Until 1940, the Netherlands had just two royal honours for bravery: the Military Order of William and the Honourable Mention, instituted in 1877.
Changes were made during the Second World War. The Bronze Cross was instituted on 11 June 1940 by Royal Decree, and is awarded for ‘courageous and skilful actions against the enemy’.
The Cross of Merit and the Flying Cross were later additions. In 1944, the Dutch government-in-exile in London made the decision to institute a new honour for bravery, the Bronze Lion.
This was due to the fact that, in practice, there was a major divide between the rules for awarding the Military Order of William and the Bronze Cross.
the government thus granted Queen Wilhelmina’s wishes and the Bronze Lion was instituted by Royal Decree on 30 March 1944.
Article 2 of this Royal Decree reads as follows:
‘We award the Bronze Lion to military personnel in the service of the Kingdom of the Netherlands who have distinguished themselves in battle against the enemy by carrying out acts of exceptional courage and skill.’
Article 3 has the following addition:
‘The Bronze Lion can, for the reasons stated in Article 2, also be awarded to:
1. non- military personnel of the Dutch nationality or citizens of the Netherlands;
2. non-nationals, in the case that their actions have been to the benefit of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.’
The Bronze Lion, which replaced the Honourable Mention, is second in precedence after the Military Order of William on the list of precedence of the Netherlands awards for bravery.
Until the present day, a total of 1,205 persons, 336 foreign nationals among them, have been awarded the Bronze Lion, The last time the Bronze Lion was awarded was in 1962, when three awards of the medal were made in connection with the conflict with Indonesia over New Guinea.
The Bronze Lion has been awarded to unit colours on just one single occasion. By Royal Decree of 9 May 1950, the honour was awarded to the 2ieme and 3ieme Régiment Chasseurs Parachutistes of the French army for their part in the liberation of the Netherlands in April 1945.