Chapter 8 - The Field Army defeated
This most bulky chapter in the book was (again) written by historian H.W. van den Doel. And that shows, because the chapter is packed with faults, impurities and many poor reconstructions.
It is obvious that the historian Van den Doel has never truly revamped his 1990 script for the first edition. Already the 15 years younger 2005 edition showed remarkably many impurities still, besides some editing on the war crime affairs. Unfortunately this chapter, the most extended of all, is still very inaccurate in this 2010 English edition.
It are mainly the Van den Doel chapters that cause the total book review to be one extended list of corrections. There where some chapters are clearly in rather good shape, the Van den Doel chapters on the Field Army and the air landing battle in the southwest are well below the level of professionalism that may be expected of a book that is presented as a new standard and presumed to be based on the newest scholarly research. The latter is not applicable at all for the Van den Doel chapters.
[p.261] Added should be that the 526.ID was not a fully operational infantry division but in fact no more than two small regiments of so called border-guarding troops [Grenzwache formed from Landeschützen], comprising mainly WWI veterans and semi-military personnel. That the book says that the division stayed in reserve, is untrue. It was an occupational division, not a battle unit.
It is untrue that the inundation had not been successful. It had been successful. The three open accesses remaining – two on either side of Amersfoort, one at the Grebbeberg – had been know beforehand for the simple fact that all three these locations were situated on elevated terrain, hence the name Gelderse Valley for the area east of it. It is curious that the author stated that the inundations had not been successful whereas he himself describes the opposite in the text to follow.
[p.264] It is inaccurate to state that ‘nobody could do a thing to stop the German visitors’. That suggests that even when they would have been caught, they could not have been stopped. That was not the case. Besides the fact that indeed martial law wasn’t declared the army hardly did anything else about the matter. And when they did, the Cabinet refused to act not to arouse the Germans. Like when Lufthansa planes were caught in the act of spying.
[p.265] ‘Nonetheless the X Corps decided to attack the Dutch Field Army along two approaches’.
Why, ‘nonetheless?’ That decision made perfect sense. First of all because the same division staff had determined that the other weak spot was to be found around Amersfoort and secondly because X.Corps was under orders to seize both the Utrecht and the Amsterdam-IJssellake sector, which it couldn’t do from the Grebbeberg sector. Moreover the room to manoeuvre at the Grebbeberg left no room for more than around 25,000 men. It wouldn’t have been worth while to cluster all forces in the same single focus point, for as far as the Auftragtstaktik not already prescribed to develop at least one alternative scheme that had to be executed simultaneously. Otherwise the Dutch would have been left the opportunity to shift forces around.
The fall of the Ijssel line
[p.267] One other significant task of the hussar regiments (and their armoured cars) was to be the eyes and ears of the Field Army in the Grebbeline. Besides the tasks to cover and/or execute demolition tasks and execute delaying actions, the recce tasks were of paramount importance, particularly with the almost entirely absent air recce.
[p.268] Halfway the page it is mentioned that an old 8-staal gun had been positioned in one of the river casemates. That is incorrect.
First of all river casemates were typical heavy casemate only constructed under or near the large bridges in the country. These casemates were tall, heavily executed and well armed structures capable of sustaining heavy impacts. The river casemates only contained 5 cm AT guns and heavy machineguns. No 8-staal gun found a place inside any of these structures.
The one available old 8-staal gun at Westervoort had been placed in one of the ancient fortress casemates; in other words one of the original gun emplacements of the outdated fort. The author mixed that up with the modern river casemates near the bridge land-head. He mixes up ordinary light casemates, original fort casemates and river casemates.
Moreover the most forward armoured train was shot at by three AT guns and the 8-staal gun. The text suggests that only the old gun contributed. The train was badly shot up, the armoured tender demolished by AP grenades.
[p.268] Last paragraph. ‘After a few shots had been fired with the machineguns (there), these guns malfunctioned as well, leaving the gun crews with no other choice but to retreat. It was therefore not long before Fort Westervoort came under heavy artillery fire.”
What has one to do with the other? As if the MG’s in the casemates could prevent the German artillery of pounding direct and indirect fire into the fortress? It were one battalion of 10,5 cm howitzers and an additional battery of 15 cm howitzers [II.SSAR and 11./AR.256] shelling the defences with indirect fire. Not a thing that machineguns could do to prevent that,
Moreover, it was already long before that the German artillery had opened up on all positions on the westbank of the river. It was more often the enemy fire causing gun failure than mechanical failure from use.
It is not mentioned that two attempts to cross the river – by troops of III./SSDF – had been rebuffed before the attackers managed to reach the westbank under cover of fierce indirect arty fire and dense direct MG and AT fire.
[p.270] ‘A regiment of the 207th Infantry Division was quickly able, however, to repair the partially destroyed boat bridge at Doesburg. A number of pontoons were launched to fill the gap in the boat bridge’.
It should have been added that the elements of the boat bridge had been carefully copied by German engineers before the invasion. Among the invasion forces was a bridge-pioneer team that carried these elements with it. It was therefore not surprising that a rather quick repair could be fixed. And obviously it was not a regiment of 207.ID doing this, but attached engineers. Besides it had been II./SSDF gaining the control over the region around Doesburg. A regiment of 207.ID had little to with it all.
[p.271] It isn’t mentioned that 1st Battalion of SS Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler reached the westbank via the pontoon bridge at Westervoort and moved towards Renkum after.
‘All of this was however to no avail: the German advance continued’.
Well, did anybody expect anything else? The IJsselline endurance period had been calculated to 24-48 hrs hold up for the enemy. The Germans were unable to mount an assault on the Grebbeline on the first day of the invasion. In a way the IJsselline defences had lived up to the expectations. It is therefore silly to state that the German being delayed was to no avail. The 'avail' was the fact that the Germans were held up long enough as had been the intention all along!
The attack on the outposts of the IVth Division
[p.274] Correction should be added to the claim that a heavy artillery bombardment was unleashed on the outposts. That was not the case at all. It were two artillery battalions supporting, one to the northern sector [e.g. sector I./SSDF] and one supporting the southern sector [e.g. sector III./SSDF]. It was probably one battery, possibly two, that was (were) available to shell the 2nd and 3rd echelon. Both artillery battalions provided modest supporting fire, no more.
[p.277] The German attack on the Grebbe position near Kruiponder was not simply repelled by one platoon (as the book falsely suggests), but by the combined effect of an intensive artillery mission, several platoons of infantry and a flanking heavy machinegun position of the adjacent 19.RI unit.
