Part IV was introduced with the outline of the German plan to take the city of The Hague by surprise and force the Government and Militairy supreme command to capitulate. In order to achieve that highly ambitious plan, large airlandings had been planned at Ypenburg AFB and Valkenburg AFB as well as a smaller landing at Ockenburg auxilary AFB.
In this chapter the landing at Valkenburg will be addressed.
The last of the three German landings around The Hague that we shall extensively address was the one that took place at Valkenburg AFB, which was (of the raided AFB's) the furthest away from The Hague.
Valkenburg AFB - between the cities of Leiden and Katwijk - was designated to become one of the new main Dutch airforce bases. It was situated close to the village of Valkenburg that lay in between the two large cities the Hague and Leiden. The construction of the airfield had only been started recently . The area in the west of the country - basically under sea-level - required ground-water levels to be relatively high for agricultural processes and dike preservation. The down-side of that was that new airfields without metalled runways needed to 'dry out' for an extended period before they could be considered fit for the operational use by larger airplanes. Valkenburg AFB - eventually planned to be utilised by the heavier airplanes of the Dutch air force - was however still too swampy in May 1940. As a consequence of that, not a single airplane was to be found at the base yet. An important detail that had remained unnoticed by the German intelligence, although it is certain that quite extensive ground and air reconnaissance had been done in the last months before the invasion. The gained intel had apparently not been processed or at least not reached the desks of the applicable Luftwaffe planners. Otherwise the Luftwaffe would not have planned such a large scale air landing at this location.
The airforce base had only recently [20 April 1940] received its protective infantry force [as a result of the lessons learnt from operation Weserübung in Norway]. Two companies and a platoon of heavy machineguns had been stationed on and in the direct vicinity around the airfield. It were units of III./4RI [3rd battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment], a regiment containing young and (to Dutch standard) well trained men. The two companies - about 350 men in total - had been divided into three groups, just like the schedule at Ypenburg. Two groups were in ready-state, whereas the third one rested. As a consequence one group of about 120 men defended the airfield itself, another group the surroundings whilst the third group was in rest in the main hangar on the field. Ground-to-air defences had not yet been placed around the still unused base.
The defence organisation was a show of quite poor tactical planning. The positions of the airfield defence had been divided over all four sides of the field! In case of an assault-force landing on the field itself this pattern of weapon-positions would lead to defenders getting caught in the cross fire of their opposing comrades. Since the inspectors of the air-defence staff had not been able to intervene yet - as off 20 april 1940 much had been altered in the AFB defences - this awkward situation still existed when the going got tough. The 24 light and 3 heavy machineguns of the airfield defences posed however a threat to airlanding formations of substantial magnitude.
Nearby the AFB were more Dutch units available. In Leiden a number of depot battalions, in a village close by [Oegstgeest] two battalions of artillery and the remaining two battalions and support troops of 4.RI in Katwijk, at about 5 km from the airfield. In Wassenaar were motorbike hussars for patrol and guard duties related to the main road The Hague - Amsterdam, that ran nearby. As such the Dutch military presence in a five-kilometre circle around the AFB was quite substantial.
Unlike the defences on the active AFB's, Valkenburg AFB had not been on the high-alert scheme. The trenches were therefore only occupied with machineguns crews and additional guard posts near vital points. Only around 0350 hrs, when the first clear signs of war were obvious, the order came through from the battalion commander to man the trenches in full force. Just in time to be ahead of the German airborne strike.
The first assault force was remarkably light. It consisted of only one company of airbornes, 6./FJR2. Their number was not only extremely modest - about 120 men - but most of the airbornes saw first action in the Netherlands, unlike many of the airbornes of FJR.1, who had seen action before. The airbornes would be followed by the entire IR.47, with its three battalions and two supporting companies. The IR.47 supported by more than one-third of the 22.ID division support formations - all in all about 2,600 men - had to land in multiple waves. The first wave [regiment staff and troops of III./IR.47] was scheduled to contain two-third of a battalion. Their landing was to take place 30 minutes after the airborne landing. They would be followed by II./IR.47 and eventually I./IR.47. The divisional units would be mixed up with the IR.47 lifts and contain some light field artillery, light AAA guns, recce unit and other support units.
