The two long bridges [NE of the village Moerdijk] over the wide Hollands Diep were the prime target for the Germans. The about 1 km wide waterway called Hollands Diep (lit: Hollands' Deep) was in open connection with the sea in those days. It had a strong current and tide, making it a horrible water way to span with pioneer-material, which was virtually impossible. It was therefore imperative that the two bridges were to be seized intact and held until the main land forces would be able to link up with the airborne bridghead.
The railway bridge had already been constructed in the 19th century. The traffic bridge had only been delivered in 1936. Both bridges had a span of about 1,500 m long and connected the south of Holland to the beating heart of the country in the west.
The traffic- and railway bridges at Moerdijk were guarded by quite a considerable Dutch force [in comparison to other bridges in the country]. Although the Dutch did not expect the bridges to be raided during the first phase of a German invasion, they were at the same time considered of high strategic value. First of all both bridges would have to serve as prime retreat route for the Brabant army that was scheduled to evacuate the south during the first war-night. Secondly the bridges would be desired to bring in allied formations that were expected to assist the Dutch in their country defence.
A screen of light defences had been constructed along the southside of the bridgehead. These defences comprised a few entrenched positions as well as a more or less contineous outer defence trench-line. The defence system on the south side lacked any concrete or steel reinforcements. The military had considered the defence of this southern land-head to be of a security type, not of a prolonged firm defence type. After all, the bridges were scheduled to be destroyed once the enemy would approach the gates. As such, the budgets for steel and concrete reinforcements had been spared for the north side of the position.
One company of infantry and four platoons of heavy machineguns [eight in total] were stationed here. Two old 57 mm infantry guns were the only heavier infantry support available.
The 750 men strong 6th Border Infantry Battalion that was stationed at the Dutch-Belgian border near Breda was supposed to reinforce the security occupation of the southern landhead once this battalion would have executed the obstructive measures along the border area. The southern landhead could also be supported by number of artillery battalions north of Moerdijk. On the Island of Dordrecht 75 mm and 120 mm guns could assist and from the adjacent Island Hoekse Waard 75 mm and 150 mm guns were able to support the bridgehead.
North of the Hollands Diep [Willemsdorp detachment] an infantry battalion [1st Battalion of 28.RI] defended the Island of Dordrecht. They were supported by some heavy machinegun platoons and a mortar section. At the northern landhead one infantry company of the battalion plus two platoons of another infantry regiment, supported by a heavy machinegun platoon, defended the direct vicinity of the bridges. Around the bridges three casemates had been constructed, with an additional fourth on the far SE extreme corner of the adjacent Hoekse Waard. Two of these contained a powerful anti-tank gun of 5 cm and a heavy machinegun each. The other two only housed a heavy machinegun with crew. Two separate small detachments and a maratime group with a number of MG containing sloops were in support of the infantry. Altogether a force of about 400 men that were housed in barracks and some buildings nearby the traffic bridge.
Three light AA platoons with heavy machineguns [Spandau] were stationed near the bridges. Also a battery of three 7.5 cm Vickers AAA had been positioned at the village of Moerdijk itself. At 10 May only two guns could be operated, due to mechanical malfunction of the third gun. Another heavy AAA battery was positioned a little further NW of the bridges, on the adjacent island.
The Moerdijk bridges had been prepared for destruction. A number of bridge-sections had been constructed with specific containers underneath the deck in which charges had been installed. These charges could be detonated via an electrical device that was operated from one of the bunkers on the north side. Since no urgency was expected in respect to the immediate necessity of destruction, General Winkelman had ordered the removal of the detonation-wires. He had been afraid that nervous officers would order the destruction of the bridges too soon, and since a part of the troops from Brabant were designated to make use of these structures to reach Fortress Holland again, he feared that early destruction would seriously jeopardise logistics. Furthermore, Winkelman expected the French to be willing to send reinforcements into Fortress Holland and these troops would be required to make use of the bridges too. The detonation-wire had to be installed only when destruction would have been ordered from the General Headquarters. Such operation would take about one full hour. The river casemates on the north side contained the necessary equipment.