[p.277] “By now the IIIrd Battalion of the SS regiment (…) had begun to move (…)”
It is suggested that 3rd Battalion SS had held itself still until midday. That wasn’t the case. The III./SSDF moved forward around 0800 hrs (Dutch time). They had had plenty of difficulties avoiding and later eliminating the only casemate in the out post sector, which was close to the junction of the river dike and the main road just outside Wageningen. A machinegun position in a casemate and a 6-veld gun nearby had caused the SS men first to deploy some PAK and mop up that most forward defence before they could move forward. Several previous attempts had been rejected. This ‘prelude’ to the advance of III./SSDF seems to be hardly known by many Dutch historians. It was particularly a section of 1-III-8.RI under lieutenant Lindeman (later supported by the one commanded by ensign Bijlsma] holding up the Germans for a couple of hours before they could break out westwards. It was also this sector (and that of 3-III-8.RI near the main road) that was most targeted by the German artillery.
[p.277] ‘And many Germans were killed’.
Exaggeration. The III./SSDF only lost 11 men KIA during the entire operation on the 11th. Possibly one or two more later succumbed to wounds endured during the action.
[p.281 / p.282] The text strongly suggests a fair battle behaviour by the SS operating in the outpost sector. Particularly the phrase “Eventually however the Dutch troops were defeated in a regular infantry duel.”
That applied to part of the fighting, but a considerable deal was much less regular and/or fair. Although also on the second and third day of the battle the SS would quite frequently commit war crimes, the first day (11 May) in particular saw massive abuse of POW’s (a. being pushed towards the main resistance line with SS sheltering behind them, b. forced to pull light guns towards the main resistance line whilst being under Dutch fire, c. and some incidents where survivors of an overrun position were simply murdered). As already addressed before, editor Herman Amersfoort has a strongly differentiating opinion on this, regardless of the about 50 quite reliable accounts on these affairs. He basically claims that beside a few incidents of the kind, the German aggression and abuse came forth out of frustration about presumed Dutch white flag abuse and ‘the thick of the fight’. Interesting excuses, partially perhaps even plausible to some extent, but that doesn’t take away the bare facts of quite extensive SS crimes in this particular corner of the Dutch theatre.
General Harbert’s countermeasures
[p.282] ‘Harberts still had no insight at all however, into what was happening at the Grebbeberg. Harberts suspected that the 8th Infantry Regiment was facing weak troops only’.
The book strongly suggests General Harberts’ assessment of the situation to have been quite naïve and that the General could be held accountable for that bad assessment. That suggestion is further fed by the absence in the narratives on the subject of a proper assessment of what intel the General had to rely on.
It is not mentioned that Harberts was fed by the staff of the Field Army with reports of both hussar recce and air-force recce units that there was no sign of German formations nearby the Grebbeline and that there were no tracks or indirect clues that would make a strong German presence likely. The only news that Harberts did get was that of skirmishes with small German scout parties in the late afternoon of the 10th east and northeast of Wageningen. Larger concentrations had not been determined. In the early morning of the 11th air recce around Apeldoorn and the Ijssel totally missed out on pontoon bridge construction across the Ijssel and west thereof over the canal. It rightly established the entire northern sector of the Grebbeline–Ijssel void empty of German formations. Another air recce mission by two escorted Fokker C-V planes in the morning of the 11th was aborted (due to engine failure of one of the recce planes) before the target area had been reached. The mission was repeated shortly after, where two escorted C-V’s flew down the entire main-road between Wageningen and Arnhem and spotted … nothing. Even the railway-track Arnhem – Ede was reported to be entirely free of enemy concentrations. These aerial reconnaissance results were remarkable. The entire 207.ID had been deployed west of Arnhem or even as close as Ede. Also one battalion of SSLAH was at Renkum and the entire SSDF was deployed around Wageningen. Non of these formations was spotted. More particular, the assault on the Grebbeberg was in full progress! All that had been missed by the reconnaissance planes, which had obviously either flown much too high or much too far from the actual recce targets. The raging fires in Rhenen and Wageningen should have led them onto the path of evident action, but apparently it had not worked out that way.
It meant however that General Harberts received intel about the enemy’s deployment that suggested no larger formations at all. That intel came along with the perception that any serious offensive action by the enemy would be preluded by heavy artillery bombardments, perhaps even aerial bombardments. That had been the WWI practise. At the same time during that conflict the German army had shown the practise of sending in small but determined probing parties to test the opponents positions on suspected weak spots. Harberts was very aware of those quite paramount fundamentals of the German WWI tactics and applied those on his assessment of the events in the morning and afternoon of the 11th.
It is also not mentioned that Harberts was fed with very poor intel from the commander 4th Division stating that his left wing (out post) seemed to flee – or at least fall back without pressure of the enemy. Furthermore this commander reported that there was activity of enemy ‘patrols’ and that the impression was strong that a boldly operating enemy was only present in small number. Moreover, numerous reports from several sites started pouring in of NCO’s en officers that (supposingly) had evacuated their positions in the out post sector without fighting.
What was General Harberts to assess from this intel? That the enemy had started its main assault?
[p.284] ‘... vastly underestimating the strength of the enemy troops which after all comprised two entire battalions.’
True in a way, but not very accurate as to the orders given to the Major. He was ordered to cross the bridge over the narrow Grift stream, which was connecting the main road with the Grebbeberg. In that very sector was only one enemy battalion, whereas the second battalion was much more to the north. Nevertheless the second battalion could have brought south to assist in case of emergency. Besides, the Dutch battalion failed a strength of about one company too.
[p.285] The sketches of the moral and perception in the Grebbeberg trenches is a caricature of the facts. The troops emptying their rifles on the Van Apeldoorn battalion hadn’t seen one single enemy or white flag. It were troops of the stopline – well back on the slope – that fired nervously on the moving battalion. It was their fear of infiltrations that had them grown trigger happy. It had nothing to do with them witnessing the aforementioned enemy or flags, which they simply could not see from their trenches.
Also the narrative goes wrong where it suggests that the friendly fire incident had the counter-attack stall in its roots. Obviously the battle reports have hardly been studied. Already well before midnight the own fire incidents were solved. Only then the Major sent out a scouting party ahead of the main force in order to establish the situation. In itself a good tactical decision. Soon enough though the Major had found himself the excuse that his battalion couldn’t possibly pass the narrow beams that had been left over from the demolished bridge. Although half a day later two German battalions of SS would manage to negotiate the same beams, the Major considered it necessary to await pontoon-boats of the locally present pioneer company. When that took too long he decided to call of the entire affaire; day light was glooming.
[p.285 / p.286] The book says that the General’s countermeasures had been rather poor.
It is untrue to conclude that the General can be accused of a poor countermeasure. It was entirely up to the division commander himself to carefully plan the counter measures. Subsequently the execution of the planned action was poorly executed by the battalion commander.
