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Ypenburg

Introduction

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Map of the German invasion (may 1940)

Part IV was introduced with the outline of the German plan to take the city of the Hague by surprise and force the Government and GHQ into capitulation. In order to achieve that highly ambitious plan, large airlandings had been planned around the Hague, namely at Ypenburg AFB (SE of the Hague) and Ockenburg auxilary base (WSW of the Hague) as well as a landing at Valkenburg AFB, near Leiden (NE of the Hague). The latter was intended to cut off the Dutch communication and supply lines to Amsterdam and the north.

This chapter will elaborate on the landing at Ypenburg AFB and the follow-up events on the day of the German invasion.

The defences

Ypenburg airforce base was defended by the 3rd Battalion of the 'Regiment Grenadiers', supported by two platoons of modern armoured cars including the attached squads of motorized hussars. The available six Landsverk AFV's were fitted with a powerful Bofors 3,7 cm dual purpose gun and three light machineguns Lewis 7,9 mm. The cars were all positioned between the buildings along the northwest side of the field.

One company of the Grenadiers including the heavy machinegun company had taken positions along the northwest and southwest side of the field, just like the Waalhaven defense format. A second company had taken positions along an arcutable screen along the NW, facing the cities Delft, Rijswijk and The Hague in order to protect the base against subversive action from Fifth Columnists. A third company was held in reserve. The companies were interchangeable, so that extended R&R could be given to the reserve company whilst the others remained fully occupied.

Ypenburg lay close to Delft, Rijswijk and the Hague. All three these towns housed garrisons, the Hague a considerable garrison too. Another battalion of the Grenadiers was stationed nearby the Hague. Delft and Rijswijk both had infantry depots containing recruits in basic and advanced training. The Hague itself had quite a number of depots, amongst which the cavalery depot also containing some of the most modern AFV's of the Dutch army as well as an artillery depot. A number of infantry units were available too, as well as the 1st Motorized Hussars battalion near Wassenaar. Besides troops of the 1st Corps were stationed not too far off the side. Should the circumstances demand the need of reinforcements or troops to manoeuvre against German intrusions, there were quite some available.

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M.36 Armoured car (may 1940)

Ypenburg was a homebase to no less than three squadrons of the airforce. The most prominent squadron was the 1st Fighter Squadron of the Field Army operating Fokker D-XXI fighters. The base also contained the only available air-force squadron of Douglas 8A-N light strike planes which were temporarily maintained and operated as the 3rd Field Army fighter squadron, in anticipation of the delivery of modified G-1 Wasp fighters. Let there be no misunderstanding though, that the Douglas was not at all capable of any fighter duties. It was a medium to long range higher altitude reconnaissance plane with a limited strike capacity. Very unsuitable for an agile role that it was mistakingly used for by the Dutch airforce. The third squadron on the base was one of obsolete recce and artillery-support planes, Fokker C-V, Koolhoven FK-51 [2nd Recce Squadron]. The latter were parked outside the premises of the airfield, for camouflage purposes.

The ground-to-air defences around Ypenburg were quite extended and particularly well placed to prevent air laindings. The arsenal comprised two batteries of heavy guns (6 off Vickers 7,5 cm), five platoons with 2 cm Oerlikon light AA guns [12 pieces total] and three platoons with heavy machineguns [together with those of the other batteries: 20 off M.25 Spandau heavy machineguns]. Considering the fact that the opposing forces would have to fly in low, the fire power of the light AA was quite considerable. Besides, the heavy machineguns of the infantry and AFV 3,7 cm main guns could contribute too when it came to fighting low flying aircraft. All in all that was quite a formidable fire power to oppose when flying a large, unarmoured, slow flying Ju-52 with delicate content.

The D-XXI and Douglas squadrons as well as the air-defences were on high alert as off 03.15 hrs, according to the standing orders of the Air Defence staff. The ground forces were on alert too, with all automatic weapons manned and ammo distributed.

The opponent

Ypenburg and Ockenburg were the objectives that had to be taken by the main force of the 1st Airborne Battalion of Fallschirmjäger Regiment 2 [I./FJR2, Hauptmann Noster] of which only 3./FJR.2 [Oberleutnant Von Roon] was assigned elsewhere (Ockenburg). Shortly following the airbornes (the airbornes departure was 30 minutes ahead of the airlanding troops) IR.65 [of 22.ID], commanded by Oberst Georg Friemel (1), was scheduled to land, with the bulk of its forces on Ypenburg and a single battalion on nearby Ockenburg. Finally one-third of the 22.ID support troops including the Arty Staff and two batteries of 7,5 cm howitsers as well as the majority of the division battle staff were scheduled to land on Ypenburg. The airfield was to receive the most formidable formation of German air-transported troops of all targeted Hague airfields.

(1) Oberst Georg Friemel (1891-1977) was a career officer, who had been serving since 1910. He served during the First WW, which he ended as a Hauptmann commanding a pioneer company, earning the Iron Cross I and II. During the interwar period he was maintained in the German lines as an active officer, being schooled for infantry support arms (heavy MG and mortars). He received stealthy education as a General Staff officer, gaining him the position as regiment commander in 1934, which he continued when, meanwile promoted to full Oberst (Colonel) IR.65 became his regiment. He continued to lead this regiment into the battle of Ypenburg, during which he was captured by Dutch forces and put on a ship on May 13th, ending up in the UK, shortly after a Canadian POW camp in which he stayed for the duration of the war. He was automatically promoted to Generalmajor (Brigadier) on the 1st of January 1941. He was released from captivity in October 1947.