There was one specific feature of the defences still worth mentioning. The entire defence had been designed to repel an enemy coming from the south - not from the north or within the own perimeter. On the southside the defences had been shaped in a half-circle around the bridges, about 2 km ahead of the landheads, facing outside. Inside this perimeter, a lineair defence of modest size had to secure the railway and main traffic road. It was also faced outside. In the northern bridgehead all defences had been concentrated along the bank of the Hollands Diep, facing south. There was not a single position facing in-land. This odd single directional construction of the reinforcements included all four block-houses, which had no loop-holes whatsoever facing side-ways or to the rear.
One remembers that it was addressed that the Dutch forces within the Fortress Holland had not been put on the highest alert overnight, unlike the rest of the army. Ammo caches were still locked and apart from guards at several locations, all personnel were off duty. It is to say that the southern defences did have their ammo availiable. Their role as strategic security force on the south end of the bridges made it imperative that ammo was available for the securing units.
German battle plan
The Moerdijk area was the designated target of II./FJR.1, an about 600 men strong battalion of airbornes, comprising four companies of airborne rifle men assisted by some heavy machineguns and light mortars.
The 5th and 6th Company were scheduled to be dropped about 1 km NE of the railway bridge, in a wide open polder. That landing zone was to the rear of the Dutch casemate and trench line along the bank of the Hollands Diep and about 500 m away - at the most - of the most eastern Dutch defence bunker near the railway. Another issue was that this landing zone was dangerously nearby two farm houses where portions of the defence force were housed.
The 7th and 8th Company as well as the about 50 men strong battalion staff were envisaged to land within the southern defence perimeter. The dropping was designed in such detail that all task-forces would land closest to their respective objectives. As such the two pioneer squads - tasked to find and deactivate the bridge charges - were dropped only a few hundred metres from the bridges, virtually right on top of two light AA platoons of the Dutch. That same applied to three airborne platoons, that were to raid the immediate bridge defences. One platoon was scheduled to be dropped directly east of the village Moerdijk and another two close to the railway station, where the main Dutch defence force was to be contained. The battalion staff would land in the heart of the defence perimeter and assist where ever feasible.
The structure of the German airborne battalions was that they contained three ordinary rifle men companies, each comprising around 140 men divided over three full platoons and a small heavy weapon platoon that operated a few AT rifles and light 5 cm mortars. The fourth Company organically comprised two heavy MG platoons with four MG.34's each and a platoon of four 8 cm mortars. In this instance however, the battalion commander had decided that the heavy mortars would be left home and instead another rifle-men platoon would be formed in stead. Hauptmann Prager, commander of II./FJR.1, considered it more useful to have fast rifle men on his hand than a mortar crew for which he saw no immediate use. The consequence of this decision was that the Germans lacked any heavy fire-power beside the few light 5 cm mortars. They fully relied on the follow up landings at Waalhaven from which they hoped to receive heavy weapons in due time.
The landing at Moerdijk
At around 0400 hrs - the day still dawning - the first strike planes and fighters appeared over the still sleepy heads of the defenders at Moerdijk. Before the astonished men realised what was going on, they experienced the screaming sounds of the 250kg and 50 kg bombs of the Luftwaffe.
The positions of the infantry and AAA units suffered the emphasis of these initial raids. Also the barracks at Willemsdorp - just north of the bridges - were attacked by a single bomber. Fighters strafed trenches and field positions.
The heavy AAA battery at Moerdijk village, that had opened up when the very first plane roamed overhead, was quickly silenced. It had been on the receiving end of a number of pin point attacks by Ju-88 dive bombers, that did however not destroy the guns but had the occupation run off. When the overhead planes were still stinging towards the Dutch positions, around 0500 hrs the first airbornes were dropped from extremely low altitude [some speak of less than 100 metres]. These airbornes landed on both sides of the Hollands Diep, mostly landing according to plan.