What certainly could have been addressed in the book – but was not – was the very fact that retaking the out posts was an irrational decision in itself. The General had led himself been taken by his rage towards the presumed failing battalion that had defended the out posts to begin with. Retaking that position was against all military logic, because it wouldn’t gain any durable defensive benefits. After all, the out posts were not part of the main defence sector. It was an operational flaw by the General to deploy one of the scarce reserves (in that stage of the operation) to apply it in a battle that would gain no strategic or operational angle whatsoever. Emotions ruled the General’s ratio.
The German attack on the main resistance sector
[p.286] It is most confusing that the author decided to merge the SS regiments with the infantry divisions with which they cooperated. For example, the author states that Tiedemann’s division had been ‘more successful’, referring to the second day of the battle of the Netherlands. In reality 207.ID and 227.ID had virtually not fired a single shot yet. It had been both SS regiments putting up the fights, occasionally supported by some regular infantry. At the Grebbeberg, the infantry of 207.ID had not been involved as off yet. And it wouldn’t be for at least another full day before they would get involved (besides a - failed - side action more up north). Operationally it may be so that the divisions were linked with their storm troops [SSDF and SSLAH respectively] but the reader may not be all too aware of that.
[p.286] It is incorrect that two SS battalions attacked the Hornwerk.
The German operation planning was such that III./SSDF would take point, forcing an entrance into the forward-line defences at the Hornwerk and follow up such breach by working its way onto the southeast side of the slope. Only when it would have managed to open that gap, the 2nd Battalion was to follow up and swoop north by east to clear that side of the slope. Both battalions were then to force their way up to the slope and sweep the entire Grebbeberg westwards. The 1st Battalion would follow up in a concentric push straight west along the main road.
[p.287/p.288] In the (short) description of the Hornwerk breach by the SS it is not added that the defenders of this bastion – which was divided in three segments by the intersecting main-road and dyke – were much obstructed in their sight and aim by the elevated bastion which made the weapons-coverage of lower angles – used by the approaching German troops – virtually impossible. Besides that aspect there was another, probably even worse, circumstance. On the north-west side of the most northern bastion was an orchard that had not been felled and thus facilitated the SS to get within pistol range of the bastion without being spotted. Those two circumstances counted considerably more in the quick defeat of the occupants of the Hornwerk than anything else.
The SS only repaired the bridge over the Grift in a later stage. The book suggests as if the Germans did so when the battle for the Hornwerk was still raging on. That was not the case. They had taken along rafts and some timber works to facilitate the crossing of the Grift. Only when they had managed to clear the casemates on the south east summit of the Grebbeberg, they were able to provisory repair the bridge.
The 4th section that was entrenched north of the road, close to the east side of the Grebbeberg, was much hindered by buildings and other constructions. Once again the funds had been absent to take the most principle obstructions down. The SS cleverly made us of dead angles to out manoeuvre any remaining Dutch positions nearby the sluice and bridge.
[p.291] The maths on the Wäckerle action are wrong again, as usual we’d almost say.
The initial assault by the Wäckerle force had been given in by three of his battered companies. These were to be covered by his 12th and the attached 15th [Kradschützen] Company. The formation was to be split into three. The right formation was led by the Obersturmbannführer himself, whereas the middle formation was to work its way through the forest and the left formation swoop around the south of the Grebbeberg along the Rhine. Both latter formations did not succeed (for reasons unknown). The formation commanded by Wäckerle himself did succeed however, although it suffered considerable casualties (and lost many men that got isolated from their commander). The persevering core of the Wäckerle outfit was not more than about 50-75 men strong. Far from the 300 men that Van den Doel claims. The book doesn’t tell where he got his figure of 300 men. Certain is that a large part of III./SSDF remained east of the stop-line, or in isolated pockets between the Dutch trenches and the railway, and would again mount an attack along the northside of the main road on the 13th.
The book doesn’t mention the odd reason for the Wäckerle action, that was not sanctioned by the division commander. On the contrary. When Standartenführer Keppler, commander of the SSDF, was informed that a battalion of IR.322 would take over the positions of III./SSDF to finalize the siege of the Grebbeberg, Keppler quickly informed Wäckerle of him being relieved of his task. Also the other two SS battalions were to be relieved by troops of 207.ID. It had every bit of the intention of General Von Tiedemann that he desired his own troops to take the Grebbeberg, whereas the SS had done the dirty work. Wäckerle decided – most likely upon Keppler’s instruction – to push for the railway line. In fact a clear show of subordination by the SS, but Wäckerle was covered by his regiment commander. It created a terrible void in the German lines that was not closed until hours later, when the 1st Battalion of IR.322 had finally been able to reach the Grebbeberg where it had been scheduled to arrive at 2200 hrs the evening before. The other two SS battalions were thereafter relieved during the early morning and swifted position to the north of the Grebbeberg. The Wäckerle action had caused the remnants of his battalion to become operationally obsolete. It was therefore left around the Hornwerk from where it launched an independant assault on the 13th along the south flank of the infantry of IR.322 in order to push to the Stoomhamer and relieve the by then encircled position of its commander. It is very likely that the enormeous risk Wäckerle took with his 'naughty' night assault have cost him the Knights Cross to the Iron Cross. The application that Keppler filed for his favorite battalion commander was refused.
[p.292] The reconstruction of the viaduct incident is corrupted.
It were not the troops fleeing from the Wäckerle breach area that had massed in front of the viaduct obstruction, but troops of 24.RI that had been sent onto the Grebbeberg with the assignment to launch a counter strike from the north-side of the slope. Those troops had ran into German forward positions during the late hours of the 12th, lost track of their path, and had been caught in a friendly fire incident causing many to flee back to the viaduct. It were those troops negotiating a passage with the Captain Gelderman, when a terrific battle noise came from the Grebbeberg summit up the road. That was a bunch of Dutch soldiers being chased by the SS bunch that had broken through. The massing troops in front of the obstruction then started pushing to cross the blocked viaduct, after which the Captain had his men open up on these men, who subsequently fanned out in all directions if not killed or injured. Subsequently fire was opened by the Captain and his men on the SS insurgents, that on their turn took a left, ending up in the Stoomhamer works, that was about 300 m away from the viaduct.
Chaos among the military leadership
[P.293] ‘Even though they took Plugge’s remark to heart, however, it was no longer possible for them to approach the case with an open mind’.
Highly suggestive! How does the author know that they couldn’t approach the matter with an open mind?! It is obviously a fact that the General tried to influence, even tried to direct, the court martial, but since the CM was consisting out of seasoned legal professionals they were used to the influence that public opinion or – for that matter – the prosecution would try to lay upon them. Was such an influence in every day’s life also a reason to state that a regular court would never be able to approach a matter with an open mind?! In day to day life it is often suggested that courts are perhaps too often leaning towards opposing the prosecution as to emphasize their independancy!
