply and even the condition of the waterlinie was questioned.(55) Instructions for the putative commander in chief (a wartime position only) were not prepared until 1913. The first draft was clearly unconstitutional, and even the improved version led to all sorts of conflicts during the war.(56) Oddly enough, this legal/organizational problem was not resolved in time for World War II.(57)

These tales of woe should not be exaggerated. Not a single of the manpower/equipment problems, were unique to the Dutch army. No European power, for example, went to war with an adequate supply of shells. The "theoretical training" criticism does not ring true about a hard-working, stodgy engineer officer like C. J. Snijders, who endured the army's slow promotion process to become chief of staff in 1910 and wartime chief of staff in 1914.(58) But were the problems so great as to render Dutch resistance in wartime useless?

Apparently the picture was not so grim as the preceding litany makes it appear. Except for the uniformly negative Belgian view (perhaps stimulated by poor Belgian-Dutch relations in the pre-war era) most evaluations of the Dutch military fall into the "mixed" category. In 1906 Colonel Barnardiston would report to his British superiors that the Field Army lacked training to "act in large bodies," but emphasized that it was not a quantité negligeable(59), echoing the earlier views of Col. Repington. French and British observers generally gave the Dutch high marks for reforms, especially the 1911 strengthening of the bridge guards at Venlo, Roermond and Maastricht (all bridges which would essential to a German advance through Holland into Belgium), but remained skeptical of the Dutch army.(60) The Dutch government was more concerned about the German reaction, and believed (or perhaps only hoped) that the Germans had a higher opinion of the Dutch army than the Belgian Meuse fortifications,(61) which would lead the German army to stay safely south of Holland. Even though the Germans did in fact question the quality of the Dutch army,(62) Von Moltke chose to avoid the Netherlands because "a hostile Holland would mean a loss of the German right wing of such considerable forces that it would no longer have the necessary striking power against the west. The advance through Belgium could, in my view, only be carried out under the assumption of a strictly neutral Holland."(63) This was all the Dutch could have hoped for.

To persuade potential invaders to stay away, the Dutch army had to accomplish two things during a crisis; first, to mobilize forces rapidly, and second, to put enough troops into the field to appear credible. By and large, these goals were achieved. When the Dutch mobilized in 1914, they had almost 200,000 men under arms by the time the war reached western Europe, and 450,000 by the middle of the war. The population of the Netherlands by wartime was just over 6.2 million.(64) In other words, 3% of the population was in the army at war's outbreak, rising to 7% within two years. The German army and the Dutch parliament thought that the number mobilized in 1914 was closer to 300,000,(65) but for obvious reasons the Dutch army did not bother to correct this misconception.

Reaching this level of preparedness had been painful, necessitating extensive debates and legislation and arguments over the role of the reserves. The political arguments over the size and funding of the military had been particularly acrimonious during the major reform efforts of 1905-7 following the first Moroccan crisis.(66) Several cabinet crises in 1907-8 resulted from disputes over the length of military service and the size of the draft calls.(67) In 1908 a compromise was reached that allowed the army to call two groups per year into service,(68) which raised the number of recruits but did not resolve the length of service/training issue. In 1913 parliament approved a mobilization target of 370,000 troops, but the war broke out long before training and planning could catch up with this ambitious goal.(69)

This failure - retrospectively harmless as it may seem - was probably inevitable, given political conflict, but it is also traceable to the difficulty of agreeing on the size and structure of the reserves. The government even considered moving in the direction of citizen army (as a money-saving measure)(70) but this proposal effectively nowhere. This was just as well, because when war broke out in 1914, of the 400 volunteer associations known as weerbaarheidskorpsen and schietverenigingen, only 7 managed to actually produce units.(71)

Nevertheless, the system worked fairly well. Some 158,000 former draftees made up the bulk of the mobilized force. They were supplemented by another 14,000 1914 draftees, 6,000 retired personnel, 4,500 reservists, and 11,000 career soldiers. The mobilization might have completely overwhelmed the army but for the fact that 64% of the regular army and 58% of the reservists were either NCOs or officers, giving the establishment an experienced core.(72) The real tension was not about numbers but about whether to focus on quantity and quality - whether to increase the draft calls, or to call fewer men but keep them longer. But on the whole, the results were not too bad. The waterlinie could be defended by 200,000 soldiers,(73) and this the army would have when the crisis came. A 1901 change in the draft law had increased the annual contingent by 68% (7193 in 1901 to 12,072 in 1903); the 1912 draft law revision led to a 27% jump (14,515 in 1912 to 18,362 in 1914).(74) Numerically, reform had worked.

Successful deployment of this force was far from easy. Since the Netherlands would obviously not start the next war, the army might have to respond to an attack from an unexpected direction, without the luxury of time or space to make decisions. Retreating behind the watery inundations of the waterlinie into the Vesting Holland was regarded as an inevitable step after an invasion, but not before. Thiange concluded in 1908 that the Dutch army could slow down a German rush for the coast long enough for the British to intervene, thereby rendering a German invasion useless.(75) Unknown to Thiange, the Germans had come to the same conclusion more than a decade earlier, describing the Vesting Holland as "one of the strongest defensive positions in Europe"(76) - and this conclusion predates the improvements in the Netherlands army by the better part of a decade. The 1912 Dutch war plan specified that inundations could begin upon declaration of war or a declaration of danger of war.(77) Otherwise, a fast-moving enemy might cross the country before the water had done its job.

Because the army was required to dispute a border crossing at all points, however, the Field Army had to be deployed outside the Vesting. As a neutral state, Holland could not deploy too obviously against a particular neighbor, but had to position its troops and build its fortifications to appear completely neutral, while the at the same time preparing to face the most likely enemy - Germany. Technically, as a neutral state, Holland had no enemies, and the documents carefully avoid any official recognition of Germany as the main danger. Even Alfred Von Schlieffen, however, suspected that Holland was in reality closer to Britain than Germany; he saw the Netherlands as increasingly dependent on Britain for the security of its colonies, and he noted the expansion of defenses around Maastricht, in Limburg. He concluded that Germany could not longer count on "benevolent inaction" from the Netherlands in wartime.(78) On the latter point he was wrong, and fortunately for the Netherlands, his successor proved less paranoid about the Dutch.

