The bridges at Dordrecht
The two bridges [railway bridge and traffic bridge] that connected the Island of Dordrecht with the Island of Ysselmonde, crossing the Oude Maas flow, were situated right in between the two cities of Dordrecht and Zwijndrecht, NE on the Island. For easy reference we shall address these constructions as the Dordrecht bridges.
The traffic bridge was the second shackle in the chain of bridges that were targetted by the German airbornes.
The two bridges - that lay parallel and alongside eachother - were defended by half a squad of guards and two platoons of AA machineguns, one on either side. The railway bridge was only patrolled by squads of a special Railway Infantry outfit (of 60 men) that was responsible for safeguarding the Dordrecht railway system and the preparation of the railway bridge (using timber vlonders) for the foreseen crossing of ordinary motorised traffic from the Light Division when it would evacuate the south.
In Dordrecht itself, quite a considerable number of troops were present; about 1,500 men in total. Many of these men were fresh trainees or auxiliary units, virtually all recruits from the Army Maritime Engineers Depot (in Dutch: Pontoniers en Torpedisten) in the city. Only about 100 men of the entire force were actually trained combattants. A few hundred men had only been enlisted a few days before the German invasion. These 1,500 men had mostly pistols and carabines as personal arms, and only a handful of light machineguns. Heavy machineguns or heavier infantry support weapons, as well as handgrenades, were unavailable with exception of two modern AT guns of 4,7 cm, which were used to test the ammo production of a plant producing for the army. The ammunition rations were low and moreover confined in a central depot, with exception of a few rounds used for guard duties.
The garrison commander was Lieutenant-Colonel Mussert - who was a brother of the leader of the Dutch National-Socialistic Movement [NSB]. As such, he was mistrusted amongst his fellow-officers and men, particularly when Germany invaded the Netherlands. This officer would come into focus several times during the battle that would prolong for four continuous days on the Island of Dordrecht.
The garisson commander and his units fell under command of the Commander Fortress Holland. That in itself posed the complex situation that Dordrecht formed a command-island on the southern front, because the adjacent sector on the Island was under control of the Group Kil command who had however no authority over the city. That situation would grow even more complex as later, on the 11th, the Light Division would arrive. But we'll get back to that later.
The city of Dordrecht was a subsidiary objective to the 1st Airborne Batallion of 1.Fallschirm Regiment. The main objective of that battalion was the traffic bridge between Dordrecht and Zwijndrecht. Nonetheless, the airborne command was eager to get the bridges at Dordrecht too, intact that is.
In order to seize the objectives one company of airbornes would be landed on both sides of the bridge. Since on both ends adequate landing space was omitted, the Germans had chosen for the best possible alternative. One platoon of airbornes [3rd platoon 3./FJR.1] would be dropped on the west end of the bridge, on a field near the train station in Zwijndrecht. That was virtually next to the ramp of the traffic bridge, that was quite long. The balance of the company [3./FJR.1] would be dropped in a polder on the south central edge of the city of Dordrecht. From theron the company (minus a platoon) had to hurry itself to the bridge from the east end, before the Dutch in the city would be able to block their way.
Two other companies [2./FJR.1 and 4./FJR.1] would land much more to the south, in the fields along the main motorway from Dordrecht to Moerdijk. These two companies - including the regimental [FJR.1] and battalion staff [I./FJR.1] - had no major fixed objectives. They would be used depending on the progress at Moerdijk and/or Dordrecht. They had no other duty than to mop up the contents of a few Dutch barracks along the main road as well as the local Dutch command post [Commander of the Dutch formations on the Island of Dordrecht] near the estate Amstelwijk. Basically both companies would have a reserve role after that.
The 1st Company of the battalion [1./FJR.1] was missing from the battalion. It had been put out of action at Dombas in Norway, and its survivors had only been liberated by the Germans days before the invasion of Holland. Ample time to reform a 1st Company had not been found and as such the 1st Battalion had to execute its objectives with a mere three Companies, adding up to no more than around 400 men.
