He entered service in the Dutch States Army in 1770 (age 10) as a cadet in the Onderwater regiment. He was promoted to second lieutenant on 16 May 1782. He became a captain in 1788 and was promoted to major in 1794. He took part in the Flanders Campaign, where he was involved in the siege of Maubeuge (1793), the Siege of Landrecies (1794), the Battle of Fleurus (1794), the skirmish around Seneffe, which village he defended, and the siege of Geertruidenberg (1795), which he helped defend. After the overthrow of the Dutch Republic by the Batavian Republic in January, 1795 he resigned his commission.
Orangist in exile
Apparently an ardent Orangist he joined the "Osnabrück Assembly," a group of former soldiers around Prince Frederick of Orange-Nassau who wanted to stage a raid into the Batavian Republic in the summer of 1795. After this project came to nothing he travelled to England where he became involved in the preparations of the Anglo-Russian invasion of Holland of 1799, which he joined on the British side. After the expedition came to nothing he joined the King's Dutch Brigade, a regiment in British service founded by, and under command of, the Hereditary Prince. This regiment was formed from former personnel of the Dutch States Army and deserters from the Batavian army on the Isle of Wight in October, 1799. In 1800 it was transported to Ireland, to help ward off a new French invasion (after the Irish Rebellion of 1798). It was dissolved in 1802 and Detmers was put on half-pay. It is not exactly known what he did between 1802 and 1813. He may have returned to the Netherlands.
Waterloo and after
In 1814 Detmers again entered Dutch service as a lieutenant-colonel. He was promoted to colonel the same year and put in command of the 1st Brigade of the 3rd Division (general Chassé commanding). As such he took part in the Waterloo Campaign
At the start of the Battle of Waterloo the Dutch Third Division was placed in reserve on the right wing of the Allied Army under general Lord Hill. When the French Imperial Guard undertook its famous assault on the Allied right wing toward the end of the day, and the British line was hard pressed, the Dutch Third Division was ordered forward at the initiative of general Chassé. The 4th Grenadiers of the French Middle Guard were severely attacked by the battery of horse-artillery of the Dutch division, under command of captain Krahmer de Bichin, but they kept advancing. While the British line (1/3rd Foot) faltered under this onslaught, general Chassé ordered Detmers to charge the French column with his brigade. This was to be a bayonet charge, as Chassé had a predilection for this type of manoeuvre (that had earned him the nickname of "général baionette" from Napoleon). The Dutch troops advanced in a state of high excitement, cheering wildly and lifting their shakos on their bayonets, according to a British eye-witness (captain Edward Macready, 2/30th regiment of Foot), who had a good laugh. But the Dutch soldiers had the last laugh, as they got the vaunted veterans of the French guard on the run. As this happened at the same time the French suffered a number of other setbacks, this retreat is considered the "tipping point" of the battle: 'Wellington' gave the sign for a general advance of the Allied army after which Napoleon's army started to collapse
Some have speculated that because of this feat of arms Wellington referred to Detmers, when he mentioned "... general Vanhope, commanding a Brigade of Infantry of the King of the Netherlands" honorably in his Dispatch of 19 June 1815 to Earl Bathurst This may be possible as there was not a single "general Vanhope" in the entire Dutch army, let alone anyone by that name that warranted a mention in dispatches.
In any case, Detmers received a Knight's Cross Third Class in the Military Order of William for his exploit in 1815. On 24 August 1816 he was promoted to major-general and appointed Provincial Commander of the province of Zuid-Holland in the Dutch Army. He still was in that post when he died in 1825.
Notes and references
- Van der Aa, A.J. et al. (1858). Biographisch Woordenboek der Nederlanden, deel 4. Haarlem: J.J. van Brederode. p. 132.
- "Kolff Genealogie".
- Schama, Simon (1992). Patriots and Liberators. Revolution in the Netherlands 1780-1813. New York: Vintage books. pp. 231, 235.
- Cf.De Vaandrig Brauw, J. (1837). Mijne emigratie in Duitschland, Engeland en Ierland in de jaren 1799-1802: met een verslag omtrent de Hollandsche Brigade in dienst van Groot-Brittannien, onder bevel van Z.D.H. den Heere Erfprins. N. van der Monde. p. 42.
- "Het ontstaan van de Hollandse Brigade in Engelse Dienst 1799-1802" (PDF). Retrieved 18 March 2013.
- Hamilton-Williams, David (1993). Waterloo. New Perspectives. The Great Battle Reappraised. London: Arms & Armour Press. pp. 343–345.
- Siborne, W. (1900). The Waterloo campaign 1815. A. Constable. p. 831.
- Adkin, Mark (2002). The Waterloo Companion. Stackpole books. p. 185.
- Anonymous. Napoleon's Guard at Waterloo 1815
- Horse Artillery Officers of the Netherlands Serving from 1813 to 1815: Smissen, Jacques-Louis-Dominique, Baron van der 
- "The Cowards at Waterloo". Retrieved 23 March 2013. based on Dellevoet, A. (2001). Cowards at Waterloo?: A Re-Examination of Bijlandt's Dutch-Belgian Brigade in the Campaign of 1815. Stackpole books.
- (French) Relation des événements qui se sont produits à la 3me division de l'armée royale néerlandaise durant les journées des 15, 16, 17, et 18 juin 1815, et jusque dans la matinée du 19, in:Bas, F. de and J. de T'Serclaes de Wommersom. La campagne de 1815 aux Pays-Bas d'après les rapports officiels néelandais: Annexes et notes. pp. 358–371. Retrieved 23 March 2013.