Battle of Rotterdam

The battle for the Meuse bridges in Rotterdam began in the early morning hours of May 10, 1940 and ended on 14 May with the surrender of the city after the bombing. The possession of these bridges was crucial to the German attack on the Netherlands. Together with the bridges at Moerdijk and Dordrecht were the Maasbruggen a corridor which the German main force, with the 9th Armored Division as the core, the Fortress Holland could penetrate.

May 10: surprise attack, countermeasures

In the early morning hours of May 10th landed on both sides of the Meuse bridges and twelve seaplane. This came about 120 German soldiers appeared, standing in rubber boats went to strategic points on and near the Meuse bridges. A short time later they were joined by a platoon of several dozen paratroopers at the Feyenoord Stadium were landed. On the north bank the Germans formed a bridgehead, which was gradually extended to a few hundred meters from the end of the Willems Bridge (the bridge across the Nieuwe Maas). Later reached airborne troops, who were put to the ground on the now conquered Airport Waalhaven the North Island. However, only few knew through to the northern bridgehead because the bridges were already under Dutch fire come to lie.

In Rotterdam were several thousand Dutch soldiers stationed but the majority of them had hardly worth fighting. Added to that the military leadership was not prepared for a German attack in the heart of the city. Present at all The chaos was compounded by an unclear command structure. So it was quite a bit in Rotterdam Navy personnel present, including 450 – partly well trained – Marines. These troops were, however, had to act. Assignment to circumstances directly under the Minister of Defence and their Commander Scharroo colonel who commanded the army in the city, had this navy troops formally so no control. Despite all this arrived pretty soon Dutch countermeasures – often with improvised units of mixed composition – from the ground.

The Germans in the northern bridgehead were after their arrival by the actions of Dutch dressings reduced recently to the building of the National Life Insurance, opposite the northern end of the William Bridge, and some positions in the immediate vicinity. They suffered significant losses during the first fights. Their situation did not improve when Dutch marines and army personnel knew through to nearby properties with a good field of fire: the White House and the Maas Hotel. That last building was the Dutch, however, dispelled when the Germans succeeded in the Maas Hotel shoot. Fire from the North Island

The German positions on the Meuse bridges were to be lower by two Dutch naval ships (The Z5 and TM51). Earlier in the day also cannon and machine gun fire These ships retreated after they had faded. Their ammunition In order to provide substantial support the Navy wanted a heavier unit in combat, namely the destroyer Van Galen. However, this ship had technical problems with its air defenses and that was on the New Waterway, which offered little room for maneuver, fatal. Van Galen was the way to Rotterdam by German Stuka’s sunk.

Despite the Dutch countermeasures on the first day of war the bridges were still intact and the Germans not expelled from the northern bridgehead, although they were touched by their comrades in the North Island. Well isolated

11 and 12 May: increasing nervousness

After the hectic first day of war stabilized the military situation in Rotterdam. Well sent the General Headquarters, to strengthen the defense, still more than 3000 infantry to Rotterdam. The Dutch troops took over a broad front on the north bank of the Nieuwe Maas defensive positions to offer. Any German crossing of the river head

In the meantime, the city ruled a nervous mood. Fears of actions of a fifth column and false rumors about German troop movements in the northern part of the city, leading to unnecessary activity among the defenders.

The hostilities along the Meuse meanwhile went on. Both sides bombarded each other with mortars. Dutch bombers took off from Schiphol attacked the William Bridge, but their bombs found no purpose. On the 12th May, the Germans conducted a number of smaller air bombing that include meant that the Marines barracks in flames.

May 13: counterattack from the Marines

On the evening of May 12 it became clear that the tanks of the 9th Armored Division could appear at any moment. Rotterdam How could prevent that tanks would further penetrate into the heart of the Fortress Holland on the Willemsbridge and so the battle would decide? Definitive advantage in German It was decided to undertake. Counterattack in the early morning of the 13th May However, the infantry battalion that this was designated arrived late in Rotterdam, so we again had recourse to the Marines, who already had been in combat. Almost continuously from the first day of war Purpose of counterattack that was occupying the northern abutment of the Meuse bridges in order to be able to blow up before the German main force would deploy.’s Attack on those bridges

Dutch troops attack the bridges would take could not be taken from the North Island, but also from the enemy beachhead, particularly by the Germans entrenched in the building of the National Life Insurance, opposite the Willemsbridge under fire. . Reliable information on the German positions in that – about 50 strong – however bridgehead missing Also coordinate the counterattack left much to be desired.