As said, the main objective of 1st Battalion FJR.1 was the possession of the intact traffic bridge at Dordrecht occupation of a firm bridgehead around the objective that would be able to rebuff Dutch countermeasures. Subsidiary objectives were threefold. First the control of the city of Dordrecht - which in fact could be seen as an integral part of safeguarding the bridgehead against counter measure. Secondly - and in conjunction with 2nd Battalion - the control of the motorway and its direct vicinity along the entire corridor to Moerdijk. Thirdly the sealing off of the eastern and northeastern shores of the Island of Dordrecht, again to prevent counter measures. If the situation would occure that the entire force had to be focussed within the bridgehead around Dordrecht, such necessity would dominate any of the subsidiary objectives.
The landing of the 1st and 2nd Battalion, as well as regimental staff and the airborne medical company, was under direct command of the regiment commander and division executive commander, Oberst [Colonel] Bräuer. He and his staff were scheduled to land near Tweede Tol, a small dike-hamlet between Moerdijk and Dordrecht. It was intended to set up a regimental HQ at Tweede Tol, because the location was right in the middle between the two foremost objectives of the regiment, the bridge-pairs at Moerdijk and Dordrecht. The regiment staff comprised around 150 men, including a quite large airborne medical company and a signals platoon.
The landing at Dordrecht
The landing of the bulk of the 3rd Company [around 100 men] to the south of Dordrecht, in an area known as "De Polder", started shortly before 0500 hrs (Dutch time). The third platoon [36 men] of this company was dropped virtually on top of the bridge-ramp on the Zwijndrecht side. The latter quickly managed to overrun the few [totally surprised] Dutch defenders near the bridges. A handful of Dutch were killed, one German NCO perished. At 0600 the bridges were under control of the airborne platoon. The main force of the German company, that had landed south of Dordrecht, would however gain little success.
The terrain [De Polder] where the airbornes landed was nearby two company size barracks of the Engineers Depot and even closer to the quarters of a large platoon [about 60 men] of the engineers of the Railway Troops [semi-infantry men]. Their quarter was about 200 m away from the most northern border of the German drop-zone.
The Dutch troops had already been shaken up by the sounds of war and planes overhead before, when at 0500 hrs the airbornes suddenly started to land nearby. Officers soon restored order and prepared the shocked recruits for battle, quickly organising ammunition in the town centre where the central cache was situated.
The Germans meanwhile gathered their weapons and started to move northeastwards, trying to get to the bridge soonest. Machineguns were positioned along a main road on the western side of the landing zone, in order to be able to secure the assembling bulk of the company against quick responses by the Dutch. In the process of this perimeter defence organisation, unexpected rifle fire started to fall into the German ranks at the northern outline of the German perimeter. The company commander immediately ordered his two rifle men platoons to counter the apparently weak enemy position, only leaving behind his staff formation and a few MG troops. He ordered one platoon to follow the main road up north into the western flank of the Dutch and another platoon to outflank them from the east. The commanding Oberleutnant [Freiherr von Brandis] himself led the platoon that followed the road [Krispijnse weg].
The commanding Lieutenant of the Railway Platoon had about 30 rifle men and one light machinegun at his disposal, the others were on patrol. He and his troops had taken positions in a small village parc that surrounded their lodgings and that was situated along the rail-way emplacement. They had been on the north end of the German landing zone and since the entire platoon had been on alert anyway, and moreover with the ammo distributed, they were able to react swiftly. The Lieutenant had his men form a half-circle formation around the main-gate and the parc-villa. The other half of his platoon was on the nearby station and railroad yard for guarding duties. This station was on the other side of the railway slope that was between the parc and the station. When the Germans approached the Dutch position from the main road, the Dutch did not give way and continued to suppress the airbornes, notwithstanding the dense German machinegun fire that sprayed their positions. Although the airbornes were able to make use of a dry ditch along the road, their point men were soon all killed or wounded. Amongst them the Oberleutnant himself, who was killed in the first phase of the German attack. This was a moral blast to the Germans who shortly hesitated to push on. Meanwhile the other German platoon had managed to approach the Dutch position from the east. They had to negotiate through dense grove and tree formations, constantly aware that the Dutch could discover them at any moment. Indeed at some stage they came under fire too. The Railway troops held ground, but started to grow into ammo shortage. The Lieutenant established contact with the Dordrecht HQ and reported the situation. After this he and his remaining soldiers gradually retreated to the north trying to climb over the railway slope unseen.