The first objective was obviously to take the airfield defences and secure the surroundings in order to create a safe runway for the air transported troops to land. Next the control of the nearby main road between The Hague and Amsterdam was imperative. It would have to be cut off at the bridge over the Oude Rijn [Old Rhine] at the Haagse Schouw, a location on the northern border of the nearby city of Leiden. The control of the bridge would mean that the Dutch would be unable to bring in reinforcements from the north and east of the country. After IR.47 would have landed in adequate force it would march onto the Hague, although the main objective would remain to block the roads for Dutch interventions into the Hague region.
The first signs of hostile activity were noted well before 0400 hrs. The peculiar monotonous hum of numerous engines was heard, but due to the still dark higher altitudes nothing was actually seen. The general idea - or perhaps 'hope' - was that it was a German offensive towards the UK that caused so many airplanes to fly over. Nevertheless the order for general quarters was given. All that were not yet awake and dressed, got ready.
Suddenly, around 0415 hrs, three bombers appeared - flying on a very low altitude. This Kette bombers flew in a straight line into the direction of the airfield facility complex and released its 250 kg bomb-load over the four hangars to the north side of the field. Unfortunately this raid took place at the very moment that most men of the reserve company were outside in preparation for action. As such the resting group - that stayed in one of the hangars during off-hours - was assembled on the square before their hangar and obviously extremely exposed when the bombs fell. Indeed the raid demanded its toll amongst these defenceless men, amongst whom their commander got mortally wounded. How wise had it been to station off-duty troops in prime targets of an agressor?
Next another wave of bombers, joint by a flight of fighter-planes, attacked the fleeing men, creating even more panic. As a consequence already one third of the defences was dispersed and temporarily put out of action before any German had set foot on the ground. The fleeing groups sucked others with them and as a result of this panic about half the defence force had been gone before the airbornes had landed.
Around 0430 hrs six Ju-52 transporters appeared overhead; three planes had erroneously set course for Ypenburg, another three dropped their airbornes near the road Amsterdam-The Hague.
Three landing spots had been selected for the airborne company, each for a platoon with an heavy MG squad attached. One reinforced platoon landed southwest of the field itself, a second reinforced platoon plus company staff northeast of it and the last platoon was supposed to have landed west of Valkenburg, but was dropped over Ypenburg (Delft) in stead. As such only two platoons, the company staff squad and a part of the heavy weapons platoon landed near the designated target. Altogether not more than about 90 men. Between Wassenaar and Valkenburg landed an additional platoon, of 3./FJR2, that had been intended for Ockenburg, but would later join the Valkenburg forces. This platoon was however not able to contribute in the first stage of the fighting at the Valkenburg theatre.
The two landed airborne platoons suffered considerably from the many light and heavy machineguns on the field that were able to switch front, which was the case for about half the Dutch fire power. It were the German company commander, his about ten men strong staff group and the one reinforced platoon at his direct disposal (about 55 men in total) that confronted the Dutch airfield defences. The other platoon made its way for the undefended bridge at the Haagse Schouw and a small undefended bridge at Maaldrift (near Wassenaar, over a narrow waterworks canal). The platoon divided its three groups over the two bridges and took positions along the main traffic road between the Hague and Amsterdam [nowadays known as the A-44 highway]. The Gruppe at the main-road shot up a car in which Lieutenant-Colonel Kools [Head of Intendance setcion of the staff 'Westfront Fortress Holland'] - on its way to Leiden - was sitting. This senior officer was killed instantly. A Dutch corporal, that was laying on the verge of the road after he had been shot off his motor-bike, was executed in cold blood by one of the airbornes. The wounded corporal was held by a Dutch civilian when one of the airbornes crossed the road, noted that the corporal was still alive and without a blink of an eye shot him through the head, while the citizen was still holding him. The citizen was utterly shocked.
The airbornes of the platoon in the north had made hardly any progress before the first wave of Ju-52 with 9./IR.47 on board started to land on the airfield. The quickly offloaded air-landing troops, who were partially supressed by Dutch machinegun fire too, joint the airbornes and the combined formation managed to force a major part of the defences into surrender. A not very convincing counter action by the 3rd Company of III-4.RI accompanied by heavy machinegun sections was easily repulsed by the Germans.