Schlieffen was correct to guess at a developing Anglo-Dutch understanding, but failed to understand its origins. Dutch officials - and particularly Dutch officers - were not anti-German, but nor could they overlook the fact that Germany was potentially the greater threat - a view expressed by General Den Beer Portugael in 1900.(79) Of course, it made neither military nor diplomatic sense to ignore Britain's activities, such as its 1906 plan for making Antwerp its main base in wartime, thereby ignoring Dutch sovereignty over the waterway to Antwerp.(80) The Germans discovered that sovereignty over waterways was no minor issue for the Dutch, as shown by the Dutch refusal to allow a German warship to travel up the Rhine River for a royal festival.(81) On the other hand, the army operated on the assumption that the Netherlands would not be directly threatened by Germany.(82) The great fear was that the country would be dragged into the war, and Germany was the most likely country to cause such a disaster. It was probably no coincidence that the 1913 army maneuvers took place near the German border, and the 'enemy' forces are clearly German (although never named as such).(83) The army chief of staff in 1908 did consider the possibility of Britain using the southwestern province of Zeeland as a pathway to the anticipated Franco-German battlefield in Belgium,(84) but this possibility never seemed to rate as much attention as question of Germany's future behavior. This is reflected in the army's three 'cases,' ca. 1908: Germany (case 1), Belgium (case 2), and a rather vague 'other states' (case 3).(85) In 1906, the army had a slightly different set of cases, formulated in terms of likely pairs of opponents, but all assumed that Germany would be one of the combatants.(86)

Deploying exclusively against Germany, however, might violate neutrality, as well as exposing the coast to invasion. Locating the entire army in the center would make it appear that some areas would not be defended, increasing the risk of a hostile border crossing. Sending units to every corner of the country would rupture the command and control system, and in case of invasion it might be impossible to withdraw the troops behind the inundations in time. Nor could the decision be postponed to the last minute, as a rapid mobilization was an absolute requirement. To fulfill these requirements, The army's plans called for mobilized units to go to predetermined positions without further orders, with the field army ready to concentrate wherever required.(87)

Knowing that Germany was the greater threat did not solve the deployment problems. If the Germans were to come, where would this occur? That Limburg province was the most endangered could be seen by a glance at the map, especially as Dutch leaders were generally convinced that Germany would invade Belgium in the next war.(88) In essence, the Dutch army had to be deployed (a) neutrally, (b) against Germany as a whole, and (c) to protect Limburg, while still prepared to retreat to the Vesting. In the end, the four Field Army divisions were deployed in a rough square, with the 1st division along the North Sea coast, the 2nd in the east-central Netherlands, the 3rd in the south near the Belgian border, and the 4th in the east, just south of the 3rd, although it would be quickly moved to the south in the summer of 1914.(89) This way the central and southern Netherlands were reasonably well covered, but the divisions were close enough to each other to allow for concentration in case of a crisis.

This deployment, which met the immediate military and diplomatic requirements, had existed as an alternative since 1909. In 1908, the army was still deployed farther west, with a whole division posted in Zeeland.(90) Strategic thinking was changing, however. When C. J. Snijders became Chief of Staff (1910), the emphasis shifted from direct invasion to being drawn in to a war.(91) Discouraging a border crossing (such as a German crossing of Limburg to speed up the Schlieffen Plan) was viewed as more important (and likely) than battling a major invasion or having to retreat behind the water. This explains why the northeastern third of the country was relatively undefended (None of the divisional headquarters was located there[92]) and why 3/4 of the army was posted closely to the (correctly) anticipated scene of the crisis.

This still left the army with two geographical problems: the coast, and Limburg. Either Germany or Britain might land on the Netherlands coast to deny it to the other. As mentioned earlier, Germany did develop such a plan in 1897,(93) and the Dutch general staff assumed that this was so in 1908. In such a case, two divisions would be deployed to the coast.(94) After 1909 little consideration was given to such a possibility. Limburg, a potential pathway into Belgium, was considered far more endangered.

This fear was rational, because Schlieffen had indeed planned to violate Limburg on his way to violating Belgium. Annexing the whole southern Netherlands in wartime had been considered by Germany as early as the 1890s.(95) While nothing so grandiose faced the Netherlands in the early 1900s (aside from a spectacular post-retirement Schlieffen proposal), the need to convince foreign powers that Limburg would not become a German highway was essential. In 1909 the Dutch foreign minister assured the Belgians that although the city of Maastricht might not be defended, the Maas (Meuse) bridges would be blown, the river would be defended, and if that proved unsuccessful, the army would concentrate on the German army's communications.(96) In 1911 the same foreign minister told the English ambassador that two divisions, some 46,000 soldiers, would bar such an invasion(97) - a statement that was vague and to some extent misleading.

The army's actual preparations were quite extensive, especially in 1913-14.(98) By 1913 the army assigned parts of the 3rd division to the Limburg towns of Venlo, Roermond, and Maastricht. Since the local commanders would have to react swiftly, they were given broad authority to act without further instructions from headquarters, including the occupation and destruction of private property.(100) Detachments of "border guards" at all the border crossings were to report developments to the garrison commander at Maastricht. Small detachments were established to ensure the destruction of the great bridges across the Maas, and these soldiers reported directly to the supreme commander.(101) The war ministry's 1914 instructions also focused heavily on Limburg and the German border immediately to its north.(102) An earlier version of these plans for Limburg (ca. 1908-9) had also addressed the fate of the regiment posted at Maastricht, planning for it to leave the area after helping the local detachments.(103)

Ultimately, however, nothing a small state like the Netherlands could do military would ensure its safety. This depended on the actions and perceptions of the "great powers." Knowing the intentions of a potentially dangerous neighbor like Germany was essential. The Netherlands did not have a formal military intelligence apparatus until 1913, but this does not mean that information was not gathered. Diplomats, certain government ministers, and high-ranking officers obtained information about Germany, often through personal and informal contacts, and not necessarily to be found in the official archives; memoirs and papers contain references to information without listing the source.

