Battle of the Grebbeberg

The Battle of the Grebbeberg (11 May to 13 May 1940) is an episode during the German invasion of the Netherlands, which was characterized by violent and bloody battles. A German army of about 23,000 men tried to break through. Grebbelinie in the Grebbeberg east of Rhenen, which was three days held by units of the Second Army Corps, while the Dutch army reserves let anyone bring. On May 13 failed a major Dutch counterattack north of the mountain, was simultaneously the rear main theorem trampled on the mountain itself and broke the morale of the reserves, constantly bombarded by artillery fire and that day by dive bomber s, making them fled to the west. It was decided to evacuate the entire Grebbelinie, on 14 May, the Dutch Army Field successful on the New Dutch Water Line, the eastern front of the Fortress Holland, reversed.


The Grebbelinie was part of the defenses of the main line of defense east of the Fortress Holland. The German Eighteenth Army, whose main strength consisted of two army corps, had instructions to take the Fortress Holland. In A corps, X. Armee-Korps, would take the obvious route march on the IJssel to attack from the east. The other, XXVI. AK, which was to advance, by North Brabant would provide a strategic surprise: airborne units, the Moerdijk bridges and the bridges at Dordrecht and Rotterdam conquer so the Corps, reinforced by 9.Panzer Division, the Fortress Holland could enter the Dutch defense, strongly oriented to the east, to put. On the wrong foot right from the south The Luftwaffe would organize a separate airborne operation designed Hague with government and dropping. Already a hit in German hands It was hoped that the Dutch immediately move to surrender, but even if it were to fail, it was assumed that the unexpected main attack would collapse. The Dutch defense within a few days from the south A successful offensive against the Grebbelinie was not essential for the success of this plan – anyway would there infer an attack the Dutch and their forces bind – but the German High Command assumed that the Dutch army was so weak that the Grebbelinie quickly broken should be, especially since it was assumed erroneously that the main Dutch resistance would be, as indeed had originally been the intention. Holland offered at the eastern front of the Fortress It could be to the alternative to an unexpected failure of the airborne landings, troops shifted: the eastern aanvalsas.

The Dutch had two army corps, together with four infantry divisions, drawn up in the line: to the north the Fourth Army Corps with the 7th and 8th Division and in the south the Second Corps of the 2nd and 4th Division. The Dutch divisions were indeed 40% smaller than their German counterparts and would be further weakened on May 10 when two reserve battalions were sent to the west in response to the raid, but the Germans did not have numerical superiority: it had only two regular infantry divisions, 207.ID and 227.ID, and a Waffen-SS brigade. The men of infantry divisions were usually another half trained: they were called Dritte Welle – divisions which had been formed from territorial units, the Landwehr in September 1939. Forty percent consisted of older men over forty, veterans from the First World War. This core had been completed mainly with older reservist and who had not yet completed in May combat training, only twelve percent consisted of fully trained young reservists – the latter group, however, was over-represented in the real combat functions. This kind of divisions was not the most modern weapons, and especially to truck s was limited and therefore mobility. A final problem was that the Polish campaign had gained little experience, although just 207 regiments of ID in the Polish Corridor had actually participated. The fighting These disadvantages could be offset by these divisions to give greater strength to men and on top of light support weapons to increase the concentration.

That one still expected a quick victory with such third-rate units to books, was because the Dutch army was still worse off. Not only was equally half trained and inexperienced – it lacked professional forces and especially within the various bars were severe shortages of well-trained officer and – the forethought was that of an army from the period of the First World War. The number of machine guns was a third lower organic strength and the number of light support weapons per division was very low: only 24 pieces of 47 mm anti-tank guns, mortars and eighteen twelve pieces light field artillery. At the lowest level, the groups had simply no mortars and in a third of cases, no machine guns. The Grebbelinie this was partially offset by one had many small concrete or cast steel with a machine gun bunkers constructed. If these casemates however be turned off by enemy fire or outflanked, it was very difficult to perform a flexible defense because that lacked the units of firepower: the obsolete heavy Schwarzlose machine guns were too heavy for easy wear; also the much more numerous but also outdated light M.20 Lewis machine guns were fairly cumbersome and thereby were plagued by a low rate of fire and failure by shocks. The German units in the attack carried with it light mortars and light armor 37 mm guns that they used to turn off machine gun nests, these methods fit the Dutch troops did not allow.

The disadvantages of outdated and missing weapons were exacerbated by poor design of the theorems. Since the First World War infantry tactics undergoing rapid change, but the Dutch army had these developments but keep up halfway. To a large extent they relied more on the typical scaffolding from the First World War: the propositions were from east to west roughly divided into Outposts, Frontline and Quit Line, which “frontline” and “stop line” yet the character wore an old-fashioned continuous First and Second Trench. However, those characteristics that had the trenches of the First World War made ​​such formidable obstacles: large open field of fire and, towering hundreds of feet deep dense minefields and barbed wire, missing here. On pictures you can see the trenches snaking through a fairly intact and rustic landscape with a row of poles between which sure what wires are strained. They did not dare go to the total deforestation of 20,000 hectares that was actually necessary. About Moreover, there were the large group shelters and storage capacities that have characterized the former trenches.

Modern tactics such as zone defense, with units not in a trench were drawn (which made them vulnerable to artillery fire and a breakthrough) but deepened propositions formed by mutually supportive “islands”, more co were insufficiently applied. Only in the Outposts and behind the Frontline there were deeper loose support positions but their impact was low because people had land enough cleared, there were many dead spots in the landscape that the enemy as many opportunities offered by a risk-free infiltration. Casemates, however useful, could not catch, because they had already built the blind down.

However Grebbelinie also had a strong point and that formed the inundation s. Large sections of the site could be put to far kilometers under water and forced the enemy to focus on the few watersheds that a dry advance guaranteed. One of those was the road access routes Wageningen – Rhenen. Because a (bombproof) pumping station in the river Grebbe was not ready, the forecourt was there a few kilometers width dry and thus this was chosen as one of the two attack axes of the German offensive against the Grebbelinie, that of the 207.Infantry Division. Of course, this advantage of the so-called “channeling” was only really useful if the defender there himself and his troops concentrated or preferably to the maximum of deployments, so there was a real paswerking denied the enemy the advantage of numerical superiority. This has now been largely neglected by the Dutch. One could on the Grebbeberg in width about one infantry regiment deploy simultaneously and there was also a Dutch infantry regiment, the 8th Regiment of the Fourth Infantry Division – but that was spread over four propositions in depth (still lay on the railway from Rhenen a reception last theorem, the Topline) so the attacker could achieve. Still threefold prevalence per statement they had dared to make a certain concentration against radical choice: it was hoped by the defense in depth to win to make stools and from the Quit Line any enemy penetrations to correct the necessary reserves sufficient time.

