The token remnants of the Dutch Cavalry
The Royal Netherlands Army had a long and celebrated horse cavalry tradition that included three historic hussar (huzaren) regiments (Regiment Huzaren 1st Van Sytzama, 2nd Prins van Oranje and 3rd Prins Alexander), dating back to cuirassier units first organized by Napoleon back in 1810 (though other Dutch cavalry units went back much further). They ditched their horses after 135 years for tanks after 1945 (building to over 900 main battle tanks by 1985), but overtime all three of these units were disbanded– though a small measure of each remain.
Shown exercising on the beach near the Van Der Valk restaurant and casino, Sassenheim, Netherlands is the Cavalerie Ere-Escorte.
The Ere-Escorte dates back to 1945 when it was formed as an honorary escort for the return of the government in exile to the Hague by a mounted unit of the 3e Prins Alexander Halfregiment Huzaren, known as the “Red Hussars” (Rode Huzaren) and has been a two-platoon full-time ceremonial horse escort since 1972 (though the parent regiment was disbanded in 2007).
As for tanks, the Dutch picked up 468 Leopard 1s in the 1960s and 445 Leopard 2A4s (NL version which were all German but used Dutch radios, antenna bases, FN MAG machine guns and smoke mortars) in the 1980s, then upgraded the latter to 2A5 and later 2A6 standard.
With the end of the Cold War, the older Leos were scrapped (or converted to ARVs, BARVs and Bridgelayers) and the newer Leo 2s hit the sales blocks for an average of $2 million a pop– a comparative bargain in the MBT world as the Dutch panzers were meticulously maintained and little-used. They sold them to Austria (115 2A4s in 1993), Norway (52 2A4s in 2001), Canada (100 2A4s/2A6Ms in 2007), Portugal (37 2A6 in 2007) and Finland (124 2A6s in 2011), leaving just a handful left in Holland. With no tanks left to drive, the disbandment of the 1st and 2nd Hussars occurred by 2012.
Even though no tank units officially exist in the Royal Army, the Dutch have just 17 Leopard 2A6s active for service as part of a joint German/Dutch unit (the German 414th Panzer Battalion) and another handful of older Leo Is for spares, gate guards and museum displays besides the auxiliary hulls used as ARVs etc. The Dutch make up the 4th Panzer Kompanie (4 PzKp) of the battalion and are barracked at Bergen-Loheide, though the battalion is under the overall command of the Dutch 43rd Mechanized Infantry Brigade.
The PzBtl 414’s Leos and the Escort get to play on the beach from time to time, to celebrate the good old days.