[p.293] It is stated that Sergeant Meijer had a position in the front-line defences, which were the most forward defences along the Grift stream. Sergeant Meijer had however not had a position in the front line defences but in a sector between the stop-line and the so called intermediate defences. That was a position between the front-line and the stop-line that had been constructed as a consequence of the front-line strongly diverging from the stop-line directly north of the Grebbeberg slope. Both his guns were positioned far away from the front-line and had in fact both the front-line and intermediate position trenches in front of them.
The author sketches a reconstruction that clearly reveals his personal perception by the case. He states amongst other things that Meijer had lost all contact with his superior officers. It isn’t mentioned that Meijer had no direct superior officer, because he was submitted to the commander of II-8.RI in stead of his own company commander, who remained in the 19.RI sector. Nearby the position where the sergeant himself was (his second piece was positioned about 400m to the north), was the command post of II-8.RI. Moreover he had several officers of adjacent sections in the near vicinity. It was not a matter of lost contact, but of contact that was not sought by the sergeant.
The most suggestive (and untrue) statement is the following:
“As was the case at so many locations on the Grebbeberg, partly as a result of the artillery shelling, the unrest among the men increased and, under pressure, Meijer decided without consultation to retreat.”
The text states (it is not merely suggested) that many more positions around Meijer deserted alike. That is profoundly untrue. In fact not a single position was deserted in this sector of the defences. All remained in position. The author clearly builds a case around the (professional) sergeant Meijer as being a victim against all odds.
What is not stated – and indirectly another suggestion of the author’s bias – is that Meijer claims to have left due to the pointlessness of him and his men being there for reasons that they had no HE ammo for their AT gun. Also the sergeant claimed that the position suffered from heavy artillery shelling (quod non), that officers were untraceable (he never left the position to find them) and that he considered that he could make his services more worth while in a further backward position. In a lull of the artillery shelling – which had been not more intensive than disturbing fire by the way – he had his tow-truck driven up to the gun position, hooked on the gun, had his men jump on the truck, mounted his motor-bike himself and drove off towards the east (!) and then north, entirely avoiding his second piece that he passed by within a few dozens of metres, and drove off to a location 40 km west of the Grebbeline, where he decided to have a cup of coffee with his squad! That behaviour had nothing to do with impulsive fear or shell-shock, nothing to do with the diligent intention to carry on fighting, and nothing to do with a diligent attitude of a professional NCO on the front-line. It were particularly these convincing issues that let this NCO be selected for the ‘example’ setting envisaged by the commanding General who strongly felt that if he wasn’t to set an example, that running from the front would be met by serious consequences, the entire front-line trenches would be deserted in no time.
[p.295] ‘First of all there were of course the questionable actions of General Harberts. He underestimated the German attack on the Grebbeberg and assumed that the imminent collapse of the Dutch front was the result of a lack of fighting spirit among the troops. In order to remedy this he wanted to make an example of someone, whereby the actual individual who was accussed was of no consequence. (…). The courtmartial gave only scant grounds for the sentence. (…) what is regrettable is that no further grounds for the sentence were given in what was a particularly complicated case.’
This highly suggestive and impure citation contains one suggestion after the other.
First of all the Harberts assessments on the events at the Grebbeberg are virtually used against the General. Save his wrong perception – given in by amongst others the local commanders who briefed the Corps staff of troops fleeing from the front rather than them being pressed away – it was not entirely untrue that quite considerable numbers of troops in the out posts had indeed fled without putting up a fight. The reason that hundreds made it back onto the Grebbeberg rather than being captured by the Germans was already proof of that. It was not – as the book clearly suggests – so that the out posts had put up a tough fight all along. It had been only a few sections that had fought bitterly and as such compensated the failure of others to do the same. The General may have underestimated the strength of the German attack, but there is no need to exaggerate the same either. Given the circumstances and the very poor intel that had reached the General, his assessment of the situation was very understandable. It is however a much enchanted argument by ‘revisionists’ – who seek complete rehabilitation for sergeant Meijer – to blame the General for assessing the battle field status wrongly. Clearly an opinion of people never been in the position – not even in peace-time – of having to coordinate or lead a larger manoeuvre.
Amazingly the book suggests that the case was complicated! That was not the case – on the contrary! The reason why it was selected was that it was crystal clear that a profound desertion case had been found, breaching the military law in several grave aspects. The NCO had not only fled the front without consultation of any superior and clearly on his own initiative (against standing orders to persevere), he had also entirely neglected his other gun squad and left them behind without any notification or warning. Moreover, the NCO in question had not reported himself back for duty nearby, but had driven no less than 40 km to the west, resting at a pub for a cup of coffee. The matter was as clear as glass and therefore – even taken the circumstance into account that the General had beforehand demanded the death penalty – the court had absolutely no problem finding the NCO guilty on all accounts.
When the NCO had been executed, the news of that example would never make it to the front lines, although it was shared by the General himself with the commander of 4th Division and 8th Regiment. Reality had already overtaken the issue. The front-line at the Grebbeberg had been busted by the German assault at the Hornwerk and from that moment on there were much larger issues than that of the executed sergeant. After all death was all around. In the end the whole example setting totally failed, because within 24 hrs the entire Grebbeline defences were about to collapse. Yet that very same fact that the example entirely missed its intended purpose, would later gladly be used by revisionists.
The case itself was not complicated – as the book wrongly suggests. It was made complicated due to the context of the matter. First there was the General insisting a death penalty beforehand, and next was the waiver, again enforced by the General, of the 48 hr grace period between sentencing and execution. The General demanded an immediate execution in order for him to be able to set an example and spread the news of that. Those two issues in particular made this matter a ‘complicated’ one. Besides there were a few more irregularities too. The defence had not been issued a genuine lawyer but in stead an officer with 'some knowledge' of the law only. It would almost certainly not have mattered, but yet it was not as it had supposed to be. Also the execution process was not according to prescribed procedures, with amongst other details too small an execution squad. These matters were obviously ammunition for the revisionists in later years. As off 1970 the matter became publicly known in the Netherlands (as a result of a tv-documentary about the war) and caused an amazing unrest among veterans and other ‘fatherlanders’. The then still living General Harberts even had to flee the country (to the UK). That virtually none of the raging croud had any idea what they were talking about didn’t matter. In those years of liberalism and anti-establishment movements, the matter was gladly accepted as an issue to riot over. Yet – even today the matter is a favourite topic among particularly left-wingers who still frequently bring up the matter in the press or even in parliament. The sergeant Meijer affair has grown to become a symbol that lives far beyond the genuine desertion case it actually represented. Tragically enough it were many of his former comrades – that he deliberately deserted on the morning of May 11, 1940 – that demanded his rehabilitation. In fact it was not the rage over Meijer that motivated them but the general perception of them still feeling betrayed by their politicians in those days by being sent to war so poorly prepared. Meijer had become a token of the unfairness of affairs in those days.
[p.295] ‘Meijer’s execution hardly tempered Harberts’ anger at all.’
Apparently General Harberts must hang high, given the highly tendentious way this author describes things.