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Map of The Hague main-roads (may 1940)

The objective of the entire operation was the ambitious endeavour to capture the Royal Family and Cabinet of the country as well as seizure of the main Dutch military headquarters. Along with the airlanding troops came a specially formed taskforce [Einsatsgruppe Feldmann] that had all the information to trace people which had been designated to be detained(2). Once the tactical objectives had been achived and the task forces would have secured the strategic objectives too, Generalleutnant Von Sponeck would personaly take the Queen and family into 'protected custody'. Sponeck was ordered to take his ceremonial uniform along to conduct this particular little detail of the plan. Hitler was quite convinced that Queen Wilhelmina would appreciate this delicate treatment. He couldn't be more wrong.

(2) Hauptmann Adolf von Feldmann - who was scheduled to land on Ypenburg - was an Abwehr officer. His taskforce consisted of six men forming his personal staff and four squads of each one officer, one Abwehragent and ten men. They had been tasked to find and seize the people listed on a 'search list' [Fahndungsliste] that had been handed to them. This list did not contain members of the Governement or GHQ, but particularly people that were linked to intelligence matters, such as (suspected) spies, Dutch intelligence service agents, etc. etc.. Also drawn up street-plans, lists of military HQ's, members of Government and even lists with garages (for commandeered motorisation) were found in the Abwehr and operations package.

The reason why so much detail, including the list itself, got disclosed is that extensive paperwork on both the operation (around the Hague) and the specific mission of the Einsatzgruppe were found on the bodies of two German officers on two different locations during the morning and afternoon of the 10th [see photo of drawn up street-scheme]. These papers were copied and taken along to the UK by a Dutch intelligence service officer that had managed to escape to the UK on May the 14th. It shapes a nice insight in the fine print of the German preparations for the operation and the involvement of the German Abwehr and the German diplomatic staff in The Hague.

First things first though. The operation would be kicked-off by strike and fighter planes that would pound the Dutch defences, shortly after followed by the airborne landings. The airbornes would precede the airlanding force and be dropped in the dead angles of the defence (to the SW, W and N of the AFB), immediately taking on these defences where ever they proved ready. The defences had to be fought down or at least be suppressed before the airlift operation would start. When the airlandings were ongoing the airbornes would continue to clear the direct surroundings of the base of remaining resistance.

After the airbase would have been sieged, the airbornes would seal off the airfield and city roads whereas the air-landing troops would focus on getting into the Hague soonest. Since the staff of 22.LL.ID was also scheduled to land in Ypenburg, the second phase of the operation would be commanded directly by Generalleutnant Graf von Sponeck, who was the commander in charge of the entire The Hague operation as well as the division commander of 22.LL.ID. Graf von Sponeck was one of very few German Generals that was known for his critical attitude against the nazi regime. A dangerous trade in those days ...

The airfield defences would first be attacked by a limited bomber-force after which the airbornes would land to seize the air- and ground-defence facilities and clear the fields of remaining resistance. Just like Waalhaven, the airlanding troops would shortly after start landing divided over a number of waves.

The battle starts

At 03:15 hrs the Fokker D-XXI and Douglas planes received orders to start-up and warm-up their engines. The infantry battalion had been instructed to man all positions. It must have been little after 0400 hours that the first three German bombers were spotted by the air-watch posts. All Dutch airplanes immediately received orders to scramble and did so under the punishment of the first falling bomb loads. Eight fighters [one unarmed plane that was being serviced was not scrambled] and eight of the eleven Douglas pseudo-fighters scrambled successfully. The last three Douglas planes had to break off their take-off, due to the first series of bombs crossing their run-ways. But after a brief delay also these three managed to take off.

In the meantime the German Heinkel He-111 bombers continued their bombardment. They approached their target in flights of three [Kette] and dropped their 50 kg bombs mainly around the buildings and the airplane platform. The bombardment lasted - with intervals - until 04:30 hrs. Meanwhile Messerschmitts Bf-110 strafed the infantry and AA machinegun positions. The infantry positions suffered little from these raids, mainly so due to the fact that the German pilots were under instructions not to damage the runways, along which most of the Dutch infantry was entrenched. Two of the six armoured cars had been damaged from bom blasts and debris, one of which had been left by its crew; the other one was immobilized by debris but remained occupied. The material damage that resulted from the continuous series of air assaults was not much - however the effect on the moral of the infantry men in their fragile dug outs was quite devastating. Many fled the scene; not all of them later returned.

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The Fokker D-XXI fighter (may 1940)

After the two fighter squadrons had scrambled they had found themselves almost directly opposed by masses of German planes, operating on several altitudes. He-111 bombers and Bf-110 fighter-cruisers swarmed around the twenty Dutch planes on lower levels whereas Bf-109's operated on intermediate levels, diving down on the Dutch. The German transport planes containing the airbornes also joint this huge armada, most of which flew as low as 1,000 feet or less. Due to the superior German air-power and altitude advantage the few scrambling Dutch planes were almost immediately forced into defence and found themselves dispersed across a vast air-space. The slow manoeuvering Douglas planes proved totally inapt as fighter planes, as many had feared beforehand. They didn't stand the slightest change against their fast, agile and heavily armed adversaries. Seven of the Douglas planes were picked out of the sky within minutes after their departure, whereas two others were forced to make emergency landings. Only two Douglas managed to avoid destruction and land on Ockenburg AFB [where they would also go lost due to the subsequent German landings there]. Many air crew on board the Douglas's perished. They only managed to take two of the invaders [2 Ju-52] with them to the ground. A dramatic result born from of a very ill decision up in the chain of command to abuse these very capable light strike planes as fighters.