While the troops south of the station held the entire airborne company occupied, the engineer-recruits to the west of the German position had managed to form a number of patrols that were adequately equipped with rifles, one or two machineguns and ammo. These patrols spread out over the southwest side of the German perimeter and gradually managed to take out the German machinegun positions that had been placed along the road side. After this the ever growing number of battle ready engineer-squads started to sweep the area for remaining airborne groups which were taken prisoner one by one. A few brief but fierce skirmishes followed along the main road, which all ended into German surrenders. The remaining airbornes withdrew into the parc area, but the closing ring of Dutch formations around them continued to spray the decreasing German pocket. Eventually a large sweep of Dutch engineers straight through the parc forced the last remaining Germans to surrender. Only ten airbornes had managed to get away. The securing of the area would take the rest of the day, but the fate of the 3rd Airborne Company had been sealed. They had suffered 14 men KIA and about 75-80 had been taken prisoner, of which quite some were wounded. Only two small groups - 10 men altogether - had managed to break out. These men reached the bridge at around 0700 hrs. They could report the ill fate of the company. When the linked up with the 33 remaining men of 3rd Platoon, they formed the last remains of the 3rd Company. It caused the size of 1st Battalion to shrink to no more than a mere two Companies.
In the city itself the organisation of the defences developed all but prosperously. The garrison commander Mussert arrived very late at his headquarters. Meanwhile subaltern officers had organised some measures of defence but any form of organised defence was not seen before late in the morning. Many local fights between Dutch and German squads occurred during the morning, of which the majority could have been avoided by better Dutch understanding of the situation. A first attempt to retake the bridges ended in a bloody failure. A second attempt from the south also stranded in German machinegun fire. Meanwhile the bridge occupation was receiving reinforcements from the south. Where did these troops come from - one would ask?
The landings at Amstelwijk and Tweede Tol
Two companies and the battalion staff of the 1st Battalion had landed in the heart of the Island, together with the staff of the 1st Regiment [including Oberst Bräuer]. Only the airborne medical company was to follow in a later wave.
The drop was poorly executed. Virtually none of the units landed in the projected landing-zone. Basically all landed much more to the east, in the midst of the Dutch artillery positions and barracks locations. One platoon and a part of the battalion staff was missing too. They had been dropped of between Moerdijk and Tweede Tol and would only appear hours later. Also troops from the 2nd Battalion - that had Moerdijk as their objective - had been misdropped and landed near Tweede Tol. They would make their way back to Willemsdorp by chartering a bus. The worst incident was the utter misdrop of one platoon of the 4th Company that had apparently been on board a Ju-52 Kette that had taken the wrong turn and consequently dropped the platoon over the Ypenburg (the Hague) area! As such the 1st Battalion saw a wrong kick-off of the operation, but had nevertheless managed to gain its only genuine objective: the capture of the traffic-bridge at Dordrecht. The balance of the battalion still had to overrun the Dutch headquarters near the Amstelwijk estate though.
A part of the airbornes had landed in the heart of the (unmanned) positions of 14.RA [twelve old 120 mm guns]. As a consequence these guns could be written off by the Dutch. The same happened with the positions of two unmanned 7,5 cm batteries of 17.RA. The batteries had been guarded by one squad only, that had little ammo and were no match to the mass of opponents they found opposing them. More importantly, the nearby barracks were overrun. The Dutch personnel lacked any ammo in these farm-house barracks, since the ammo had been safely locked up elsewhere, according instructions of the high command. The top brass had feared incidents with trigger happy soldiers and as such considered it wise to lock up the ammo 'battalion wise' in central caches.
Quite a considerable number of defenders were able to escape immediate German capture though. A Captain managed to organise some sort of infantry party formed out of his gunners. A few other officers were able to take some armed men under their command too. The had been able to get hold of the one available ammo box containing the live rounds used for the guard duties. Together these improvised infantry parties attacked the Germans that had taken possession of the gun positions. In a bold and unprecedented way the Dutch squads advanced - bayonet fixed on their carbines - against much stronger German positions. Numerous victims fell, but yet the gunners did not give up, getting ever more support from other artillery personnel and supplied ammo from the rear. Some German groups were chased off, but after some time the Germans had organised their perimeter defences thoroughly. They managed to seal off the approaches of the landing zone, which was easily done, since the area was as flat and open as possible. By taking some strategic crossings on the causeways intersecting the Island, only a few dozen airbornes were able to manage a full perimeter security.
