Chapter 10 - Not a bridge too far
The chapter’s title ‘Not a bridge too far’ makes an implicit reference to the later Allied operation Market Garden in September 1944, which was due to its high ambition and failure generally referred to as ‘a bridge too far’. That reference is not coincidental. Indeed the Market Garden operation was a clear copy of the German air landing offensive in the Netherlands in May 1940. Montgomery had been so unwise to think that he could surprise the inventors of this very kind of operation with their own invention. That was a total failure by the allied command, more in particular because the German CIC of the Holland operation in May 1940 – General Kurt Student – was one of the prominent commanders in the Market Garden corridor.
Chapter 10 presents an overview of the events on the so called south-front of Fortress Holland during the Five-Days' War in May 1940. On a detailed level it is by far the poorest written chapter in the book, literally loaded with clean errors, impurities and chaotic reproduction of the events. Often the reader loses track of time, since the described events are merged in different time-frames. The chapter is still – in this third and all English edition of the book – packed with traditional factual errors. A further proof that the claimed ‘new scholarly research’ of the book is unjustified. Only fractions of new research have been added, but that was research done by third parties and not the authors or editors themselves.
The style in which the chapter is written is quite inimitable. At one stage the reader is confronted with events on the individual soldiers’ level, but two lines further down the page one suddenly flies through a days’ event in a mere dozen words. It goes up and down, without a clear idea behind it. Also the time-line is very unclear, mainly caused by the absence of sufficient references to dates, time and context. Poor writing, poor editing, and as such poor reading. All in all a very poor account, of the most crucial part of the Dutch front in May 1940.
The number of citations is extremely limited, making any claim of the work being of scientific value [explicitly claimed by the editors] non-valid. Many elements of the battle that are – the least to say – curiously reproduced in this chapter should have come with clear citations to sources of reputed value. They fail all along.
We were unpleasantly surprised by the absent (expected) quality boost in the third edition of this chapter in particular, because it has been strongly criticised over the past twenty years, substantiated with plenty of arguments and citations. It always was and still remains the worst chapter of the book. Apparently none of the critics have been taken seriously by the authors and/or editors. The reader of the below listed points of criticism shall be surprised about he amount of fundamental errors and impurities. In order to separate main issues from clerical issues, the criticism has been divided into two sections: main issues and secondary issues.
[p.347, 348] Amazingly the Rotterdam garrison is hardly mentioned with exception of the two infantry units and the Marines. In fact a total of 6,800 men were available in and around Rotterdam. Besides the two mentioned regular units and Marines, there were a mere 5,000 men intendants, engineer recruits, air-defence recruits, navy recruits and AAA units. None of these had been trained for intensive ground-combat. Nonetheless they were available, would be largely employed along the front-line in the days ahead and should therefore have been mentioned.
[p.348] ‘Lieutenant General Van Andel opted – on the basis of the information available to him – to allow his troops (…) to get some sleep on the night of 9 May and not place them on a heightened state of alert.’
This citation strongly suggests as if Van Andel had been handed inadequate intel on the upcoming German invasion. That was not the case! He was fully aware of the warnings for the upcoming German invasion, aware of the highest alert status for the border formations as well as the fact that the Field Army would be alerted overnight. He nevertheless decided that his troops – the formations within Fortress Holland (with exception of the AFB formations and 1st Corps, which were not under his command yet) – would not get involved in the first strike actions by the invader and therefore decided to have them not alerted. He didn’t even inform his most senior subordinates of the upcoming events, notwithstanding the standing order of centralized storage of available ammunition. It is a fact that this gross negligence by this General was not based on bad intel on his behalf (which the citation suggests), but that it was simply an issue of bad judgement of the General himself. Exemplary for his overall poor performance by the way ...
[p.350] Leutnant Lemm’s group merged with the platoon of Oberleutnant Schwarzmann of 8./FJR.1. Schwarzmann was the famous Olympic triple-gold hero of the Fallschirmjäger, who wouldn't have been an airborne if it hadn’t been for his fame and ability as a gymnastic expert to teach young airbornes how to break a landing-fall. His platoon had the original assignment to siege Moerdijk village, but turned out to be the only airborne unit in the Moerdijk area to fail its primary mission. The platoon was pinned down by dense fire from a combined Air-artillery unit and Pontonniers (engineers) outfit in the harbour area. Only when the Schwarzmann platoon merged forces with Leutnant Lemm’s group, in the main street of the village, the joint formation managed to overcome the Dutch defences, after sustaining heavy casualties first. Schwarzmann was amongst the badly wounded. He was awarded EKI and II for his actions, and in June 1940 even the Knights Cross, when he appeared to succumb to his lung wound. Eventually he managed to beat the fevers and recover. He then had earned himself the EK1, II and KC without achieving a thing in combat, causing him a bad reputation amongst fellow airbornes. It had been his hero status in Germany combined with the perception of him perishing from his wounds that had made Hermann Göring decide to award him the KC for propaganda purposes. Schwarzmann’s recovery was an unexpected occurrence. Later on Schwarzmann became particularly well known for flashing his KC all the time, making him highly unpopular amongst ‘genuine’ airbornes, where the KC acknowledgement was highly respected as a genuine token of valour ‘amongst pro’s’. After the war Schwarzmann refused to attend the traditional reunions, well aware of his awkward behaviour and cheaply earned KC.
[p.351] After the events at Willemsdorp are briefly addressed, the book states that German airbornes took positions at Willemsdorp, Wilhelminahoeve and Tweede Tol. It is not mentioned that those who were taking positions at the latter two locations were in fact airbornes of the 1st Battalion and Regimental Staff [FJR.1] – who had landed near Tweede Tol – and not the airbornes of 2nd Battalion that had landed near the Moerdijk bridges and stayed at that very location.