The General had meanwhile also been confronted with reports from the 2nd Division [sector north of the Grebbeberg] that out posts had left their positions whereas these troops later – after they had been sent back – could easily reoccupy their left positions for no enemy had shown up. These matters further anchored Harberts idea that his troops were fleeing all the time. He sanctioned a Captain of the Military Police to form a detachment of police troops and seal of the entrances to the Grebbeberg, halting every person that came down the slope who had no business behind the lines. Upon refusal to return to their positions or the use of force to penetrate the road-blocks the Captain was authorized to use deadly force.
When the news of retreating forces continued to pour in, the General decided to go to the front himself. On the way in he could himself establish the nervousness of the troops and the great disorder of formations he witnessed. Moreover he witnessed the very mild effects of the artillery fire notwithstanding the reports that had been receiving of heavy shelling. He was not amused. When he entered the quarters of the division commander he made perfectly clear what he thought of the affairs and the failed counter measures overnight. The General used strong wording. Hereafter the General decided to pay the regiment commander of 8.RI – who’s CP was on the Grebbeberg slope itself – a visit. On the way there the General and his adjutant witnessed again the disorder among the troops and moreover the effect on the troops of incoming artillery fire, whereas at the same time the destruction of enemy artillery fire in this direct front sector was hardly visible. The General himself didn’t care less for the artillery shells flying over and popping not too far off of him and walked straight into the CP of the totally surprised staff of 8.RI. There he raged against the entire staff and the commander. His shock therapy was intended to get the officers and staff personnel to give the utmost in stead of a grain less. The General clearly intended to boost moral by his own appearance two clicks from the actual most forward front-line. He wanted the shock of his appearance and his raged speech to cause a positive effect on the men in the trenches. If their General dared to come into the frontline – under fire – there should be no reason for them to falter.
The way the book reconstructs the affairs – without any context whatsoever but merely stating the bully behaviour of the General as a barking dog – is misleading. Anyone is entitled to question the General’s attitude and his modus operandi – which shows some scaring parallels with some particular scenes of the well known movie about the American General George Patton – but if no context whatsoever is presented, the reader may grown into the perception that General Harberts was a virtual mad man unfit the uniform he was wearing. In stead he may well have been the only Dutch senior officer being fit for the task of leading an Army Corps in war-time. The behaviour of this Dutch General – still today victim of cheap mockery – was rather common practise amongst successful German or American Generals during the war. The Dutch however did – perhaps still do – not think in heroism or militarism but in victim ship. One didn’t judge the affair on the basis of ‘they had it coming’ but ‘the poor bastards were bullied’. The entire narrative in this book on Harberts is edited in exactly the style-modus of the latter: the General was insane, the receiving end were victims. By giving only half the information the author and editors make the reader believe that indeed the General was mad without leaving the option open that perhaps he was the one-eyed king in the land of the blind …
[p.296] ‘This time Van Voorst tot Voorst had gone too far, however’.
A curious phrasing of the affair. ‘This time’ suggests as if there had been a similar intrusion into the chain of command, which there had not been.
More importantly, it was not simply a matter of ‘going too far’ but a matter of gross and deliberate negligence by the Commander of the Field Army. It was a decision by Van Voorst tot Voorst that was perhaps the largest blunder of Dutch senior commanders during the entire May War. It caused escalation, it caused emotions to rise, and above all it caused the much feared order, counter-order, disorder. It cannot be true that a commanding General intrudes in the operational chain of command in such a dramatic way if there is not a mandatory operational necessity to do so. That circumstance wasn’t there - not at all.
Van Voorst tot Voorst his blunder could have caused the entire chain of command to collapse, just when the thick of the fight was on and firm and undisputed leadership as well as operational focus was of paramount importance. The fact that the author and editors of the book ‘explain’ this only from a basic clash of characters during the interbellum is grotesque. It emphasizes again that the analysis of military affairs goes way beyond the capacity of Van den Doel and the editors of the book. They master the 'peace desk analysis' and nothing else.
The truth of the matter is that Van Voorst tot Voorst had already pre-war proven himself a fantasy-rich General, dreaming of an offensive Dutch strategy, even of Dutch counter offensives into Germany! He had not a clue of the current affairs and the state of the art of war. He was a General of the previous century, nobleman in all his doing and thinking but not the kind of senior officer material that a Field Army required. Van Voorst tot Voorst was very unlike his predecessor, General Roëll, who had been an excellent commander of the Field Army, but who had been very outspoken; a quality that is generally not appreciated in the Netherlands, let alone in the army. Whatever the clash of characters had been during the interbellum, it cannot be the reason (e.g. excuse) for the kind of intrusion that Van Voorst tot Voorst showed on May 12, 1940. It was simply a matter of lacking skills and extremely poor leadership that let him make such a straight out blunder. Besides, if characters on that level of command don’t get along to the extent that this kind of military management failures occur, it is unforgivable that Harberts had not been replaced during the interbellum. And also that fires back on Van Voorst tot Voorst himself.
[p.297] It is stated that the counter attack would pass right through the positions of 8.RI. That was not the case, with exception of one small position designated as the intermediate defence north of the Grebbeberg slope. The counterattack was envisaged to cross the valley between the Grebbeberg and the village Achterberg / the south of the inundation.
The Fall of the Grebbeline
[p.299] ‘On the evening of 12 May the German attack on the Grebbeberg had resulted in a strong bridgehead west of the Grift. Responsible for this achievement was SS regiment Der Führer, which had now been in action for 48 hours.’
Incorrect, they had been in action for 72 hours. The SS Regiment had fought from the very first hour of the invasion of 10 May at Westervoort and Doesburg, on the 11 May seizing the out post sector at the Grebbeberg region and on the 12th they had seized the front-line sector.
The theory of the relieve of SS Der Führer by IR.322 as a result of Von Tiedemans consideration that the SS had been in the lead for three consecutive days is highly speculative and almost certainly untrue. It is far more likely that Von Tiedemann relieved the SS to move in his regiment for the final push and simultaneous glory to be harvested by his own division. The SS had not requested relief and moreover considered it precisely the latter given consideration that had them being relieved. Already before it was addressed that the relieve order caused Wäckerle to undertake his bold storm troop action overnight. Besides, the SS was not taken out, but shifted to the north to launch a storm on the Achterberg front sector in stead. Obvious that Von Tiedemann thought of his own glory in stead of the SS recuperating after three days of sustained battle!
[p.299] It is a pity that the reader – besides the rather unclear map on pg. 300 [which for instance doesn’t show the inundation] – has not been properly introduced to the battle field situation before the counter attack by the Dutch was undertaken. It shall be briefly given here.
