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The Island of Ysselmonde

The 3rd Border Infantry Battalion

At the 10th the 3rd Border Infantry Battalion had first been ordered back from the border with Belgium to Willemstad, and in the afternoon they had received further orders to cross the Hollands Diep and proceed to the Oude Maas. There they would be assigned for an offensive duty Group Kil had in mind for them. The battalion had a strength of about 600 men, with quite some heavy weapons. They had six heavy machineguns, six 8 cm mortars and four anti-tank guns at their disposal.

The assault that this battalion was ordered to execute was the one that was meant in support of an action by the LD at Alblasserdam. Two of the companies of the battalion were instructed to cross the river 4 km west of Barendrecht, the third company (inclusive the heavy weapons) was designated to cross the German occupied bridge at Barendrecht. The fourth company of the battalion was instructed to cross the river east of Barendrecht and after this crossing it had to make its way west to assist at the bridge from the northern bank. The entire action was first scheduled for the early hours of the evening but was gradually postponed until the pitch dark night.

The two companies west of Barendracht managed to cross the river with a number of boats. They found themselves not opposed by Germans, who had concentrated their units at the bridges. A German security squad did however witness the Dutch crossing and reported it to the German battalion in Barendrecht. The most forward company [in fact not much more than two sections] of the two then marched in the direction of Waalhaven, but about 2,000 metres from the objective a messenger called the unit back to the river. The other company had been ordered at the breakfast table by its commander. First things first, and the empty stomachs were to be fed after all, according to the Captain. But the bread tasted like led.

The Germans, who were not too hungry to fight, had taken appropriate countermeasures, and during breakfast the Dutch were surprised by sudden German mortar- and machinegun-fire. Quite some men were killed and whilst the fire was countered by the Dutch, within no time ... the ammunition stock turned out to be depleted. The commander had obviously failed to check his stock - although he had been sent on an assault-mission. The company that had been the closest to Waalhaven came to assistance, but also this unit was thrown back by the German mortars. The Dutch had no mortars at their disposal since the weapons had been taken to the Barendrecht bridge. There was no other option left than evacuating to the south-bank of the river again, and so they did - not without some difficulties to overcome first. From German reports it appeared that no more than about 75 men [a large squad from the 2nd Company of 16RI] had kicked the 200 Dutch soldiers off the northern bank again. Although the Dutch - and in particular their commanding officer - had shown their amateurism during this [for them] first engagement with the enemy, they would later proof themselves battle-hardened at Wieldrecht and thoroughly rehabilitate their spotted reputation.

At the Barendrecht bridge the 3rd Company had met up with the Dutch detachment guarding the bridge. Their assault plan was based on the 4th Company advancing from the east [on the northern bank of course], after which the 3rd Company would storm the bridge, assisted by heavy machineguns, mortars and two anti-tank guns. They were unaware of the strong German presence on the other side. No less than about 750 men had taken positions at the north-end, mainly of the 2nd Battalion [2nd Fallschirmjäger Regiment] and a company of airlanding troops.

The Dutch at the bridge awaited the 4th Company to start the assault, but nothing happened. The company commander of this company proved himself unfit as an officer. He had managed to cross the river without any problem, but when he heard from the mayor of Heerjansdam that the Germans were present in force he immediately decided to return. The 3rd Company had however no longer awaited the eastern assault and decided at 1000 hrs to start the final preparations. Then Captain Calmeyer suddenly appeared. This officer was the chief-of-staff of the Group Kil, a very capable officer [who would make Lieutenant-General and Defence under-secretary of state after the war]. He monitored the situation at the bridge and wisely decided that an assault would stand much more change once artillery support was applied. In fact he considered this essential.

The Captain ordered a battery of 7,5 cm guns nearby to shell the industrial complex on the north-bank where the enemy had prepared its positions. At 1230 the artillery laid a barrage on the complex after which the company ran forward. But on the middle of the bridge the dense German fire had already put sixteen men out of action [4 KIA]. The assaulting party returned. A new attempt would not be planned. Captain Calmeyer realised that with the limited resources and heavy weapons available nothing else but defence along the river would be feasible. He did order another barrage on the factory complex to wash away the bitter taste of the men. An order that showed that this officer realised that moral needed a boost.

