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The Dutch government in exile (Dutch: Nederlandse regering in ballingschap), also known as the London Cabinet (Dutch: Londens kabinet), was the government in exile of the Netherlands, headed by Queen Wilhelmina, that fled to London after the German invasion of the country during World War II on 10 May 1940.
Background and exile
Prior to 1940, the Netherlands was a neutral country, generally on good terms with Germany. On 10 May 1940, Germany invaded the Netherlands. Queen Wilhelmina fled the country aboard the British destroyer HMS Hereward, arriving in London on 13 May. The Netherlands armed forces surrendered two days later as it had been unable to withstand the speed of Germany's blitzkrieg style attack. In London, the queen took charge of the Dutch government in exile, which was established at Stratton House in the Piccadilly area of London, opposite Green Park. Initially, their hope was that France would regroup and liberate the country. Although there was an attempt in this direction, it soon failed, because the Allied forces were surrounded and forced to evacuate at Dunkirk. The Dutch armed forces in the Netherlands, except for those occupying Zeeland, surrendered on 15 May 1940.
To safeguard the succession, the heir to the throne Princess Juliana and her family were sent farther to Canada, where they spent the war.
The government-in-exile was soon faced with a dilemma. After France had been defeated, the Vichy French government came to power, proposing to Hitler a policy of collaboration. This led to a conflict between Prime Minister Dirk Jan de Geer and the Queen. De Geer wanted to return to the Netherlands and collaborate as well. The government in exile was still in control of the Dutch East Indies with all its resources: it was the third largest oil producer at the time (after the US and the USSR). Wilhelmina realized that if the Dutch collaborated with Germany, the Dutch East Indies would be surrendered to Japan, as French Indochina was surrendered later by orders of the Vichy government.
Exile in London
Because the Netherlands' hope for liberation was now the entry of the US or the USSR into the war, the Queen dismissed her prime minister, De Geer, and replaced him with Pieter Sjoerds Gerbrandy, who worked with Churchill and Roosevelt on ways to smooth the path for an American entry. Aruba and Curaçao, the then world-class exporting oil refineries, were important suppliers of refined products to the Allies. Aruba became a British protectorate from 1940 to 1942 and a US protectorate from 1942 to 1945. On 23 November 1941, under an agreement with the Netherlands government-in-exile, the United States occupied Dutch Guiana to protect the bauxite mines. An oil boycott was imposed on Japan, which helped to spark the Pearl Harbor attack.
In September 1944, the Dutch, Belgian and Luxembourgish governments in exile began formulating an agreement over the creation of a Benelux Customs Union. The agreement was signed in the London Customs Convention on 5 September 1944.
The Queen's unusual action was later ratified by the Dutch Parliament in 1946. Churchill called her "the only man in the Dutch government".
After World War II ended, Wilhelmina and her government returned from exile to re-establish a regime more democratic than ever before.