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The defence-lines


As we said before, two prepared defence lines had been constructed in Zeeland. We shall zoom in on the typicals of these defences.


The first defence line the Germans would meet was the Bathline, which was situated just west of the narrowest point of the land connection of Zuid-Beveland. The village Rilland was the closed to the line.

The line was named after the old fortress Bath that was nearby (and not operational anymore). The line was actually no more than a defended tank-barrier, slightly reinforced with some [12] light concrete machineguns casemates.

In front of the line inundations had been set. The line was only accessible via two causeways; one to the south and the main one in the heart of the defence being the main road and elevated railway-bed.

The trenches and casemates were occupied by 400 men of the 14th Border Infantry Battalion. It had 6 heavy machineguns, 3 AT-guns and 2 light 5,7 cm infantry guns at its disposal. The strength of the battalion was in fact no more than two reinforced companies.

The Bathline was meant as a forward position in front of the main defence along the Zanddijkline. It had no depth and it lacked any land based artillery support. Artillery support had to come from navy units, more in particular the two modern gunboats HrMs Johan Maurits van Nassau and HrMS Flores and their total of six 15 cm guns.


The Zanddijkline was situated between the small cities of Yerseke [north] and Hansweert [south], about 15 km west of the Bathline.

Inundations were set in such a way that only five narrow approaches were accessible. Those accesses were in fact causeways or dikes. These elevated positions were defended by heavy machine guns and light infantry guns.

The line itself [length about 10 km] was occupied by three battalions and a reserve-border-infantry company [reserve], altogether around 2,000 men. The northern sector was defended by the 3rd Battalion of the 38 Regiment Infantry [RI], the central sector by the 3rd Battalion of 40RI and the southern sector by the 1ste Battalion of 40RI. All these troops were older reservists, basically men well in their thirties.

The entire artillery capacity of the Zeeland terriorial command [three batteries of 8-staal - with equal capacity of one battery of 7-veld; three batteries 7-veld, two pieces of 10,5 cm guns]] and a section of two mortars were assigned as support. Two 5,7 cm infantry guns and 31 heavy machineguns completed the heavier support. Modern AT guns were absent.

One three piece battery of old 7,5 AAA guns nearby the railway represented the entire airdefence means in the line. Obviously not much to worry about for enemy pilots!

Although the Zanddijkline was not a position with a considerable depth, it was developed in such a way that it was sufficient enough to make a stand for quite some time. The line had a dual trench line, separated in a frontline and a stopline. The trenches had hardly any concrete reinforcements. Only five [concrete] casemates had been constructed: three light machinegun positions near the sluices in the south and two heavy machinegun casemates next to the two main causeway.

A major disadvantage of the line was that its planners had been forced to construct the line just east of the intersecting canal that cut through the peninsula from north to south [Canal through South-Beveland]. The reason for the planners not to project the line on the west-bank of the canal - which would have made a lot of sense if one would take a look at the map - was the fact that the eastern bank was much higher than the western bank. As such defences on the west-side would have lacked any field of vision and fire. A matter that the French General Durant would - during the war days - not consider much of a problem. Reason why he would refuse to reinforce the Dutch defence in the Zanddijkline and stubbornly take position on the Westbank of the canal. That ... would turn out to be desastreous.

The occupation of the line was not quite as strong as the military standard of those days stipulated [one battalion for each km of defence], but the inundations and narrow approaches of the position as well as the support of four to five batteries of artillery made the position one which was hard to take by any opposing force, on paper that was ...