For the storming of the front positions the Germans wanted to use the SS brigade, the SS-Standarte Der Fuehrer. The other infantry division, the 227th, had allocated first such brigade received the SS Standarte Adolf Hitler, but that was on May 11, largely recalled the Veluwe to be after there on May 10 the railway bridge used in North Brabant van Gennep had fallen into German hands and the Peel-Raamstelling broken. The SS troops were ideal for such a task. The quality of their men stood in stark contrast to that of the fathers with the infantry division. They were young, physically fit perfectly, well trained and had a very good moral to the avid off. NCOs and some groups were equipped with a machine gun, as the MP38, which had the SS units in direct combat superiority in firepower. Yet one can not consider Der Fuehrer simply as an elite military unit. The men had no combat experience (except for the street fight) and the German army had a low opinion of the SS, which was regarded as insufficient training.

The Battle

After heavy fighting the Germans on Saturday, May 11 managed to take the outpost line and break through.’s Frontline on Sunday, May 12th On May 13, 1940 was also broken the Quit Line, a major counterattack failed and broke through an air bombardment mass panic among the troops in the Top line after the Dutch Field Army broke away from the enemy and withdrew to the positions of the Eastern Front of Fortress Holland , the New Dutch Waterline.

May 11

The outpost line falls

In the morning of May 11th the Germans wanted a car first attempted attack. For the entire breakthrough were some 23,000 man destined: 17,000 men in the infantry division and the rest on the SS brigade. The Dutch regiment had 2,500 men and at first glance, it would appear that the Germans possessed a considerable force majeure. In fact, however, the ratios were significantly less unfavorable. Of the German troops could be deployed simultaneously but a minority. That was not even the Germans as bad as the 207th ID was at that time still in advance. The artillery traction and supplies needed, such as still largely done by horse and wagon at most German divisions. The SS brigade was however fully motorized and had to make for the attack would be carried out with two battalions of the 1st and 3rd ready on time, a third was held in reserve, the battalion that the day before at the IJssellinie to westervoort the hardest battle should deliver.

However, the Germans could not immediately attack the main line of resistance: about two kilometers before was still the outpost line, the more than two kilometers from the southern edge of the inundation strip and the Lower Rhine padding. That line was occupied by two companies of the 3rd Battalion of the 8th Regiment (III-8 RI): the 3rd and 1st in the north to the south. About that whole outpost line taken the Germans had approximately a four-fold superiority. The outposts were largely made ​​up of so-called semi-permanent field fortifications; propositions made ​​up ground, sandbag know and wood. Only on the dike, near the Lower Rhine, was a single bunker. These troops were reinforced with a heavy machine-gun company of four sections, however, eight machine guns were in service, and a section of II-19RI. Each of the thirteen sections present Dutch had three machine guns. Those weapons they tried as much as possible from enemy artillery fire to protect a “shard free arrangement”, a kind of wooden bunker. However, this one created many dead spots. The effect of those dead spots was not offset by additional setups, making some terrain angles were covered. Only with handguns By applying a high rugwering (Parados) at the rear of an arrangement could be cast is no fire from one third of the circumference if one has been forced somewhat into coverage. In addition, a large part of the area is not cleared in the fields of fire and dikes and buildings were significant obstacles. This allowed the enemy in many ways unseen approaching – although he also had this little insight into the racks. The Dutch men spoke of “mousetraps”. The Germans will attack tactics with two teams apply where success was virtually assured. First, it was determined that the blind spot of the machine gun of contention was. A team placed itself as a machine for the defenders to force them to take cover, in the blind spot then tore it safe with a troop surge. The proposition that arrived threw hand grenades into the trenches and jumped over the proposition already firing with automatic weapons, where the defenders could ask little in return. Their bolt action rifles.

Before that was needed, however, are on the southern side dry standing, tankditch exceeded the front boundary of the racking system formed. As such, the canal was pretty useless because the German troops possessed by the Grebbelinie about any tank, but it was a difficult obstacle, a kind of hard crust that had to be purchased. Broken After a short preliminary artillery bombardment urged the 1st SS battalion from 10:00 on at the extreme northern end of the outpost line, where it would have. Need not fear flanking fire from right This piece was just occupied by the 1st section of the 3rd Company of the 3rd Battalion of adjacent 19th Regiment, (i.e. 1-3 RI-III-19), a unit that actually was under a different command. This kind of sector boundaries is always a weak point in the defense. The Germans had here locally a sixfold force majeure. Around noon broke the morale of the section and they pulled away to the west rather than to the south, thus creating an open flank to the south units. They had not had enough troops to fill the whole area to the main line of resistance and the many orchard and could also give no effective supporting fire from there to cover the flank. Because the preliminary artillery bombardment had intersected the telephone cables and the only radio device failed, could not own supporting artillery fire requested by the Dutch. The German troops were able to make the cover of a dike, running from west to east, until they came in the back of the other defenders. Use at this point. Slowly then the whole Outpost Line rolled back from the north. Around noon, was south of the road Rhenen-Wageningen also the other battalion head-up against the Dutch outposts. This progressed slowly and one had some serious battles perform, especially around a section lineup of SMI Blom very violently resisted. When the latter group surrendered around 18:00, the outpost strip was entirely in German hands. For an attack on the Frontline wanted the SS first reorganize. The attack was planned for the night of 11 to 12 May.


In the evening drove several armored car’s road-Wageningen Rhenen on to Hoornwerk, a 18th-century stronghold that access from the main road up the mountain blocked. A 47 mm armored artillery in a bunker with a few shots put a vehicle out of combat, this would be one of the few times that armored vehicle and fight this battle would make contact. Because they do not have track and possession, the small number of German reconnaissance armored cars was not suitable for breaking through enemy positions, they would be the next two days usually protect the infantry behind the main road.