Most of the Dutch units close to the bridges, like the bridge guard posts and AA platoons, were almost immediately overrun and taken prisoner. The preluding air raids on their positions held them in the covered positions, of which the German airbornes, landing virtually on top of them, benefitted. Two German pioneer squads worked their way forward over the bridges in order to locate and eliminate the demo charges. They would meet little opposition until they had reached about two-third of the bridges, after which the block-house crews on the north end finally opened up, pinning the Germans down, killing or disabling a few.
Both available Dutch 57 mm field-guns were quickly moved to a position near the road southeast of the village Moerdijk. From there the crews started shelling the approaching airbornes. After two shots one of the guns made an unusual sound and fell out. The other one was operated from an only slightly covered position, forcing the gun aimer and loader to expose every time the gun had to be fired. These old 6 cm guns lacked a gun-shield and since the prepared positions had not been reached by the crews, the guns had to be operated in the open. After some time the Germans were so close that the crew had to take cover. The brave crew was able to withstand the airbornes for some time. Then the commanding Lieutenant - who himself operated the gun - received a mortal headshot and collapsed. After this shocking event, that briefly paralyzed the crew, the Germans were able to surround this position and force the remaining defenders into surrender.
The village of Moerdijk, about two clicks from the traffic bridge, was assaulted by a mere 50 men, mainly of the 8th Company. The well known German athlete (gymnastics tripple gold winner, 1936 Olympics) Oberleutnant Alfred Schwarzmann was leading them. In the village the Dutch bridgehead commander and his small staff had done little to none up to that point. Besides their presence there was also a contingent of engineers in the small harbour that were there to operate the military ferry service (intended to shuttle over troops in case the bridges would have been blown up). It were these men that would pose the Germans the biggest challenge in the entire bridgehead. The Schwarzmann platoon landed east of Moerdijk. Upon this event a squad of engineers that were housed on the east side of the harbour with open vision into the polder and operating one single MG, opened up on the airbornes, that were quite vulnerable in the flat open polder. The Germans were contained for at least half an hour by a mere dozen engineers. The airbornes, who suffered quite some WIA and KIA due to the dense Dutch fire, were suppressed forcing them to crawl all the way into the relative safety of the village itself. There they met up with another outfit, led by a Leutnant of the 7th. The two formations joint up on the SE side of the village and then moved northwards along the main road.
The about 25 men strong engineer party was not the only Dutch formation in the village. Also the crew of the nearby AAA battery was in Moerdijk after it had withdrawn from its battery. Altogether about 150 men. Although larger in number, most of the AAA battery crew and the commander and his staff yielded without putting up a fight, mainly caused by lacking small arms ammo. They were captured by the airbornes coming up the main street. It were the engineers that put up a real tough fight again. When the Germans had moved nothwards along the main road in Moerdijk, taking with them all officers that had been taken prisoner, they suddenly met fierce resistance when they approached the harbour area. Also small arms fire from a nearby MP barracks caused some casulaties amongst the Germans. When that had been overcome, about a dozen engineers - that had positioned themselves in a hedgehog position at the harbour entrance - produced some fanatic MG and rifle fire. It caused a brief panic amongst the Germans, who lost both their officers [the Leutnant was killed, Schwarzmann was badly injured, but would recover in June 1940] and saw one senior NCO badly wounded too. But also some of the Dutch POW's got wounded in the midst of all that, of which two would later succumb to their wounds. The fire fight meanwhile continued. The commanding Captain of the engineers meanwhile decided to man his fleet of small boats, take on as many soldiers as he could, and set off for the northern shore, whereas a mere eight engineers were left to cover their retreat. In the end, when one of the engineers had been killed, only seven engineers kept up the defence. Meanwhile a German squad had outflanked the engineers, and approached the harbour area from the NE. After two more of the engineers had been killed, two others captured and the ammo had been nearly depleted, the remaining three surrendered. All seven - including two of the KIA - would be decorated for valour after the war. In the end these handful noncombattant men in the Moerdijk position had put up the most significant bit of resistance, causing most of the German casualties during the raid on this end of the bridge. About half a dozen Germans had been killed, another dozen wounded. Sadly enough also two Dutch officers had been killed whilst being POW's and getting caught in the cross fire of both sides.
