These days, the Netherlands is a partner with us both in the EU and in NATO, and many Brits don’t really think of the Netherlands as being an area we have invaded much. But, of course, we have. A lot. Sometimes to help the Dutch, but sometimes to fight them. Mind you, some of our early military ventures into the area weren’t about either fighting against the Dutch or even alongside them. Like at Battle of Sluys in 1340, it was the French we beat, destroying most of their fleet.
In the late sixteenth century, the Netherlands was an area of major strategic interest for us. After the Treaty of Nonsuch gave England a serious say in Dutch affairs (and also paved the way for the dispatch of the Spanish Armada against us), in 1585 and 1586 Elizabeth sent two armies under Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester, to fight in the Netherlands in support of the locals against the Spanish. The poet and soldier Sir Philip Sidney (who also happened to be a relative of Dudley’s) briefly ended up as governor of Flushing (one of a number of Dutch towns that had English garrisons) and in July 1586 he successfully attacked Spanish forces near Axel, before eventually getting shot at the Battle of Zutphen and dying shortly afterwards at Arnhem, a place that is particularly special in British history because of events there during a much more recent war.
By the middle of the seventeenth century, things were getting a little less friendly between us and the Dutch. In fact, a lot less friendly.
The First Anglo-Dutch war of 1652–54 saw naval actions both in English and Dutch waters.
Then we (sort of) lost the Second Anglo-Dutch war of 1665–67.
Subsequently, in the Third Anglo-Dutch War of 1672–74 we tried to get our own back with a planned invasion of the Netherlands, working with the French. It was all a bit messy (and not very successful), and included assorted naval actions in Dutch waters, like two Battles of the Schooneveld and the Battle of Texel. During this war, the Duke of Monmouth led a brigade of troops accompanying the French invasion of the Netherlands, and they were present at the Siege of Maastricht in 1673.
Then, in 1688, William III left the Netherlands to become king over here, which obviously changed relations between us and the Netherlands. For most of the eighteenth century we tended to be on the same side as the Netherlands in assorted wars. For instance, in the War of the Spanish Succession, Marlborough commanded Dutch troops as well as English. And we were on the same side again in the War of the Austrian Succession, even though it wasn’t an entirely successful war from our point of view. A British force under the Duke of Cumberland, along with our Dutch allies, was defeated near the borders of what is now the Netherlands, just outside Maastricht, in 1747 at the Battle of Laufeld.
Eventually, the love affair between us and the Dutch wore off. In 1780–84 we fought another war against the Dutch, instead of alongside them, and blockaded the Dutch coast and temporarily occupied a fair number of the territories they controlled in the East. During much of the French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic Wars, the Netherlands was firmly on the side of the French. This led to some invasions by us, ones that few Brits have ever heard of.
How many Brits know about the British and Russian expedition to Holland in 1799? Yep, there was one. An expeditionary force of Russian and British troops landed on the North Holland Peninsula and won assorted engagements, including the Battle of Callantsoog and the Battle of Krabbendam, before being forced to withdraw.
Then in 1809 there was the Walcheren Campaign. This was a bit of a disaster. In fact, a lot of a disaster. The idea was to open another front against France. Indeed in July 1809 we took something like 40,000 troops accompanied by thousands of horses and loads of artillery across the sea to invade the Dutch island of Walcheren. The campaign accomplished a few things, like, for, example, taking Flushing in August, but large numbers died from disease and generally the brief invasion was a huge and costly failure. After the Napoleonic Wars, things settled down between us and the Dutch, and it wasn’t until the Second World War that we invaded the Netherlands again, this time to help free the Dutch. After assorted military activity in the Netherlands during the war, including sending support for Dutch resistance groups, in the second half of 1944 British forces along with other Allied units were advancing towards the Netherlands.
In September 1944, Operation Market Garden was launched and the bravery of the Allied troops involved liberated significant parts of the Netherlands, but left a lot of the country under German control after the tragic events at Arnhem. In October 1944, there was heavy fighting around Overloon. At the end of October and beginning of November, British forces, including troops from the British Special Service Brigade, were once again invading the island of Walcheren, this time along with Canadian troops. The last German forces in the Netherlands did not surrender until May 1945.