The lack of formal military intelligence was not a sign of incompetence. Holland was more in need of information about Germany's intentions, than about its exact military strength, organization, etc. The great powers' military intelligence arms did not prevent the disasters of 1914 (and in the case of the French, even contributed to those disasters). The exact extent of Dutch leaders' knowledge cannot be determined, unfortunately, because, in the words of the founder of Dutch military intelligence, "they made few notes - many in the highest places made none at all."(104) General C. J. Snijders' biographer indicates that "Snijders was able, via private avenues, to secure the cooperation of several trustworthy individuals located abroad," but does not name them.(105) Minister of War Bosboom merely refers to his "individual, fairly trustworthy, German source" (who gave away the original Schlieffen plan).(106) Bosboom's papers do not clear up this matter either.

The Dutch army lacked an organized military intelligence arm because no need for it was felt, at least until Colijn became war minister. Nor organized service was in place before 1914. The instruction establishing the service was issued in 1913, but it did not come into existence until 25 June 1914,(107) only three days before the assassination of Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo began the fateful slide into World War I. Colijn began to ask "many questions" of Chief of Staff C. J. Snijders, which led the latter to authorize G.S. III - the general staff branch to be responsible for military intelligence. There is no evidence this early GS III had its own sources. Apparently the establishment of GS III did not end the gathering of information by other military departments and offices.(108) It is not clear from any surviving documents or memoirs who else collected information, however. The appointment of military attachés began in 1907, but apparently they were not formally used for information gathering.(109) Attempts were made to establish a border intelligence service to be activated in wartime, the kondschapdienst, technically reporting to the border police but in fact financed and responsible to the army.(110) Their purpose was to obtain information concerning events 'of a military nature' in adjoining lands, including troop strength, regimental numbers, weapons, and even the political feelings of people in those lands.(111)

This suggests a willingness to cross the borders in wartime. Apparently local army detachments were expected to do the same.(112) Indeed, when the war crisis began in 1914, the commandant at Maastricht sent a staff car across the border to Visé, Belgium, to see if German troops had invaded (apparently just missing the German spearheads).(113) But what about peacetime, to gain advance notice of German preparations? In the wake of the 1905 Moroccan crisis, the Dutch army sent a number of officers on expeditions into western Germany to check on troop concentrations and to learn the Germans' destinations (sometimes by simply asking). Sometimes these expeditions went into Belgium as well, in peacetime and wartime. In 1906, as the Moroccan crisis was winding down, Captain (later Major) M. D. A. Forbes-Wels observed troop movements in Liege.(114) Apparently he was checking on rumors of a German invasion.(115) Forbes-Wels' role is particularly interesting, because he would play a vital role in disseminating information about Germany's intentions in 1914. In one of the hazier expeditions, a Dutch major Thomson was killed in Albania in the summer of 1914.(116) Dutch officers did occasionally visit Austro-Hungarian military installations and armaments factories, but Thomson's activities in the region obviously went beyond that.

Typical of the more ambitious espionage trips, however, were those undertaken by Captain (later General) W. Roell who investigated German military preparations during the second Moroccan crisis (July-November 1911) by the simple expedient of taking the train to Germany and touring the southern Rhine valley. The best documented of these occurred on 29-31 August and 5 August. The longer trip began with orders received at 7:15 in the evening of the 29th; Roell left the Netherlands two hours later, and in the following day and a half visited Dusseldorf, Cologne, Coblenz, Trier, Oberhausen and Wesel - a 36 hour journey during which he examined the train stations, talked to German soldiers, viewed the garrison activity, and noted the units being mobilized.(117)

The informality of Dutch intelligence-gathering had its drawbacks. Any small power's intelligence capabilities are limited by its small bureaucracy and lack of intelligence specialization.(118) Snijders complained in 1911 that he got too much information from newspapers, magazines, and the ministry of war (showing what he thought of the latter!) and asked that foreign ministry reports be sent to the army.(119) The kondschapdienst did not fare well in 1914, as its members were turned back when they tried to enter Belgium. This mattered little, to the army, which showed its attitude toward the kondschapdienst in 1909 by not even bothering to issue identification 'badges' for the kondschappers.(120)

There is only one redeeming feature of the Netherlands' prewar intelligence gathering: it worked. The Netherlands knew about its inclusion in the 1906 Schlieffen plan (although not about its exclusion after 1909). Nor was this just a function of the idle overhearing of rumors. A 1913 report from an otherwise unidentified 'espionage bureau' in Switzerland purporting to show a planned German invasion through the northern Netherlands (Groningen and Friesland provinces) was quickly disregarded by the war minister as either an outright swindle (as money was being asked for) or a German attempt to mislead the Dutch army.(121) Military common sense led War Minister Bosboom, Chief of Staff Snijders, and the German Chief of Staff Schlieffen(122) to pick vulnerable Limburg as the danger spot, not northern Groningen and Friesland, which collectively constituted an invasion route to nowhere. Limburg contained vital east-west rail lines which would speed up the German army on its way to France.(123) For that matter, German military writers Freiherr Von Falkenhausen and Friedrich Von Bernhardi had discussed the inevitable violation of the low countries' neutrality, respectively, in 1909 and 1912, although Falkenhausen expected the violation of Holland to come from Britain.(124)