Dutch reactions

In the book after the war is sometimes given the impression that they would have. Supporters of the outpost strip is not very brave excluded However, subsequent analyzes showed that they have offered quite stubborn resistance. A massively flee or surrender was no, something was also prevented by the more scattered arrangement. Someone who has been on May 11 was a false impression right away, was the commander of the Second Army Corps, Major General Jacob Harberts. Harberts knew that the Wehrmacht only a small number of motorized divisions had (actually four) and rightly took that one would not bet on. Unimportant the Dutch battleground It seemed therefore very unlikely that the Germans were a powerful attack so early in the state. Normally, such an attack would be preceded by heavy artillery which had not occurred. Also, it would be normal if it would be there to discover.’s Weaknesses previously with fire reconnaissance by small departments shock troops enemy lines scanned Then came the news that the outposts had fallen, he concluded that it had to immediately have surrendered. For such units. This confirmed him in his opinion that the morale of the troops was poor and there was talk of him as “scandalous cowardice in context and men”. He ordered a night attack against the reserve battalion of the 4th Division (II-19 RI) to purify, which he estimated the number to one hundred. Strip back the outpost of enemies However, this attack failed because already at the beginning of the rise in the Quit Line panic started on their own soldiers to fire the uninformed troops and because the commander of the battalion on little bold occurred. Before order was restored, the darkness of night was already over and the attack was canceled and the battalion pulled back. An unintended beneficial effect was that the supporting Dutch artillery fire on the outpost strip the Germans did decide to show off. Their own planned night attack

On the May 11 Harberts also got the message that morning a commander of a section Buster, Sergeant Chris Meijer, with gun and all the Quit Line – which had then no German will – fled would have and was far arrested behind the lines . Harberts asked a court martial in which he ordered Meijer, if guilty of desertion, as a “deterrent” to condemn to death. The General acted in this case is based on the conviction that only harsh measures morally upright could keep it. Sergeant Meijer was executed on May 12, the only soldier who came over in the May days, with no prejudice for publicity could be given. The developments on the battlefield occurred some positive effect on morale.

A very controversial issue is the question of whether the SS have committed war crimes. Guilty in the attack on the outposts The SS soldiers made their decisive action, modern camouflage and automatic weapons a great impression on the Dutch defenders, which led to the subsequent battle reports – which are always inclined to overestimate the power of the enemy – gave a somewhat exaggerated picture of their effectiveness and fanaticism. In some books after the war, especially those carrying a strong apologetic character, this was connected with the National Socialist background of the Waffen-SS, so the caricature created by heavily armed bloodthirsty elite soldiers, driven by a fanatical and criminal ideology there not shrink to, if they still could not win, despite their great superiority to take to dastardly tricks to settle. Battle in their favor refuge To this end, than for example, the massive abuse of Dutch prisoner of war as a “human shield” belonged. The military historians Herman Amersfoort and Piet Kamphuis attempted in their book May 1940 – The battle on Dutch territory from 1990 to its true proportions to bring the case back. According to these writers continued violations of the law of war limited to a few incidents. In the heat of battle was sometimes Dutch groups not given the opportunity to surrender, in one case, three Dutch soldiers under unclear circumstances after surrendering shot, two of which died. In addition, Dutch prisoner of war forced into dangerous conditions to perform. Activities The use of human shields would have had to get over no effect. The book called against heated reactions including a brochure from 1995: Historians Falsification of May 1940.Selects Defence before the SS and her veterans? by WD Jagtenberg, which suggested that there was structural violations by the SS of the law of war. When it became known that a second, revised, pressure from May 1940 would appear, conspired several veterans and other organizations in 2000 a lawsuit in which they demanded a rectification of the first pressure and a ban on the controversial passages in the to repeat. second pressure It bothered mainly to the fact that were the acts of the SS perspective by citing an alleged instance of violation on the Dutch side: Michelbrink soldier would have shot an SS man on May 11 after his surrender. This claim was dismissed by the President of the Hague court after the authors had declared their description of the “case Michelbrink”, which contradictory testimonies exist, would they change.

Amersfoort in 2005 published a separate book on the issue: I had my red-cruciate dismissed, which again caused a controversy.

May 12

The Frontline is broken


Now it appeared that the main resistance Grebbelinie was the Dutch position, decided the commander of the 207.Infantry Division, Lieutenant General Karl von Tiedemann on 12 May to undertake the Grebbeberg now on. Powerful attempt to breakthrough The other division of the X Corps, 227.Infantry Division, was not ready for the planned attack in Amersfoort, so for the time being would be alone in his sector Grebbelinie attacked. Would again be the SS brigade for the storming used. The 1st battalion of them, that on the 11th had done most of the work, went into reserve to recover, so what would be the attack by two battalions, the 3rd and 2nd fresh again.

The Frontline in this sector was defended by four companies: the 1st and 2nd of II-8 RI and the 1st and 2nd of I-8 RI (both battalions had a company in the Quit Line are). These were reinforced by parts of a machine gun company and a section that six armored defense artillery casemates manned. The German troops would therefore only have a predominance of two, given that the German units were half times larger. It was that pretty much machine guns were concentrated in the leading edge of the Frontline. Those were north of the highway not far-reaching cast fire on the forecourt because it was not cleared and this was in itself an advantage to the attacker covered could advance; locks and Grebbedijk offered before a further protection. On the other hand, this also made it more difficult to force the defenders in coverage: there were the large number of defensive machine guns no dead spots covering fire from which one could safely issue and it would be suicide before approaching the position in such a short distance. Once again, there was a hard crust, partially coincident with the Grift, where they had to break through first. This problem be solved in two ways: it was the only sector of the two middle compagnies attacked, so that there was a local fourfold force majeure in the first place. The second solution was standard for such cases: one would first try the enemy position by indirect fire of artillery to destroy the hope that the machine guns were to be broken off and the morale of the defenders as much as possible. Von Tiedeman put before all the artillery in which he had available at that time: four departments. Two batteries and a battery 15 cm 10,5 cm brought fire from to Hoornwerk – the bastion that had to be taken first – shoot in ruins. Three departments shot the other parts of the Frontline and put disturbing fire on Rhenen and the Quit Line.

The bombardment lasted until 12:40 and focused on the end on the front line. Meanwhile insisted the two SS battalions on to the edge of the orchards. That the troops were drifted was taken for granted. The Dutch artillery began to fire but its fire was much deeper on the outpost strip to prevent German reinforcements could build. However, von Tiedemann was not going to go. With his whole division in the attack There was at divisional level decided to give fear to touch. Their forces on the ground in front of the Frontline, not fire off Accurate fire against the German batteries was excluded by the lack of air reconnaissance and a failing acoustic localization.

