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The Germans

The opponents

The German units that would get involved in the battle at the Grebbeberg were all part of X.Corps [10.Armee Korps]. That unit comprised two Dritte Welle divisions [207.ID and 227.ID], an occupational division [526.ID] and two Waffen SS regiments [SS Leibstandarte and SS Der Führer] as well as some additional Corps units, mainly artillery and pioneers. Of these units only the SS Standarte Der Führer and the 207.ID - as well as one or two additional artillery battalions - would come in action at the battle of the Grebbeberg.

The SS regiment Der Führer [commander SS Standartenführer Georg Keppler] consisted of about 5,000 men plus some additionals. The entire regiment was motorised. It had three infantry battalions, each comprising three riflemen companies and a heavy weapon company. Furthermore the additional companies like the infantry gun companies, the pioneer company and an AT gun units. It had also a motorised recon company, that operated a number of heavy and light armoured cars. A reinforced SS pioneer company and an attached SS artillery battalion were also added. All in all it was a reinforced regiment with a massive fire-power compared to an average Dutch regiment of only 2.500 men and much less heavy infantry weapons. The regiment ranks were filled with Austrian SS men, mostly commanded by German NCO's and officers.These men were not battle hardened. SS Der Führer had covered the west front when the invasion of Poland was on.

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German 150 mm howitzer (may 1940)

The 207.ID [commander Generalleutnant Karl von Tiedemann] was a Dritte Welle division, which means that it had about 17,900 men. This class of divisions was mainly [90%] formed around first and second class reservists, as well as third class (Landwehr) in the support units. The average age of the division lay around 27. It was a regular non-motorised division, largely equipped with older guns and weapons. The division had seen action during the first stages of the Poland invasion when it was commandeered out of the reserve into action at the Danzig Corridor. It held itself quite well during battles with Polish Garde units, but was taken out of the frontline after some days, in order to be taken back in reserve. Its three infantry regiments [322.IR, 368.IR and 374.IR] would all see action during the Grebbeberg battle.

The German artillery capacity was not particularly large. Basically four battalions were avaliable as regular and regimental units and another two had been assigned from the X.Corps force, but would only be available in the second stage of the battle. At no point in time during the battle all six complete battalions would be available in total and the heaviest unit [2 batteries of 21 cm Mörser heavy howitzers] would only serve the Grebbeberg front for a number of hours. In fact the total number of German guns would not superseed the total number of Dutch guns at any point of time during the battle. 

The infantry support was much better than the Dutch could field. The German units had many light guns, like the short range 7.5 cm and 15 cm infantry guns and the highly mobile PAK 3,7 cm guns. Also the number of 8 cm mortars was a multitude of the Dutch number. Heavy and light machineguns were also slightly more, mainly due to a higher relative size of the German units.

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IG squad with gasmasks (may 1940)

In total the German artillery had 36 pieces of 10,5 cm standard howitzers [l.FH.16 and l.FH.18], 16 pieces of 15 cm [s FH 13 and s.FH.18] and 6 heavy howitzers of 21 cm. Only during the second day of the battle [12 May] 58 guns were available. On the first day [11 May] only 32 guns contributed, on the third day 52 guns, when the 6 heavy howitzers had left for the 227.ID sector.

The 10,5 cm guns had an equal range [and firing rate] as the Dutch standard 7,5 cm field gun but a considerably heavier HE shell. The sFH.18 type 15 cm howitzer had a range of little over 13 km and the 21 cm howitzer of 16,7 km.

The strategy

The staff of the 207.ID had studied the Grebbeline between Veenendaal and Rhenen carefully during its pre-war preparations. Several officers had visited the Grebbeberg area and alternative sections of the Grebbeline and all concluded that the Grebbeline in their divisional sector had to be attacked at Rhenen.

The German battle plan had been to have the Waffen SS regiment crack the actual nut by breaking the Dutch defences in the Grebbeline. The infantry divisions would stay back and only get involved if the SS regiments would fail to succeed. The Germans still expected the Grebbeline to be defended as a forward defence and that the main Dutch defence would be met in the Eastfront of Fortress Holland (roughly: the line Amsterdam - Utrecht - Culemborg). It was the intention to deploy the full force of SS and regular army against those main defences only. Obviously the German intelligence had missed out on the changed defence strategy after the Dutch change of command. Not that it would have mattered though. Irrespective of both defence strategies, two Army Corps's would have defended the Grebbeline anyway.

As said before the German time schedule had foreseen that on the first day of the invasion the Grebbeline had to be decisively penetrated. That schedule was hardly feasible, not even when all had gone more than prosperous for the Germans. Alternatively the Grebbeline had to be overrun at the second day.

The deployment of the German force on the 11th of May was as follows. Two of the three Waffen SS battalions had reached Wageningen, and were ready to start the assault against the forward defences and subsequently the frontline defences. The third battalion, slightly trailing and hardest hit during the battles of the first day, would stay in reserve. At Arnhem one SS Leibstandarte battalion was kept in reserve as a strategic stand-by unit. Also 374.IR was deployed near Arnhem. The first divisional regiment - 322.IR - was deployed near Bennekom and the second regiment [368.IR] was sent north towards the city of Ede.  

The SS Standarte Der Führer would lead the way. The entire regiment would be deployed; two battalions in front, one in the rear. The artillery was slowed down and as such only two battalions of artillery would be able to support the first assault on the forward positions, while two batteries of 15 cm howitzers could be applied for disturbing fire on the roads leading towards the Grebbeberg in Rhenen itself. This meant that both SS battalions had each only one battalion of artillery for direct support.