But the Dutch knowledge about the Schlieffen plan preceded the public German comments mentioned above, and also showed more prescience than can be explained by means of overheard rumors. In 1913-14 Snijders conducted map exercises which assumed (a) a Russo-Austrian war resulting from a Balkan crisis, followed by (b) a French-German conflict, (c) a German crossing of Belgium, which (d) was then halted in Northern France, and (e) a British intervention due to the violation of Belgium and Luxembourg. In fact, many Dutch officers had a sense of déjà vu during the July-August 1914 crisis; "One of them said later, that he only had to look in his blue notebook to experience, what the next event would be."(125) Some of this could be dismissed as the result of inspired reading of good newspapers, but it does not fit with the image of ineptitude promoted by some Dutch historians of this period. Nor does it square with other documented examples of Dutch knowledge. For example, the Dutch army was able to decipher both British and German codes in World War I.(126) If the kondschappers failed in 1914, the border police were remarkably well informed about German movements in August.(127) Roell's 1911 reports reveal a fairly precise knowledge about the structure and organization of the German army corps located near the Netherlands.(128) During the 1906 war scare, the Dutch general staff was precisely informed on even such a detail as the size of the potential British expeditionary force.(129) Nor can Snijders' complaint regarding a lack of information be taken at face value. In 1906, the Dutch general staff did not pay attention to the possibility of a German invasion,(130) contrasting to the increasing focus on such a possibility from 1908 on. In other words, Bosboom's information regarding the Schlieffen plan must have been disseminated to the rest of the army.

Responding to threats: Diplomacy and mobilization

The Netherlands could not, however, rely on its military preparations alone. Only if all major powers were convinced of Holland's intention to remain neutral could war be avoided. In a sense, the Dutch government went somewhat beyond this, trying to persuade both Britain and Germany that in wartime it would take a 'neutral but friendly' position. This was made easier by a long history of good relations with both powers. Official military contacts were avoided. In 1906, the Minister of War (General Staal) told a German newspaper that he had deliberately refused to receive British military attachés.(131) This was easy to do, because no country other than Belgium ever sought military ties with the Netherlands, and of the major powers, Britain was unlikely to do so.

Matters with Germany were more delicate. Prime Minister Abraham Kuyper (1901-1905) sought a closer relationship with Germany, even sending three Dutch warships to Tangier during the first Moroccan crisis, an gesture viewed as pro-German.(132) Kuyper conducted his own, allegedly pro-German, foreign policy, unusual for a prime minister but allegedly occurring because his foreign minister was "as weak as he was incompetent." Kuyper's actions, as well as his official visits to the Central Powers, however, were not so much to get closer to Germany as a recognition of the reality of the German threat (Kuyper may also have taken this up with the King of the Belgians, Leopold II[133]). In 1906, for example, 11 regiments of German troops massed near the Dutch border hoping to cross the narrow Limburg appendage in case of war. In 1908, rumors circulated that Wilhelm II had threatened action if Holland did not do more to protect its ports from a potential invasion.(134) Public accusations were made in Parliament in 1909 and 1910 that Wilhelm had also threatened to occupy the Netherlands in case of war with the Netherlands.(135)

The atmosphere was tense by the time the 1911 Moroccan crisis occurred. Germany still thought Britain might occupy Holland in case of war, and it did little to calm Dutch feelings when the German war minister, general Von Heeringen, listed Belgium and the Netherlands in his 1911 army bill.(136) No warships were sent, but the British were told that the Dutch army was prepared to stop any invasion.(137) The Dutch 3rd division was dispatched for maneuvers along the German border.(138) Germany protested, describing the Dutch action as a "mobilization." Secret talks were held with Belgian, British and French officials to discover their intentions, while not releasing any details of Dutch military plans.(139)

The 1911 experience paid dividends in army reform, as we have seen above, but did it improve the Netherlands' handling of crises? Military preparations and public mobilization to signal the country's intent to defend itself were used in 1911, and they would be used again when war finally came to Europe. Secret actions, such as allegedly taken in 1904,(140) were ineffective to deter attacks. Instead, the army's instructions of 1912 allowed for a number of pre-mobilization steps to be taken in "times of political tensions."(141) Despite reservations about the cost, the Dutch government mobilized its army with extraordinary speed in 1914, before any western European country had done so.(142) As the landweer was already under arms before official mobilization, the government only had to decide not to send it home. There was a moment of hesitation on July 29 when the Dutch minister of foreign affairs proposed a Dutch-Belgian arrangement, which Belgium rejected; when on August 3 the Belgians made a similar proposal, the Dutch ignored them (having received assurances from Germany by this time) and instead informed the Belgians (August 5) that the Schelde river route to Antwerp would be closed to military traffic. This may have triggered British foreign minister Grey obliquely threat to the Netherlands on August 5, with an "against us or for us" message; the following day, however, he conceded the Dutch view that an Anglo-Dutch military alliance would only trigger an immediate German invasion, and he also agreed not to send warships up the Schelde.(143) For the time being, the Netherlands had negotiated the dangers.


Was the Netherlands' avoidance of conflict in 1914 due to its preparations, signals and diplomacy, or merely luck, as some have suggested?(144) Certainly the Dutch army's improvements can not alone be credited with the ability to avoid one of the great disasters of the twentieth century. The foreign minister even rejected a British alliance offer in 1914 by arguing that the Dutch army could not stop a German invasion.(145) Building a really good army was tough in a country with a long tradition of anti-military attitudes.(146) But even those who have minimized the condition of the military in 1914 concede that the overall policies and actions of the Netherlands did have an impact.(147) The atmosphere had not yet deteriorated to the point where all actions were subordinated to the demands of the soldiers.

The Netherlands demonstrated in this era that a small state can take steps to control its own destiny, even though it recognizes that circumstances may destroy its best plans (as is also true for larger nations). The Dutch government and its military establishment approached their problems realistically. Hampered by their necessary neutrality, unable to name even in many documents their most likely adversaries, and working with limited resources and uneven public support, Dutch leaders did a creditable job of analysis, preparation, and signalling their intentions to defend themselves against all comers.