The available infantry company, of which the main body was housed in the hamlet around the railway station, had meanwhile taken positions in the trenches of the outer screen. The two infantry platoons and a platoon of MG's that had positions on the north-south axis of the bridgehead, near the railway station Lage Zwaluwe, were led by the Company Commander himself. The Captain oddly enough ordered his troops into the southern defences notwithstanding the fact that the airbornes had been witnessed landing to their north. His adjutant warned him for this peculiar order, but the Captain dismissed the protest. When eventually the airbornes approached the station area and got a fix on the platoons, they cleverly outflanked the Dutch positions and virtually rolled up the entire - almost 100 men strong - occupation. Only about a dozen of men managed to escape. It had costed only a few Dutch lives, of which the company commander was one.
At Lochtenburg [west side of the defences] a platoon of infantry - supported by a platoon heavy MG's - succeeded in sustaining the first German assault. The platoon commander - cut off from the main command - applied for instructions at the only station he could still reach: Willemstad. When this contact had been established he received orders to have his outfit retreat to Willemstad [15 km west of Moerdijk]. An order that is hard to understand, since the defence of Moerdijk was considered vital. A perfectly in shape section of infantry with some heavy machineguns could have mattered a great deal in those first hours. Nonetheless, the entire formation moved back to Willemstad and crossed the Hollands Diep from there. It meant that the western side of the southern Moerdijk defences had ceased to exist.
The last platoon of the infantry company had taken position west of the small village Lage Zwaluwe [a mere 3 km east of the bridges]. It was incomplete for it had supplied a squad to the rail-way station guard. The remaining 25 men were commanded by a cadet-officer [Ensign]. This unit would oppose the airbornes at a road junction between the village and the station of Lage Zwaluwe. When after some time the Germans managed to outflank the Dutch positions and had been able to kill two men, the Ensign decided that further resistance would only cost lives. He and his men surrendered. At that point the entire southern landhead was under German control. It had taken them six hours to control the area and against the modest loss of only 11 men KIA, of which at least three had been killed on the bridges by fire from the northern defences. About 30 airbornes had been wounded. The Dutch had lost 18 men KIA and the majority of defenders had been take prisoner. About 100 men of the original occupation of about 500 men had been able to escape.
We shall now see what happened north of the bridges when the German air-assault started at 0400 hours too.
The landing at Willemsdorp
The bunkers and AA positions were manned - as they usually were. On the bridges and on the main road a couple of guard-squads held watch. All other men were asleep when they were woken up by the first air activity that initially focussed on the Moerdijk side. The curious men massed outside in the barrack camp, witnessing the diving Luftwaffe planes on the southend of the bridges, when suddenly German fighters started strafing the traffic bridge (where a squad of infantry men had a machinegun post) and the trenches and barracks on the north side. When a German bomber dropped four bombs on the barracks itself - panic broke out. Officers quickly took charge and opened the ammo cache in the camp, that had fortunately been spared. While the ammo distribution was a loud and low roaring buzz announced the arrival of the about 50 Ju-52 strong air-fleet. All eyes were directed upwards, anxiously awaiting the next unexpected event, when suddenly the white blossoms of dozens of parachutes opened in front of the stunned defenders.
The airbornes landed a stone-toss away from the Dutch camp. Although two airborne platoons had been misdropped, a force of at least four platoons quickly opened its weapon containers and started to move into the direction of the railway bridge and a few farms where personnel of the defence-forces were housed.
Soldiers quartered in barns and farms nearby were quickly overrun. The had not a single round to load in their rifles and as such powerless to the quickly deploying airbornes. At the aforementioned Willemsdorp barracks - which had already been on the receiving end of some German bombs - a large number of soldiers managed to overcome the first shock. The commanding Captain was able to regroup these men and another officer had taken care of the swift distribution of ammo and handgrenades. The Captain then moved his men to a position along the slope of the elevated road, close to the traffic bridge. Under a 1st Lieutenant another group took position opposite the barracks, facing east. From their positions they managed to supress the Germans that tried to climb over the railway slope that ran parallel to the road at about a 300 m distance. Some of the airbornes kept the Dutch engaged, while others moved forward along the excellent cover that the railway bed provided, silencing one of the large bunkers (next to the track) in the process. After that they proceded towards the railway bridge.