The German fire was not extremely heavy but the morale of the Dutch troops still got quite excited, the usual effect of such shelling. Especially from the Hoornwerk where was the rest of the mountain isolated and ammunition stocks were reduced to a minimum because they had shot all night on the German positions, some had already left their positions. It failed to get the officers. Troops in line A casual present ordinance, J. Chairs, restored order again, but immediately after 12:40 was Hoornwerk by the SS, who could approach, the bastion because of the high walls a short distance covered stormed. After a brief but fierce battle was the stronghold and the SS insisted the mountain. However, the sector just west of the Hoornwerk was a weak point in the Dutch defense. The 2nd company of I-8RI, which is north of the road was Rhenen-Wageningen, had two sections lie in a deeper defense, however the 1st company south of the road before but had a section that is also available over the southern steep slope was buried and was at the breakthrough point of the back. The south side of the road was mostly covered by a deeper row of three cast steel casemates, which, however, could easily outflanked by their high position and blind spots and be knocked out. After yanking the enemy there slowly parallel to the road, to experience, and then to attack from the south sections of the 2nd company in the flank and with a considerable numerical superiority to roll. Without much resistance The Grebbeberg was not cleared and now was a bosgevecht gave a short distance where the automatic weapons of their SS again a decisive advantage. Reserves on company level, in order to carry out a counter-punch missing.

By four o’clock the troops were in the Quit Line in mind how critical the situation was when the first German troops appeared for their board. Desperately an attempt was made to partition the enemy to confront, which one the number of other internal assessment too low. Quit Line from the enemy advance in the back of the Frontline off from that assertion with hastily gathered infantry groups However, these attempts failed miserably because people in an old broad skirmish line the German firing positions close to approaching which one was mowed down. Within a short distance by the automatic weapons A counterpunch north of the road was personally led by the commander of II-8 RI, Major Johan Henri Azon Jacometti that his men had courage spoken with the words “We’ll be a while throw out and the white klewang go into ! “. However. He died

To still encounter the German advance the Dutch had two options. The first was that they claimed sufficient reinforcements to bring the enemy to a halt or reduction. Before that again the reserve division of the 4th Division, the II-19 RI, deployed. This battalion was ordered to by stepping to assist the troops. Frontline of the Quit Line Their combined strength would be so placed on seven compagnies and numerical advantage of six tirailleurscompagnies the two SS battalions largely offset. However. These simple basic maneuver failed When the battalion approached from behind the Stop Line was, like the previous night, taken by the nervous troops under fire. The overtired demoralized soldiers sought a safe haven, a powerful counterattack was not going, although smaller groups conducted until dusk fell from bumps out.

The second option was to concentrate all available artillery fire on the concentration of SS west of the Hoornwerk. They were now very fragile, they could inflict heavier losses that would probably defeat the entire German breakthrough because it was highly dependent on the combat power of the SS brigade. However, the old-fashioned and slow command structure of the Dutch artillery was not such a flexible adaptation to the combat situation is. By unclear information about the exact position of the enemy they again dared not risk touching, which they did not know what positions they were still occupied.’s Own troops The official guidelines for taking off in such a situation to exercise. Extreme caution Some battery commanders shifted their fire on their own initiative but remained a central control and the opportunity to turn the tide went unused over. However, it was shorter shot with the four mortars on the Quit Line on the German invaders.

Wäckerles infiltration of the Quit Line

In the course of the afternoon and early evening the SS cleared the Grebbeberg to the Quit Line. It was a slow and difficult process but there was not summoned by Von Tiedeman to hurry. Without too heavy losses was a penetration achieved in the main enemy resistance setting and the 2nd Battalion had held up well during his baptism of fire. There was no strict timetable for the breakthrough of Grebbelinie and there was no pressure from the German high command to increase the success rate, there was no reason for the case to go force. A methodical impose sufficient. By 20:00 the conquered territory was still quite limited: about 700 meters to the Quit Line and one kilometer wide. This systematic rise was actually in conflict with the official doctrine. Who wrote in such cases the infiltration tactics for: small units of shock troops were operating independently and using weaknesses as quickly and deeply as possible was the enemy positions penetrate to bring down the entire defense. The commander of the 3rd Battalion, Obersturmbannführer (rank equivalent to lieutenant colonel) Hilmar Wackerle, a very energetic man who had received an officer in the First World War saw the Dutch defense in the Quit Line, weakened by losses in performing the previous bumps, made ​​no impression close and decided to exploit fully in line with his character this – and the nature of elite shock troops that the Waffen-SS pretended like. For such an initiative offered the German tradition of Auftragstaktik, the act according to circumstances by subordinates, all the space. The immediate cause was that the 3rd Battalion was given to redeeming a battalion of the 322nd Regiment 207. AssignmentID and so he threatened to lose face, since they had not broken the Grebbelinie. Wackerle thought his honor after his breakthrough and devised plans against the instructions of his superiors. He collected as many of his men to carry out two simultaneous breakthrough attempts and a smaller bond between attack. He himself broke with a 150 to 200 men along the main road to Rhenen at dusk suddenly the Quit Line, the second, however, carried south, breakthrough failed. Quickly yanked Wäckerles flock to the west, a huge confusion causing among the Dutch defenders, until they ran aground on the Top line, in fact after a mile from the railway viaduct from north to south running deepened railroad whose slopes with barbed wire were made impervious reinforced with some pieces trench.

Many defenders of the units in the Quit Line in this sector, consisting of two companies, one of the 1st and one 2nd Battalion 8th RI, was the idea that they now had German troops both for themselves and in the back, too. Their morale broke and hundreds fled, especially from the units around the Grebbeweg. The Quit Line could now be easily rolled up and thus, the breakthrough was a fact. Now, however, showed the inherent disadvantage of the tactics of rapid unexpected puncture: Wäckerles gang itself could be attacking the Quit Line is no longer used, precisely because it was so far encroached and by quickly use a phenomena that opportunity there was no been time occurrence with other German units to coordinate the battalion of 322.Regiment lost while in the dark and could not reach the battlefield immediately. So there were no supporting German attacks and instead Wäckerles only hope was that the Dutch defense further spontaneously would collapse.