As opposed to the sitting ducks that the Douglas were in comparison to the agile German fighters, the highly manoeuvrable Fokker D-XXI fighters on their turn were able to put up much more of a fight. They faced the Bf-110's in a number of dog-fights in which the Fokker's easily outmanoeuvred their bigger opponents. Only one D-XXI was actually shot down in a dog-fight. Two were forced into an emergency landing nearby after emptying their ammo-stocks and tanks, not being able to find a Dutch held airfield anymore. The other planes made emergency landings all over the west of the country due to empty fuel-tanks and one  landed on Ockenburg [and was subsequently lost due to the German landings there]. The German seizure of all Hague airfields obviously played a major role in the forced emergency landings of the Dutch fighters. The net result was however dramatic to the small Dutch airforce.

The eight Fokker's shot down only four [confirmed] enemy planes [1 Ju-52, 1 Bf-109, 1 Do-17 and 1 He-111]. Other claims could not be substantiated. Six of the eight D-XXI had been lost due to emergency landings, one had crashed, one was a write off at Ockenburg. A heavy blow to the airforce fighter force. The contribution of the Douglas planes had been a mere two Ju-52, against a loss of all eleven Douglas. Basically both squadrons were complete write-offs, while more than half of these losses were due to lacking landing terrains after the German seizure of airfields. The squadron of Fokker C-V planes, that had remained on the ground - had been parked outside the actual airfield premises. The recaptured of the AFB Ypenburg by Dutch forces later that day would see these C-V's be able to join another recce unit and contribute to the ongoing air-operations of the small Dutch airforce. A mild piece of good fortune after serious losses ...

The air landing operation

Many Dutch infantry men, particularly those of the company along the airfield itself, had found themselves in a hellish environment when out of the half darkness suddenly bombs started to fall and bullets came buzzing around. They had nowhere to run, but hide in their dug-outs. Some heavily punished sectors saw many men leave their relatively save trenches anyhow. Blind panic forced them to run, usually out in the open. The officers - those that did not panic themselves that is - had to do their utmost to prevent a total chaos of fleeing men. Some stood with their pistols in the hand, directing the ordinary ranks back into their positions. It helped, in most cases, particulary because the bombardment only lasted for a few minutes in brief preparation of the things to come. The majority of the fled defenders returned and went back behind their weapons in time, with the German airbornes in arrival. At about 04:35-04:40 hrs a fleet of transports offloaded the first wave of airbornes, som of which floating just overhead of the previously panicking defences. Amazingly those who had gone through the previous first panic managed to compose themselves afterwards, when the danger had come real close. Their baptism of fire had broken their fears.

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Airbase Ypenburg 10 May (may 1940)

Three airborne companies and their battalion staff were scheduled to land around Ypenburg. It was the 1st Battalion of the 2nd Airborne Regeiment, less its 3rd Coy. They were airlifted by three squadrons Ju-52 of IV./KGzbV.1, whereas the staff flight of this Gruppe transported the battalion staff. These about 480 men had orders to seize the airfield and take care of its defence systems. According to an airborne battle-report three [loaded] planes crashed due to direct hits by AAA, and many airbornes got hit yet inside the planes from Dutch machinegun fire during their brief decent. The report furthermore states that out of their 53 planes [a full Gruppe, the fourth squadron dropped the 3rd Coy over Ockenburg] only 27 made it back. The heavy ground-to-air fire was the reason that the airborne-drop nearly failed in its roots. Planes were dispersed in the sky, in their efforts to avoid the dense light gun and MG fire near Delft. Numerous planes were shot out of the sky or forced to land with blazing engines, others were just riddled by bullets. Many pilots steered away from the dense fire and dropped their loads far off of the target zone. This caused the landing to become the first tactical set-back for the airbornes.

The airbornes that had made it through these first delicate stages had hit the ground over a much stretched area that dispersed them between Overschie, Rijswijk, Delft, Nootdorp and Pijnacker: a room of four km depth and three km width. 1st Coy and battalion staff had been dropped west of Delft in stead of east. The 2nd Coy landed south of the AFB, but sustained some losses in men and material. 4th Coy landed partially on the intended LZ, near the east border of Rijswijk. These forces were unable to join forces though. Their assignment to take out the airfield's defences before the upcoming airlifted troops had arrived was therefore hardly feasible, although some defences had indeed been taken out prior to the first airlandings [at 05:15 hrs]. Bitter fighting between the Dutch Grenadiers and a few dozen airbornes (gradually growing to a few hundred) broke out, during which only a limited sector of the defences was successfully seized before the airlanding forces arrived.