At around 0600 hrs the Germans controlled the airfield. They had caught about 150 POW's, which were locked up in one of the hangers. A field hospital was hastily built up, where about 75 wounded Dutch and Germans were receiving first aid. The Dutch had lost 29 men KIA during the defence, 40 men had been wounded. The German losses during the first phase are unknown. Their quite considerable total loss on the first day of the battle around Valkenburg will be given later.
The airborne squad at Maaldrift had little time to get itself prepared for defence. The nearby regiment motorbike hussars (organically a Light Division formation that had been detached from the division) had one squadron of motorised hussars, a platoon of heavy machineguns, a battery of anti-tank guns and a section of two 8 cm mortars at Wassenaar. The squadron received instructions from the regiment commander to search and destroy any German positions between the south edge of the airfield and the main road. Three platoons were sent into three different directions. Soon followed by some heavier support from the regiment.
At both Maaldrift and the bridge over the narrow canal nearby, the two squads of airbornes were forced to retreat. Along the canal the defending Gruppe of airbornes fled its position, but the hussar platoon followed a more northern path in order to clear the situation at the airfield. They ran into fierce German resistance though, and had to leave one KIA, two wounded and some POW's before the balance of the platoon was able to retreat.
The main road was quickly cleared by another platoon of hussars. The airbornes had been pushed out of their most forward positions, but it proved impossible to get them out of the sector east of Maaldrift and south of the airfield, at an estate called Landlust. The airbornes had one or two light mortars and a heavy machinegun positioned in such a way that the Dutch could not make any more progress, not even when two hussar AT guns were applied as well. After some time the hussar platoon was called back, because of a report that a Ju-52 with air-landing troops had landed to their rear, which was true.
Also the German occupation of Haagse Schouw defended itself with determination. The hussar platoon that attacked this position, supported by their two mortars, managed to chase off some airbornes in the first houses they opposed, but around the bridge itself the airbornes had built quite a firm defence. Eventually the hussars pulled out after they had received orders to retreat to Wassenaar.
The airfield under siege
The first wave of airlanding troops had managed to fight the airfield into German hands, assisted by one of the airborne platoons, as was described before. The Ju-52's had not suffered too badly during the landing, due to the absent AA. Only one of the landed planes had been shot up by a nearby positioned Dutch heavy machinegun. Notwithstanding the light defences, almost all Ju-52 eventually turned out to be operational losses, for the swampy ground sucked the wheels of the heavy planes right down, fixing the planes to their positions. Only very few were able to leave again.
The scattered pattern of the landed Ju-52 - of which the pilots had believed that they could soon leave again - hampered the second wave of landings and totally prevented any subsequent landing after the second wave had come in. Even the second batch had to be waved off for a considerable part and were forced to land on the beach between Katwijk and Scheveningen. Some planes even returned home with their loads. These landings in the dunes, also from other squadrons than the ones intended for Valkenburg, involved a mere 400 men, and they would proof to be more of a nuisance than the Dutch had hoped for. The Germans would transfer the entire dune area along the coast between the two harbour-cities into a no-go area for Dutch troops. It would come to many local fights between Dutch units and the Germans, all ending in German favour. Basically the Germans would rule the dune area for the entire five days' battle period. Although this German occupation of the coastal area was a nuisance to the Dutch, on the larger picture the Dutch couldn't care less, except for one or two locations where the Germans appeared to have ambitions beyond the coastal area. But where that happened they were quickly opposed by substantial Dutch resistance blocking the German way inland. Nevertheless the Dutch would lose quite some KIA and POW's to the German 'dune-parties'.
After the airfield had been secured, the German air-landing troops started expanding their bridgehead. Particularly 9./IR.47 soon started to progress in the direction of the village Valkenburg and the nearby village Katwijk aan den Rijn. It came to a number of quite intensive fire-fights with Dutch units that had started to develop into the direction of Valkenburg, coming from Katwijk aan Zee.
