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The island of Schouwen-Duiveland had played no significant role in any of the defence plans; Dutch or French. Especially when the Dutch army had laid down its arms in the rest of the country, the island had no role of any kind left. At 10 May the island had only housed a coastal battery of three guns, a platoon of infantry as its protection, and the AFB Haamstede with its small detachment and company of guarding troops. Also the 162nd AA battery with three 4 cm Bofors guns was stationed between the AFB and the west coast. Altogether a force of no more than about 250 men in some sort of combat role.

During the days that followed quite some additional troops had 'washed ashore'. Two guarding companies of AFB Gilze-Rijen had arrived on the 10th. About 100 men from the Peel-Raamline come along a few days later. At the 15th a company of (reorganised) troops from Noord-Brabant had reached the island, and in the evening of the 16th the 250 men evacuated from Tholen. The total Dutch presence had then grown to about 900- 1,000 men. None of these outfits had any significant value.

Germans in sight

The island commander was still the commander of the already evacuated AFB, Captain de Ruyter van Steveninck. He decided that the guarding troops from Haamstede AFB would form the defensive screen along the Zijpe coast, right across the German positions at St. Philipsland. Although alternatives were few, it still amazes that this unit in particular was selected defending the one point that would almost certainly face a German crossing attempt. The days before many rebellions had been seen amongst this company and at one instance they had to be gathered from all around the dunes in the western corner of the island after a large section of the company had disarmed and fled. Now these men were picked to brace themselves for an actual German assault, although quite a number of far more capable troops were available. The rest of the troops were partially spread out over the island, without being properly briefed on any battle-plan or specific mission.

The guarding troops that had arrived at the Zijpe coast, were soon put to the test. When during the afternoon the Germans opened fire from Anna Jacoba at St Philipsland - with machineguns, AT guns and mortars - and one soldier got badly wounded, the company commander immediately gave order to fall back two kilometres from the coast, leaving just a small group in Bruinesse as a forward guard. An irresponsible act, for as such the entire coastline opposite the Germans was left undefended. When the island commander arrived and surveyed the dike defences in the early evening he found the dike totally abandoned from Dutch troops. When he moved on westwards he met the small group of the forward guard who appeared to have a white flag attached to one of the carabines, in full preparation of immediate surrender. Outrageous as he was, the Captain summoned the company back to the coastline. Understandable in one way, but what could one expect from these totally inapt soldiers? In stead of gathering some of the genuine infantry available on the island, the Captain considered the constantly failing company still adequate enough to perform its duty. After all, he had bullied them back into their previous positions ...

It was pretty obvious though that any German attempt to cross the Zijpe onto Schouwen-Duivenland would be a success before it would even be started ...

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