The means to disable the German bridgehead or storm ready to make were indeed available. In and around Rotterdam were twelve pieces 10.5 inch guns of a field artillery unit up. Their mission was to the North Island on either side of the bridge to take under fire. However, the artillery did not timely action, and also failed to bring. Accurate fire from Furthermore, a company mortars and two armored cars, were each equipped with a 37 mm gun, available. Similar methods were the Germans succeeded on the first day of war to expel. The Dutch from the Maas Hotel The mortars were not used at all because the commander in question stated that his weapons would have. Insufficient impact on the building of the National Life Insurance One of the armored cars brought during the attack action or fire from that building, but was soon hit by German anti-tank guns and had to retire.

The Dutch action, so that it had to do without adequate fire support, was conducted by a company of marines and a company formed from personnel of the naval depot in Rotterdam, where both Marines as zeemiliciens (conscripted naval personnel) were stationed. The former company would attack from the east and the other from the west. They marched not simultaneously, but one after the other. This was the effectiveness of the action is not as good.

The company of marines was the first to take action. The other company was put on hold, and they wanted to make use of the morning twilight. A section of the company of marines managed by a flanking movement to reach the driveway to the Willemsbrug and there to bring guns into position but then received heavy fire from the building of the National Life Insurance. There were dead and wounded, and the section withdrew. Some Marines were isolated and found a shelter under the ground, one of the pillars of the bridge. Only the next day, after the bombing, they would leave that shelter to surrender. Themselves to the Germans on the North Island Many of them are pictures become known as the German propaganda service (HP) attended their surrender.

The advance of the other sections of the company was first established by enemy fire. Meanwhile also the second company arrived on the battlefield. This did everything he could to close the building of the National Life Insurance, but came from there and lie. From the North Island under heavy machine gun and mortar fire Significant losses were the result, and also the attackers withdrew. Only later it became known that had been about to surrender, the Germans in that building when about partly because they hardly possessed ammunition. The counter-attack had failed.

May 14: bombing, surrender

 Although the Dutch there had failed to clear, the German bridgehead on the north side of the Willemsbridge the German High Command was not convinced that the 9th Panzer now could break out to the northern part of the city unhindered. It was feared stubborn opposition from Dutch side, partly based on the heavy losses in tanks it the day before in and around Dordrecht had suffered. It was therefore decided locally to a tactical air bombardment to weaken the defense. The Luftwaffe, however, was instructed by the tandem Goering / Kesselring else. It was to provide. From a large surface area bombing By this bombardment fire, which could expand. Quickly by the strong wind arose A large number of houses went up in flames. All this meant that the civilian population was the victim of this raid. This was the bombing – intentionally or unintentionally, the opinions vary – a more strategic nature. The psychological impact was huge and that contributed not only to the rapid surrender of the city, but also to the general capitulation of the Dutch armed forces.


The combat actions of the Marines in Rotterdam occur in fantasy become events of epic proportions. So did many years after the war stories as if Marines with the knife between the teeth of the Meuse are swum to the Germans in hand-to-hand combat and tackling.

Would further the Marines in their dark blue uniforms, because of their steadfast resistance during the battle for Maasbruggen, are called by the Germans. “Die schwarzen Teufel” (The Black Devils) However, no evidence for this.

All this does not mean that their commitment commands respect during the battle for the Meuse bridges in Rotterdam. This is formally expressed by the award, in 1946, of the Military Order of William in the Marine Corps.

Perhaps unnecessarily, it should be noted that other Dutch soldiers from both land and naval forces an important contribution to the fight in Rotterdam have made.

History of Rotterdam

Event in the Netherlands during the Second World War

Battle in the Netherlands during the Second World War

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