[p.351, 352] Again it is not mentioned that 1./FJR.1 did not land in the Netherlands. That omission is annoying since the book mentions on pg. 351 [last paragraph] that 1st Battalion landed as a reserve. That only applied to half of the battalion, 2./ and 4./Fjr.1. The 1st Company was absent, the 3rd Company was assigned the taking of the Dordrecht-Zwijndrecht bridges.
[p.351] Again a confirmation that ‘new researches’ are not applicable to this book. The old myth of the Pontonniers blocking the German way out of ‘De Polder’ is diligently printed. Careful research had pointed the editors as to the fact that it were not the Pontonniers that sat their feet in the German way, but the (large) section of Railway Troops near the Dordrecht station. It were those men who repelled a first German assault, tempting Von Brandis to deploy two-third of his formation onto those Railway Troops. That tactical flaw by the German commander (he should have by-passed them and should have pushed for the bridges right away), not only costed his own live, but certified the failure of this particular German company. It bought the Pontonniers time to seal off the west side of the German landing zone, so that the 3rd Company of FJR.1 could be forced into surrender around noon. Fortunately the myth of 50 airbornes being killed – still printed in the 2005-edition – was corrected in this English edition. Probably due to the researches of yours truly, which have proven the old myth of 50 German KIA a clear falsification of the affair.
[P.353] Peculiarly the raid against the Dutch HQ in Amstelwijk – where both the artillery staff of the Island of Dordrecht forces and the HQ of the Island infantry defences was situated – has not been mentioned at all. It caused the Dutch to lose the entire C&C over the Island troops, leaving the remnants of artillery [two battalions] and infantry [two companies] without central leadership.
[p.354] It were not 120 men of 11./IR.16 being dropped off at the Rotterdam bridges but a mere 90 men. Research by the authors/editors was again not applicable here. It is proven from German sources that only two platoons, reinforced with two heavy MG troops and four engineers, were dropped at the bridge area after a brief specific training on the German lake at Zwischenahn. Also the assessment that 42 airbornes of the Kerfin platoon joint them goes without citation. It were probably around 35 airbornes joining the air-landing troops, of which a number had been (badly) injured on the way to the bridges. Kerfin himself only mentions 20 men reaching the north-side of the Nieuwe Maas along with him.
[p.354/p.355] The 3rd Battalion of IR.16 was not completely landed as of yet, as the text suggests. The entire 10th Company failed and would only arrive around noon, whereas it would only join battalion after nightfall. It were 9./IR.16 and 12./IR.16 together with a platoon of pioneers of PiBtl.22 and one airborne AT gun that moved down to the Oude Maas in Rotterdam.
[p.355/p.356] The narrative on the first Dutch counter measures near the northern bridgehead of the German in Rotterdam is extremely poor. It were first a Marines patrol and an engineers (recruit) company blocking the German expansion ambitions to the north and northeast. The Marines caused the ‘Vier Leeuwenbrug’ [bridge between the northwest and northeast of the Oude Maas north-front] to be blocked. Those Germans trying to cross it were killed or chased off. The engineers took possession of the ‘Beursstation’ [train station around 500 m north of the rail-way bridge] causing the Germans not to be able to take the station and repelling all German attempts to expand the narrow northern bridgehead beyond the Wijnhaven. Only after that, the machinegun company appeared on the west-side of the German pocket, causing the pocket to be merely surrounded. Meanwhile hundreds of recruits or navy auxiliaries (of the Navy Depot) manned positions around the German pocket reinforcing the seal. The aforementioned summary of events is the minimum footage that should be given about the sealing off of the German pocket in the north of Rotterdam.
[p. 357] ‘The Island of Ysselmonde was quickly cleared of Dutch troops’.
Untrue, that only applied for the central and eastern part. Dutch troops in Rhoon, Hoogvliet and near the oil facilities west of Pernis remained in place. Even more so, the reinforced company at the oil facilities only moved back on the 13th after it had previously rejected a German assault and after the oil facilities had been set ablaze (with British assistance).
[p.357] The deployment of German troops given in the first half of the page is inaccurately presented. The entire page describes deployments of the 10th and 11th mixed in a summarized paragraph. Most confusing and poorly edited.
The deployment of two companies of II./IR.16 was only executed on the 11th. Moreover, Student did not move his HQ to Rijsoord with the intention of leading the anticipated battle across the Noord himself, but realising that Rijsoord would be the excellent forward HQ in between the two main battle sectors Dordrecht and Hendrik Ido Ambacht as well as the argument of the position of the village along the main road between Dordrecht and Rotterdam. Besides, the HQ move was given in before Student had been informed of the arrival of the Dutch Light Division at Alblasserdam.
[p.357] The bridge at Spijkenisse sealed off at 0900 hrs? Of what day? On the 10th Spijkenisse had been occupied by two platoons of Dutch infantry of Spui Group who had been pulled back in the evening, unchallenged by the Germans. Forward posts had been removed too, overnight. Only on the 11th a company of IR.72 was sent to Spijkenisse. The book is vague on what date it refers to, but reading from the context one must think it refers to the 10th (which would be wrong). That is even stronger suggested when it states that the 2nd Battalion of FJR.2 was sent to Barendrecht. After it had landed in the afternoon of the 10th it had been directed to Barendrecht and never left until the 12th when the about two companies strong ‘Battalion’ was redirected to Dordrecht. So the text refers to the 10th. Besides, the bridge at Barendrecht itself didn’t fall in German hands, but the north side of the Oude Maas was occupied unchallenged. The possession of the bridge remained disputed between both sides for four consecutive days.
