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Capitulation of The Netherlands


On the fifth day of the invasion of the Netherlands the event occurred that only few had foreseen happening so quickly: the Dutch army was forced to stretch its arms and surrender. But ... the armistice terms excluded the province Zeeland from the capitulation. The fact that the province was intensively occupied with French formations over which the Dutch CIC had no authority whatsoever, had been the reason for General Winkelman to demand the exclusion of Zeeland from the armistice, and it had been the Germans accepting it for that same validity.

The only fighting province left ...

At 1700 hours General Winkelman decided - after a brief consultation with his senior staff - to lay down arms in the whole of Holland, with exception of the province Zeeland. The events leading up to that decision have been covered elsewhere and shall not be repeated here.

Winkelman had made a specific qualification in his armistice-proposal to the German command. He stated that Zeeland would remain out of the armistice terms, for this province was largely occupied by French troops over which he had no authority. The Germans reluctantly accepted this additional term. It meant that the territorial commander of Zeeland - Rear-Admiral van der Stad - suddenly became acting CIC over the remnants of the Dutch forces that were excluded from the armistice. Even more so, informaly, Van der Stad became the highest Governmental authority in non-occupied Holland too.

A very peculiar matter is that the Germans did not object to the Dutch navy sea and airfleet units in Zeeland being excluded from the capitulation too. The floating units in Zeeland waters had at no point been transferred into French control and even if they had, it would have been a 'fair' demand on German behalf to have them transferred back into Dutch custody again and surrender according to the armistice terms for the balance of the navy in Dutch territorial waters. The same applies to the sea-plane base and its flying assets (although few). But the Germans were lenient, one could say, extremely lenient. Probably due to the simple fact that they assessed the eventual seizure of Zeeland as a walk in the parc and that they didn't care less after having achieved the swift seizure of the rest of Holland.

News of the capitulation reached the Dutch Territorial Commander of Zeeland only by radio. There it was announced that the Dutch troops had capitulated, but it was not mentioned that Zeeland was excluded from the armistice. Only hours later in another broadcast this specific detail was added. It caused a lot of confusion amongst the Dutch and the French.

Rear-Admiral Van der Stad issued a proclamation in which he stated that the resistance would be continued and that Dutch forces would stay in their positions and stand ground, supported by the Allies. He forgot to mention that the Dutch in the Fortress Holland had ceased fighting and as a result of that omission many people strongly disbelieved the entire content of Van der Stad his proclamation. Later - at 2000 hours - the TC issued an even more confusing proclamation in which he stated that the news about the Dutch capitulation was false at all! This message was clearly meant as a firm measure against the disbelieve of the Dutch of the first proclamation, but it takes no genius to realize that this second proclamation worked counter-productive. Only in the morning of the 15th Van der Stad appeared be able to produce a third proclamation in which he finally gave the actual picture: The Dutch army in The Netherlands had laid down arms, with exception of the territory - and everything on and in it - of the province Zeeland.

Shattered Dutch moral

The previous day the news of the Queen arriving in England - leaving the sinking ship [as many thought] - had completely torpedoed the Dutch moral. The - after the news of the Queens' departure - quietly expected capitulation shattered all what was left of moral.

From then onwards the already poorly performing Dutch troops in Zeeland would basically fail to meet any military standard anymore. Save few exceptions, the Dutch would embarrass themselves by abandoning their French Allies.

It is quite easy to feel some sympathy for the Dutch soldiers, who felt abandoned by Queen and country, but yet there was no excuse to leave the defence of Zeeland (basically) in French hands. In the hands of foreign soldiers who had - after all - come to defend (also) the Dutch interests. The brief era 14-18 May 1940 would - also to that respect - house a black page in Dutch military history ...