The counterattack was planned to be pressed between the village of Achterberg and the northern slope of the Grebbeberg. A room not wider than about 500 m, particularly narrowed by the south point of the inundation east of Achterberg. The valley was entirely open and flat. The battalions would march in a 2+2 formation. They would have to cross the stopline trenches first. Until then they would have own troops on either side, but proceeding through the stopline they would have German positions on their right flank, on a slightly elevated ground (north slope of the Grebbeberg). In front of them they faced the intermediate defence position which – by the time the action was planned – was still in Dutch hands, but by the time that the action actually started, had been overrun by the SS battalions. These SS battalions were about to unleash an assault on the stopl-line north of the Grebbeberg. As a consequence both forces would meet head-on. Meanhwile the German artillery had a free ride on the Dutch formations manoeuvring in the open valley. These formations were easily spotted and easy targets for the German MG’s facing them from the front and the right flank. Moreover, artillery observers had no problem whatsoever to identify targets in the narrow valley either. On the Dutch side the artillery support had been choked by the odd decision not to give direct support, due to the fear of hitting own troops that may have been able to sustain German assaults in the northern front-line and intermediate line defences. As a consequence it was decided to prepare the counter assault with indirect fire only. That the Dutch offensive was – under those circumstances – doomed from the beginning, seems obvious.
[p.301] The mentioned RAF bombing raid was a made up story somewhere up the chain of command. There has never been any clue as where this RAF support should have come from.
[p.302] The fair description of the balances between the forces during the Dutch counter-attack on this very page, particular during the last phase, strongly contradicts the odd and incorrect analysis that the same author shall present at pg. 317 about the balances of power and which was copied (originated) by professor Amersfoort’s assessment in chapter 11 [p.406].
[p.302] Stunningly poor reconstruction of the battle for the stopline in the last two paragraphs.
First of all there were also the remnants of III./SSDF, that joint the attack on the stopline along the Heimersteinselaan sector (about 300 m north of the main Grebbe road).
Secondly the Dutch lines also contained remnants of forces from the front-line and of the battalion of 24.RI that had been partially broken up during the failed action on the north of the Grebbeberg during the night before. Also an additional heavy machinegun company [16.MC] supported the stopline with two sections on the northflank.
The crux of the matter was that the regular infantry did not penetrate the line in order to subsequently attack it from the rear. On the contrary. The rather clumsy German infantry attacked over the full line in first instance and was repelled all along, with exception of one small breach in the far north. The second attempt again unfolded against most of the length of the stopline, where only local successes in the north paid out. In stead of breaking up the defences from the rear and out of one flank only – like the SS had done during the days before – the regular infantry started surrounding trench bits where resistance was kept up and as such numerous man-to-man fights occurred where the attackers could hardly make use of grenades or (sub) machineguns due to their comrades attacking simultaneously from all sides. The German tactics were so poor that they had stunning losses. The two army battalions lost as many men as the SS had done during three days of battle before. Also on the Dutch side the losses were heavier than any given battle on the days before. It was also for this poor German tactics that the first achieved breaches in the Dutch defence line that occurred around 0930 hrs in the morning, nevertheless had the battle for the trenched-line dragging on until well into the afternoon.
[P.304] The Van de Boom section of the stop-line was attacked by the remnants of III./SSDF under Hauptsturmführer Kumm, that tried to reach their encircled and cut-off battalion commander at the Stoomhamer position (near the viaduct) soonest. The SS pushed on like they had done the days before and was way more successful than their Heer comrades a few dozen metres more to the north or the south.
[p.304] The Germans used no ‘artillery gun’ against the CP of Major Landzaat but an AT gun.
[p.305] The fight at and around the CP of the regiment commander is not described at all. At the end of the afternoon the entrenched CP – which contained about 100 men – sustained a number of limited German assaults. At the end the Germans left the CP aside and moved back to the stop-line area to regroup for a night assault on the railway sector, that had been abandoned by them around 1730 hrs.
[p.305] Jonkeer De Marees van Swinderen was a lieutenant-colonel.
[p.305] The two attempts by Wäckerle’s formation to break out off of their encirclement were both done while infringing the international codes. The first attempt was done by disguising the most forward SS men in Dutch uniforms (but leaving their boots on which distinguished them from the Dutch soldiers wearing puttees), the second attempt was done by pushing some Dutch pow’s ahead of them. Both attempts were repelled.
It is no coincidence that this author (and his editors) fail to mention these quite severe breaches of the war laws. It fits their quest to diminish these facts, as has been addressed before.
[p.305] ‘The Germans thereupon called in the Luftwaffe’
This citation is a total misfit by the author and editors. It is put like it has any relation with the two failed attempts by the isolated Wäckerle outfit, but had not the slightest relation with those events.
The Stuka attack had been called in when the SS at Achterberg ran into strong Dutch formations and the decisive penetration of the stop-line on the Grebbeberg itself proved a tough nut to crack. It had nothing to do with Germans running aground at the railway line nor with the SS group of Wäckerle. The Stuka assault had been called in much before and was confirmed by the Luftwaffe at around 1045 hrs Dutch time to be executed around 1320 hrs. The aforementioned information is the only accurate account from the cited 207.ID KTB [footnote 49 on pg. 307], and doesn’t even contain a hint to have any link with the Wäckerle attempts. Besides, Wäckerle had no communications with anybody beyond his position.
[p.306] The lower photo shows Dutch pow’s on 11 May in the out post sector. In the foreground right is Obersturmbannführer Wäckerle, who would be wounded twice on the next day. One bullet in the back (and lung) and one in the right upper arm. In this photo he is clearly in good shape and given the Dutch pow’s in an orchard, this photo can only be taken on the 11th in the out post sector and not ‘after the battle at the Grebbeberg’ as is wrongly stated.
[p.307] Important matters that are not told are the following.
When the 4th Division pulled out, incidentally the Germans made a similar move. Around 1700-1730 hrs the Germans retreated from the entire west side of the slope to regroup. Only some out posts remained. That was the reason for the fact that the fight around the regiment CP suddenly ended and that the Germans remained unaware of the Dutch flight from the Grebbeberg position. Even more so, an incidental aggressive patrol by a company of freshly arrived border infantry (under a captain that had led his man distinctively on the first day of the war near Neerbosch in the Maas-Waalcanal line) chased the Germans away from the station area nearby the viaduct. It caused the Germans to think that Rhenen was still heavily occupied.
A German night assault was planned. The SS would attack from Achterberg into the north of Rhenen whereas IR.322 would frontally open up. When the SS point formations cautiously approached the northeast of Rhenen, they discovered that the defenders had made a run for it. Hastily a motorized chasing party was organised out of the SS wheeled AFV squadron and the 15th Company [motor-infantry] that left Rhenen for the west around 2130 hrs. They wouldn’t be able to fetch more than some Dutch stranglers.