Arrival Dutch reserves

In fact, however, the situation is restored again. This was largely because at the operational level defense in depth had fulfilled its task and were the first reinforcements have arrived. Wäckerles breakthrough itself was greatly simplified by the accidental redeem units in the Quit Line by the reserve of the Second Army Corps, III-11 RI. Increasing the number of soldiers in what was the front line, was hampered by the limited capacity of the Quit Line which only consisted of a single trench, most arrived units were held in reserve so that further to the west. On the Topline had parts of II-19 RI gathered again and was I-46 RI, the reserve Brigade A, from the Betuwe moved up to that position (a company it made front on the southern bank of the Rhine opposite the mountain) and the north arrived parts of the 3rd and 4th Hussars Regiment. Fleeing Dutch troops were at the railway viaduct restrained as much as possible by a detachment with some machine guns captain of the gendarmerie GJW Gelderman, who on several occasions even open fire on them which were left several dozen slain. At the time that the SS men approached his position, Gelderman was just trying to summon to go back. A hundred Dutch soldiers When the SS attempted to storm the viaduct was one taken by the group of Gelderman under fire, thereby splashed the SS shock troops apart. Wackerle decided not to advance further on this point, but to entrench themselves in the buildings of the steam hammer, a carpenter who was located near the track between the main road and the floodplains of the Lower Rhine.

The reinforcements were said by the Field Army Commander, Lieutenant General Godfried van Voorst tot Voorst, ordered as an initial stabilization of the front, however, he decided to make a powerful intervention. To this end, however, he had few troops available. From the command he had nothing to expect: the strategic reserve, Ie Corps and the Light Division, was indeed in full bet against the airborne troops in Holland. He could therefore only Brigade B bets, five battalions strong, originally the main line of resistance in the Land of Maas and Waal occupied but was held to Ling Theorem vacant following the withdrawal from Brabant of the Third Army Corps. In addition, two separate battalions were available: II-11 RI, the reserve of the 2nd Division, and I-20 RI from the reserve of the Fourth Army Corps. The least risky it would have been this simply to cordon by fast backward to build the Quit Line the Top line in a full statement to build and furnish west of Rhenen. A new third argument, the still relatively small penetration However. Genius capacity was required for this purpose, lacked They had no choice but to recapture by a counter-attack. Frontline again That was the 4th Division site developed by a master of the General Staff, AHJL Fievez.

According to the plan Fievez let fielded in the evening, had three of the available seven battalions reinforce the troops at the Grebbeberg itself in the Quit Line and Top line, the other four would perform a flank attack from Achterberg, a village north of Rhenen, in southeastern direction. This was not only intended to drive the Germans from the mountain, but also had an urgent independent significance, in the course of the evening was the situation north of the mountain namely deteriorated significantly. At this point the Quit Line turned sharply to the west while the Frontline ran along the Grift northeast to the inundations. There was here a space of up to two kilometers between the two lines. Inside were some statements but were directed to the north of the mountain. In the course of the evening began the 2nd SS battalion, the path of least resistance looking to divest. By this relative void They rolled the few machine setups here up behind, marched to the sector of the Quit Line that ran back to the northeast, about a mile deep and this caused some unrest among the more northern supporters of the Frontline that about a length of two kilometers was abandoned, almost to the inundations. Two sections were deeper, half surrounded and attacked from behind, to stand in the morning, after which they rolled. The area of ​​this penetration was tripled in size. The Frontline was now only occupied south of the mountain, by a section in the bastions at the base layers of the steep slope that was created when the Rhine broke through the moraine of the Utrecht Ridge, this unit would be formed only at the overall capitulation vomiting.

13 May

The failure of the counterattack by Brigadier B

Von Tiedemann had contact with Wackerle on the mountain lost and the situation there was quite confused as to be that all Dutch reinforcements are there were building adopted, on the other hand, it seemed that the defense north of the mountain to collapse was. He therefore decided to open the Grebbelinie from the south had to roll up and simultaneously could cover. The southern flank of the attack towards a second aanvalsas in this sector He is now set for the first 207.Infantry Division in itself, not to implement the new attack but to insist on the mountain itself and systematically purify the Quit Line. This involved one of the three regiments of the division, the 322nd, frontal go on the offensive with two of its battalions, the 1st and 3rd, the 2nd Battalion remained in reserve. Only a minority of the division was so used: Von Tiedeman also had the New Waterline break and wanted to keep before fresh units, taking his 368th Regiment, which the previous day had been involved in an aborted attack at De Klomp, still concerned Corps reserve and thus was not until his disposal, his 374th regiment had its 2nd battalion on 10 May to give way to the Gruppe Brückner on May 13 a (failed) attack on the Betuwe Theorem performed. The attack north of the mountain was therefore assigned to the SS brigade, which now had to deliver. Heavy exercise for the third consecutive day By Wäckerles initiative could be the 3rd Battalion not run, it was still largely surrounded by the Topline. It was up to the 1st and 2nd Battalion to perform to break. Stop Line north of the mountain in the direction of the contract Achterberg Both forces did so at the same point perform an attack with the result that they would collide in a battle encounter. Correct head-on

Both sides tried their attacks as much as possible to support. With indirect fire Requested a bombardment by the RAF held off, although the latter went airplanes Aviation Department could still deploy bombers as four completely outdated Fokker CX ‘s, twice bravely in the attack in which she thirty slight dropping bombs, both times. In the first attack in the early morning were bombarded by German artillery positions Wageningen, the second one also mitrailleerde troops on the road Wageningen – Rhenen. The attacks were protected by the latest operational fighters, all devices were the enemy firing their machine gun ammunition was. The 10th Army Corps had that day support by two Gruppen Junkers Ju 87 B: I and II of the 77th StukaGeschwader assigned. This reflected the increased attention of the German command for the activities of X. AK: it was feared that the main attack on Rotterdam could well crash and the eastern aanvalsas could therefore constitute an alternative. By deployment of the army corps artillery could now the Dutch their attack with five divisions supporting artillery, but the fire it was, because it was feared to touch again too deep, so it had little effect. Their own sections between Frontline and the Quit Line

The Dutch would attack at 04:30 had to start on delays which only came to consider going. B Brigade had three battalions supplied: RI I-29, III-29 and II-24 RI RI, was the fourth I-20 RI. The preparation had been very poor and it was the exhausted troops (the brigade was already two days on foot to moving) actually completely unclear what exactly their mission and the location of the site was and what enemy resistance might be expected. As the high numbers of regiments mentioned, it was mostly middle-aged men who long ago – were trained – and pretty bad. Among the most robust findings of military-sociological research is the fact that men do not fight for their country or for an ideal, but in defense of the gang to which they belong, however, the necessary group ties so insufficiently formed in older men; their loyalty lies in primarily with their own family. The impetus of units with a high average age is low and pressure threaten them quickly fall into a loose collection of individuals where each our butts trying to save for themselves. Apart Brigade B now, would come under very great pressure to stand.