Due to the airborne failure to round up and silence the immediate airfield defences, the first twelve Ju-52 transport planes (KGrzbV.12) with the first air-landing infantry on board landed straight into a deadly cone of fire coming from the surviving northwest and southwest defence positions well supported by the 2 cm AA platoons at Delft. Three of the armoured cars - with their 37 mm guns and each with two frontal firing 7,9 mm Lewis MG's - were able to join the defence fire. Most of the planes were simply riddled by bullets and shrapnel, some caught fire before touch down, others soon after. A considerable share of men on board these planes were killed instantly, others burnt with their airplane. After the battle a shocking high number of burnt corpses was recovered. Survivors of this first wave would later confirm the genuine hell amongst the troops on board. It was devastating, must have felt like the first waves of landing infantry hitting Utah beach four years later. Of the about 150-200 men on board of this first wave only few came out unscaved, most survivors would soon be captured. This first formation had been of the regimental staff, signals platoon and 6th and 8th Coy of the 65th Infantry Regiment (22.ID). Amongst them Oberst Friemel, regiment commander.

The second wave - that landed about fifteen minutes later - shared more or less the fate of the first. The consequantial inferno of [14] burning planes on the landing strip prevented many Ju-52's of the third wave of flying in. They diverted to (blocked) roads, fields and stretches of land nearby or other suitable landing grounds around Ypenburg and Delft. The fourth wave diverted to Ockenburg but landed all over the West of the country, some Ju-52 even returned to Germany with troops still on board.

Curiously one of the airplanes of the first Ju-52 Gruppe that flew in was hit during the approach by an AAA battery and crash-landed in the Adelheidsstraat in the Hague, very close to the Dutch headquarters of the Fortress Holland defences. The plane contained a staff section including an officer with briefcase that contained most of the operation directives for the action against the Hague. These papers would be logged in history as the 'Sponeck papers', after the general commanding the division and airlanding operation around the Hague. Although these papers would not immediately make it onto Dutch staff tables, they would eventually be evaluated and assist the Dutch in appreciating the German intentions (3).

(3) Many popular German sources, but even some of repute, would later insist that the operation had been disclosed (or betrayed) to the Dutch before the invasion hour. That is absolute nonsense, but possibly made up in popular culture to diminish the embarrassement of the local defeat that was suffered by the airlanding formations. It was however the case that in the evening of the 10th of May, after a full day of war, part of the plans for the landing around the Hague had become known to the Dutch high command, causing them to safeguard the city even more and reinforcing certain guarding forces around Royal Family and army HQ. This would not assist the Dutch in repelling the raid, which had already been successfully done in the morning and early afternoon of that day.

Planes that came even later also found Ypenburg [and later Ockenburg] AFB obstructed and landed at alternative locations too. Some as far off as Rotterdam or Hook of Holland. In itself this would turn out into a mild tactically defensive success, since the dispersed landing of German airbornes and airlanding troops sculpted a picture at the Dutch staff tables of an intentional overwhelming airlanding operation in the entire region around The Hague and Rotterdam! Only in retrospect we know that these planes [about 200 for the Hague region] had all been intended for the three airfields around The Hague only, but on the contempory staff tables they caused so much disturbance and (unnecessary) counter measures, that the failed German operation could almost be seen as a strategic success. It would certainly tie down considerable forces of the 1st Corps of the Dutch field army, also because more was expected.

Another fortune to the Germans was that the staff of 22.(LL)ID - that had been scheduled to land on Ypenburg -was able to divert to Ockenburg in stead, including Generalleutnant Graf von Sponeck himself. Should they have landed on or around Ypenburg, changes would have been considerable that the division staff had been killed, wounded or captured. Since the days to follow would proof the importance of the divisional commander himself being amongst his troops, one could say that the Germans were very fortunate that the division staff had survived. The landing at Ypenburg, however, had turned into disaster and it had not been finished yet.

The battle on the ground continues

The massacre on the runway of the AFB had been witnessed by many German airbornes that were unable to assist their unfortunate comrades. The battle on the ground had meanwhile developed into a series of very intensive engagements between the airbornes and the remaining defenders. Northeast of Ypenburg the airbornes were denied access by the combination of some heavy machineguns and a platoon of motorized hussars that were part of the armoured car squadron on the base. These Dutch had created an improvised stronghold and they were not planning to yield.

North of the airfield a few Germans managed to gain a local success. In this sector a few individual groups had managed to re-group and form a useful concentration. The Dutch defenders, joint by the crew of an AAA battery that had suffered a direct bomb hit, had to give way and retreat. It gave these Germans the opportunity to deploy troops along the canal [de Vliet] on the southern side of The Hague, thus preventing easy Dutch counter measures from this angle. Freshly arriving Dutch reinforcements from The Hague had meanwhile joint forces with some of the retreated occupation of the northern flank [parts of the shielding company] and they managed to deny the Germans a crossing of the canal and, more importantly, tied the Germans to their positions. The German gain would soon turn into their own pain.

The 1st Coy should have landed near the AFB, but was in stead dropped west of Delft. There it had to reassemble, linked up with some of the battalion staff, fight down a platoon of hussars that happened to be stationed there and indure a dozen of losses before the remains could make it to the motorway (current A.13). This formation had a strength of around 75 men. They managed to get themselves some sets of wheels in Delft and get north along the motorway, quickly dismounting when they were nearby the AFB. There the most successful German action would take place along the westside of the airbase, in the Broekpolder. They managed to silence some if the screen forces along the westside of the road and Vliet canal, whilst the main formation worked its way towards the actual airfield defences and eventually managed to get into the rear of the Grenadiers that were positioned on the NW and W side of the landing ground of the base. Heavy close quarter fighting broke out. Many Dutch positions were taken in force and a considerable number of Dutch was either killed or taken prisoner. At around 07:30 hrs the defence in this sector had ceased to exist.