The group of defenders under the Captain had meanwhile managed to prepare some sort of defensive position along the main road, close to a small tunnel under the road. They were however soon threatened by airbornes that advanced from the east of them, which had negotiated their way along the river-bank to the east end of the Dutch position. The airbornes could be contained though.
at some point a city-bus approached from the direction of Dordrecht. It soon appeared that it was transporting airbornes, but it was unclear - at first - whether it were captured airbornes or not. That became clear soon enough when rifle-barrels were stuck out of the windows that started blazing. The first defenders under the commanding Lieutenant forced the bus to stop and managed to throw in some handgrenades. A number of Germans fell out of the bus, dead or wounded, while German voices screamed that they were surrendering. But after the (civil) driver and some wounded men had come out, suddenly grenades were thrown out of the vehicle and fire was openend once again. A fierce and chaotic skirmish developed, during which quite a number of Dutch were killed or wounded. Gradually the Germans in and around the bus received reinforcements from the airbornes north and east from them that had benefitted from the chaos. Other airbornes managed to outflank the Captain and his men. Many of the defenders had been shot down in the meantime, and the situation started to grow desperate. The Captain - surrounded by Germans and with hardly any man left that were in a state to fight - decided to lay down his arms.
The airbornes in the bus were the two platoons that had been misdropped and had landed much to the north near Tweede Tol. They had managed to get hold of a bus with a driver and as such managed to intervene in the battle at the bridges. Their appearance had turned out to be all decisive.
Some isolated pockets of resistance - by small groups, sometimes with a machinegun - managed to stay out of enemy hands for a while, but in the end all were forced into surrender by either enemy pressure or lack of ammo. Some airborne squads did not hesitate to use Dutch POW's as a protection to force a number of remaining opposition points into surrender. Like the bus event, infringements of the international code, but at the same time, actions that were showing the determination of the airbornes.
After some time only the heavy block-house [that controlled the traffic bridge] was left in Dutch hands. The about dozen men occupation of this solid construction was commanded by a career NCO, Sergeant-Major [SM] Van Almkerk. The bunker occupation had been engaged in battle since almost the first moment and had been able to deny access to the bridge to some Germans coming from the south side of the bridge, who had tried to find the demo charges in the bridge segments.
When the German airborne landing had become apparent to the SM - as he was still near the barracks when that event happened - he had ordered a squad to prepare the detonation-wires connecting the bridge charges. For this purpose the squad had to go outside the bunker and unroll the reel from the bunker to the bridge and then connect the wires on about one-third of the length of the bridge to the different charges. An operation that had been practised in peacetime, when it had taken about an hour ...
German machinegun fire prevented this daring enterprise from being achieved. The crew was successful however in denying the airbornes coming from the south from crossing the bridge to the northern landhead. Some airbornes perished on the bridge by fire from the bunker, but nonetheless their Lieutenant commander managed to establish the whereabouts of the charges and was relieved to establish that these had not been wired. The bunker meanwhile lacked any loop-holes on its 6 o'clock. As a consequence, the airbornes that had landed north of the bridge, had been able to approach the block-house without being challenged by the bunker crew itself. After they had silenced the defence along the road and in the barrack camp, the airbornes massed around the highly elevated bunker [it was three stores high]. They first tried to aim in the loop-holes from positions on the bridge, making use of machineguns and an AT-rifle. This gained them no success whatsoever.
Next the airbornes summoned the SM to surrender, but he refused. Smoke grenades were ignited around the casemate in order to blindfold the occupation and prevent them from aiming the main gun and MG. It did not stop the crew from firing in fixed directions. Then the siegers closed the ventilation holes. As a reaction the Dutch put on their gasmasks and continued the fight. The airbornes then managed to blow up the steel entrance door with a charge and tossed some handgrenades onto the second floor. This prevented the Dutch from operating the anti-tank gun, but still no surrender! When the Germans threatened to blow up the entire construction - that also contained 1,2 tonnes of spare explosives for the bridge - the SM decided that their resistance had reached a worthy end. The last standing dozen stretched the weapons.