Went the beginning of the march even without too much difficulty, simply because this consisted of taking positions in the Quit Line north of the mountain and pieces of something located to the northeast Frontline that the day before hastily leaving were, without the enemy had then occupied. When they wanted doorschijden, the Quit Line the problems started. They moved the front wave of B Brigade, consisting of four companies, now in the middle of the preparatory artillery bombardment of the SS brigade which after all was planning at the same point the Quit Line to break through. It would have been best to store them. Defensive attack off The leadership was not, however, aware of German design and let the troops to enter the field. There were so dead and dozens wounded, both by artillery fire and because of the fact that in the fire of machine guns advancing law were prepared to support the German advance. The confused and chaotic Dutch troops, often their immediate commanders had lost strike after midnight to fall, their continued movement and started back especially where they had made. Contacting the encroaching enemy The retreat also did the second wave of two companies neighborhoods and they left in most places the Quit Line. This declining movement was reinforced when at half past two in the area (north) west of the Grebbeberg was a bombardment by 27 Stukas. Target Who had not, although it specifically targeted Brigade B – one focused on the clearly visible position lines of Topline and the Quit Line north of it – and the physical damage was not too bad, but the psychological effect was no less: the retreat hit to a mass exodus. In wild panic the men flocked unstoppable to the west and the sauve qui peut dragged two whole battalions note that no combat contact with the enemy had made: it held in brigade reserve I-20 RI and III-19 RI that the north propositions had kept busy , and had made. partly front to the south In fact, this meant that the defense of the 4th Division had collapsed: the Grebbeberg itself had the events namely an equally catastrophic course taken.

The Quit Line is broken

To succeed the Dutch counterattack was a prerequisite that would be south of the Quit Line kept Grebbeberg otherwise the attack will hang in the air. To this end, the weather was necessary to strengthen rack with fresh troops, but in this it succeeded only partially. By blocking the railway viaduct road Rhenen-Wageningen had Wäckerles shock troop communication very difficult. South of the road were large pieces trench completely abandoned the previous day. Not until the morning of the thirteenth was clearly too late and then it turned out there to bring. The board on strength Only I-24 RI was in fact sent to the Quit Line itself – and was there on the evening of 12 May arriving, scattered by artillery fire and the breakthrough of Wackerle hit – the other two reinforcing battalions, II-11 RI and III-24 RI, were held in reserve behind the Topline around Rhenen. Fievez, which was the situation at the Quit Line, had no clear picture: the Topline regarded as the main latch contention. That line was not further developed by these two battalions.

The Quit Line in many places had not really cleared for field, was only about fifty feet deep forest felled to obtain a clear field of fire. A breakthrough could therefore only be prevented by a dense arrangement – and every breakthrough could be fatal because the line had no depth, a zone defense behind missing. The statement was meant literally, as the final “stop line”, just a base to throw the enemy. Again to the Frontline North of the road density was also present and the trench was really crowded with RI I-24, III-11 RI and parts of the original company of II-8 RI. After a preliminary artillery bombardment went later in the morning the 1st and 3rd Battalion of the 322nd IR on the attack. However, this first attempt failed largely German breakthrough, although some people managed German penetrations in the northern sector. Not only was the road north of the mass of the 1st Battalion beaten back by the force of Dutch troops – even south of the road was the 3rd Battalion’s own force majeure exploit and fell back. The reason of the failure was not the intervention of the Dutch artillery fire which again was too deep to be mainly the own units not to touch, but the poor training and inexperience of the German troops. As with B Brigade which consisted of men of older age, only armed with a bolt gun, who endured a baptism of fire badly. One hit panic on the flight or remained seized with terror paralyzed lie. The German attack, however, this method had already factored and there was a second-tier, or wave to resume after the artillery bombardment to try again. This second attempt was successful after noon. North of the road this was partly due to the inherent drawback of a trench proposition: the high vulnerability to artillery fire. The very large mass of Dutch soldiers led to high losses in crits and eventually broke the morale. It was the second attempt to use the previous penetrations and hence the Dutch positions in heavy fighting surround and roll. South of the road took a company of the 3rd SS battalion attack but over and fined as the Quit Line.

Now there was a bosgevecht with the declining Dutch troops that focused to the battalion and company command posts, the only pieces that were deeper reinforced. After fierce resistance were all taken. The commander of I-8 RI, Major Pieter Willem Landzaat, killed that. Only the regimental command post managed to keep until the next day, after the successfully broken occupation until the 15th hearing of the capitulation. Surrounded stand However, the German advance did not go very bold. The nervous 322.Infantry Regiment did a few hours left to purify the area up to the railroad although it was now the 2nd Battalion deployed. After 17:00 began to withdraw to regroup for an assault on the Top line. Again To attack the last reception position would no longer come.

Overall flight from Topline

Around Rhenen were pretty much Dutch troops present, there were about five battalions. Not all those units were directly at the Topline present, the railway was deepened by loose groups without much coherence monitors – sometimes parts of the battalions, sometimes independent platoons or compagnies – and the chain of command in the area was for the men completely opaque. The troops were often lost their officers and tired and nervous by the continuing failure of artillery fire. The command in the sector was in the hands of the commander of the 4th Hussars Regiment, the chief of Esquire’s Marees Swinderen. About the situation on the Grebbeberg was not informed and he sent no reinforcements direction Quit Line. In the course of the day, he even decided to withdraw to have. A mobile reserve most of his cavalry in Elst As a result, the relationship was even less. During the day there was an increasing flow of groups that left the battlefield in the west.