[p.357] One is in the midst of description of the events in the northwest of Dordrecht in the very morning of the 10th when suddenly the 2nd Battalion of FJR.2 is sent to Zwijndrecht by Student. That only happened on the 12th! The problem of lacking citations occurs once again.
[p.358] Colonel Dario was the commander of 6.RC and acting commander of 2.BLM (of 1.DLM, a French mechanized division]. It was in his capacity of commander of 6.RC that Colonel Dario sent Michon to the Moerdijk area. The instruction to Michon was to aggressively scout the area around Moerdijk and in any case prevent a German expansion towards Breda. He received no instruction to assault Moerdijk! Literaly: "je [AG: Michon] recois l’ordre du Colonel de reconnaitre le pont de Moerdijk et, en tout état de cause, de m’opposer a toute incursion de l’ennemi en direction de Breda, par le Nord."
[p.358] ‘In the evening of 11 May, the French troops marched northwards’.
Misleading information. The French formation of Michon arrived in the morning at Zevenbergschen Hoek, near the south edge of the German pocket. From thereon the French Major decided to explore the wide area around Moerdijk on the situation around the many small bridges in the area and the route to Geertruidenberg (where another – Dutch held- traffic bridge was situated). It was only when another French platoon of AFV’s arrived in the afternoon – tasked to probe the Moerdijk- and Geertruidenberg bridges for available crossing points in order to escort the French General and liaison officer Mittelhauser to the Hague – that Michon made up his mind to actually assault the Germans at Moerdijk. The only thing that changed in the French disposition was that the already available French troops in the area preparing for a modest assault, when a Luftwaffe formation of dive bombers appeared overhead around 1700 hrs. They bombed the courage out of the French, who made a run for it.
[p.359] The 3rd Border Battalion was not intended to recapture Waalhaven on its own – as the text suggests – but intended to form the left wing of an operation that would be mounted by the main formation of the Light Division, which was supposed to cross the Noord during the late evening of the 10th and march on to Waalhaven.
[p.359] "The plan that Major Reijers made for this was a good one."
The battle-plan of the C. of the 3rd Border Battalion was not at all a good plan. On the contrary, it was extremely poor! He disintegrated his battalion over a five km stretch, only tasking one weak company to flank the German occupation of the Barendrecht bridge head, whereas the third Company had to cross that 400 m long bridge only when the flank attack had been successful. The plan should have either been focussed all around the bridge, with at least two companies flanking the German pocket – or the entire bridge should have been left aside, which would have been the wiser of ideas, since the capture of the bridge had no tactical value whatsoever for the purpose of the 3rd Border Battalion to recapture Waalhaven along with the LD.
[p.359] The combined 1st and 2nd Company [both companies were far under strength and combined no more than one company strength] that crossed the Oude Maas (successfully) around 0600 hrs did not encounter any resistance in first instance. The commanding officer decided though first to have breakfast and had that same breakfast been shuttled over with a ferry, dismissing the fact that ammunition was still mainly on the south shore! The German few-men-post that had witnessed the Dutch crossing, hastily sent a scout (on a bike) to the HQ of Oberst Kreysing after which a combined force of heavy weapons (mortars, MG) and infantry of II./IR.16 was sent in from the Barendrecht region. It was only when they arrived that the breakfast having Dutch were surprised by MG fire and mortar rounds to go along with their sandwiches.
[p.361] The Ravelli battalion did not by far count 1,000 or so troops but more around 600 men. One of the companies had been replaced by a much weaker company of I-34.RI and a large bit of the machinegun company had been left in its defensive positions along the Kil. The battalion had been under strength from the start too, with one company substantially under strength. The decision by the BC to deviate from the instructed route - in the book suggested to be a flaw - in fact made a lot of sense. He had been ordered to report to the garrison commander of Dordrecht taking a route straight through rough terrain vaguely along the railway track. That was an undesirable route, with all the equipment in entirely dark terrain. In stead the BC opted for a march down the main road. This choice only slammed back in his face, when the Major unwisely failed to re-group when entering the southwestern edge of Dordrecht, but decided to push on to the direct bridge area, without deploying his troops in a battle ready formation. He had his point company cross a slope in the road, leading it down to the bridge ramp. When a few rounds from German guards hit the night, the company wasn’t taken back behind the slope – which would have saved it from opposing fire – but in stead it was instructed to take cover where it was - in flat open terrain. Only one hour or so later the Germans had discovered the Dutch presence and opened up from three sides, causing the point platoon to be almost entirely put out of action. Pressing German patrols harvested quite a number of POW’s too, mainly from the most forward formations of the Dutch battalion, but the Dutch main force managed to take positions near the harbour south of the slope. During the afternoon these troops were indeed tricked by the German commander of III./FJR.1 (that had been sent to Dordrecht overnight) causing the staff and about a company size to be captured by the Germans. The remnants of the battalion were later mopped up by another airborne company. Only a few dozen of men were able to connect to their own side again.
[p.361] The landing of a airborne reserve company on the Island of Dordrecht in the morning of the 11th is not mentioned at all. Around 0600 hrs an airborne reserve company under Oberleutnant Moll was partially dropped in the southeast corner of the Island of Dordrecht, right in de midst of Dutch positions. It was cornered, suffered substantial losses and only managed to hold out by the finger nails. When the sun set both sides sought an armistice, determining that the side that would be reinforced the next day would capture the other. It were the Germans that could welcome a strong patrol in the very morning of the 12th causing the Dutch half-company – that had no ammo left whatsoever – to surrender. Nevertheless, of the around 60-90 airbornes landed around 30 had been killed or wounded.
