Summary

Introduction

In this summary we look back on the highlights of the second day of the invasion in the whole country and beyond the Dutch borders.

The shock overcome?

Curiously during the second day of the war - when the first shock of the invasion and massive airlanding in the west had been obsorbed - basically all went terribly wrong.  On the first day practically all events had been managed by local commanders and remarkably enough that had often resulted in effective defence or even an agressive recovery from the first blow. On the second day when the high commands - like GHQ and the staff of Fortress Holland - had taken over, virtually all seemed to go wrong. That was not in all cases related to the directives from the top, but in the cases where it had mattered it was.

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Map of the German invasion (may 1940)

The most costly failure was the dual flaw of the Waalhaven plan. The actions of both the 3rd Border Infantry Battalion and the Light Division were very poorly coordinated by the commander Fortress Holland, General Van Andel. He had provided both units with wrong and inapt information and - much to easily - he had yielded for the claim of the commander Light Division that the Noord river could not be crossed. Due to the very poor command of the Light Division, this precious unit wasted an entire day around Alblasserdam.

At Moerdijk the French had failed to make a fist. Unaware as they had been at first, of the German presence around Moerdijk, they messed around hesitantly and lost the momentum. After they had granted the Luftwaffe half a day to intervene, the French vanished not to return. Later that 11th May Général Gamelin ordered his 7th Army to refrain from any offensive action beyond Breda and maintain a firm frontier around Etten, Roosendaal and Bergen op Zoom. From that directive it becomes clear that Moerdijk didn't matter to the French no more.

In the south the hopeless attempts to coordinate French-Dutch joint operations failed time and again. The Dutch on their part did not manage to adequately man the improvised defences behind the Willemsvaart sothat German point-units had already managed to penetrate this defence-line in the course of the afternoon. It resulted into an unorganised Dutch retreat westwards. The same applied for the Dutch defenders around Weert, that were directed westwards much too late, which caused many to be overtaken by pursuing German forces, others to lose track of the standing orders that changed twice underway.

In the centre the Germans were lacking pace. They had not been able to cross the Yssel and Apeldoornse kanaal in the northern sector of the central front, and in the area Arnhem - Wageningen the artillery was trailing. Nevertheless the SS regiment Der Führer unleashed an assault on the forward defences at Wageningen. These Dutch forward positions, occupied by a mere 500 men only, had been seized by the end of the day. It left the main defences of the Dutch unharmed though.

In the north it was merely a transit day. The Germans proceeded very slowly and moved their troops gradually around the Wons-line near the Afsluitdijk. Endeavours to commandeer shipping in Dutch harbours at the east coast of the Ysselmeer failed. The Dutch had blocked the harbours and sunk or evacuated most of the shipping. Dutch gun-boats patrolled the coast in front of the worried German eyes.

In the Fortress Holland nothing much had been gained by the Dutch. The situation around the southfront remained practically unchanged. It were the Germans that moved troops around, whereas the Dutch did not manage to gain any success. The counteractions on the Island of Dordrecht, Moerdijk and at Alblasserdam all failed, tragically.

In the north of the Fortress Holland - the sector around The Hague - it was the same. Counter actions failed due to either ill execution or poor coordination or a combination of both. The Germans were able to fortify their pockets and even gather more stray troops.

At the end of the day, the Germans had progressed in the south until the Tilburg region. They had received some reinforcements at Waalhaven and managed to hold on to all the conquered objects that they had seized on the previous day. The Dutch counter-actions all failed, without any exception. The first shock had been overcome, but it had not led to a materialized recovery.

The Dutch army had shown much resilience when it had been taken by surprise on the 10th. Local commanders or even platoon-leaders had shown - on many locations - that they were very much able to act and react. When the higher echelons took over on the second day, all went wrong. From a reactional force the Dutch had to become an initiating one and that was exactly the Achilles Heel of the army. Its poor officer and NCO education showed its devastating effects on the performance of the troops. It was seldom the equipment (after all, the Germans lacked much communication equipment too) or the weaponary that made the difference, not even the boldness or courage, but it was the ability that was missing.    

The Allied perspective

The allies had not overcome the first shock yet. That made sense, because the first reaction was basically nothing more or less than moving the massive Anglo-French forces into Belgium and it required quite some time to get the envisaged dispositions finalized according to the Dyle-Breda battle-plan. Meanwhile they were caught in the process of constant improvising and moreover events that intervened with both the standing strategy and the applicable time table.  