Wackerle, which are surrounded by SS men had an unpleasant night spent in the factory buildings east of the viaduct, decided to free himself from his predicament and still on the railway viaduct to divest. By He made two attempts and both times he violated the laws of war: to drive the first time by Dutch prisoner of war as a human shield in front of him the second time by a group of SS men in Dutch uniforms to dress. The group of military police captain Gelderman, who basically shot anyone who moved the wrong way, hit both attempts, and the second time we recognized the SS also had their typical German soldiers boots that they are not interchangeable. Shortly after the flyover was blown up by the Dutch genius. Wackerle would, himself seriously wounded by two bullet hits, in the afternoon appalled by one of his own companies of. Then the 3rd Battalion withdrew to the east, and Wackerle could be treated at Wageningen.

At half past two suffered the same bombardment of 27 dive bombers that Brigade B on the flight had to do also store parts of the Top line, with the same consequences: minor physical damage (two direct hits resulted in eight deaths) but a total collapse of morale. In a panic, the troops beat massively fleeing to the west. Captain Gelderman posed around 16:00 somewhat stunned that only 15 men were still present in the whole proposition, everyone walked away apparently

(Editing mr LEA Gelderman, son of Captain Gelderman: The “whole” argument was given only the composition of the military police group right south of the overpass on the eastbound side of Rhenen. This group has never been greater than 15 men. North of the viaduct were in the trenches of the company captain Feist I this group was not large. I also doubt that Captain Gelderman shortly before food would have ordered for 600 men. What should have (?) That he did, Since there were no (telephone) connections. After the Stuka attack (around 16.00) showed that there is insufficient ammunition and weapons were available to sustain the opposition. In addition, his group had not eaten for about two days. 16:00 After he left the group (transfer command to Lieutenant JL Hollert) and a car to the command post of General Harberts in Doorn driven with a request to deliver. Ammo, weapons and food General Harberts that captain Gelderman “already killed as” waandde, let him not go back)

Two hours earlier he had ordered food for 600 men. The retreating troops dragged on their retreat reserves deeper note, the rumor verbreidend that there was an official retreat command. The Dutch army in the sector of the 4th Division was collectively came to the conclusion that it was defeated and the only salvation lay in the retreat. The only major exception was a company of the 11th Border Battalion, the last reinforcement sent to the mountain was, just advancing to Rhenen when the mass flight took off, made the battalion for some weather-turn but a company then advanced even further, exceeded in the evening the Top line at the height of the bridge and threw the enemy from the railway station and the Steam Hammer.


Geographically seen was the German penetration in the evening of May 13 is still rather limited: it was over a width of three kilometers around two kilometers past the Frontline advanced. There was only made a small dent in the overall system of Grebbelinie, Betuwe Theorem and Ling theorem with six divisions and two brigades layers. On the evening of May 12 had already baron van Voorst tot Voorst, however, preparing orders for a general retreat from positions that let go. A possible breakthrough of a cordon proposition – that the Grebbe was – would be across the board in the back and also bring the threat of occupation bared Fortress Holland East in great danger. He would not take the risk that the other five divisions should enter into the encounter battle even with a small breakthrough in the area of ​​the 4th Division even with a minority of only two German divisions. He had no illusions about the ability of the Dutch army to maneuver. In a mobile warfare in open terrain with larger units The Field Army would set beaten in such a battle and destroyed.

In fact, the situation became much more serious than we feared: the entire 4th Division and Brigade B were disintegrating. Harberts tried the troops in the afternoon to catch at Elst and division commander Colonel van Loon did the same at Amerongen but the soldiers not to obey the orders; their flight could not hold back anymore. Harberts’ own morale broke through this experience and overcome by a fall mood he was no longer able to lead. At 20:30 Van Voorst tot Voorst gave the order for a total reversal of the Field Army on the eastern front of the Fortress Holland. Fears that the Germans would try to exploit this situation immediately by a quick thrust in the back of the retreating troops gave the division artillery commander ordered the division artillery of the 4th Division cords. For such a panic command could be found. No objective justification Only late in the evening it became the 207th ID clear that the enemy was gone. Although tore a small SS reconnaissance group immediately to the west, but the only major unit to a quick powerful thrust was able, the motorized SS brigade, would have to be completely before first collected and united with the fleet. In fact, all German troops, 14 May slowly over a broad front advance to the west, the SS brigade separated into two parts.

The Eastern Front Fortress Holland was but a rather weak argument. Although the open polder landscape ideal for the defense, was just north of the Lek were the inundations not fully informed, there were too few modern casemates and they had simply not enough field fortifications raised – dig in because of the high water table was impossible – to accommodate. Entire Field Army Or the Battle of the Grebbeberg therefore the failure of the military defense implied to the east, however, would never be known because chief Henri Winkelman capitulated in the evening of 14 May. The critical state of the Field Army has certainly contributed to his decision: before the Bombing of Rotterdam this was been one of the main reasons – besides the imminent breakthrough in Rotterdam – he’s the strategic situation of the Netherlands as hopeless internal assessment.

For the troops involved himself had often had the stroke resulting in death. The SS-Standarte Der Fuehrer lost in the campaign against the Netherlands seven officers and 111 men of a lower grade, while eighteen were missing. As “missing” in practice usually die equals: the corpse of the victim, for example, dismembered by a direct hit from an artillery shell unrecognizable in small pieces – was the number of deaths at the brigade a total of 136. The 207.Infantry Division lost six officers and 94 others, while 23 missing for a total of 123. So the total German losses in these units in the campaign to 16 May amounted to 259, but this includes the losses in breaking the IJssellinie on May 10, including a significant number of missing persons: affected soldiers of the storm plows sunk by the weight of their equipment to the bottom of the river. It is striking that the 322.Infantry Regiment, but one day in action has been lost 71 men.

The Dutch army lost during the battle for Grebbeberg according to a count of the Dutch Institute for Military History eighteen officers, 344 men of a lower grade and twenty missing, for a total of 382. The highest losses were suffered by the 8th RI had the Outpost Line Frontline and the fight almost exclusively made: 179 man. Given that the figures for 11 to May 13 are, so were the Dutch lose a half times higher than the German. This was mainly due to the differences in effectiveness between the Dutch and German artillery, artillery fire was throughout the Second World War, by far the main cause of the fall of dead and wounded. On the military war cemetery on the Grebbeberg are about eight hundred Dutch soldiers killed in the May days, of which about 420 died in the whole battle, including the fighting at Achterberg.