Section Light Division
[p.361] The text states that the Light Division had been stripped of its armoured cars, its two motor hussar regiments and part of its mobile artillery at the outbreak of war [e.g. 10 May 1940]. A terribly bad reproduction of the facts. The two squadrons armoured cars had already been taken from the division on 12 April 1940. The first squadron was attached to the Field Army main body in the Grebbeline whereas the second squadron had been divided over the two principal AFB’s, Schiphol and Ypenburg. Not two but only one motor-hussar regiment had been detached, namely into a tactical reserve unit for the Hague defence. The second regiment remained attached to the division, although it would be assigned a mission in Brabant on the 10th temporarily detaching the unit from the division, but rejoint the division on the 11th again. The modest artillery component of the LD – comprising four batteries of motorised 7,5 cm field guns – remained available in full. It were the infantry-guns – the two vintage 5,7 cm batteries – that had been detached, but long before the German invasion. They had been attached to the so called Peel Division during the mobilisation period.
[p.361] ‘Consequently, its combat power was not much greater than that of a reinforced infantry regiment.’
Amazing that such straight out rubbish has made it through the editing process! Read with me:
A regular Dutch infantry regiment comprised three battalions of infantry together with an additional heavy machinegun company (in total 48 heavy MG), a mortar company (6 mortars), an AT company (4 or 6 AT guns) and an infantry-gun battery (4 guns of 5,7 cm). It had a strength of around 2,300 men and had no artillery.
The Light Division without its armoured cars, infantry-gun batteries and with only half its motor-hussar component had six mobile infantry battalions and a battalion strength of motor-hussars, as well as an additional MG company, two engineer-companies, a car-park company, a lorry-company and many other smaller units, together measuring up to a strength of no less than little under 8,000 men! It had a considerable fire-power too. That what remained after detachment of aforementioned units were 80 heavy machineguns, 14 mortars, 28 modern AT guns and 16 field-guns of 7,5 cm. Both personnel wise and armament wise considerably more than double the strength of an infantry regiment!
[p.368] The details on the so called Gruppe de Boer are very poorly given. Oberstleutnant de Boer was the artillery commander of 22.ID, had incidentally landed on Waalhaven in the very morning of May 10 with his staff (envisaged to land at Ypenburg AFB though). On May 12th, he was given command over a composed force of the battalion staff of I./IR.72, two-and-a-half companies of I./IR.72, two platoons of AT-guns and two batteries of 7,5 cm mountain howitsers. That formation was shipped with commandeered lorries from Hordijk (on the island of IJsselmonde) to the southeast of Dordrecht, in two shifts.
Student’s plan was much more extended than the description given in the book p. 368. The I./FJR.1 (reinforced with a company of III./FJR.1) was supposed to maintain its positions around the bridges (the west-side of Dordrecht), to the southwest of Dordrecht half of III./FJR.1 was deployed with on their right flank the mere two companies of II./FJR.2. These forces were instructed to withhold the Dutch from breaking out. In the southeast the Gruppe de Boer would move in, directing an assault into the southeast (railway station area) and east of the city. When they would have gained the upperhand in that angle of the map, the airborne formations jointly with the Gruppe de Boer would start a concentric attack on the Dutch in Dordrecht. The classic German ‘Kesselslacht’ [Kettle slaughter].
[p.370] ‘But heavy artillery fire from the Germans halted the attack’.
Untrue, besides impossible. The Germans had hardly any artillery available. They had two light howitzers and four 8 cm mortars at Moerdijk. The six light howitzers at Dordrecht – included in the De Boer outfit – were not involved. The only artillery raiding the area was … Dutch artillery from the Hoekse Waard [west of the Kil].
[p.370] The ‘accusation’ that Colonel Van der Bijl acted unwise to leave the ‘mopping up’ action to his lt-col Van Diepenbrugge is hardly relevant.
The Light Division had two battle-staffs for the exact purpose of this mobile division to be able to fight two significant battles simultaneously. The entire division was built around the concept of two independant battle-forces. It had two bicycle infantry regiments, two motor-hussar regiments, two infantry-gun batteries, two artillery battalions and two AFV squadrons. Besides that mirror like composition it had a second battle-staff able to lead either of the two battle-forces. That staff was commanded by lt-col Van Diepenbrugge. There is no reason whatsoever to consider that the three battalions strong ‘mopping up’ operation went beyond the theoretical capacity of the lt-col. That the latter didn’t quite live up to the expectations is another issue.
The Panzer arrive on time
[p.372 / p.373] Poor reproduction of the events when the Ensign Marijs his mission is described. The Ensign was indeed sent to Dordrecht, but was received under suspicion of being a traitor and even briefly locked up. His message was received in disbelieve, mainly due to the Dutch conviction that not a German but a French tank division was about to cross the Moerdijk bridges. A message that had come from the Commander of Fortress Holland. Moreover, Van der Bijl saw no report of crossing tanks confirmed. There were no tanks at Moerdijk until 0400 hrs 13 May. The only thing that could be confirmed was the presence of some German armoured cars.
[p.373] Most disturbing – for the readers – is the silly copying (by the editors) of the very unclear (and imperfect) allocation of both assault formations of the Light Division that had to make a western push towards the Kil. In the LD reports they were addressed as an eastern and western formation. But both operated practically from the same vertical departure line. The eastern formation was in fact the left (or southern) formation, whereas the western formation was in fact the right (or northern) formation. The editors should have corrected that imperfect reference to clarify matters for the reader.
[p.373] The reproduction of the German tank assault is very poor. First the authors state that tanks and aircraft opened up on the Dutch attackers, but only later ‘suddenly tanks appeared’. The reality was that when the Dutch point formations massed along the narrow causeway to go west, suddenly tanks drove down from Tweede Tol towards the point Dutch formations. When the first tanks were destroyed or crippled by hastily positioned field guns, they halted and called in Stuka’s. These aircraft dove down on the Dutch positions along the causeway, causing chaos and hastily retreat. When the Stuka’s disappeared the tanks started pushing again. It was only then that a tank formation that had taken a left (northern) turn drove into Dutch positions that had previously not been raided, where the first Dutch elms mistook the orange like panels for identifications of French tanks, that had been promised them to arrive.