This coincidence of the Germans moving away from the west side of the Grebbeberg slope just as the Dutch were breaking up was not only share luck for the Dutch 4th Division, but it was also a perfect show of poor German command. Already around 1300 hrs the Germans had moved back from the railway area in anticipation of the Stuka air assault. Between 1330 and 2100 hrs they wouldn’t be back though. The reasons why are left open to guess. The KTB’s don’t tend to give information that could be used against the commanding officer, obviously. But the remarkable gap in the KTB between 1500-2030 hrs [German Time] says it all. IR.322 had suffered badly during the morning and was licking its wounds so long, that it totally missed out on a huge opportunity. That was not so much a Dutch achievement, but more of a remarkable short coming of the German commander of 207.ID that had his troops halted and reorganize between 1300 hrs and 2030 hrs! The book doesn’t mention this remarkable operational fact at all, which is unjustified or … just another proof of its poor analysis of the events.
Meanwhile also the large Rhine bridge at Rhenen had been blown up by the Dutch artillery in the Betuwe sector (area south of the Rhine). They had managed to hit the charges under the bridge that had not been reachable anymore for engineers due to the German break through at the stop-line.
[p.307] The casualty figures are accurate although the Dutch figure should in fact be 415 men KIA in stead of 382. That difference is merely caused by definition of the battle area, not by uncounted casualties on the Dutch side, which are exactly known for May 1940.
The battle at Scherpenzeel
[p.309/p.310] The IR.368 attack at the Klomp is described as if this only failed because it wasn’t persevered due to counter orders from the German division commander. The latter indeed ordered to call off the attack, but not before the first attack had been rebuffed, causing the Germans to lose a considerable amount of men amongst whom the leading battalion commander. It is quite remarkable that it is stated in the book that a considerable share of the out post occupation moved back, but that it is not mentioned that the remainder of defenders repelled the German battalion assault. Only on pg 312 it is suddenly briefly addressed. One can only guess what the reasons of the author were to leave out such a significant detail.
[pg. 310] SS Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler was not detached on the 11th but on the 12th, as the KTB of the regiment (and KTB 227.ID) clearly indicates. That only applied to two battalions that were to be detached in the early morning of the 11th. The 3rd Battalion would only be detached on the 12th after it would have fulfilled its tactical assignments. The author should have known that the 3rd Battalion of that regiment operated in the Voorthuizen / Nijkerk / Harderwerk sector on the 12th. Only in the afternoon of the 12th the entire regiment was ordered to get back to Germany and detour back into Holland through Brabant.
[p.313] It is quite remarkable that this author has described the battle at the Grebbeberg often in a more negative tone and almost defeatist manner whereas the account of the Scherpenzeel battle shows the opposite. The assessment that the infantry-artillery cooperation was ‘excellent’ and that there ‘had been no panic’ is in both instances exaggerated. The cooperation with the artillery had been quite good, but the artillery battalions were slow in response. If it had not been for the slow moving German attack, targets would certainly have been overshot. It was the fortune of the slowly progressing Germans that this was not the case. As when it comes to panic, there were several cases of out posts being deserted under battle stress rather than direct enemy pressure. It was again the Germans failing to materialize on these deserted positions that caused these affairs to be irrelevant for the outcome.
Clearly, the major difference between the battle at the Grebbeberg and Scherpenzeel were the battle circumstances on the Dutch side, where clear fields of fire and non-disrupted communication lines at Scherpenzeel served the defence well. More significant was the extremely poor German operation plan and the even poorer tactical execution thereof. The 207.ID and 227.ID proved to be indeed the reserve divisions they were; they were of mediocre quality and poorly led. There where the 207.ID profited from excellent reconnaissance before the invasion and where she could hold on to the huge benefit of a strong storm troop formation like the SS regiment Der Führer, the 227.ID had no reconnaissance bonus and had already seen its storm troop regiment detached on the 12th [not the 11th, which the book wrongly states on pg 310] before it had been able to launch any larger offensive action.
[p.313] Curiously enough the German losses are not mentioned. The 227.ID lost 78 men KIA during the battle of the Netherlands of which around 50 during the battle of Scherpenzeel and surroundings.
[p.314] The photo of the Pz.Kfw.IV on this page is subscribed with the most suggestive text ‘Panzerkampfwagen IV on its way to the Grebbeberg’.
Nice advertising, but either a deliberate attempt to set false pretences or at least a most misleading explanatory subscription. There were no tanks whatsoever in X.Corps. The 9th Tank Division made a triumph parade through the Netherlands when a few days after the Dutch capitulation it had to be redeployed to the north of France. On its way back to Germany it also passed the Grebbeberg – west to east that was. That occasion has apparently temped a German soldier to take the printed photo ...
[p.316] Already in the comments on pg. 307 it was added that the book is inaccurate here as it comes to German pursuit of the fleeing Dutch. Already at 2100 hrs a rather strong SS outfit was sent down the main Dutch retreat route, but slowed down by numerous barricades hastily thrown up to slow any German pursuit. It is true though that the main forces of 207.ID basically moved westwards on the next day only, notwithstanding that some parts moved around the Grebbeberg and followed through via Achterberg. The 207.ID was – like all third levy divisions – not motorised so that the SS went way ahead of it again.
[p.316] It is argumentative to state that ‘the Dutch Field Army suffered a decisive defeat on the Grebbeberg’ although it may be a defendable conclusion too.
In fact the Field Army had not been defeated all along. The 4th Division was battered for sure and also Brigade B suffered some losses, but the 2nd Division and the entire IV Corps as well as Brigade A were virtually unharmed. It is pure speculation how long the Field Army could have sustained further German offensives against the Dutch Waterline position, but it is far from certain that a renewed German offensive had gained direct German successes.
The Waterline may not have been the well prepared defence line it had used to be in ancient times, but it certainly had it’s advantages too. Most particularly in its open fields of fire, but it also demanded less defending troops per stretching length than the Grebbeline, posing the option of larger concentration of forces. Disadvantages were considerable too. The fortifications were unfinished, trenches could not be dug in (due to high ground water levels) and the generally open landscape offered an enemy air force much opportunity to strike.
Nevertheless, the Field Army had received a huge blow and was holding on to its last straw when it had retreated on the Waterline.
[p.316] The comparison on material in the book is extremely poor and based on very outdated sources. It is part of a myth that the authors claim to be correcting, but clearly failed to bust for themselves!
The Germans did not have much lighter automatic weapons than the Dutch. The German MG.34 was not more than about 1,5 kg lighter than the Dutch Lewis machinegun. The 207.ID had the water cooled Spandau M.08 heavy machineguns which were about equal in weight as the Dutch Vickers and Schwarzlose heavy machineguns.