Almost all of the Dutch artillery officers involved in the aforementioned actions got killed or wounded in the process of these first counter assaults and finally the Dutch assaults had to be aborted. Hereafter the Germans took their turn and tried to overrun the Dutch gunners who had meanwhile retreated to the Zeedijk, south of Dordrecht. From their half sheltered positions along the dike the gunners managed to deny the airbornes possession of these causeways. Then the main force of the two German companies moved westwards, whereas a thin defensive screen was left behind. The Dutch gunners received reinforcements from an infantry companie and a section of 8 cm mortars that had been stationed on the northeast part of the Island [that had not been attacked]. From then on they could hold their positions, largely unchallenged.
Around the village of Tweede Tol the Dutch artillery camp of 17.RA, near the railway track, was overrun by two airborne platoons. Only a handful of men occupied the camp. The German regiment commander decided that this central point close to the main motorway qualified as an excellent location to set up the regimental command post and a first-line field hospital. Moreover the barracks could be used to contain pow's.
Oberst Bräuer had meanwhile received a radio call that informed him of the ill fate of his 3rd Company. He ordered his two remaining companies - save a few squads required for local defence - in the central part of the Island to assemble near Tweede Tol and subsequently commanded them northwards towards the southwest of Dordrecht. Bräuer decided that the bridgehead had to be reinforced. Only modest troops were left behind as a screen to defend the landing zone and the command post that had been established at Tweede Tol in a Dutch artillery camp. Other resources had to come from the 2nd Battalion.
The German formation (of about one and a half company strong) met little resistance on its way north. The Dutch local artillery headquarters and nearby sector headquarters were stationed around the Amstelwijck estate, in a mansion that was situated in a small parc. When the German presence was reported, the local commander was able to assemble around 70 men and one heavy machinegun to keep off the Germans.
Meanwhile a request for reinforcement to the Group Kil [brigade strong Task Force in the Hoekse Waard, west of the island of Dordrecht] was answered with the arrival of two platoons of infantry that had been shuttled over the Kil. This formation, supported by a single heavy machinegun, crossed the village Wieldrecht and next took a direction to the south where it bumped right into the point formation of the progressing German main-force. When the heavy machinegun and one of the light machineguns suffered major jams, the fire power of the Dutch - that had at least four heavy machineguns and several light machineguns opposing them - decreased so much that the two platoons had to be move back into Wieldrecht, less than one km away from the local Dutch headquarters. They were forced to surrender soon after. Both sides had paid a price.
During the process of sweeping up the remnant of the two Dutch platoons near Wieldrecht, the airbornes received some fire from the east. It came from the direction of the Dutch HQ position in the parc. The Germans decided to round up this piece of resistance and designed an assault plan. One assault from a southern vector would be performed by a heavy machinegun platoon, which would approach the Dutch position along the motorway and keep the Dutch occupied. The other smaller team was formed by a squad of airbornes under the Leutnant Graf von Blücher. (1)
(1) Trivial: Wolfgang Graf von Blücher was a direct decendant of the famous Prussian General Graf [Count] Gebhard Leberrecht von Blücher who commanded the Prussian army in its campaign against Napoleon's army in 1815.
Wolfgang von Blücher was a successful airborne officer who would be decorated with the Knightscross [Ritterkreuz] for his contribution during the battle in Holland. Both his younger brothers joint the airbornes too and all three jointly served in the 1st Battalion of 1.FJR during the battle at Crete. A very tragic fate awaited all three. Oberleutnant Wolfgang von Blüchers platoon had been isolated during the fierce battle for Heraklion. They were raided by the Scottish Black Watch [Royal Highland Regiment]. His brother Leberecht got news of that, took a horse, packed it with ammo and rode straight through the British fire in order to replenish his brother's low ammo supplies. In sight of Wolfgang his brave younger brother was killed. The next day Wolfgang himself would get killed when the British overran his position. Days later the third brother perished. All three were buried at Crete.