Waalhaven AFB

Blenheim bombers and fighters had raided Waalhaven AFB on the first day of the war already, but with little success and against a high price.

During the late afternoon the Dutch HQ had requested the British consulate to insist on considerable RAF assistance in the retaking of Waalhaven AFB. The RAF was willing to cooperate, particularly because also the BAFF [British Airforce France] feared the German possession of Waalhaven for action against the Belgian front. As such a considerable force from Bomber Command was assigned to raid Waalhaven overnight.

This confirmation from London would lead to the information given to both the Light Division and the 3th Border Infantry Battalion that were designated to form the ground component of the attack on Waalhaven. The RAF informed The Hague that at 0200 hrs Dutch time the raid would be ended - later shifted to 0230 hrs. That was also the time the Dytch ground forces had to commence their final assault on the AFB. As we know the Dutch units couldn't live up to the expectations, but the RAF kept their word.

Between 2200 hrs and 0300 hrs 36 Wellington medium bombers dropped 60 tonnes of bombs on the airfield in waves of three or six bombers. Planes from 9, 37, 38, 75 NZ, 99, 115 and 149 Squadron were involved. Not a single plane was lost and a major share of the [200 lbs] bombs fell on target. One flyer was lightly wounded. The first wave had flown relatively low and been hit by some of the 2 cm pieces the Germans had flown in. The next flight chose heights between 6,000 and 7,000 feet. The airfield gloomed against the dark sky from the fires that broke out from the raids. Quite a large portion of the field had been damage to such an extend that use of the airfield had to be scaled down considerably. But it was still possible to land and take off from narrow strips that were quickly indicated to the pilots by the clever Germans.

The Dutch GHQ was anxious to learn about the status of Waalhaven after they had received news that the RAF raids had indeed taken place. In the morning two Fokker G-1's paid Waalhaven a reconnaissance visit [0930]. After this recce-mission the aircrews reported that Waalhaven could no longer be used. But soon reports came in that Waalhaven still berthed new incoming transport planes after all. Two batteries of the [10,5 cm] artillery battalion 10RA [in positions east of Rotterdam] laid a number of extensive barrages on the airfield in the morning.

Due to artillery redeployment between 1200 and 1600 it was impossible to continue the barrage between those hours. During this period observers reported that about 100 Ju-52 planes were parked on the field [which was probably rather exaggerated] which could not leave due to obstructions. During the lull in the artillery bombardment these planes were able to take off or they had been towed off the field. At 1600 hours, when the artillery started its barrages again, only a few of these planes had remained at the landing strip. German reports mention the loss of about 10 planes due to the artillery shelling.

Student HQ

General Student had situated his HQ in the south of Rotterdam on the 10th. He had considered the Rotterdam theatre the centrepoint of gravity of his operation considering that the bridges at Dordrecht and Moerdijk were firmly in German hands. But the Dutch resistance at Dordrecht worried him in particular. Even to such an extend that Oberstleutnant Von Choltitz - commander of the Noordereiland in Rotterdam - was informed that he would receive no further reinforcements, because they were needed elsewhere.

Student instructed his staff to relocate his HQ to Rijsoord, a village along the main road from Zwijndrecht to Rotterdam. The road that would be followed by the 9th Tank Division once it would have reached the airbornes. Rijsoord lay on the east side of the Island of Ysselmonde, which placed the HQ right in the middle of the events. Also the last reserve troops were ordered to assemble around Rijsoord. This decision created the peculiar situation that Student and the most prominent Dutch HQ [Group Kil] were only four km away from eachother, and neither party was aware of it.

Meanwhile Student himself was extremely mobile that day. He visited several locations within his vast bridgehead, like a modern German General tended to do in order to maintain a good battlefield awareness. He appeared at Alblasserdam and Dordrecht and didn't avoid the front areas either. It gave his men a moral boost, but also he learnt much about the actual battle field situations on the two most critical spots: Dordrecht and Alblasserdam.