When the battle raged on and the German success on the west side of the defence materialized the Dutch screen forces along the Vliet (canal) had virtually stopped to exist, with exception of the men that managed to stand ground around the Hoornbrug [bridge over a narrow stream called De Vliet, see the map].

When the airbornes had taken such positions that Dutch forces in Rijswijk seemed to be sealed off, they reorganised and advanced onto the airfield, in order to prevent a repetition of the previously witnessed defeat of their air-landing comrades. At this stage their officers authorized them to breach the international code. Dutch POW's were used as living shields behind which the airbornes advanced towards the remaining Dutch defences at the northwest side of the airbase. The defenders got confused by these criminal acts and many were taken prisoner as a result, whilst others made a run for it. The airbornes even managed to force an armoured car [the one that had been immobilised due to bomb craters and debris around the car] crew to surrender. Hereafter the main-building of the base was occupied by the airbornes and soon after the notorious swastika flag swung from a window. The German losses had mounted however, amongst them their battalion commander, Hauptmann Noster, who had been badly wounded, along with many other officers and senior NCO's. Two officers, one being the commander of 2./FJR.2 Oberleutnant Schlichting, were killed in action. By 08:00 hrs Dutch time the base was largely in German hands.

The Dutch losses during this stage were high too. Many Grenadiers had fallen, dozens were wounded and a large number, around 80 men, captured and contained in the former base-buildings. Three armoured cars had escaped from the German seizure of the base and made it back into the Hague across the Hoornbrug (brigde to Rijswijk). The battle had only seen its first stage yet. There was much more to come.

The Germans stopped

One group of defenders had been able to withstand all German assaults and hold out. This group - mainly comprising the previously mentioned motorized hussars - held a position in the northeastern corner of the airfield, around Johannahoeve. The airbornes were not able to overrun this position, were repelled time and again and eventually decided to leave it aside and shift their attention to the NW, where the Hoornbrug (bridge) posed a threat. The wounded German battalion commander instructed his men to form a storm troop, procure some wheels and try to take the strategic bridge across the Vliet canal in Rijswijk, the now notorious Hoornbrug. Other troops, both airbornes and some picked up strangler air-landing men, would be sent after.

At the Hoornbrug - that formed the access to both Rijswijk and the Hague - a firm Dutch stronghold had been constructed by a number of troops under a few proactive officers, meanwhile reinforced by a number of the AFV's from the airfield. Many troops from all kinds of units had been assembled here and were put back in shape again. Also, some reinforcements from recruit-depot-units from Delft had arrived. The airbornes realised that the Hoornbrug was of strategic importance should they still desire to stand any chance of entering The Hague and - if not - be able to cut off Dutch counter measures from this vital crossing. The endeavor to overrun the bridge defences was easily repelled. Germans that endeavoured to cross the canal elsewhere were killed or forced back and some of the requisitioned cars and motorbikes that were used to force a crossing were destroyed by heavy machinegun fire. All participating airbornes (a Gruppe of 1./FJR.2) were either killed or wounded in the process of this. Two Luftwaffe fighters that attacked the Dutch soldiers along the canal were shot down by the Delft ground-to-air defences. It was a clear signal that there was nothing to gain at this point.

The German operation at Ypenburg had then reached the peak of its (initial) success. Almost the entire airfield was in their hands, with exception of the one position in the far northern corner. From then on their situation would rapidly grow into a very delicate one. Due to the failed airlandings hardly any reinforcements arrived whereas the airborne losses had piled up, not even considering the fact that at least half their forces could not participate due to misdrops. Besides, the Dutch had managed to seal off the airfield on the outside and isolated many pockets of resistance that were eventually all forced into surrender. This caused the German occupation of the AFB to be choked and ready to be finished off by a concentric (counter) assault.

Notwithstanding the delicate German situation at the airfield, the dispersed German force in the area did create the challenge of a considerable German presence in the entire region around Ypenburg and between Delft and Rotterdam. Countless planes had landed in fields and on roads in the region,like in Pijnacker, Nootdorp, Delft, Overschie, Wateringen and along the (obstructed) highway from The Hague to Rotterdam. The latter looked more like a parking lot for German air transport planes than anything else. Many of the troops onboard these planes had been able to disembark in one piece. On the other hand, almost all their officers had been killed or otherwise put out of action and as such sometimes medical officers had to operate as troop commanders. Oberfeldarzt [=Lieutenant-Colonel medical doctor] Wischhusen (4), chief medical doctor of 22.ID, was their most senior. In the German army one was primarily commanding officer, only secondarily medical doctor. The highest in rank who did survive the landings was Oberst Friemel [Commander of IR.65], but he had been sealed off from his troops, was later captured too. Wischhusen was then his most senior officer and would take command of the assembled forces along the motorway to Rotterdam.

