At the village of Overschie [nowadays part of Rotterdam], just north of Rotterdam, German airbornes and airlanding troops who had been dropped as part of the Ypenburg and Ockenburg taskforces had assembled and fortified themselves. Altogether the force counted between 750 and 1.000 men. Generalleutnant Graf von Sponeck - commander of 22.LL.ID - was in charge of this group. The General had made a daring march with his men from Ockenburg to Overschie. The few hundred men with him had bumped into Dutch opposition at the village of Wateringen only. The General had brought his long range transmitter squad (and material) with him. As such he was able to contact General Student on the other side of Rotterdam. Apart from the operational advantages of such, it gave him the opportunity to have the Luftwaffe instructed to drop urgently required supplies at the village of Overschie.
The village was surrounded by open and flat terrain, partially even by water. The main entrance to the village was a bridge that connected to the main road to Delft and The Hague. On the Rotterdam side the village was blockaded by Dutch forces sealing off the city along the entire northern outskirts. In Delft the Dutch had assembled considerable forces and artillery.
In itself the German occupation of a small perimeter was not too much of a problem to the Dutch. The airbornes were to weak to think offensively and within their very limited occupied area they were no direct threat. If it wouldn't have been for the fact that the Germans controlled the main road between The Hague and Rotterdam from Overschie, the Dutch would have probably left them as they were. Now, they became a liability to all traffic between the two cities, and with the frontline at the Nieuwe Maas it was imperative that the German occupation of Overschie had to be subdued.
Actions against Overschie
In the late evening of the 12th Dutch forces started deploying for an assault on the German stronghold from the direction of Delft. Altogether more than three companies [550 men] went along in three separate columns. Two columns advanced almost parallel [along the old and new motorway], the third one came from the north-east. These troops were able to proceed up to a point where they were at two-and-a-half km distance from Overschie. In the meantime the columns had taken some wandering German troopers prisoner and collected quite some enemy weapons and supplies. At the really point, a road crossing, the troops were ordered to halt and await new orders.
These new orders came at 0400 hours [13 May]. They were ordered back to Delft! The troops and their commanders didn't believe this order and tried to verify them. At 1100 hours it finally became clear that the orders received had been genuine and the men moved back to Delft. The reason for this retreat was the fact that the GHQ had learnt that German armour had penetrated the Fortress Holland. General Winkelman decided that a firm anti-tank screen had to be established around The Hague. All troops not occupied in battle were ordered back to form this new, hastily improvised defence line. All anti-tank guns and artillery had to be relocated within this new defensive zone and furthermore a lot of barricades and obstructions had to be prepared for which manpower was required.
After the Dutch garrison commander Scharroo learnt that the assault from the direction of Delft had been cancelled, he decided that he was forced to make a considerable unit available from his forces in Rotterdam in order to coop with these Germans on his northern flank. In the end nothing more than an unorganised unit of assembled air force auxiliary troops could be mobilized, although a little later some additional sections could be made available.
Their weak assault soon stalled when the Germans received them with a fanatic mix of mortar, machinegun and rifle fire.
Then two platoons of regular infantry [III-21RI] got engaged with the Germans near a small bridge over the Schiekanaal. Furthermore an armoured car and some mortars were sent as reinforcements. Last but not least three more sections infantry were sent to the bridge. When the unit at the Schiekanaal advanced [1500 hours], with the support of an armoured car, they received heavy German fire. The driver of the armoured car hesitated to drive forward and had to be forced by gunpoint by the commanding Captain of the taskforce to proceed. When the Germans even intensified their resistance the driver suddenly stopped and reversed the vehicle, killing one infantry man who came underneath the car and seriously wounding two more men who were struck by the car. Also the Captain was hit by the retreating car and broke a leg and an arm.
This very cowardly act of the armoured car crew, which was after all far better protected than their infantry comrades that followed them, broke moral. The troops stopped their advance, took cover and tried to move back. It was the end of a promising assault. German reports about the event confirm this. They claim to have suffered from the intensive Dutch fire and report some casualties in the houses close to the action. The Germans even retreated, and took new positions 500 metres backwards - obviously unaware that their adversaries had done exactly the same!
On the other side of Overschie, some Dutch units were supported by two anti-tank guns and a section of heavy machineguns. When they heard the first volleys of their comrades on the opposite side [the third assault - see below], they went forward [covered by machinegun fire], crossed the canal and lowered the bridge. Although the Germans showed a lot of resistance, the squads gradually gained ground and reached the first houses of the village. House-to-house fighting unfolded and although poorly trained in this method, the outrage of the invasion and the previous three days of war had shaped these Dutch housefathers and sons in almost professional soldiers. Ruthlessly the squads cleared the houses of their German occupants. Some Germans were killed, a considerable number was captured and transported to Rotterdam. Nevertheless the commanding Dutch Captain ordered a full retreat when darkness fell after he had learnt of the failed attack of the other taskforce. He considered his troops unsuitable for night fighting! The successful assault had costed the Dutch only two men killed in action. On the German side the figures are unknown. It is however mentioned in their reports that one officer died. Also the Dutch captured a lot of arms and ammunition as well as some radio equipment, besides a few dozen POW's.
The third assault force was led by a young Lieutenant. It was the smallest force of all three, just over 75 men but supported by three heavy machineguns. Another supporting group - comprising a mix of ordinary infantry soldiers and some marines - would come along with this assault team. When the taskforce went forward [around 1700 hours], the Germans very soon intervened. Especially the platoon heavy machineguns became a focus-point of their response. These three machineguns were pinned down and could only give very limited support to the advancing infantry men. As the sun set, the fire of the machineguns ceased in all, since tracer ammunition was not available to them! Not long after, the taskforce realised that proceeding towards the houses of Overschie without any heavier support would be suicide and as such also this group was taken back.
Although in itself quite an insignificant assault, the event did create quite some spin-off. The few marines that had been involved were dressed in black [their standard uniform] and were also operating in a very professional manner according to the Germans. The airbornes reported on their long distance radio that the Dutch forces had been supported by British marine troops dressed in dark blue navy uniforms! This report reached the staff of the 18th Army, which (in this hilarious detail) saw additional support for decisive action against Rotterdam the next day. Obviously one could seriously doubt this remark in the German reports - which could easily be addressed as an excuse - it is certain that some German units were truly under the impression that they opposed British troops too.