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Ground forces


The German land-forces were getting closer and tension rose. The enemy was expected any time and the last preparations were done. Meanwhile the Luftwaffe became increasingly active as a prelude of things to come.

The French 60th Division regiments had arrived and had been ordered to take over those of the 68th at the canal. Last minute troop moving under the constant watch of a superior enemy overhead.

The 60th replaces the 68th

The Zanddijkline saw large troop movements when [as a result of the revised French instructions] the units of the 68th Infantry Division were replaced by those of 271 RI [60th]. These men replaced their comrades in their fox holes west of the canal. Only some motorised units of the 68th remained on Zuid-Beveland. The 271st was reinforced with two battalions of 7,5 cm artillery from 307 RA, a company of pioneers, two batteries of AT guns and the one battery of six 2,5 cm AA guns that had come from Flushing. Colonel Guihard commanded this force. The finalization of this shift would last until the afternoon of the 14th.

The much exposed Dutch troops of the 3rd battalion of 40.RI that had taken positions along the northern coast of Zuid-Beveland, following the orders of Général Durand, were visited by the Luftwaffe time and again. Bombers and fighters - on the prowl for targets over the entire island - bombed and strafed them during the preparation of their new improvised defence-line. With expection of a handful of machineguns the troops were completely powerless against the Luftwaffe. The already low moral - after having to leave a well prepared position for a non-existing one - sunk dangerously low. The troops were exhausted from a rather long march, and the preparation of their new positions and the constant Luftwaffe presence overhead required much of them too. As a consequence of relentless rumours about airborne landings, they were also repeatedly assigned for sweep-searches through the terrain for these phantom opponents. Each detonating AA grenade, small cloud, or group of birds resulted into new airborne reports, which were as frequently followed by yet another search party. The new phenomenon of war completely undermined moral and drained the energy-sources of the poorly trained troops. And there was not even an enemy in sight; on the ground that was ...

Raid on the Zanddike-line

The Dutch 109th AAA battery, stationed behind the Zanddijkline, had been active since the first hour of the war. A never stopping flow of German planes had flown over their position - day in day out - on their way to or from Walcheren. The three rather obsolete guns of 7,5 cm - without a proper fire-directional control - were well camouflaged and had remained undetected as such. That was about to change.

At around 1000 hours a Kette of He-111's paid the battery position a hostile visit. More than two dozen 50 kg bombs were dropped from extremely low altitude. Hereafter the planes returned and strafed the battery position. The men were quite powerless [only two heavy machineguns were available] against low flying planes, because their guns required a minimum distance to the target of 1,000 m. The well prepared position of the battery was the reason that only one soldier was killed during the entire raid. The secondary result was however that the battery would have to be displaced to an alternative location. This move would be executed overnight. It would not be able to fire again during the next day as a result of this, because the battery commander required the battery to be well camouflaged again.

The ground-war approached the Bathline

In the Bathline, which was the closest to Noord-Brabant, the fourth day of the war introduced the men to the rumbling sound of the ground war. Particularly the German heavy artillery - active around Moerdijk - caused the men of the Bathline to realize that their future opponents were closing in on their position. Frequent patrols to the west were the result. Tension rose in the lines.

A squad of railway troops was given orders to destroy the railway that crossed the Bathline. The same men had worked the sweat on their backs to repair this track after the German bombs had destroyed it a few days before. They were now ordered to destroy their own work. Talk about a moral killer!

German planes continued to strafe and bomb the trenches. Notwithstanding the fact that the Luftwaffe was very active over the Bathline they only managed to harm four soldiers. No fatalities were reported.

Renewed flows of fleeing Dutch troops and an ocassional Frenchman from the east - although much lower in count than the days before - did further lower the moral. These troops had seen plenty of action, some of them even at two or three positions. They were all devastated and infected the men of the 14th Border Infantry Battalion with their awe over the might of the German troops. As far as moral could still be lowered in the Bathline, it had reached its lowest level ever by the end of the day. All men in the trenches anxiously awaited the things to come. They were all pretty certain that the next day the war would no longer be experienced from other men's tales, but from their own contact with the ever so feared opponent.