(4) Dr. Werner Wischhusen (1899-1969). He was a medical doctor and commander of the Medical section of the 22.ID in the rank of Oberfeldarzt (=Lt.Col), later Oberarzt (=Col). In 1944 he would be promoted to Generalarzt (=Gen-Maj), commanding the medical section of the German 1st Army. Wischhusen would be awarded the Knightscross for his diligent command of the 22.ID stranglers in May 1940 in the Ypenburg sector.

Delft itself had faced enemy landings all around it. The garrison commander had not immediately recognized that the primary objective of these airbornes was the airfield east of the city. Besides, the number of troops under his command was modest. A weak depot battalion of infantry recruits, a number of much smaller units and five light AA platoons resided under his command. The largest single concentration of airbornes [about 60] assembled around a factory south of Delft along the canal. Later about 400-500 men airlanding troops managed to reassemble outside Delft too. They had survived the landings of about 35 planes south of Delft. This entire force was commanded by the previously mentioned Wischhusen. No other senior officer had survived [or was too badly wounded] the landings and following fights.

The south-front of Delft was defended by two companies of recruits, most of them only shorty under arms. Nontheless, all German attempts to penetrate the city were rejected by these men. One shouldn't exaggerate this success though, bearing in mind that the airbornes had only open fields in front of them, causing the defence to simply deny access to this approach sector by placing its MG's in a strategic manner. On the other hand, Wischhusen reported of quite substantial discipline and moral issues amongst his men, relatively many of which had to be put under a lot of pressure or even gun point when it came to executing received orders. He decided that it was not worth going into battle with these men. Most of these Germans later assembled at a factory near the Vliet canal, but it left quite some wandering German groups in the vicinity. A few sent out Dutch patrols managed to eliminate or capture a considerable number of stray German units around Delft. It was particularly around the village of Nootdorp (the east and northeast of Ypenburg) that a high number of Germans were captured by some aggressive Dutch patrols too.

At the end or the morning 135 Germans had been taken prisoner, about 120 (about 90 of them air-landing troops, around 30 airbornes) had been killed, many more were wounded. The German units that had landed south of Delft had been isolated from their comrades at Ypenburg. The largest chunk of surviving Germans were found under the command of German medical-officer Lt-Col Wischhusen. He noted on the end of the day that his men were badly shaken by the events and he had to dedicate all of his time to keep them in position. They suffered from the constant Dutch fire and moral was below zero amongst these men. Isolated as they were, they would remain in their position until night-fall. This formation would eventually - when the fighting in this sector would continue for another four days after the 10th - move to the hamlet Overschie, on the northern outskirts of Rotterdam. Underway more stranglers would join them, but losses would mount too. That will be addressed on the consecutive days though.

Ypenburg retaken

We move back in time a little. It was already addressed that during the morning [around 09:00 hrs] the German bridgehead had reached its maximum size. From then onwards the Dutch would regain ground on their adversary.

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The retaking of Ypenburg (may 1940)

It all started at Voorburg, north of the airfield, where the Germans had overrun a heavy anti-aircraft artillery battery [13th Bt AAA] in the early hours. This was the most northern edge of their bridgehead. Centre point of attention was a stately mansion [Huize Dorrepaal] situated close to De Vliet canal. Quite a number of airbornes had taken positions in and around the building and controlled one of the small bridges from this point. At 1000 hours a young 2nd Lieutenant appeared, named Maduro (5). He organised the defences and planned an assault on the German position.

(5) 2nd Lieutenant George John Lionel Maduro [1916-1945] was of Jewish decent and born on the island of Curacao, part of the Netherlands Antilles. He was drafted and became a promising young reserve cavalry officer, appointed 2nd Lt in 1939. Maduro showed his courage and natural leadership during the fighting in May 1940.

During the occupation of the Netherlands he became active in the resistance movement, participating in a so called 'pilot-line' which activities got him caught in 1943. Shortly after he managed to escape and rejoint the resistance movement. When he was eventually caught again by the SD (Sicherheitsdienst) he was deported to the German model camp Dachau, a school camp for SS guards, where the regime was more than inhumane. The young Lieutenant persished in this hell-hole in February 1945.

After the war Maduro was decorated with the Militaire Willemsorde - the highest Dutch order for valour. A well-known attraction in the Hague was called after him: the miniature town Madurodam situated nearby Scheveningen, where he had spent some time in the infamous resistance 'hotel', the prison of Scheveningen.

Under cover of a machine-gun and an AT-gun the Lieutenant stormed over the bridge - followed by his men - and managed to reach the mansion in one piece. His men entered the building and cleared it room by room, while the AT gun and MG's supressed German positions adjecent to the building. The occupying Germans surrendered. The action was followed by a clean sweep of the entire park surrounding the mansion, which resulted in the capture of another 70 airbornes. The nearby mansion Zeerust was also cleared from its hostile occupation and this resulted in yet another 20 POW's. These series of actions - mostly initiated and commanded by the young Lieutenant - resulted in the mopping-up of the entire German stronghold in the north. The Lieutenant was [posthumously - see note] awarded the MWO after the war for his valour and leadership.

The first direct counter action against the German occupation of the airforce base itself started at de Hoornbrug in Rijswijk. Under covering fire from machine-guns one company of recruits stormed over the bridge and moved forward under the terrible handgun fire of a significant number of airbornes. They miraculously managed to reach a point within 250 metre of the airfield, but then they had to take cover, because the German fire had become so dense that every next inch would definitely demand a high toll. German MG's surrounded the Dutch position and pinned the recruits down in their open field positions. Also German fighter-planes, apparently contacted by the ground forces, dove down to strafe the Dutch attackers in their open positions. Some casualties were suffered.