[p.375] ‘Once again, some Dutch soldiers thought that French tanks were approaching’.
The fact that the authors failed to introduce the matter properly [in fact – not at all] causes the reader to frown over this quote and guess why these ‘silly’ Dutch soldiers continued to expect French tanks. It was not their own idea, but given in by the local commanders who – on their behalf – had been informed straight from the top. Already on the 10th the commander of Kil Group had started transmitting untrue messages of French tanks supposingly being in arrival from the south. On the 11th he even transmitted a message that a French tank division was about to cross the Moerdijk bridge. On the 12th the Dutch CIC – Winkelman – was informed by the commander of Spui Group that one of his captains [reserve Captain Isaäcs] in Brabant had witnessed a French tank division, whereas this particular Captain had only spoken of numerous French mechanized and motorized units passing him in the very West of the province (well away from Moerdijk)! The CIC nevertheless informed his Commander Fortress Holland of a French mechanized division making a push north. who then conveyed the same rumour down the chain of command. In the end all Dutch commanders on the south front of Fortress Holland were convinced that French tanks were about to come to aid. That was one of the main reasons not to believe the Ensign Marijs when he came to warn for the expected arrival of German tanks. The defenders in Dordrecht were instructed by their officers that the staff of LD and garrison commander were convinced that French aid was about to arrive and that the defenders should give all they’d got to keep up the defence until the very arrival of those French tanks. That was the reason why on the Island and in the city of Dordrecht the Dutch military was so easily caught in the expectance of French tanks. The arrival of a German tank division instead had not been shared with them!
The battle in Rotterdam
[p.378] The first attempt of the HNLMS Z5 to assist in the defence of the Maasbridges was not – like the book suggests – assisted by the TM-51. That was only the case when the second attempt was done.
[p.380] Both companies involved in the storming of the Maas bridges were composed of mainly Marines. The first entirely, the second for more than half.
[p.380] Von Choltitz had not disregarded orders to evacuate the most northern pocket, but advised against an instruction to do so if the going got really tough. At no point in time Coltitz was ordered to evacuate! German officers did not disobey orders.
[p.380] Again the narratives are confusing and poor when it comes to the action around the bridge. First it is stated that the Marines platoon of Zimmermann came no further than the approach way of the bridge, then it is stated that six marines out of that very platoon could find cover on the bridge, which would have been practically impossible when they would not have reach the very same object. The facts were that the platoon managed to come well on the bridge but found itself caught between two ends of the bridge occupied by Germans.
The bombing of Rotterdam
[p.386] Gruppe Putzier had KG.4 [2 x He-111 Gruppe, 1 x He-111/Ju-88 Gruppe], KG.30 [Ju-88] and I./ and II./StG.77 [both Ju-87] available, and KG.54 attached on the 14th.
[p.386] The number of 90 airplanes is uncertain. It may well have been around 100.
[p.386] Peculiar about the red flare arrangement is that although it was stated after the war that it was in place and the flight commanders were aware of it, the reality of things makes that claim of awareness unlikely. The red flares arrangement could never have worked for the largest of two formations coming from the east, never passing the German occupied south of Rotterdam and thus at no point able to see any red flare before the bombs would fall. It was not only a matter of those red flares being witnessed in time by the bomber-crews but particularly (first) a matter of the German occupation of the south of Rotterdam to see the bombers approaching after which those red flares could be launched in time! Even if the German post-war statements on those red flares were genuine and truthful, the bombing-raid tactic didn’t facilitate the red flare arrangement at all. It is a pity that the book doesn’t address this issue as a most argumentative German claim of truthfulness as it comes to genuine intentions to call off the raid in case of indeed timely progress in the negotiations.
[p.388] The time-table is poor again. Shortly after 1200 hrs Schmidt had a message sent to Germany. Before that message was received and the transcript conveyed to the Luftwaffe, much time was lost. The said to be drawn in antennas would only be pulled in relatively shortly before the actual bomb-run. That bomb-run started around 1310 hrs, e.g. not shortly after the 1200 hrs message by Schmidt, as the text wrongly suggests.
[p.388] The bombers flying in from the east could at no point have been witnessed by Captain Backer or any of the German officers on the Noordereiland. These bombers had already started their bomb-run and initiated their bomb-automats before red flares could be launched. It shows the imperfectness of the red flare arrangement.
[p.388] The book – e.g. the editors – claim that the newest researches have been incorporated in this book. Again this chapter proofs the opposite when it comes to the Rotterdam raid.
There are many leads that indicate that considerably more of the Höhne formation dropped their ordinance on Rotterdam than just three planes. The bomb-map – showing the bomb patterns of the raid – show remarkably many strict south to west bomb patterns, which can only be caused by the Höhne formation. Footage of the Höhne formation passing over shows that after the first three bombers filmed another formation continues to fly straight north, not at all steering west, as was suggested by the Höhne file.
More peculiar is the bomb (off)load figure in the reports of 158 x 250 kg and 1,150 x 50 kg. That figure – nothing more or less than the total load report from the Quartermaster of KG.54 – doesn’t match the load-envelop of the He-111 P-type bombers in use, which carried either 4 x 250 kg or 20 x 50 kg on board. But even a combination of both racks [10 x 50, 2 x 250 kg] doesn’t match. The He-111 could only carry 1,000 kg ordinance on these long ranges [Bremen – Rotterdam v.v.]. That means that at least 97 bombers must have attributed to the raid if 97 tonnes was dropped.