The Germans were overjoyed by their success, and in their euforia they paid a tribute to the last brave defender. The German Hauptmann in charge authorised the SM to keep his sword ...
Balance of a morning's battle
With the German seizure of this last stronghold on the north end of the traffic bridge, the battle around the Moerdijk bridges had ended - for that moment. The main objective of capturing the two large bridges intact had been completed. The Germans were overjoyed.
From that moment on it was vital to keep the bridgehead firmly in German hands. For that purpose the Germans had about 500 men which had to defend the perimeter north and south of the bridges against any counter measures. Heavy weapons were not at their disposal yet. The heaviest fire-power came from light mortars, machineguns and a few anti-tank rifles.
The Germans had paid a low price again. From the two companies dropped at the north end of the bridge 13 KIA and 3 KIA from the men from the south end that were shot on the bridge. Another 8 men around Moerdijk. About 50 men had been wounded. The Dutch had lost 20 KIA, but hundreds had been made prisoner.
Counter measures from the south
The landings at the Moerdijk bridges - and the apparent loss of the same objects - was staggering news to the Dutch general headquarters in The Hague. It was clear that with the small and [meanwhile] shattered Dutch forces on the Island of Dordrecht no countering action could be taken. The only feasible option available was a counter-attack by the 6th Border Infantry Battalion that had been designated to reinforce the Moerdijk position anyway.
This battalion had a strength of about 700-750 men. It had only 6 heavy machineguns at its disposal, and no mortars. Four anti-tank guns were available but only with armour piercing rounds, no HE rounds!
As said before the battalion had the odd assignment to obstruct the roads from Belgium to Holland. That this assignment was still executed was a typical flaw in the Dutch perception of this war. (1) Anyway, the battalion executed this peculiar task with care, and was then ordered [0600 hrs] to advance against the German bridgehead at Moerdijk.
(1) It was not a typical Dutch flaw though. Also the Belgian army had fixed blockades and barricades at their borders, which would frustrate the French troops that massed near the borders when the war was only hours old. Like the Dutch precautions these blocks were a direct result of the strickt neutrality positioning of both countries. The reason why the Dutch still set the roadblocks in the morning of the 10th, was the full responsibility of the staff of the 3rd Corps, of which the commanding General was in charge of all Brabant forces until the Corps evacuated to the north. His staff had considered that the Germans, once they had swung around the Peel-Raamline or by-passed the Albert Canal line in Belgium, could be able to out-speed the French. If that would be the case the road-blocks would matter. The chance that the French would be out-speeded was between slim and none though. Therefore it was a silly consideration, that would later that day - and the next - cause the French quite a nuisance.
The 2nd Company was sent on its way as a spearhead. They got first acquainted with the enemy when two civil cars came rushing down the road from the direction of Moerdijk. This incident took place west of Terheijden, about 10 km from the bridges. These two vehicles were shot at and quickly returned to where they had come from. A Dutch corporal had been severly wounded during the exchange of fire. Hereafter the company proceeded to Zevenbergschenhoek - a village about 5 km south of Moerdijk that had been occupied by forward airborne units. The Dutch managed to drive off the Germans from these grounds by suppressing the Germans in front whilst two outflanking manoeuvres were executed. The airbornes quickly acknowledged the threat of the Dutch manoeuvre and pulled out.
North of Zevenbergschenhoek laid a huge challenge for the counter-attacking Dutch. The area between this village and the outer boundaries of the German bridgehead was nothing but a plain flat zone of about 1,000 metres depth. Easy to defend by a few machineguns only, of which the airbornes had plenty. The company commander had his unit take a line formation and tried to proceed in a scattered pattern over a large width. The majority of the progressing company quickly stalled during this manoeuvre from fierce German counter fire, but the left flank managed to regain control over the former Dutch defence position in the southwest. The Germans that had held this sector were forced to move back to a more northern position. After the initial success the assault was brought to a full stop. The airbornes were able to pin down the Dutch and deny them any further progress.