Simultaneous with this first company another company of the Grenadiers had worked its way forward. These men managed to approach the farm-house [Johannahoeve] to the north of the field [by then the most northern point of the German defences] that had been strongly fortified by the airbornes. They managed to come within a few hundred meters of this object but then also these men had to take cover due to the dense German fire.

Although both company actions had ended in a stand-off up to that point [about 10:00 hrs], the most devious Dutch counteraction was still ahead. But before it came to that the Germans requested a short pause. The German Hauptmann Merten came forward under a white flag and asked for a short truce in order for the German side to be able to take care of the many casualties in the open field. Some of the wounded Germans were in fact handed over to the Dutch who saw them delivered to Hague hospitals. The Germans also abused the truce to redistribute their scarce ammo and use caught Dutch MG's to resupply their lines. The Dutch on their part improved positions during the cease-fire. Half an hour later both sides started fighting again.

For quite some time some sort of stand off situation existed in which the Germans could hold their own and the Dutch hardly progressed. A German stronghold at the Johanna Hoeve (farm house) about half a click north of the base, was a massive nuisance to the Dutch approaching from the north. Its defence, comprising about a dozen airbornes, was commanded by the wounded commander of 4./FJR.2 (Hauptmann Morawetz). The Dutch infantry in the Northwest saw opposing German positions across their entire frontal sector, causing the Dutch field commanders to ask for arty support.

Three batteries of light field artillery [7,5 cm] were deployed to shell the German strongholds on and around the airfield with direct fire. The plan was that after these guns would cease fire, two small companies would form an assaulting force east of the highway [running southwest to northeast] and one company west of the highway. When these three units went forward they were however soon pinned down by intensive German machinegun fire and close air support from a number of Messerschmitts.

Upon this halted infantry push the artillery started whistling its tune again. Numerous grenades buzzed over the heads of the covering companies in the open field and dropped right onto the German positions on the airfield. Shortly after German occupied buildings were set ablaze or shot to rubble. The airbornes quickly evacuated the buildings and made a run for the fortified buildings and farms outside the field. The pinned down company of Dutch recruits was by then able to crawl forward onto the actual airfield. Many Germans, who realized the pointlessness of further resistance, particularly with the echoing ammo caches, stuck up their hands, surrendering to the Dutch infantry. These features had a devastating effect on others and caused the entire German defence along the actual airbase terrain to collapse within minutes. The Grenadier company alone took 123 POW's. In the process of this a Dutch officer came rushing down and shouted that all Dutch soldiers had to quickly evacuate the airfield! A British air assault, that had been coordinated earlier on the day, was expected. It caused a brief chaos and German POW's were rushed off.

Indeed - at 1510 hrs about eight or nine Blenheim MK.1/IV light bombers of 40th Squadron RAF started bombing Ypenburg. Initially they had been with twelve planes but one flight had been dispersed causing it to bomb alternate location. One Blenheim bombed the nearby AFB Valkenburg (near Leiden) strip and another one used its bombs on the beach near Scheveningen where JU-52's were parked. The raid itself caused no effect but some more devastion and possibly one or two losses in men, but not particularly recorded. Most personnel had been able to leave the bombed area in time. The returning Blenheims paid a high price though. Most were intercepted by roaming German fighters. One Blenheim was hit by German fighters over the airbase already and crashed at Voorburg. Two on board killed, one managed to escape this faith and spent the rest of his war live as a POW. A second one was shot down over the Hague and crashed just outside the city with all aboard KIA. The third victim of German repel found its fate over the Northsea, the bodies of the ones on board washed up a later later. Eight men KIA as a final result.

After the RAF attack the airfield was quickly re-occupied by the Dutch. By then only two main resistance pockets remained: two farm-houses [Johannahoeve and Hoeve Loos] close to the base, which had meanwhile been built-out by the airbornes.

Hoeve Loos was taken after an assault at 1730 hours, at the loss of two KIA on the Dutch side. The Germans swiftly surrendered after a section of heavy machineguns had opened fire and strained the building. An assaulting party had approached the German position under cover of the blazing MG fire. In total 42 POW's were made, ten Germans turned out to have been killed.

The farm house Johannahoeve proved much more of a nut to crack. This location had been taken by a German heavy machinegun squad under Lt Hasseldiek, commander of the 2nd Platoon of 4./FJR.2. When the battle had tilted into Dutch favour some stranglers, mostly air landed infantry, had joint the young German Lieutenant. When the Dutch had pushed the Germans from the Vliet canal, the lightly wounded Hauptmann Wolfram Morawetz (C. 4./FJR.2) and two of his aids managed to escape captivity (or worse) and fell back on the farmhouse Johannahoeve. The Captain obviously took command and had the location thoroughly prepared for defence. In total about 20 men held the premises, isolated as they were, although some more stranglers managed to join them. In the end about 40 men were surrounding Morawetz. Dutch attempts to approach the farm house were rejected by effective German fire. The situation demanded a more thorough approach. At first the Dutch tried to persuade the occupation to surrender by riddling he strong building by means of dense heavy machinegun fire. All available machineguns riddled the structure. Still the stubborn airbornes did not give way, although some got wounded. A subsequent Dutch infantry storm-assault was rebuffed causing some casualties amongst the attackers, including the leading Lieutenant Leutscher. It was already starting to get dark when artillery was finally incorporated in the plans. Twenty 7,5 cm grenades were pumped into the buildings. It caused major casualties amongst the defenders, but also the residents, of which most were killed. Most of the Germans surrenderd, but the wounded Morawetz and three airbornes still managed to sneak out and stay out of Dutch hands until late in the evening. The brave occupation had suffered 4 KIA and 6 WIA. None of them would escape POW fate in Allied camps, for all would be in the UK by the 15th of May, including the wounded Morawetz. The Dutch suffered two KIA and some WIA.