The other myth is that the Germans had better and particularly more artillery. That is certifiably untrue. The Dutch had about 68 artillery pieces, the Germans had considerably less on the first two days of the battle and still slightly less on the third day. The balance is as follows:
I-8.RA [12 x 7,5 cm], III-8.RA 12 x 15 cm], 12.RA [12 x 10,5 cm], I-15.RA [8 x 15 cm], II-19.RA [12 x 12,5 cm], I-22.RA [12 x 7,5 cm] and as off 12 May I-16.RA [12 x 7,5 cm].
That adds up to 80 guns, but II-19.RA was out of action as of 12 May bringing the total back to 68 guns able to support the Grebbeberg sector (save a handful of guns lost due to mechanical failure or battle losses).
II./SSAR [12 x 10,5 cm le.FH.18], II./AR207 [minus 5./AR.207 in Betuwe; 8 x 10,5 cm le.FH.16], III./AR.207 [12 x 10,5 cm le.FH.16], IV./AR.256 [8 x 15 cm sFH.18] and as off 12 May III./AR.311 [12 x 15 cm sFH.13] and Mörser Abt 735 [6 or 9 x 21 cm Mörser 18 as off late evening 12 May].
On 11 May – and partially only arriving that day – it adds up to only 40 guns. As off the 12th that number rose to 58-61 guns in total (save a handful of guns lost due to mechanical failure or battle losses).
The quality of the guns on the German side was only mildly better. The 10,5 cm howitzer on the German side were virtually all of the older le.FH.16 type. It shot a slightly heavier round than the Dutch 7,5 cm but the ranges were about the same and the Dutch gun was capable of higher firing rates. The 12 off le.FH.18 had a slightly better range than the le.FH.16. But opposed to that were 16 (later 12) off Dutch 10-veld [10,5 cm] guns of I-12.RA that had the best range of all with its 16,5 km against an equal firing-rate as the German guns.
The German sFH.13 guns were the same type as the Dutch Krupp 15 cm howitzer. Only the 8 off 15 cm guns of AR.256 were considerably better than the Dutch 15 cm guns. That same applies to the scarcely used German Mörser guns that fired buckets across long ranges. Probably six of those were assigned during the evening of the 12th and the entire 13 May. There is evidence however that they were used against the flanks of the Dutch 2nd Division and not the 4th Division.
All in all, there was a constant Dutch superiority in artillery potential – although not applied as such (!) – and the quality difference between the Dutch and German weapons was only slightly in German advantage. The biggest advantage the Germans had was the presence of artillery reconnaissance planes on the 12th and 13th of May.
[p.316 / 317] The conclusions on terrain (dis)advantages and communications are fully shared with the author.
The same applies more or less for the psychological issue, although the ‘basic rule’ of the happier attacker is no ground rule. During WWI the odds were quite different and also some battles during WWII show this rule by the author not applicable or simply the other way round. The psychological aspect of ‘faith’ shall have been more important. The Germans had ‘faith’ in their mission, which was not at all the case in the Dutch camp.
The assessment about shortage of troops and artillery goes wrong again. The statement that the combat power of the German artillery was in their advantage is straight out baloney. The 11 May attacks were supported by two artillery battalions initially, whereas the Dutch had no less than five artillery battalions available to support. The author states that the 207.ID had ten artillery battalions available ! This is absurd and certified baloney. Where does he get it from??? In reality, there were two battalions deployed, later on followed by two more. More than four battalions were never in place with exception of the end of the 12th of May when five battalions were operationally deployed. The Germans would at no point in time have more than five artillery battalions available.
The infantry comparison is highly tendetious too. The sum of German troops given was in fact spread over a vast territory. For example, the entire IR.368 was near Ede, miles from Wageningen. If that is counted in, in a comparison, one can also count in the Dutch 2nd Division that had positions adjacent to the 4th Division at Rhenen and Achterberg. The fact of the matter is that 207.ID was dispersed over a vast territory. IR.368 was around Ede on 11 and 12 May, and not near the front on the 13th. One battalion of IR.474 [II./] was assigned to the Betuwe and remained there, the rest of the regiment never came near Wageningen. Even IR.322 was withheld much east of Wageningen until the evening of the 12th. It is therefore incorrect to state that the Germans held twelve battalions against six Dutch on the 11th. It were only three battalions of the SS regiment, of which one even contained east of Wageningen. The Germans faced less than two Dutch battalions in the out-post and front-line sector where it deployed.
On the 12th of May the German SS battalions faced about equal amounts of Dutch troops in the front-line and intermediate defence sector.
On the 13th the Dutch had a total amount of troops available equalling about ten battalions (of which four - equalling a strength of three though - involved in the counter-offensive, one in the rear-defence in the village Rhenen, less than three on the Grebbeberg itself, one battalion-equal consisting out of hussars and about two around Achterberg), whereas the Germans had six. Where the author gets a figure of 13 battalions from is an enigma. Obviously he forgot that at least two battalions had ceased to exist, being III-8.RI and one of 24.RI and that most of the six battalions that belonged to the original defence had sustained considerable to very sever losses. Notwithstanding losses on both sides the true comparison should be ten Dutch battalion equivalents facing six German battalions.
The comments on Dutch forces being dispersed [e.g. not concentrated enough] doesn’t make any sense. The Dutch had ten battalions concentrated in an area of no more than 2 km width and even less depth. Those concentrations are already virtually impossible to guide in good order. Furthermore the sometimes dense forest on top of the Grebbeberg combined with the small capacity of the trench systems didn’t facilitate for extended concentrations. Even more so. One of the reasons the counter attack failed was the fact that the narrow point between the Achterberg position and the north slope of the Grebbeberg only left room for little more than one battalion to pass in battle formation. The Dutch sent in two battalions, causing the right wing to be pressed onto the northern slope of the Grebbeberg and the right and left wing of the respective battalions in the centre to merge. In the trenches on the Grebbeberg itself, the concentrations were occasionally so high, that trenches held far too many men to remain effective whereas on other locations the occupation remained too low.
It is a silly remark to state that the local commanders failed to concentrate forces. The point was, that the position had not been prepared for holding reserves, like the WWI trenches had been. There was no secondary trench system holding tactical reserves and the village Rhenen was unfit to shelter vast reserves either. The room in which one had to manoeuvre was already packed with troops and on the Grebbeberg itself the organisation and cohesion was easily lost, particularly amongst the poorly trained troops under battle circumstances. By the way, something also the Germans experienced, on both the 12th and the 13th and with considerably less troops to control!
[p.319] The criticism on General Harberts underestimating the Germans (still) on 13 May is just and deserved. There where Harberts still had plenty of reason to underestimate the German strength on the 11th, perhaps still some execuse to underestimate them on the 12th, he had no reasons whatsoever to underestimate them on the 13th anymore. By that time the German artillery activity had grown to considerable proportion, air recce had meanwhile established traces of large units and moreover the operational situation was such that underestimating the enemy could no longer be sold. Harberts failed to assess the battlefield situation accurately – or even near that – on the third day of the battle.