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The engagements at Meijel and Weert

Meijel

Elsewhere in the Peel-Raamline two more German assaults had been undertaken on the 10th [and 11th].

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German maneouvres against the central sector of the Maas-line (may 1940)

The 56th Infantry Division was scheduled to operate in the area of the village Meijel. An armoured train that was schedules to penetrate the Peel-Raamline here [identical to the plans at Mill and Weert] had not been able to cross the Maas, and returned to Germany. In the sector north of Meijel the Defence Canal no longer formed the front of the Peel-Raamline. In this sector small inundations had been set. In between them some fore-posts.

One of these positions - manned by two sections assisted by a 57 mm field-gun - was located along the Canal van Deurne - east of Meijel. Four German battalions would soon reach the area east of the Peel-Raamline in this sector. At 1530 hours a German force proceeded along the road towards Meijel. It was supported by seven armoured cars with 20 mm guns.

The single Dutch gun-crew managed to destroy a German anti-tank gun and a truck. However, It soon fell victim itself and the crew were forced to leave the gun. Although the only heavy weapon available had been put out of action, the Germans failed to benefit from it. At 1930 hrs they decided to give up and retreated. Shortly after the Dutch were ordered to fall back on to the main defence-line. An event that remained unnoticed by the enemy. The German battle-reports showed an astonishing respect for the opposing force and mentioned the planning of a huge assault on the next day. It would turn out not being necessary. At 0800 hours [11th May] German patrols found the trenches deserted.

The 56th Division reported heavy casualties this first day [Maas and Peel-Raamline]. Their battle report mentions 143 men lost: 2 officers, 42 NCO and men KIA; 2 MIA; 97 WIA. On the Dutch side - of the forces that got engaged with the 56th - 15 men were KIA.

Weert

The last action in the Peel-Raamline would be witnessed at the evacuated city of Weert, to the far south of the defence-line. Although actually the main events would take place at the 11th, we address them here in order to shape a complete picture of all the events in the Peel-Raamline.

The fairly large sector at Weert was occupied by three Dutch infantry battalions, mainly stationed behind the Zuid-Willemsvaart. The battalions were supported by three batteries of obsolete 84 mm guns. Opponent would be the 30th Infantry Division. The division suffered major delays during its advance, mainly due to the time consuming fights at the Maas.

What should be added - prior to our brief address of the events at Weert - was that the order from Colonel Schmidt to evacuate the Peel-Raamline had not been meant for the sector behind the Zuid-Willemsvaart. The Zuid-Willemsvaart ran in a peculiar way from north to south. In the north it ran from the large city of Den Bosch southeast to Helmond, from where it continued almost sharp south until Weert where it made a 120 degree angle west again. This funny southern sailant remained occupied whilst the rest of the Peel-Raamline troops would occupy new positions behind the northern leg of the Zuid-Willemsvaart. As such an oddly bulged defence was formed, since the northern position of the line was more than 25 kilometres more to the west than the southern extremity. This is the reason why at the 11th still a considerable Dutch force manned a part of the Peel-Raamline.

German recon parties with some armoured cars were received with adequate anti-tank fire that costed the Germans some cars. At another point a Dutch forward position was evacuated - leaving some dead - due to the fact that no AT guns were available. The Germans were not trying to cross the canal behind which the Dutch posts had engaged them. Both sides retreated.

It wasn't until the morning of the 11th [at 0800] that the first German patrols appeared south of Weert. The Germans were however treated on some volleys artillery fire and withdrew, although some units remained in contact with the defences. An assault was planned for the afternoon, but at 1300 hours news was received at the German end that a recon party had discovered that at Loozen (Belgium) an undefended bridge had been discovered over the [Belgian] Zuid-Willemsvaart. As one may recall the Belgian army had refused to occupy the zone south of the Peel-Raamline. The Germans had discovered this and the report caused some excitement. Also news was received that the northern units had managed to penetrate the line. At 1400 hours the decision was taken not to assault Weert head on. Two regiments would be sent south to the bridge at Loozen, and the reconnaissance unit was sent up-north to find a northern penetration around the front at Weert.

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The southern extremity of the Peel-Raamline at Weert (may 1940)

The Dutch had not awaited the German attack. Colonel Schmidt had meanwhile attended a meeting with the French - that had arrived in Breda - and decided that the southern angle of the frontline would have to be formed behind the Wilhelmina Canal - like the French had suggested. This canal connected to the Zuid-Willemsvaart at Helmond. As such the diagonal depth of the frontline was substantially reduced. The revised plan saw to a triangular shaped defence-line, but with both ends of the legs ending in more or less the same north-south axis. It seemed a fair and smart plan [to which we will refer later].

The local Dutch commander at Weert considered a mid-day withdrawal not feasible. His troops were engaged with the enemy along the canal and there were plenty of enemy planes overhead that would spot any retreat instantly. Subsequently, plans for an evening evacuation were made. It would all turn out to be unfortunate planning. The Germans had managed to send units through the northern part of the Peel-Raamline and some of these units had moved south. Dutch defenders were confronted now with enemy coming from the west.

At 1900 hours a column of no less than 12 armoured cars approached from the direction of Maarheeze. The first Dutch unit they met were equipped with two modern AT guns. Three armoured cars were destroyed within seconds. The Germans moved back. The Dutch battalion then tried to execute the evacuation order and started to move westwards, meanwhile getting engaged in many local fights. The battalion was scattered all over the place due to these events. Some units managed to reach the own lines again, many were taken prisoner though. The second battalion remained unaware of the retreat and was isolated along the canal. It would surrender on the 12th. Some of the troops in the vicinity of Weert managed to reach the Wilhemina canal intact, others were taken prisoner.

With the events around Weert we have concluded our summary of the battle for the Peel-Raamline. It had basically started ánd ended with the battle at Mill. After the Peel-Raamline had been conquered the Germans would not meet any prepared defences on their route to Moerdijk anymore. Only improvised defences would be their share.