The unhappier legacy of all this was that the Netherlands would approach the World War II crisis in a mechanical way, repeating many of the actions taken up to 1914 without studying how the situation had changed. During World War I, the Netherlands remained carefully aware of how things were changing in Germany, and knew about the increasing risks to Dutch neutrality as the German army and its chief of staff, Ludendorff, gained influence in 1916-1918.(148) In 1940, as World War II approached the low countries, "the country had become dangerously detached from international realities and the nation was unprepared mentally, morally and militarily."(149) No such charge could ever be made about the Netherlands on the eve of World War I.

Hubert van Tuyll
Augusta College


1. C. Smit, Nederland in the Eerste Wereldoorlog (1899-1919), vol. I, Het Voorspel (1899-1914) (Groningen: Wolters-Noordhoff, 1971), 23. The flooding would only protect the provinces of North and South Holland, parts of Utrecht and Zeeland, and a small piece of North Brabant.

2. Hermann von der Dunk, Die Niederlande im Kräftespiel Zwischen Kaiserreich und Entente (Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner, 1980), 29.

3. The assumption was, of course, that this intervention would take place, but the experience of the world wars proved that Dutch military and foreign policy thinking was not too far afield. Before World War I, Germany did indeed contemplate using Holland as a passageway; in World War II, Germany did in fact invade the Netherlands partly because it feared that Holland would become a British base; and the French did send their best mobile army to bail out the Netherlands in 1940.

4. Ph. M. Bosscher, "Oorlogsvaart," 315-355 in R. Baetens, Ph. M. Bosscher, and H. Reuchlin, eds., Maritieme Geschiedenis der Nederlanden, vol. 4, Tweede Helft negentiende eeuw en twintigste eeuw, van 1850-1870 tot ca. 1970 (Bussum: De Boer Maritiem, 1978, 318. One additional consideration was the maintenance of the Koninklijk Nederlandsch Indisch Leger, the force which occupied the Dutch East Indies.

5. D. van den Berg, Cornelist Jacobus Snijders (1852-1939): Een leven in dienst van zijn Land en zijn Volk (Den Haag: Reverdeen, 1949), 10-11, 77-78, 81. Snijders' father was a doctor. Three of Snijders' brothers became officers, including 2 generals: an astounding proportion for a non-noble Dutch family.

6. A. S. de Leeuw, Nederland in de Wereldpolitiek van 1900 tot heden 2nd ed. (Amsterdam: Pegasus, 1939 [1936]), 156-57. Van Ermel Scherer was denouncing the very restrictive budget planning that weakened the Dutch military between the two world wars. The German decision to avoid the Netherlands was not taken, however, until 1909.

7. J. Grolleman and J. C. Ruiter, "Interne en externe invloeden op de legerforming in Nederland van 1870 tot 1920" (Breda: Koninklijke Militaire Academie, unpublished paper, May 1981), 22.

8. J. A. van Hamel, Nederland Tusschen de Mogendheden: De Hoofdtrekken van het Buitenlandsch Beleid en de Diplomatieke Geschiedenis van on Vaderland sinds Deszelfs Onafhankelijke Volksbestaan Onderzocht (Amsterdam: Van Holkema & Warendorf, 1918), 423. The brigades in question were stationed at Delfzijl and Groningen. Since it is doubtful that Germany was really concerned about the presence of two brigades of Dutch soldiers on its northwestern frontier, it is probable that the Germans were concerned that the Netherlands viewed Germany as a threat - which ran counter to the wishes of the German foreign ministry in this era.

9. J. A. A. H. de Beaufort, Vijftig Jaren uit onze Geschiedenis 1868-1918 (Amsterdam: P. N. van Kampen & Zoon, 1928), I:17.

10. J. Woltring, ed., Bescheiden Betreffende de Buitenlandse Politiek van Nederland 1848-1919: Tweede Periode, 1871-1898, vol. 2, 1874-1880 ('s-Gravenhage: Martinus Nijhoff, 1965), 357-61, 367-70, 376-80, 385-86. The Dutch foreign ministry was internally divided about how to respond. Ibid., 393-96.

11. Ambassador Rochussen to Netherlands Foreign Ministry, 3 July 1878, in Woltring, 1874-1880.

12. Gerhard Ritter, The Schlieffen Plan: Critique of a Myth (New York: Praeger, 1958), 21. 13. de Leeuw, Nederland in de Wereldpolitiek, 47.

14. C. Smit, Nederland in de Eerste Wereldoorlog (1899-1919), vol. 2, 1914-1917 (Groningen: Wolters Noordhoff, 1972), 139.

15. Smit, Het Voorspel, 27.

16. Smit, Het Voorspel, 140-41; de Beaufort, Vijftig Jaren, II: 276-77.

17. Smit, Het Voorspel, 26-27.

18. James John Porter, "Dutch Neutrality in Two World Wars" (Ph.D. dissertation, Boston University, 1980), 38.

19. de Beaufort, Vijftig Jaren, II: 274-75; Smit, Het Voorspel, 27.

20. de Beaufort, Vijftig Jaren, 276-77; Smit, Het Voorspel, 140-41.

21. Horst Lademacher, Zwei Ungleiche Nachbarn: Wege und Wandlungen der deutsch-niederlädischen Beziehungen im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1989), 95.

22. C. Smit, Diplomatieke Geschiedenis van Nederland Inzonderheid Sedert de Vesting van het Koninkrijk ('s-Gravenhage: Martinus Nijhoff, 1950), 299.

23. Porter, "Dutch Neutrality," 94.

24. "Denkbeeld den Chef van den Generalen Staf in verband met handhaving van neutraliteit en mobilisatie van Nederland in een conflict Engeland-Duitschland, 25 Nov. 1908, Algemeen Rijksarchief, Tweede Afdeling (herinafter ARA-II), Koninklijke Landmacht-Archief van het Veldleger, nr. toegang 2.13.16.