Causes of Loss

In popular accounts of the battle for Grebbeberg is common to propose as the predictable outcome of a German numerical and technological superiority, with the conclusion that it is an achievement of the Dutch defenders was that one three days boldly against the defeat that force majeure has maintained until they are worn out had to resign. at the inevitable However, the scientific historical research paints a picture that differs in many respects from the standard story.

Locally, the attackers had indeed often a significant prevalence, for all the sectors that was attacked on 11 and 12 May, however, been less. It was those days again and again only the SS brigade of three battalions deployed (two battalions simultaneously), while Dutch were about four battalions in the fight thrown in the same period. Von Tiedeman reinforced on May 13 the brigade with two battalions to a total of five, but there was at that date reinforcements to a dozen Dutch battalions were sent for. In fact fell that fateful day five German battalions to an area where a total Dutch force, with a twofold numerical superiority was, if we take into account the fact that the German battalions were larger. As the attacker, purely numerical viewed at least one triple preponderance need for a successful offensive, can only numerical superiority is no good explanation for the German victory.

The reference to technological superiority reflects the prevailing image of the Deutsches Heer as a modern and fully mechanized army. In reality, only provide a small minority of the German army units of a large number of armored vehicles, none of those units fought on the Grebbelinie. Tanks were absent on both sides and the few armored cars irrelevant. Most German troops were moving supplies and depending on horse traction and their ability to walk. Only the SS was motorized brigade – and motorization hardly played a role in the fight, because the brigade was not used as a maneuver unit but as pure shit storm in a frontal attack. Also regarding the artillery was not very strong German technological superiority: in the numerical balance of artillery that both sides were committed, did the technological advances the balance is not decisive skip to the German side.

In addition to the material conditions of the idealistic also play a role. The latter involves a higher level strategy and tactics. Where no numerical or technological superiority exists, often a better plan or battle mode will prevail. But this can not explain here the German success. The attack on the Grebbeberg can hardly be called a strategic surprise, it was a very obvious location for a breakthrough attempt. We look at the events which are more detailed than the successive partial seizures very predictable. The Dutch were never put on the wrong track. Was therefore not a very advanced German tactic in the context of a war of movement, the German breakthrough was quite old fashioned, slow and systematic, and generally without the infiltration attempts by the German doctrine actually wrote. Wäckerles puncture was the only major exception – and did just that little.

However, there is a lower level of ideal conditions: the organization, training and morale of a force. It should be. According to where most writers the real causes of the Dutch defeat found

The Dutch army was poorly trained. Due to the short duration of the service could be given for the war on the men only a very basic training and they had failed to make. Still well in the eight months after the mobilization of September 1939 that backlog Slightly larger units, above the level of the company, were rarely trained to work together. Overall As long as each group only its own static base had to defend those deficits were not so as to light. It was the enemy but almost always possible by concentrating his forces locally to break. A line Then there were much higher demands on the defender who reserves had to hang around to latch thereby maneuvering the breakthrough, and reduce. With bumps The way the Grebbelinie was furnished, without direct coverage trenches behind the Frontline and Quit Line, culled without grounds and without bunkers for local reserves, asked for an excellent command in directing units. That demand could not be met: Dutch command was unable to sufficiently control of this process.

In English-speaking military jargon after the war was called the sub-processes in which a military organization had to operate to fulfill its operational task well the “C ³ I” (Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence). On all these points the Dutch organization failed. Specialized reconnaissance and observation in the field often lacking. Radio links were mostly absent or otherwise unreliable. The phone lines were easily damaged by artillery fire. Information not reached the pipe or if she was already outdated. So Harberts not understand that a whole SS brigade had occupied the post strip. That leadership was itself heavily overworked because the bars were too small. On May 12, for example, the 4th Division was not able to counterattack by Brigadier B to set up and had the general headquarters for support questions; when they sent a staff officer. Respond quickly to changing circumstances was therefore very difficult. It was saturated by the contradictory messages and was unable quickly to establish new ones. Plans Worse was that the lower units for which plans were not really admissible since they were never trained in quickly converting the necessary vague clues into concrete and practical assignments for the troops and efficiently coordinating the orders with other units. That poor organization was not hidden from the men and scanned it morally.

The large number of units that they had to advance, from all directions to the Grebbeberg hung like loose sand together. Compagnie became fragmented, soldiers separated from their officers. Often with no job other than lying in reserve, exceeded their confusion continues until they are already in the morning of May 13 almost spontaneously began to fall apart. What on paper was a strong force, turned into a horde soldiers without any connection, in response to German fire fault the district began to take to the west. This decomposition process was suddenly accelerated and made massive by the bombing in the afternoon.

A present Wehrmacht component that indeed for that time very modern technology possessed, was the Luftwaffe. There was an almost entirely German air superiority over the Netherlands. The bombing in the afternoon of May 13 even sealed the outcome of the battle. Not the physical effect in itself of that bombing was decisive. The Luftwaffe failed to kill or off. Injure or many weapons in many Dutch troops Before the number of deployed aircraft was too small. On the same afternoon that the 27 Stukas the Dutch army fleeing hunted, broke a complete air fleet with over a thousand bombing missions the French front at Sedan and thus decided the whole campaign in May 1940. Yet even with the heaviest German air raid of the Second World War, the effect is mostly psychological. Such a heavy bombardment has invariably result, morale breaks and the human psyche can not tolerate. The relatively light bombing of the Grebbeberg did not have to have. Effect such Because the Dutch forces wavered however, it could have the impact that the defense did collapse.

Ereveld Grebbeberg

The Military Grebbeberg cemetery is the final resting place of many Dutch soldiers who died in May 1940. More than 400 soldiers buried here died in the immediate vicinity, in the battle of the Grebbeberg. Since 1946 are also buried Dutch soldiers who were killed elsewhere. The plot has almost 850 graves.

The cemetery was the first official war cemetery in the Netherlands. After the surrender of the Netherlands were Dutch and German soldiers buried here. After the war, the remains of the German soldiers moved to the German military cemetery in Ysselsteyn.

During the Battle of the Grebbeberg have distinguished themselves so that they got a Military William Order: GJW Gelderman, WF Hennink, WP Landzaat, Gerard Michgelbrink and JFC Toelen. They were granted the Military William Order 4th Class.


Battle in the Netherlands during the Second World War

History of Utrecht


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