The Von Blücher squad - packed with numerous handgrenades and some rifles - found a way to cross a wide local waterway west of the Dutch held parc, manoeuvred a way through the grove and entered the Dutch occupied parc from a dead angle. Upon entering the Dutch position they started yelling and screaming while tossing grenades into every corner within their sight. The totally unexpected German presence right inside the Dutch position caused a major panic. The about 75 soldiers in the parc itself took cover in the shelter casemates or the ditches around the parc. The few airbornes meanwhile kept on blazing from their pistols and rifles and grenades were thrown into two casemates. Dozens of Dutch were killed, wounded or went into complete shock. Meanwhile the heavy machinegun company had entered the parc from the south and the road side and although they received some firm resistance from the mansion - that costed them three KIA - the Dutch position was taken only minutes later. The Dutch battalion commander - himself briefly knocked unconsious from a grenade detonation - surrendered. The troops on the Island of Dordrecht had been beheaded. Their headquarters had ceased to exist. In total 25 Dutch had been killed during the action against only five Germans (plus two outside the parc) as well as one MG platoon. Von Blücher, who had distinguished himself during the battle, was slightly wounded by a grazing bullet in the face. Another German had been badly wounded, none of the five attackers had been killed. The German MG platoon suffered three fatalities. Von Blücher would be rewarded with the highest possible decoration for his contribution in the stunning victory. About 75 Dutch had been overrun by a mere seven men!
After the action the majority of the remnants of the 4th Company [heavy machinegun company, with one MG platoon and one mortar platoon; the second MG platoon was misdropped at Ypenburg] was sent on its way to the bridge, where they would arrive without meeting significant opposition, halfway the afternoon. They were welcomed by the about 45 men that had occupied the bridge since the early morning and had rejected two Dutch counter attacks already. Later also the 2nd Company followed, so that the 1st Battalion was reunited around the Dordrecht bridges. Save the losses suffered, about half the staff and a few squads had been left near Tweede Tol.
The situation at the Dordrecht bridges
In order to get a better understanding of the situation around the bridges it is important to describe the construction of the bridges and their approaches.
Both bridges had been built closely alongside. The [southern] traffic bridge had a long elevated ramp that curved southwards directly east of the bridge [at the Dordrecht end]. The road then made some curves and next it lead in a straight line to Moerdijk. The direct area of the bridge-ramp - at the south end - was completely open, mainly due to the harbours Zeehaven and Dokhaven that lay to the south of it. The long curved ramp was evidently an object that was very easy to defend. Any agressor would have to expose himself beyond a healthy level. On the Zwijndrecht side also a long elevated ramp and viaduct had been built that curved some hundred metres to the east of the bridge. Moreover, the bridge had concrete side walls of about one meter high, which formed perfect hide outs. This construction character held the defender in advantage for beside the ramps only two stairways had to be defended in order to prevent an approach of the construction. The only genuine hazzard was formed by the tall buildings nearby, on the Dordrecht end. From the roofs and top floors of these buildings one could cover the entire bridge surface and even hit covering infantry behind the concrete bridge edges.
The northern bridge - the railway bridge - had a straight approach that transferred into the railway yard just east of the bridge. This area was very open too, so that any advancing agressor would have to expose himself on the flat and open yard. Only a few train carriages parked in the yard provided some cover.
During the morning reinforcements from the city of Gorinchem arrived on the Island, consisting of 80 engineers who brought along 10 very welcome Vickers heavy machineguns. Four of these machineguns with crews were ordered [by Lt-Col Mussert] to assault the bridges. Peculiarly enough no additional support from infantry or artillery was given. Bearing in mind the previous description of the bridge approach area, this order was quite insane and suicidal.
When the machinegun squad advanced they were soon spotted and came under fierce machinegun fire from the bridge. They were able to make use of a parked locomotive for cover, until they had reached a point 300 metre east of the bridge. From there onwards they would have to expose themselves if they intended to make any further progress. Nevertheless the platoon managed to eliminate a German MG post on the railway bridge, but after this highlight no progress good be made anymore. The squad relocated south of the railway bed and managed to reach some houses close to the bridge. During a lull in the fight the Germans - apparently under the impression that the Dutch had retreated - marched a platoon over the bridge in tight formation. When the Dutch machineguns opened fire they created havoc amongst this unit. Again all German gun points started blazing off and turned the entire yard into a shooting range. During this ordeal the Dutch commanding Lieutenant realised that any further advance would be suicide. No reinforcements arrived, and after nightfall he retreated to the station where he took a securing position along the railway track and the adjacent streets. A few men had been left behind dead, one MG had been lost. At this new location the young Lieutenant met a Ducth Major (den Boer), that had happened to be in Dordrecht, but who was actually a weapons-industry supervisor monitoring production quality on behalf of the Dutch Artillery Works. The Major took the Lieutenant and his outfit under his wings.