Meanwhile [as off 0830 hrs] the Dutch artillery had started pounding the airfield with 12 cm houwitzers. The barrage frustrated the Germans to such an extend that a bold staff officer [Oberleutnant Hohendorn] called the Dutch command post (of 4.RI) in Katwijk - which telephone connection with Valkenburg still existed - and demanded that the shelling was to be ended, because it was 'particularly unhealthy for the 160 Dutch POW's that were sheltered in the hangars'. It goes without saying that the German demand was noted, but that the fire continued. Only shortly after 1200 hrs the artillery was silenced. It had to be relocated. According to German reports more than a dozen Ju-52's had been destroyed due to the shelling.
During the artillery barrage [0830 hrs], five Fokker C-V light bombers attacked the German troops and parked Ju-52's with 20 off 25 kg bombs. A little later [1120 hrs] three Fokker C-X light strike planes raided the rows of Ju-52 too. They dropped eight 50 kg bombs each [although one plane returned with three bombs of which the release had failed] and destroyed another six Ju-52. With these twenty or so destroyed planes, also a considerable material loss was suffered, for many transporters had not been fully unloaded due to the ongoing artillery bombardment.
The German bridgehead under pressure
As said before, the German air-landing troops started expanding their bridgehead quite soon after they had seized the landing place. First they moved towards the nearby village Valkenburg and occupied it and subsequently set up an HQ. The few Dutch soldiers that happened to be in the village managed to kill a few Germans, but they were largely outnumbered and moved back to the river [Oude Rijn].
Next the Germans moved on to Katwijk aan den Rijn [literally: Katwijk on the Rhine] and occupied some of the bridges and the Seminarium. From there onwards they sent out a scouting party to Rijnsburg and took a position near a patrol station along one of the main roads. This moment marked the maximum extend of the German bridgehead around Valkenburg. The landed Germans then occupied a sector that ran from the north of Leiden [Haagse Schouw] to the eastern edges of Wassenaar, and from Leiden to Katwijk aan den Rijn. This zone incorporated the airfield and the village of Valkenburg. They managed that with around 800 men troops (in total about 950 Germans actually landed on or nearby Valkenburg AFB), which was remarkable. From that moment on enough Dutch troops had arrived to contain the German expansion and gradually force the invaders back into Valkenburg village.
In the south of the German occupied sector a Dutch depot-troop lead by a Major, commander of a depot battalion in Leiden, managed to throw the Germans out of their position at the Haagse Schouw bridge. Remarkably enough a squad of the Dutch battalion caught the Germans totally off guard. The surprise attack was undertaken by a mere dozen recruits lead by the Major himself. The Major and an NCO killed two Germans standing in front of the restaurant next to the bridge. The other recruits then started supressing the Germans in the next house by dense rifle fire. Meanwhile the Major stormed the bridge after which the few remaining Germans in the restaurant next to the bridge sneaked out the back and took a stand in buildings nearby. Although the bridge was retaken, the nearby houses would remain in German hands for quite some time. The Major would be awarded the exclusive MWO for this outstandingly brave action. This Dutch action was a text book surprise attack, remarkably enough undertaken by recruits of an artillery battalion! It should be said though that the liable off-guard attitude of the airbornes had contributed largely to this important local success.
Further up-north along the river several German strongholds had been captured; some at the cost of Dutch casualties. Quite a considerable number of invaders were taken prisoner, the bodies of killed Germans were gathered to be buried right away. Plenty of weapons fell into Dutch hands and proved a welcome improvement of the gear of the ill equipped depot troops. As a consequence of this series of successes a Dutch connection between Leiden and Wassenaar was reinstated too. In the evening troops of 1.RI would occupy Wassenaar and Maaldrift with more than a battalion strength. In Wassenaar itself some fierce local fighting had preceded the arrival of these fresh troops. Especially in the small forest - between the estate Duinrel and the airfield - a number of engagements took place that eventually almost all ended into Dutch advantage. The latter obviously much supported by their shear numbers as opposed to the very small numbers of Germans standing the ground on this southern edge of the German pocket.