25. Porter, "Dutch Neutrality," 98.

26. M. J. van der Flier, War Finances in the Netherlands up to 1918 (London: Clarendon, 1923), 15.

27. Porter, "Dutch Neutrality," 99.

28. P. M. Bosscher, Oorlogsvaart, 333-335.

29. van den Berg, Cornelis Jacobus Snijders, 71.

30. "De Duitsche operatien in Belgie en Frankrijk tot 7 October 1914" (n.d.), report by Lt. H. A. C. Fabius, Hoofdkwartier Veldleger, ARA-II.

31. Germany accused Belgium of a one-sided strategy because the Belgian fortifications all faced Germany, not France. The German criticism was hardly sincere, as only one of Belgium's great neighbors seriously contemplated an invasion. The German concern about the Netherlands' safety from a British incursion [aimed at the German rear] was more honest.

32. A. S. de Leeuw, Nederland in de werelpolitiek van 1900 tot heden, 2nd ed. (Amsterdam: Pegasus, 1939 (1936)), 94, 125.

33. de Beaufort, Vijftig Jaren, II: 160-61.

34. van Hamel, Nederland Tusschen de Mogendheden, 444. The Netherlands was not a guarantor of Belgium's independence, but did have such a treaty with Luxembourg. Fortunately for the peace of mind of Dutch diplomats, Luxembourg did not raise this issue in 1914.

35. Porter, "Dutch Neutrality," 84. The German Army chief of staff after 1906, H. Von Moltke, did conclude that Holland intended to defend its neutrality against all comers. Porter, 82.

36. Gerhard Ritter, The Schlieffen Plan: Critique of a Myth (New York: Praeger, 1958 (1956), 84n. 37. de Leeuw, Nederland in de wereldpolitiek, 126, 133-34.

38. E. F. Baldwin to Dutch Minister (Washington), January 3 and January 4, 1911, Collectie Loudon, ARA-II, nr. toegang 21.205.37.

39. W. Klinkert, "De Nederlandse mobilisatie in 1914," 24-33 in W. Klinkert, J. W. M. Schulten, and Luc de Vos, eds., Mobilisatie in Nederland en Belgie: 1870-1914-1939 (Amsterdam: De Bataafsche Leeuw, 1991), 29.

40. Memorandum from F. N. Thiange to the Minister of War, 28 July 1908, Koninklijke Landmacht-Archief van het Veldleger, ARA-II, nr. toegang 2.13.16, pp. 3, 4, 6.

41. de Leeuw, Nederland in the wereldpolitiek, 140-41.

42. "Opgave van de door den Minister van Oorlog te geven bevelen en te nemen of uit te lokken maatregelen en besluiten, ingevolge der "Strategische aanwijzingen" (1913) en andere voorschriften of wettelijke bepalingen" (geheim) (n.d. but probably early 1914), Collectie N. Bosboom, ARA-II, nr. toegang 2.21.027.

43. de Leeuw, Nederland in de wereldpolitiek, 119-122. The treaty was known as the North Sea Convention. Overlooked in these accusations was Krupp's reputation in the area of heavy weapons; Belgium ordered from the Germans as well.

44. Anthonie van Dijk, "The Drawingboard Battleships for the Royal Netherlands Navy," Warship International 26 (No. 4 1989), 395-403.

45. Grolleman and Ruiter, "Interne en externe invloeden," 24.

46. Klinkert, "De Nederlandse mobilisatie van 1914," 30.

47. M. W. F. Treub, Oorlogstijd: Herinneringen en indrukken (Haarlem: Tjeenk Willink, 1916), 36-37.

48. de Leeuw, Nederland in de Wereldpolitiek, 132.

49. Lt. Col. N. W. Barnardiston, report dated 1906, in G. P. Gooch and Harold Temperley, eds., British Documents on the Origin of the War 1898-1914, vol. 3, The Testing of the Entente 1904-1906 (London: HMSO, 1928), 217, 221, cited in de Leeuw, Nederland in de wereldpolitiek, 117.

50. Smit, 1899-1914, 13-14, 139-145.

51. Porter, "Dutch Neutrality," 97.

52. Smit, 1899-1914, 27, 28.

53. S. L. van der Wal, ed., Herinneringen van Jhr. Mr. B. C. de Jonge: Met brieven uit zijn nalatenschap (Utrecht: Het Historisch Genootschap, 1968 (Groningen: Wolters-Noordhoff, 1968)), 10, 11. When the future Minister de Jonge became a civil servant at the war ministry in 1910, he found unanswered requests from 1881 in his office.

54. N. Bosboom, In moeilijke omstandigheden: Augustus 1914 - Mei 1917 (Gorinchem: J. Noorduyn & Zoon, 1933), 30-34, 40, 44, 95-96, 140.

55. Smit, Nederland in de Eerste Wereldoorlog (1899-1919), vol. 3, 1917-1919 (Groningen: Wolters-Noordhoff, 1973), 16-17.

56. van de Wal, Herinneringen, 12-14.

57. See Frederic S. Pearson, The Weak State in International Crisis: The Case of the Netherlands in the German Invasion Crisis of 1939-1940 (Washington, DC: University Press of America, 1981). 58. Berg, Cornelis Jacobus Snijders, 54-66. He was one of only two officers to reach the general staff without attending the Hoogere Krijgsschool; the other was the wartime war minister, N. Bosboom, who raised the "theoretical training" argument in the first place. Berg, 62.

59. Lt. Col. N. W. Barnardiston to Maj. Gen. J. M. Grierson, 3 March 1906; idem, 17 March 1906, in Gooch and Temperly, British Documents, vol. 3, 192, 193-95.

60. See for example Klinkert, Het Vaderland verdedigd: Plannen en opvatting over de verdediging van Nederland 1874-1914 (Den Haag: Sectie Militaire Geschiedenis, 1992), 433.