The 7th Army was in transit to the north, but their operational moves and shuffles were constantly under influence of yet another set-back. Notwithstanding the fact that the French managed to get ahead of schedule in moving the point formations into place, they grew soon worried over the status of the Dutch and Belgian defences in the east. In the far north they came to realize that the Dutch had already lost their main defence line in the east of Brabant and the Belgian defences around the Albert-canal in the northeast had to be evacuated on the 11th. The forward cavalry formations of the French were hardly in place when they were already pointed to the nearby German presence. During the second day already the assessment of the battlefield situation in the north forced Gamelin to already readjust the Dyle-Breda strategy to the extend that the 7th Army would not deploy east of Breda and Turnhout anymore, with exception of stalling forces south of the Dutch-Belgian border that had to withhold a quick German pursuit. The situation in the Netherlands deteriorated so fast that the promised assistance to the Ducth GHQ in the retaking of Moerdijk was no longer feasible - or at least not fitting the 'grand strategy' of the French as it came to the Dyle strategy. Retaking Moerdijk for the Dutch would after all mean unleashing the entire German forces speeding through the south of Holland on the still developing French forces. That was a scenario that had to be prevented, thus causing Gamelin to moderate his prior instructions and stalling the Dutch request for assistance.

The quick Belgian withdrawal from the northeast had a considerable impact on the confidence of Gamelin too. He feared that the allies would not get enough time to man the KW and Dyle line, which would jeopardize the entire front in Belgium. Also, he felt a strong dislike from the Dutch and Belgian decisions to give up on their forward defence-lines so quickly. And he found - for once - his subordinates on his side in this perception. Particularly the commander of all Anglo-British forces in Belgium, Général Georges, prefered nothing else but the immediate cancellation of the Breda strategy.

The German moves in the Ardennes had not yet revealed their true nature yet. Or should we say that the French, British and Belgian forces did not recognize the true nature yet, regardless of plenty indications that massive formations were negotiating this tough terrain? Probably the latter, because intelligence reports and recce-flights proved the assessements of many motorized and mechanized columns in the wooded area's, but the allies failed to connect these assessements with a strategic component that would soon tilt the German emphasize on the south rather than the north.

German perspective

The 11th of May had been a day that did certainly not favour the allies, but the Germans were not too pleased either. The German OKH was most worried over two aspects in particular.

First the tremendous logistic operation that was ongoing and that seemed to be hampered all along. Vast troop concentrations massed east of the Meuze river and these troops were sitting ducks. An unprecendented traffic jam ocurred along the entire German western border, moving tens of miles into Germany.

Secondly they feared the early discovery of the large Panzergruppe Kleist and the possible allied response. That's why the Luftwaffe was once again instructed to focus on the north and centre of Belgium in order to maintain the veil of desception. What one started the call 'the matador's cloth' in military history circles.  Indeed, the allies saw proof of the Von Schlieffen repetition in the massive Luftwaffe presence in the northeast. But the Germans were not convinced that the allies took the bait.

Another matter of some worry was the slow deployment of the German forces east of the Meuze. The OKH had already pointed out before the invasion that it was imperative to execute a quick crossing of the Meuze in the northeastern sector. The units that were designated to operate in the central front needed adequate space to deploy before the allies would be able to overcome the first shock and counter the invasion forces. The slow deployment west of the Meuze therefore worried the OKH to such extend that expediting orders were issued to the units involved. The OKH was unaware that the allies were not at all planning to counter the German penetrations and were preparing for defences in the KW- and Dyle-line. The Germans had learnt at their staff schools that troops that were in the phase of initial progress after a break-through were the most vulnerable to determined and strong counter-offensive actions due to the fact that they had not yet been able to form an adequate defence deployment. But much to their joy the allies were awaiting the invasion force way back in the centre of Belgium.

The reports from the central and southern Meuze sector were rather promising. Although there had been a slight delay on the time table, the opposition was light and moreover the allied airforce basically absent. It presented the tank divisions the chance to deploy in an ideal pattern for the things to come. When the tank divisions would have reached their initial positions along the Meuze, the signal for the giant switch of the offensive main point would be given. Then the Luftwaffe would employ most of its tactical force in the sector Dinant - Sedan after which the crucial lower Meuze crossing could get started. Obviously the allied troop movements were closely monitored, but on the 11th there was not the slightest sign of disclosure of the cunning plans yet. 

Epilogue 

Although the Germans were still very hesitant to cheer, they had things going their way.

In Holland the operation seemed to go according to plan. If everything went well the 9th Tank Division would manage to connect to the airbornes at Moerdijk on the next day. That would sound a new round in the battle in Holland. A prelude to the final stage in the far north. It would at the same time start to shape the northern grip around the allied disposition in Belgium.

In the centre everything seemed to go well too, with exception of the logistic challanges. But if the allies would serve the German cause with just another day of hesitant counter actions, the central front would get the desired shape too.

Most importantly the tank divisions were about to reach the Meuze in the Dinant - Sedan area and still no signs of allied countermeasures. If another day of failing allied counter-measures in this area could be enjoyed, the tank divisions would have gotten into the position to unveil the actual strategy ... 

The next day - Sunday the 12th - would become Decision Day.