During the morning - and after the first counter-attack had failed - the [4.RI] regiment commander Lieutenant-Colonel Buurman had designed an integral assault plan together with his staff. The company under Major Malinckrodt [Commander of 3rd Battalion; the battalion that had initially formed the airfield defences] had not been incorporated, because it had not returned from the airfield. As such the 2nd Battalion was ordered to attack from the north; the 1st Battalion was directed to attack the airfield via the dune-route from the southwest. When the 1st Battalion encountered firm resistance on its way into the dunes, its far left company was pushed onto the road that ran south of the airfield [Wassenaarseweg], where it bumped into the battered remains of Major Mallinckrodt's battalion, that comprised no more than about a company size. The latter took this newly arrived company under his command and ordered the advance again around 1600 hrs.
The Major followed the spearhead of the assault and although some fierce resistance was met around the outskirts of the airfield, the Dutch managed to overrun the thin German defences by determination and perseverance, mostly contributable to the Major's vivid leadership. The approaches towards the smartly positioned German machinegun nests were hard to negotiate but one after the other was taken out, causing the German defence to collapse. Again it must be said though, that the German numbers were considerably lower those of their opponents.
Around 1730 hrs the entire airfield - by then evacuated by most Germans - was finally retaken. The Dutch witnessed a huge devastation on the base. Everywhere lay Germans and Dutch casualties as well as burning planes and deserted gear and equipment. Of the about 60 landed planes only 14 appeared not to have been damaged. Gear and weapons lay all over the place of which much was gladly re-used by the Dutch.
The Germans who had been taken prisoner were locked in the one remaining intact hangar, where they had to undergo a furious speech from the Dutch Major, who spelled them out what he thought of the Germans attacking a friendly and affiliated nation. It must have been some show to witness, although the Major was dead serious, obviously.
The airfield defences were later reinforced by the other companies that had meanwhile managed to negotiate their separate ways onto the base. The Major had made quite an impression on his men - and on the Germans. After the war he received the highest Dutch decoration for valour and leadership.
The 2nd Battalion - that missed the honorably event of retaking the airfield - had a good reason not to be there. It had met strong opposition of the air-landed troops that had occupied Katwijk aan den Rijn. Heavy fights broke out around the bridges and at the Seminarium. It took the Dutch hours to liberate the village of the Germans. After the last remaining invaders had evacuated the village the 2nd Battalion reorganised and advanced to the airfield. They found the airfield already occupied by their own forces. The 3rd Company then received orders to clear the wider area of German presence. A brick-yard near Valkenburg appeared to have turned into a fortified German stronghold and was only retaken after artillery support had been called in.
Eventually the Germans that escaped being caught by the offensive Dutch formations, concentrated around and in Valkenburg village. It is unclear how many Germans finally ended up being caught in the encirclement, but estimates are around 500-600. The German defence of the village of Valkenburg proved to be too much to handle for the Dutch on this first day, and so the troops moved back a little to get out of the range of small arms fire. They would wait until the next day to again open the offensive against the occupation of the village.
The day had been very costly, for both sides. In total 154 men had died on this first day of the battle at Valkenburg.
The Dutch had lost 54 men on the airfield and in the village. Another 12 had been killed in Katwijk. In Wassenaar/Maaldrift - during the battle against the airbornes - 16 men had been killed. In Leiden itself one man. All these 83 men had been killed in the battle with the airbornes and air-landing troops that had landed in and around Valkenburg or as a consequence of the Luftwaffe actions around Valkenburg. The men that had been killed in the dunes during several clashes with the air-landing troops that had been destined to land on Valkenburg are not included in those numbers. The account of 83 men killed, was a high loss of life. Additionally a few dozen men were still held in German hands in the village Valkenburg. They would remain so for the days to come.
The registered German losses on the 10th amount to 43 KIA. These losses are only the losses suffered at the airfield and the village of Valkenburg. The other casualties are not known exactly. Confirmed registries add up to 7 KIA in Wassenaar, 7 KIA in Katwijk, 12 men that later succumbed their wounds in Leiden [hospitalized after being WIA at Valkenburg] and 2 KIA in Rijnsburg. Altogether 71 KIA on the first day. Less than the Dutch casualties, but still a considerable toll. The number of Germans that became POW was slightly higher though. The exact numbers are unknown, but it must have been around 100.
The difference in KIA between the belligerents would grow dramatically in the days to come, when the Dutch would endeavour to defeat the German pocket, which would demand much of the Dutch side.