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Part III: the Fortress Holland-South


In this Part III we shall address the events along the southfront of the Fortress Holland. That was roughly the sector Rotterdam / Moerdijk.

Summary of the status

We left the Fortress Holland in the evening of the 10th with two opposing forces worried over many insecurities.

The Dutch worried most about the loss of Waalhaven, where German troops continued to be flown in via this umbilical. When the Gamelin-Winkelman telecon had reassured the latter that the French would occupy the entire west of the province Brabant (area below Moerdijk) and moreover assist in retaking the Moerdijk bridges, the Dutch supreme command decided to focus on recovering the situation around Waalhaven. They realized that taking out Waalhaven as a logistical key-point to the German airlanding operation south of Rotterdam was imperative. The lost bridges at Dordrecht, Moerdijk and in the heart of Rotterdam were of subsidiary importance.

The situation around The Hague was less clear. There was still considerable doubt whether the Germans would renew their airlanding operations. Nevertheless the tension had lowered when it had become clear that the AFB's had all three been retaken by Dutch forces and the landed Germans had been forced into the defensive. The imminence of renewed landings without German held AFB's had decreased. Notwithstanding the aforementioned the entire Dutch 1st Corps was immobilised in expectance of possible renewed landings. This prevented these forces from large scale counter operations against the remaining German pockets of restistance. Also it sucked up reserves from the Field Army that had to be sent to the south in order to strengthen the Rotterdam defences.

On the German side there had been much reason for satisfaction in regard of the southern operation, the strategical most significant operation of the combined air landing offensive. All strategic objectives had been achieved. The chain of bridges had been seized intact and with modest losses too. Only the situation in Rotterdam seemed to develop less fortunate. The quick Dutch response had been unexpected and particulary stronger than foreseen. Moreover, the deployment of air landing troops on the Noordereiland had been untimely due to tough Dutch resistance in the south of Rotterdam. It had taken away the momentum of the operation in that theatre.

At the end of the day the staggering news of the arrival of a large Dutch force opposide the Noord river had been received at Students HQ. That was an unexpected sat-back. It was still unclear which force had to be reckoned with and moreover, where they had come from. Another challenge was the logistic delay. The schedule of airlandings had been seriously hampered by a number of events. First of all the heavy losses of transport planes, secondly the sudden grounding of the transport units during a large part of the afternoon due to a miscommunication at the logistic control centre in Germany and thirdly the ongoing bombardments by Dutch and British planes.

A final challenge was found in the area of the Fallschirmjäger Regiment 1 at the Island of Dordrecht. The regiment had suffered considerably on the first day and had found itself opposed by stronger forces than expected. Also the Moerdijk bridgehead had to reckon with due French assistance to the Dutch.

The situation around The Hague was unclear to both the German C&C centre in Germany and Student himself. Regardless of the available long-range communication equipment, contact was hardly ever established and did not result in a clear picture. It was clear enough though that this mission in the north had failed as it came to the prime objectives. What remained was the occupation of the Dutch 1st Corps. Student wondered whether he could still count on that binding power of the Von Sponeck forces.

Weighing all strong and weak points of the battlefield, Student had come to a shocking decision during the first war night. Shocking to his staff, that was. He had decided that the III./FJR.1 battalion, that was in reserve at Waalhaven, was to be sent to Dordrecht to reinforce that delicate bridgehead. The Noord shore - near the Alblasserdam bridge - and the Barendrecht bridge had to be defended by II./IR.16 (minus 7./IR.16). Since III./IR.16 was fully occupied in Rotterdam and I./IR.16 had to occupy the northeast side of the Island of Ysselmonde and form a tactical reserve, Student had only a weak formation of airbornes of II./FJR.2 available besides the core of I./IR.16. With that moderate force he had to secure the entire Island of Ysselmonde. His staff therefore much apposed his directive to sent III./FJR.1 into Dordrecht. They considered the dangerously low reserve near Ysselmonde a huge liability for the safety of the operation east of Dordrecht. Student recognized this to such extent, that he instructed III./IR.16 in Rotterdam that they were allowed to evacuate the Rotterdam sector should the Dutch pressure grow beyond sustainable levels. Student developed a fall back scenario in which his troops east of Zwijndrecht would retreat to a line hard right of Barendrecht. Should that aletrnative plan be called into force, it would have meant that the Germans were to give up on Rotterdam, Waalhaven, Barendrecht and the entire central and western sector of the Island of Ysselmonde. Student considered the seizure of the Dordrecht and Moerdijk bridges his most valuable gains. The Rotterdam bridges were considered bonusses. The reason for Students assessment were understandable. The Moerdijk bridges crossed a more than 1 km wide water-way. Loss of Moerdijk would void the entire German battleplan of the 26.AK and the airlanding formations. The possession of the Dordrecht bridges was highly important too, because they formed the final entrance to Fortress Holland. Should the crossings at Rotterdam go lost, such loss could quite easily be remedied by bridging material crossing the quite narrow Oude Maas east of Rotterdam. Such operation was not considered too much of an effort, for the Luftwaffe could - in that open terrain - counter any serious Dutch opposition. In other words, Student took a huge risk (specifically bearing in mind the Dutch counter-offensive plan in the night of 10 May), but it was a calculated risk from a well thought trough strategic point of view. His staff - more importantly his chief of staff Major Trettner - could not be convinced. They rejected the plan, but were overruled.  

Status at 2400 hrs

When we left the southfront, the Dutch were about to undertake a variety of counter-measures. At Moerdijk the 6th Border Infantry Battalion had plans for a night attack. At Alblasserdam the Light Division was about to cross the traffic bridge and march on to Waalhaven. Overnight an assault would be unleashed by the 3rd Border Infantry Battalion from the direction of Barendrecht, intended to assist the Light Division on their strike against Waalhaven. The Dutch HQ had high hopes of the manoeuvres against Waalhaven. They would all start off with a large scale RAF raid during the first hours of the night.