Major den Boer had previously taken charge of a small force that had defended a position in a public bath-house [Sportfondsenbad] on a round-about close to the traffic bridge. The Germans identified this position as an imminent threat of their bridgehead and aimed every available machinegun and mortar on this building. In the evening the building was evacuated but the nearby round-about was kept under control. This way any passing traffic could be held subject to Dutch control. Also some of the houses and industrial buildings near the bridge had gotten a Dutch occupation from where continuous fire-contact with the airbornes was maintained. In the morning of the next day, the Major would find his way to a site near the station where he would take the previously mentioned engineer MG platoon under his command.
Save all Dutch counter measures, the Germans had maintained a narrow corridor under their control that allowed them to have a challenging but half-open communication line with the southern bridgehead at Tweede Tol and Moerdijk. The Germans considered the Dutch positions - so close to the bridges - a huge liability though. They also could have overestimated the Dutch strength. This must have been the reason why not only many reinforcements were sent to the bridges, but also why the Germans undertook no offensive action whatsoever. German reports of the 10th state that they managed to maintain control over the bridges at Dordrecht, but that the Dutch presence around the approaches was strongly felt and made crossings daring adventures. They furthermore stated that the subsidiary objective to take control over the two bridges on the east side of the island - NE and E of Dordrecht - was impossible to execute, and that the city of Dordrecht itself was impregnable due to presence of unexpected strong Dutch forces.
The last notable event of the day was the prelude to a very tragic event that would occur in the morning of the 11th. A battalion - comprising two companies of the II-28RI and one of the I-34RI - under command of Major Ravelli - was shipped from the Hoekse Waard to the Island of Dordrecht. The crossing was accompanied by an artillery bombardment of the suspected German positions near the Amstelwijk estate. The battalion managed to come across the Kil in one piece and afterwards take control of Amstelwijck and the main-road to Moerdijk, where not a single German was met. This way the German corridor was cut in two, which was something that the Germans had foreseen. They had taken their troops back to Dordrecht and Tweede Tol and as such left Amstelwijck deliberately unoccupied. The Major was ordered to move up into Dordrecht in the early morning in order to reinforce the garisson. The events that followed will be addressed later.
Balance of a day
The first day had brought the 1st Battalion of FJR.1 their so much desired objective, the traffic bridge at Dordrecht. But who thought that Oberst Bräuer and his commander General Student were happy and confident men at that stage, would make a mistake of judgement. Both officers had been quite surprised by the dominant Dutch military presence in Dordrecht. They had expected a weak battalion of recruits but in stead their troops had met fierce opposition.
The already poorly manned 1st Battalion [that had jumped without its 1st Company] had lost almost the entire 3rd Company too. That was a hard felt loss. Besides, the Dutch seemed determined to retake the bridge and posed a clear and present danger for the bridgehead defence. Also the entire west side of the Island of Dordrecht was in fact open for Dutch landings from the Hoekse Waard, where the Germans anticipated quite a strong military presence. Oberst Bräuer was very worried over the fact that he could only make use of very limited numbers to guard the shores of the Kil against Dutch crossings. The motorway was no men's land too, a fact that hampered supply and reinforcement transports.
Overnight Student assigned most of his reserves on the Island Ysselmonde to the Dordrecht front. The third airborne battalion and an infantry company of IR.16 were sent to the Island of Dordrecht in order to relief the pressure on the two companies that Bräuer had in the field to cover the north.
The Dutch on their part were most worried. The local command in Dordrecht was chaotic and a clear picture of the battle-field status was absent all along. The small depot-staff that had been confronted with all out war (rather than training recruits) was not prepared for its duties and lacked tactical training. They had made limited use of the large quantity of troops and had failed organising a large scale counter attack. In stead all kinds of trivial orders had been given to platoons and squads, while others were still engaged in local skirmishes. The force of about 1,500 men had been divided over numerous positions, diminishing the option to form a well armed assault force of magnitude to counter attack. The Dordrecht command relied on the battalion of the Light Division that had been promised to come to aid the next day. A large window of opportunity was missed.
On the other hand the Dutch had managed to eliminate one third of the landed force. That had given the moral of the recruits and their officers quite a moral boost. Soldiers that had held their rifles for the first time in their lives had grown into confident seasoned fighters over one day. They would need that experience in the days ahead ...