Attempts to approach the bridgehead from the east, by the two other companies, failed - although a modest success was gained. The village of Lage Zwaluwe, 3 km from the railway bridge - was freed from airborne occupation. Then also at that point the Dutch were forced to dig in.
A Junkers-52 transport plane made a crash landing near Zevenbergschenhoek - after being hit by AAA elsewhere - and the passengers on board the plane were taken prisoner. The three MG-34 machineguns were stripped from the plane and proved a welcome improvement of the battalions gear.
Stand-off at Moerdijk
The 6th Border Infantry Battalion had achieved some success. They had managed to considerably decrease the German perimeter and deny the airbornes any change of extension of their bridgehead. On the other hand, the airbornes had but one objective: the lasting occupation of the bridges. There would only be one way to seriously threaten that objective and that was a well supported assault on the southern bridgehead.
The Dutch battalion did however lack any means of support. The battalion commander developed all kinds of initiatives to get reinforcements and suitable HE ammunition for his anti-tank guns. The adjacent 3rd Border Infantry Battalion was requested for support, but this unit had just been ordered to cross the Hollands Diep and report at the Group Kil for offensive action against Waalhaven AFB. The 3rd Corps was contacted for reinforcements and gun ammo, but also they refused. Dordrecht was contacted, but from there the answer came that they were quite occupied themselves to gain control over the situation at the bridges over the Oude Maas [where an airborne landing had taken place simultaneously to the one at Moerdijk]. Last but not least the 3rd Corps managed to convey a request for some tactical air support to the airforce staff in the Hague.
Indeed, around 1700 hours four Fokker C-X light bombers appeared overhead. They each managed to drop a load of eight bombs of 50 kg on the German positions and continued their strike with a number of strafing passes along the German positions. It made quite an impression on the airbornes. German reports even speak of some panic amongst the men. Indeed the Dutch managed to move forward another 500 metres, but quickly the Germans regained control and their re-manned machineguns prevented any further advance.
Then finally the expeditiously operating battalion staff managed to establish contact with the Dutch artillery in the Hoekse Waard [northwest of the Moerdijk bridges]. The artillery commander confirmed that four batteries [one 7,5 cm, three 15 cm] were able to prepare some barrages on the German positions. Challenge would be to produce these barrages along the exact vectors since no observation would be possible [the distance was over 8,000 metres]. At 1830 the first rounds fell and these landed miraculously accurate on target. One of the later joining batteries however failed to calculate the right length and managed to overshoot the target by no less than approximately 750 mtr. This fire landed right on top of the village of Lage Zwaluwe and unfortunately killed a number of civilians. The artillery was quickly called off via an existing civilian telephone line [the troops themselves had no communication material whatsoever]. The planned assault - which was scheduled to follow an accurate artillery bombardment of the airborne positions - was then postponed to the next morning: at 0100 hours.
Balance of a day
The Germans at the bridges received some reinforcements from the north during the early evening and night. As we shall see later, a connection was established with the troops up north and as such some anti-tank guns were received as well as a pioneer platoon bringing along some landmines.
The early transports would however not reach the southern bridgehead without facing some serious challenges. On the opposite side of the Kil [water that ran from the Hollands Diep to the north, along the west side of the Island of Dordrecht], in the southeast corner of the island, the last of the block-house casemates was able to cover the traffic bridge with its heavy machinegun. The crew managed to destroy at least two German cars. Unfortunately daylight was a necessity to keep this fire going and the Germans profitted from the darkness and as such they were able to bring some anti-tank guns into the southern bridgehead overnight.
The balance for that day at this point of the front was clear. The bridges were firmly in German hands. Without proper support the Dutch would be unable to retake this bridgehead, although they had managed to seal off the German perimeter and keep pressure on the German defences. The German losses in the bridgehead had been bearable. Compared to the German targets for that day losses were light. Still, the local German command was all but satisfied and relieved. They anxiously awaited the things to come, bearing in mind that they would probably have to hold up their own for another two to three days.