The matter is even more interesting should 1,500 kg pay-load have been transported after all. Then the figure of 97 tonnes of dropped ordinance would match to 64 bombers. But none of the mixted configurations matches the official figures of 97 tonnes divided over 158 x 250 kg and 1,150 x 50 kg. A few examples to substantiate that:
- 1,150 x 50 kg requires 230 x a rack for (5 off) 50 kg bombs. In case those were divided over He-111 bombers carrying 50 kg loads it would require either 57,5 [1 ton pay-load] or 38,33 [1,5 ton pay-load] bombers.
- 158 x 250 kg requires as much racks [1 bomb per rack]. In case of a 250 kg-bomb payload only that required 39,5 He-111 in case of 1 ton pay-load and 26,33 in case of 1,5 ton payload.
- The combination of 50 kg and 250 kg payload comes to the following. Bombers carrying 2 x 250 kg and 10 x 50 kg would require 97 bombers to pay 97 tonnes to the operation. Bomb figures would add up to 194 x 250 and 970 x 50 kg. When it comes to 1,5 ton per He-111, it would be either 4 x 250 and 10 x 50 or 2 x 250 and 20 x 50 kg. Calculated from 97 tonnes dropped that results in 64,67 He-111 involved and either 260 x 250 + 650 x 50 kg or 130 x 250 kg + 1,300 x 50 kg. One has to make odd mixtures of payloads to come near the basic figures of 97 tonnes and the reported 158 x 250 and 1,150 x 50 kg. None of them fits! Consequently one or more figures conflict with the actuals.
[p.388] The last paragraph claims that it shall never become clear who’s ‘raid’ was carried out. That of Schmidt / Student [a restraint tactical bombardment of the Maas defences] or that of Göring [a mere strategic carpet bombardment regardless of the negotiations]. Indeed, when you are totally blind for the facts, you cannot give that answer.
Selecting carpet bombers (in stead of dive bombers), raiding the city from two diverted angles and launching ones bombers when negotiations are ongoing, makes utterly clear that it was not a tactical (e.g. operations support) raid and that it had not the slightest feature of such. The bomb aim had nothing to do with the Schmidt / Student map conveyed to KG.54 with the Dutch Maas-positions, but all to do with the non-discriminative carpet bombing that Göring intended.
[p.389] I agree to the dismissal of a straight out terror raid, like the authors do. Notwithstanding that civil area’s were deliberately targeted, the intentions were not so much to kill civilians or create havoc amongst them, but to press a decision onto the Dutch GHQ on the prolonged defence of the Rotterdam front. Nevertheless the raid has all earmarks of a deliberate destruction of civil areas and is therefore at least considerably infringing with the limitations that the international codes prescribe or intended to enforce. When it comes to matters of hitting civilians, the Dutch authorities themselves decided not to evacuate the disputed north of the city, fearing the interruption of military logistics and the clocking of roads outside Rotterdam. That was a weighed decision by the Dutch themselves, taking already on the first day of the invasion and sustained after. Compared to French acting in the south of the Netherlands, one sees a different approach. When the French designed a firm defense plan for the area north of Antwerp, incorporating the city of Breda, they summoned the mayor of Breda to have the city evacuated. That was another approach to a similar matter.
[p. 390] ‘Stuka’s were not available’.
Untrue. They were available, but not applied. Moreover, if they hadn’t been available, it had still been a German decision not to make them available. But in fact both Ju-87 [StG.77] and Ju-88 were available. The authors stated on page 386 that the available Stuka’s [which the authors wrongly only refer to as the Ju-87 whereas the Ju-88 was also a dive-bomber or capable thereof] were assigned to X.Corps ops on the 14th. That is inventive, but doesn’t make sense. On the 14th the entire X.Corps was in the midst of a displacement manoeuvre and needed no Stuka’s on call. Moreover, X.Corps was the last in the priority list of the Luftwaffe command. It had fought its battles on the first three days of the campaign without any air-support whatsoever and only a limited mission on the 13th by StG.77. Dive bombers were available on the 14th but simply not used for the mission to Rotterdam.
[p.390] What does low altitude bomb-running have to do with humanitarian reasons? Whether a bomb hits one house or the other makes no difference at all to the civilians being jeopardized. The only reason why the bombers flew low (and in reality even much lower) were the fears of hitting own troops. That’s why some degree of precision was built-in. The entire listing of arguments why humanitarian issues were incorporated to some degree fails. All arrangements to call off the raid could have been fabricated and are no proof of the German intentions to spare human life. The wave off of the Höhne formation could easily be the built-in excuse to have at least one third of the formation adhere to a red-flare arrangement that was corrupted in itself! Why fly in from the east with two-third of the formation if one is aware of the red-flare arrangement and … also aware of the poor visibility which makes flare arrangements liable arrangements all along?
[p.390] The issue that no incendiaries [fire bombs] were used is weak too. First of all it is unclear whether they were used or not. But most of all the last thing the battle groups on the ground could use was a blazing inferno, which would block their way through the city. The argument of the authors that not using incendiaries was a token of humanity fails.
[p.391] ‘In all approximately 7,240 men had landed between Rotterdam and the Moerdijk bridges’.
This figure is an exaggeration, which doesn’t surprise because the Dutch NIMH continues to work with old figures, like 700-750 men for an airborne battalion and the NIMH still claims units like 1./FJR.1 to have landed (which it didn’t).
The actual and highly reliable number of men landed on the Dutch southfront was around 6,250. That were ca. 3,650 air landing troops [22.ID, IR.72] and ca. 2,600 airbornes and airborne support units.
