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Capitulation of Walcheren and Zuid-Beveland

Rumours about capitulation

In the late afternoon of the 17th it was clear that the Germans had occupied the whole of Zeeland, with exception of Zeeuws-Vlaanderen.

When the battle around the Sloedam was still ongoing, the first Dutch units in the west of Walcheren already filed inquiries at the Dutch staff office whether capitulation was already feasible. When many local commanders failed to reach the staff - which was indeed hard to get hold off, not the least due to the ongoing bombardment of Middelburg - local capitulation initiatives soon developed.

A questionable role was again played by the acting commander of the Peel-troops, Lieutenant-Colonel Themann [commander of 30.RI], that had already days before shown his inability to lead. When the staff in Middelburg could not be reached he stated to other officers around him that in that case he personally would decide on the capitulation, being the senior in rank. This statement made the impression on many troop-commanders like the decision to lay down arms had already been made, although the Lieutenant-Colonel had not intended so. But as a field commander of his rank he should have been clear in his instructions, and he hadn't been clear. In his defence may be added that but all too many lower ranks were keen enough to call it a day and as such very receptive for the 'c' word.

Within no time white flags appeared at several locations, mainly in bell towers or other tall building. When this news reached the Lieutenant-Colonel he was shocked and felt misunderstood. He immediately sent messengers to the three locations from where the flags had been reported and ordered them to be taken down. At Veere however - one of the locations where a white flag had been waving of the bell tower after the (misinterpreted) order - the effects were quite unpleasant. Veere housed also a company of French troops and when they saw the white flag being waved off the main bell tower of Veere, they felt utterly betrayed by their "allies". The Dutch troops simply marched out of town and it wasn't until 1600 hours that they returned to their positions.

At 1400 hours the Lieutenant-Colonel briefed all troop-commanders that their positions had to be prepared for defence and that capitulation was not an option yet. White flags had to be removed. Needless to say that the units receiving this instruction were hardly motivated to remove the white flags, let alone aim their weapons at any enemy.

The inevitable cease fire

Lieutenant-Colonel Karel - the actual delegate of the Commander Zeeland - had meanwhile contacted his superior in Breskens and requested permission for demolition of the four coastal batteries. At Dishoeck [Walcheren] the heavy battery had already been destroyed, but then the counter-order came that demolition had to wait. Too late for this battery, but the other batteries were "saved". It shall hardly surprise the reader that the orders to indeed destroy the remaining batteries came too late. In the end the three remaining batteries would be gladly used by the Germans ...

Van der Stad was time and again approached by his officers and the mayor of Middelburg with questions when the capitulation of Walcheren would be offered to the Germans. Van der Stad made it perfectly clear that this could never be the case as long as French troops were still engaged in combat with the Germans. The delegate of Van der Stad - Lieutenant-Colonel Karel - nevertheless considered the situation at 1700 hours such that capitulation had to be presented to the Germans. Not only did he hope that this would save the lives of many of his soldiers, but in particular that the dramatic bombardment of Middelburg would stop. At 1800 hours Lieutenant-Colonel Karel ordered all Dutch troops in Walcheren to lay down arms and show white flags as a sign of surrender.

At 1830 hours a radio transmission was broadcasted that the Dutch forces on Walcheren and Zuid-Beveland surrendered. Half an hour later Lieutenant-Colonel Karel himself went down the road east of Middelburg where German troops were heading southwards. He was transported to a hotel near Flushing, nearby the sluices. There he officially informed SS Standartenführer Steiner, commander of the SS Regiment, of the capitulation of the Dutch forces on Walcheren and Zuid-Beveland.

Noord-Beveland was officially not part of the armistice, but in the morning of the 18th a German officer was sent across under the banner of truth. He brought the local Dutch commander the news of the Dutch surrender elsewhere. Upon this news the Dutch forces - isolated from all the rest - laid down arms too.

The SS Regiment was already relieved from its task in Zeeland in the evening of the 17th. In the morning of the 18th one reinforced battalion of the 225th ID replaced them. Just the two artillery battalions of the original taskforce remained [for coastal defences]. The SS force was re-united with its own division. Another day later the Regiment was assigned to the Von Kleist Group, the 40th Panzer Gruppe.


The battle for Walcheren and Zuid-Beveland had ended. Remarkably it had taken the Germans almost four days to settle the struggle for the islands. Obviously the battle on the German side had been fought by only two reinforced battalions of the SS Regiment Deutschland. That modest German force had moved a force at least three times as large aside, with the loss of only 63 men KIA. The formations that had taken Tholen, St.Philipsland and Schouwen-Duivenland had lost nine men KIA.

The French losses on both the islands are unknown. A specific chapter has been written about the French losses, which amounted 229 men KIA, but some of those were killed in the West of Noord-Brabant.

The Dutch - who defended their own soil - lost a mere 38 men KIA, amongst whom 5 officers. Of these 38 men, 4 had been killed at Tholen and Schouwen-Duivenland and 5 fell victim to Fifth Column panic. In fact only 29 were during the entire eight days of battle. Of those in fact only 13 during the episode that the actual German ground operation against the island started.