Aftermath

After the airfield had been retaken, the remaining German resistance around the field had to be overcome. At many different locations small groups of airbornes or even individuals had still maintained positions in deserted Dutch trenches or bomb craters. After some time - and sometimes after intensive local skirmishes - these last German forces [about 65 men] around Ypenburg could be forced into surrender. Amongst them the wounded commander of KGzbV12 - Hauptmann Freiherr von Hornstein - who's Ju-52 had been responsible for the airlanding at Ypenburg. He would be one of the few fortunate POW's in this theatre who would not be evacuated to England on the 13th or 14th due to his severe wounds.

Also the east side of Delft was cleared from almost the entire German occupation. The enemy resistance along De Vliet was systematically mobbed-up too. In total 150 airbornes and airlanding troops were taken prisoner here, amongst whom the airborne battalion commander, Hauptmann Noster. Also he would join the POW transports to the UK, few days later.

Still some hundreds of mainly airlanding troops had escaped surrender and were still hiding in the fields and buildings between Delft and Rotterdam. They would eventually mostly concentrate around Overschie.

Balance

The battle for Ypenburg had ended. It turned out to be an overwhelming but costly tactical victory for the Dutch and at the same time a dramatic and bloody loss for the German side. A rare defeat in those days.

In total the Dutch had lost 51 men KIA at Ypenburg itself and 43 KIA in the wide sector around the base. The German losses exceeded that number by far. Over 130 registered KIA and around 500 WIA. No less than 720 men had become POW on Ypenburg and the direct vicinity. In the surrounding area [Delft, Nootdorp, Pijnacker, Bleiswijk] another 575 were taken prisoner. In other words, about 650 killed and wounded, around 1,300 POW's.

Many POW's from this theatre would later be transported to England [around 1,250 in total]. This contributed considerably to the heavy permanent loss suffered by the Germans at Ypenburg. Also in the German journals the battle at Ypenburg was considered a hard felt defeat. A unique defeat in the entire Westfeldzug of May and June 1940 and a defeat that is hardly known to anyone outside the Netherlands.

Some additional "famous last words" about the German defeat are required though. Although the Germans were very much aware of this total defeat at Ypenburg, their official reports stated that they were outmatched by superior well-trained forces and artillery to which they had no defence. That was obviously untrue, in particular in the first stage of the battle.

The backbone of the Dutch forces that held the defence along the canal and that later re-took Ypenburg was formed by recruits from the depots in Delft and The Hague. Some of these men had been enlisted for only a mere four days before the invasion! The two companies of Grenadiers on the field and in the outer screen defences had been overrun by the airbornes during the first two hours of the battle. Of them only small contingents would be able to fight the entire battle. Artillery got only involved when the buildings of the airfield had to be retaken and the Johannahoeve resistance had to be broken.

German sources - even long after the war - claimed that the operation had been betrayed and the Dutch had been aware of what to expect. This assumption may have been influenced by the incident of the crashed Ju-52 plane in the Hague in which an officer-bag was found containing the plans for the operation at Ypenburg. These papers - better known as 'the Sponeck papers' - indeed contained much information, but they were only read and studied after the retaking of Ypenburg had been completed. It didn't influence the operations at that point. The truth was that the Dutch had been totally unaware of the upcoming raid and were taken by surprise. The Dutch had prepared for airlanding operations in general though. That paid out on Ypenburg, particularly when the first two waves of airlanding troops tried to land on an airfield of which most defences were still intact. That was however the risky feature of the German plan, not a matter of betrayel or clever anticipation on the Dutch side.

In other words, the Germans exaggerated a little, But so did the Dutch, who lifted the victory beyond the actual modest meaning it had. Also in current days the German loss at Ypenburg is often remembered beyond its actual relative meaning. It may have been that the victory had costed the Germans a huge loss, but at the same time, the failed operation around the Hague would occupy large Dutch forces that would, as a result, not be moved to the South-Front or the centrale front instead. 

The German plan had been bold and very risky. They had clearly underestimated the devastating effect of the ground-to-air defences and when the airborne landing was messed up, the whole operation started off on the wrong foot. When the air-landing troops subsequentially landed on a still well defended airfield (and as a consequence get smashed into destruction) the recipy for failure was almost complete. The Dutch were able to push the tactical victory home.

The Dutch victory at Ypenburg was obviously one of very few events that could be looked back on as a sweet revenge, if words of that meaning may be used in this tragic context. The local German defeat mattered only little to none as to the final outcome. And moreover, the lessons learnt would go into the German text-books and ... were totally missed by the Allies.