The book states that the exact number of German KIA is not known, but it is. Careful study by several individuals, supported by figures from reliable organisations like the German Volksbund, show that between Rotterdam [up to and including the Maas-region and Hook of Holland] and Zevenbergschen Hoek [south side of the Moerdijk bridges] a total number of 236 men got killed. That is including airforce and army casualties. It is possible that one or two perished in German hospitals and as such remained out of focus, but the aforementioned figure is highly reliable. In the same room where those 236 Germans were killed, 487 Dutch military lost their lives and around 30 British [navy, army, airforce]. The figures on Dutch losses given in the book are too low, produced from 50 year old sources.
[p.392] The conclusion by the authors is quite lame, and shows the authors to be poor analysts.
The authors address two marginal matters as crucial matters: the poor leadership of the Commander LD Van der Bijl and the lacking leadership of the garrison commander of Dordrecht. The first may add up to some weighing degree, the latter is total rubbish. The leadership of the garrison commander of Dordrecht hardly added up to any decisive matter in the battle for the southfront.
There were two genuinely true matters that counted. The first was the extremely poor command and control from the Commander Fortress Holland. Lieutenant-General Van Andel failed at all possible accounts: his preparation was lousy, his chain of command ill prepared (by himself), his leadership below any tolerable level, and his strategic and operational skills totally absent. All that this General touched failed.
Two things were crucial above all.
The first was the unthinkable decision by Van Andel not to have his troops on full alert status in the night of 9 / 10 May. The second was his strategic failure not to have his direct subordinates on the South front [Group Spui, Group Kil, cantonment Dordrecht and Light Division] launch a coordinated concentric series of assaults on the various angles of the German pocket. That is the only counter-strategy that a lightly armed weakly numbered enemy should be fought with. In stead the General had his direct subordinates make isolated non-integrated assaults. It resulted in isolated operations, lacking any (central) coordination and lacking any profitability of simultenously launched offensives elsewhere along the German corridor. This left the Germans every opportunity to manoeuvre their (relatively) weak forces around. The three- to four-fold stronger Dutch troops, that had over 100 adequate pieces of artillery available, couldn’t manage the retaking of any bit of the German corridor. Everywhere where they met opposition, they phoned the Hague and were as quickly relieved of their tasks as they had got them! The most illustrating example of this was the fact that the LD was relieved of its task to force a crossing at the Noord (in fact opposing less than two German companies along the entire stretch) and instead received instructions to take a huge detour, even more fractioning forces and crossing two German occupied sectors and two water-ways!
The second matter was the total obliviousness towards the crucial (re)possession of the Moerdijk bridges. General Winkelman – the Dutch CIC – had fully relied on the French to retake Moerdijk, as had been vaguely agreed between Gamelin and Winkelman on the 10th. Winkelman did not guard his own back-door but left that to be guarded by the French. He apparently sat in the back-rows when they were teaching strategy at the academy, because as off the second day of the invasion – when both the Dutch Peel-Raam line in the east of Brabant and the Maas-line / Albert-canal line in Belgium had crumbled, the French Dyle-Breda plan was no longer feasible to be executed. The huge void in the Allied lines north of the Albert-canal – extensively studied by all allied commanders during the interbellum – was largely open to the Germans as off the second day of the invasion. That very fact caused the odds for Dyle-Breda to be shifted. Winkelman should have realised that as off the German break-through into the Gembloux void [public news on the 11th] the French would benefit more from a German occupied Moerdijk bridge than they would benefit from reclaiming it and seeing the Dutch blow up the thing! After all, the latter would mean that the German army marching through the south of the Netherlands would not – at least partially – turn into the Fortress Holland but concentrate on crushing the exposed 7th Army. But Winkelman continued to believe that the French would nevertheless win him back the Moerdijk bridge.
Like we say, Winkelman was not a strategist and his limited skills were not compensated by any bright light in The Hague. In stead of focussing the entire mobile army in the south on closing the back door at Moerdijk, Winkelman’s staff and the Commander Fortress Holland kept on pouring dreams into the chain of command. Even more so, intelligence clearly pointing into the direction of a German mechanized unit crossing the Brabant province was arrogantly dismissed by the GHQ whereas one single – misunderstood – phone call from the west of that very province suggesting that a French tank division was about to enter the Fortress was believed and spread down the chain of command. Bearing in mind that not a single French tank division ever touched Dutch soil (with exception of some light tanks hitting the border regions at Tilburg and Woensdrecht), the tragic misperceptions at the Dutch GHQ seem even more significant than they (perhaps) were.
It were those two elements – the awfully bad performance of the Commander Fortress Holland and the strategic flaw not to focus on Moerdijk – that facilitated the German victory on the south front. The poor leadership of the LD and the garrison commander in Dordrecht were matters that were of considerably less significance.
[p.393] It is unbelievable that even the suggestion is made that the Dutch artillery could have done anything against the Moerdijk bridges! These very firm heavy steel constructions would have required precise hits of at least 500 kg aerial bombs to have been blown out of their sockets. The old 15 cm guns and light 7,5 cm field guns couldn’t have done more than blast off some paint. Besides, they did not fail to hit the bridge. They were only allowed to target the traffic bridge as off the morning of the 13th. Hits on the bridges caused no effect on the structures whatsoever.
[p.344] The 1st Battalion was incomplete, which had not been mentioned in the text. Its first company had been put out of action in Norway and had not been replaced. The Battalion therefore landed with a mere three companies, of which the 4th Company missed an entire platoon that had been dropped at Ypenburg by mistake.
[p.345] The fourth group [e.g. the 2nd Battalion of FJR.2] comprised only three companies, because the 6th Company was attached to the Valkenburg raiding unit. Those three companoes were considerably under strength too.