61. Smit, 1914-1917, 4.

62. See for example Klinkert, Het Vaderland verdedigd, 423 (citing L. Von Falkenhausen, Der grosse Krieg der Jetzheit (1909).

63. H. Von Moltke, Erinnerungen Briefe Dokumente 1877-1916 (1922), 429-31, cited in de Leeuw, Nederland in de wereldpolitiek, 62-64, and Porter, "Dutch Neutrality," 82.

64. van der Flier, War Finances, 13, 36.

65. Smit, 1914-1917, 22.

66. Smit, 1899-1914, 139-145.

67. de Beaufort, Vijftig Jaren, II: 108-21.

68. Smit, 1899-1914, 147-48.

69. Porter, "Dutch Neutrality," 98.

70. de Beaufort, Vijftig Jaren, II: 108.

71. Bosboom, In moeilijke omstandigheden, 50-51.

72. Bosboom, Moeilijke omstandigheden, 29-30. Percentages based on author's calculations.

73. Smit, 1899-1914, 26-27. Queen Wilhelmina favored the long-service approach.

74. "Figuratieve Schets, aanduidende de verhouding tusschen de dienstplichtigen en de vrijgestelden uit de ingeschrevenen voor de militie, lichtingen 1896-1915" (n.d.), Collectie N. Bosboom, ARA-II. Calculations are author's.

75. "Denkbeelden den Chef van de Generalen Staf in verband met handhaving van neutraliteit en mobilisatie van Nederland in een conflict Engeland-Duitschland" (25 November 1908), Koninklijke Landmacht - Archief van het Veldleger, ARA-II, Algemeen Rijksarchief, nr. toegang 2.13.16, pp. 3-4.

76. "Memorandum: An Operation against Antwerp" (Berlin, November 1897; authored by a Captain Schroeder), in Jonathan Steinberg, "A German Plan for the Invasion of Holland and Belgium, 1897)," The Historical Journal 6 (No. 1 1963): 115.

77. "Addendum, Instructie No. 5 (1912), for commander der infanterie te Maastricht," ARA-II, Koninklijke landmacht - Archief van het Veldleger.

78. Ritter, The Schlieffen Plan, 73.

79. Smit, 1899-1914, 11.

80. Ritter, The Schlieffen Plan, 84n, citing British Documents on the Origins of the War, vol. 3, 195. 81. van Hamel, Nederland Tusschen de Mogendheden, 445.

82. "Handhaving onzer neutraliteit in geval van een oorlog tusschen Duitschland en Engeland" (10 October 1908), Koninklijke Landmacht: Algemeen Hoofkwartier, ARA-II, nr. toegang

83. Communique "Divisie Oostpartij" (21 Sept. 1913), and march orders (2nd div.) (21 Sept. 1913), Koninklijke Landmacht - Hoofdkwartier Veldleger, ARA-II, nr. toegang 2.13.16.

84. Memorandum, F. N. Thiange to Minister of War, 28 July 1908, Koninklijke Landmacht - Archief van het Veldleger, ARA-II.

85. "Aanwijzingen voor het veldleger," Koninklijke Landmacht, Algemeen Hoofkwartier, ARA-II.

86. "Strategische oefeningen 1906," Koninklijke Landmacht, Algemeen Hoofdkwartier, ARA-II.

87. Chef der Generale Staf aan Commandant Veldleger (10 October 1913), Koninklijke Landmacht - Archief van het Veldleger, ARA-II.

88. de Beaufort, Vijftig Jaren, II: 218.

89. Berg, Cornelis Jacobus Snijders, 107.

90. Memorandum "Mobilization"(19 Dec. 1908), Koninklijke Landmacht - Archief van het Veldleger, ARA-II.

91. Berg. Cornelis Jacobus Snijders, 71; Klinkert, "De Nederlandse mobilisatie van 1914," 29.

92. "Mobilisatie: concentratie van het veldleger in een bepaald geval 1909). Hoofdkwartier Veldleger, ARA-II, grp. 59, Doss. 305.

93. Apparently to deny the British the use of any of the channel ports. "Memorandum: An Operation against Antwerp," in Steinberg, "A German Plan," 116.

94. "Handhaving onzer neutraliteit in geval van een oorlog tusschen Duitschland en Engeland" (10 October 1908), Koninklijke Landmacht, Algemeen Hoofdkwartier, ARA-II.

95. "Memorandum: An Operation against Antwerp," in Steinberg, "A German Plan," 117-118. 96. Smit, 1899-1914, 121.

97. de Leeuw, Nederland in de Wereldpolitiek, 139, citing British Documents, vol. 8, nos. 599 and 600.

98. de Leeuw, Nederland in de Wereldpolitiek, 143.

99. Chef der Generale Staf to Commandant Veldleger, 10 October 1913; "Afwachtingsopstelling 3de Divisie," 10 October 1913, Koninklijke Landmacht - Archief van het Veldleger, ARA-II. 100. Addendum to instruction No. 5 (1912) for infantry commander at Maastrict, Koninklijke Landmacht - Archief van het Veldleger, ARA-II.

101. "Dienstinstructie" to infantry commander at Maastricht No. 5 (18 March 1912), Koninklijke Landmacht - Archief van het Veldleger, ARA-II.

102. "Opgave," Collectie Bosboom, AR-II, p. 4.

103. "Aanwijzingen voor het veldleger," Koninklijke Landmacht - Algemeen Hoofdkwartier, ARA-II.

104. H. A. C. Fabius, "De Inlichtingen dienst van den Generalen Staf," 196-212 in Bijdragen voor Vaderlandsche Geschiedenis en Oudheidkunde (Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, n.d.), 200.

105. Berg, Cornelis Jacobus Snijders, 72.

106. Bosboom, In moeilijke omstandigheden, 23.

107. P. J. van Diesen, "Nederlandse Inlichtingendiensten tussen 1914 en 1940" (The Hague: Sectie Militaire Geschiedenis, n.d.), 1.