[p.347] The text suggests that the entire 28th 6-Veld Field-gun Battery was available at Moerdijk, but only one section of two guns was available.
[p.347] Captain Marijnen was also a Reserve Captain, notwithstanding the text erroneously suggesting he was a professional officer.
[p.346/347] Although the text suggest that the anti-aircraft units resided under the army command, such was not the case. These units were independent of the army and directly commanded by the regional air-defence command in Rotterdam.
[p.347] Lt-Col Mussert saw a tumour removed in 1934 (not in 1935). He had been Director Bridges and Ferries in the Staff-Section Engineers of the GHQ until March 1940. That particular position would have had him involved in matters of great strategic value, like the secret evacuation plans of the Brabant main army elements that were construed end of March 1940. The new CIC Winkelman hadn’t fancied Mussert maintaining that position and as such Mussert was assigned the command of the engineers depot in Dordrecht in March 1940. The text suggests as if the senior command had not carefully weighed Mussert’s position, irrespective of his ‘contaminated’ family-ties.
[p.347] Colonel Scharroo did not have 300 Marines under his (indirect) command, but 466. This is a classical error, showing that the editors failed to study and produce the right figures.
[p.348] The strength of the German airborne battalions is structurally overdone in this book. Another proof of lacking new researches. The strength of these battalions was around 550 men and not 700.
[p.350] The myth around Leutnant Lemm was corrected by the editors [which had not been the case in the 2005 Dutch edition of the book], with the research of the author of this website as the source. Unfortunately the wrong URL was mentioned in the footnote 7. That should read http://www.zuidfront-holland1940.nl/index.php?page=oberleutnant-fritz-lamm
[p.350] Lieutenant De Jager was not aware that he was surrounded – which he indeed wasn’t (he had only opponents coming from the east).
[p.353] First paragraph. It is suggested by the text as if the raid on the Mantel formation and the subsequent link-up with the Germans at the bridges of Dordrecht-Zwijndrecht was shortly after the landings. In fact the Germans only linked up with their comrades at the bridges around 1600 hrs in the afternoon.
[p.353] Again the number of airbornes is too high. It were slightly more than 500 men jumping around Waalhaven, not 670.
[p.353/p.354] The myth of airbornes landing in the harbour and blazing hangars is sustained here. The editors are probably still unaware that ‘dummies’ were dropped over the airfield. It were almost certainly those dummies landing in the hangars and harbour. None of the recovered German KIA showed any drowning or burning signs. The drop zones of the airbornes can be simply determined by plenty of German aerial photographs available. These show concentrations east, south and southwest of the airfield and none whatsoever on the field or north of it. Not a single German battle-report mentions losses due to landings onto the airfield or even in the harbour. These battle-reports proof to be highly accurate.
[p.354] Annoying error. Messerschmitt is erroneously spelled as Messerschmidt. It was the Messerschmitt AG factory founded by Wilhelm Emil Messerschmitt producing these fighter planes. Incorporating the ‘d’ in Messerschmitt is dead-wrong.
[p.364] Indeed the elms of the II./IR.16 had not (yet) arrived at the Noord when the commander of the LD decided to postpone action to the next day. The elms of II./IR.16 were only sent in during the late evening as is clearly stated in the IR.16 battle-reports and the Student memoirs.
[p.364] Recapturing the bridge? The bridge had not been captured by the German, just its western land-head had been occupied. A captured bridge is a bridge that is controlled on both sides.
[p.364] It is most confusing to readers to speak of ‘one group of the 1st Cyclist Regiment would cross the Noord …’. In fact we are talking mere platoon sizes attempts. On either side of the bridge patrols of 27 men crossed the Noord.
[p.364/365] There were two storming attempts across the bridge before the first Luftwaffe raid hit the Dutch formations shortly after 1000 hrs. Furthermore a second landing party on the south side of the bridge, by half a company strength, is not mentioned at all.
[p.370] Suddenly – half way the page – the Light Division has transformed into the Light Brigade. A clerical error.
The Panzer arrive in time
[p.371] ‘… the first light armoured vehicles of a reconnaissance battalion of the 9th Panzer Division’.
The German PD’s only had one reconnaissance battalion, although the one from 9.PD was still shaped around a Light Division organisation. The recce battalion of 9.PD had been divided over three, later two individual forward operating formations, reinforced with light tanks and a battalion of the motorized infantry of 9.PD. Also at Moerdijk, besides the light AFV’s a battalion of SR.11 arrived in Zevenbergschen Hoek around 1600 hrs on the 12th.
[p.375] The narrative on the actions of 4th Company of 3rd Border Battalion fails to mention that about half the casualties had fallen the previous day, when some fierce battles were fought with airbornes around Wieldrecht.
[p.375] Very misleading information is given about lt-col Mussert insisting to open the barricades. The book strongly suggests [by the order of things] that lt-col Mussert’s instruction to open the barricades was after the events of repelled German tanks in the most inner city. That was not the case. His instructions to leave barricades semi-open, were given before those events.
[p.375 / p.376] Colonel Van der Bijl decided to evacuate the remnants of his division (and all other troops) not because of exhaustion of his troops but because of the fact that the German tanks had already pushed on to Rotterdam and thus the continued defence of Dordrecht was not longer contributing to the defensive strategy.
The battle in Rotterdam
[p.379] A classical impurity: the HNLMS Z5 did not empty all its ammo stocks, but only the forward cache. Besides, the TM-51 didn’t pull back due to ammo shortage, but because it had been seriously damaged by a near miss from a 250 kg bomb. Its hull had been penetrated by numerous shrapnel bits and its engines had been offset by a hull blast on the water after the entire ship had been blown up and fallen back by the massive nearby detonation.