108. M. de. Meier, "Geheime Dienst in Nederland 1912-1947" (Internal unpublished classified history of the Binnenlandse Vijligheids Dienst (Internal Security Service of the Netherlands), n.d., 1, 3.

109. Capt. A. J. Vinke, "De Nederlandse Militaire Attaché 1907-1923 (Unpublished paper in Algemeen Rijksarchief library, the Hague: 1984), ii, 33.

110. C . J. Snijders, "Aanwyzingen, betreffende de kondschapsdienst, ingevolge punt 126 van de strategische aanwyzingen 1913" (15 November 1913),Archief van de Generale Staff, ARA-II. Regarding the financial arrangements, see also Bosboom, "Opgave," 3.

111. "Aanwijzing nopens den Kondschapsdienst" (14 May 1906), Koninklijke Landmacht: Algemeen Hoofdkwartier, ARA-II, Nr. toegang

112. "Aanwijzingen voor het veldleger" (n.d. but probably 1908-1909), Koninklijke Landmacht: Algemeen Hoofkwartier, ARA-II.

113. Commander 3rd Division (van Terwisga) to Headquarters Field Army, 3 August 1914, Koninklijke Landmacht - Hoofkwartier Veldleger, ARA-II, nr. toegang 2.13.16.

114. Forbes-Wels to General Staff, 24 January 1906, Koninklijke Landmacht: Algemeen Hoofkwartier, ARA-II.

115. W. Klinkert, Het Vaderland verdedigd: Plannen en opvattingen over de verdediging van Nederland 1874-1914 (Den Haag: Sectie Militaire Geschiedenis, 1992), 432.

116. P. H. Ritter, De Donkere Poort ('s-Gravenhage: Daamen's, 1931), 9-10.

117. Secret reports of reconnaissances of VII and VIII German Army Corps garrisons (5 August and 31 August 1911), Collectie Roell, Algemeen Rijksarchief, Nr. toegang 21.000.

118. See for example, Frederic S. Pearson, The Weak State in International Crisis: The Case of the Netherlands in the German Invasion Crisis of 1939-1940 (Washington, DC: University Press of America, 1981), 19.

119. Vinke, "De Nederlandse militaire attaché," 34.

120. Koninklijke Marechausee to Field Army (August 10, 1914); Commander 2nd Division to Field Army (24 September 1909) and Memorandum in reply (27 September 1909), Koninklijke Landmacht-Hoofkwartier Veldleger, ARA-II. The 'badges' (penningen, actually a kind of coin-like insignia) would have been highly desired by the kondschappers, giving them some official status in return for their volunteering for service.

121. Bosboom, In moeilijke omstandigheden, 23; Smit, 1914-1917, 4.

122. Schlieffen saw the violation of all three 'low countries' as a collective inevitability. Memorandum from Alfred Von Schlieffen, "War against France" (December 1905), published in Gerhard Ritter, The Schlieffen Plan, 136.

123. Arden Bucholz, Moltke, Schlieffen, and Prussian War Planning (Oxford: Berg, 1991), 202.

124. Jehuda L. Wallach, The Dogma of the Battle of Annihilation: The Theories of Clausewitz and Schlieffen and Their Impact on the German Conduct of Two World Wars (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1986), 117, 139.

125. Berg, Cornelis Jacobus Snijders, 69-71.

126. de Meier, Geheime Dienst, 25.

127. Telegram, Grenswacht to Field Army Headquarters, 11 August 1914, Koninklijke Landmacht - Hoofdkwartier Veldleger, ARA-II.

128. Notes in Roell file inv. nr. 29, Collectie Roell, ARA-II.

129. Staff meeting minutes of 6 February 1906, Koninklijke Landmacht: Algemeen Hoofkwartier, ARA-II.

130. "Vervolg van de punten van bespreking bij de strategische oefeningen 1906," Koninklijke Landmacht: Algemeen Hoofkwartier, ARA-II.

131. de Leeuw, Nederland in de Wereldpolitiek, 118-19. The paper was the Vossische Zeitung. 132. Porter, "Dutch Neutrality," 59.

133. de Beaufort, Vijftig Jaren, II: 4.

134. de Leeuw, Nederland in de wereldpolitiek, 45, 71, 94.

135. de Beaufort, Vijftig Jaren, II: 157-59.

136. Bucholz, Moltke, Schlieffen, and Prussian War Planning, 261, 263. This was probably aimed at justifying the German army's demands for a numerical expansion, as it regarded itself as too small - with some reason.

137. Smit, Diplomatieke geschiedenis van Nederland, 299.

138. de Leeuw, Nederland in de Wereldpolitiek, 138.

139. Porter, "Dutch Neutrality," 94-96.

140. de Leeuw, Nederland in de wereldpolitiek, 102-3.

141. "Dienstinstructie aan de commandant der infanterie te Maastricht, No. 5, 1912" (18 March 1912), Koninklijke Landmacht - Archief van het Veldleger, ARA-II, Nr. toegang 2.13.16. 142. Treub, Oorlogstijd, 11.

143. Smit, 1914-1917, 1, 4, 6-9.

144. G. C. A. Fabius, De verhouding tussen volk en weermacht (Amsterdam: van Holkema & Warendorf, 1916), 7.

145. Porter, "Dutch Neutrality," 113.

146. For example, see P. H. Ritter, De Donkere Poort, 20 ("Het militair element begon met zijn wapenen te rommelen"), and the lack of enthusiasm for mobilization, 30-31.

147. de Leeuw, Nederland in de wereldpolitiek, 157-160.

148. Smit, Diplomatieke geschiedenis, 313, 315, 317-18.

149. S. I. P. van Campen, "How and Why the Netherlands joined the Atlantic Alliance (Part 1)," NATO Review (August 1982), 9.

Created: Wednesday, June 24, 1998, 16:01 Last Updated: Wednesday, June 24, 1998, 16:01