Battle Of The Netherlands, 15 May 1940
With the surrender of Rotterdam, Fortress Holland, parts of Utrecht Province, and Zeeland still remained under Dutch control, particularly the main Dutch naval base at Den Helder in the north, and the port of Flushing in the south.
German forces had not been able to attack across Ijsselmeer, and with no boats or barges North Holland and the Wadden Islands suffered German air attacks, but no ground attacks. The aircraft based in the north performed well in combat scoring more victories than loses, but most had been destroyed on the ground during raids by German Bf 110’s.
With the surrender of Rotterdam and the retreat from Utrecht, Dutch forces in South Holland province were in disarray. Caught between Rotterdam and the sea, units to the west pulled back to Hoek van Holland, while the those in the east were caught up in the move to Amsterdam. German troops advanced hesitantly towards Utrecht to discover it was undefended and with most of the population having fled westwards. The inundation of the Waterline was largely ineffective, particularly as the city of Utrecht marked the main road line through the defences and was designed to be above any inundation, but off-road movement of vehicles became more difficult. With the consolidation of their positions in Rotterdam and Utrecht there was little further German advance in the sector.
Advancing west from North Brabant Province, German infantry attempted to cross onto Zuid-Beveland in Zeeland. Connected to the Dutch mainland by a narrow isthmus, the only crossing was over a narrow dike through the inundations, forming a natural defensive location. A single Dutch platoon manned a position to the west at the Bathline, mainly as a collection line for other retreating troops, and three Dutch platoons manned prepared defences 15km further east at the Zandijkeline.
The Hurricanes of 32 Squadron RAF had been prepared to deploy to Schiphol AFB on the morning of the 15th, but with the surrender of Rotterdam they were redirected to Souburg AFB, where the contingent of Welsh Guards were disembarking. The Hurricanes arrived overhead armed and in formation, and with word of a German push in to Zeeland, were airborne again quickly to provide support to the east of Zuid Beveland.
The small Dutch force manning the Bathline were quickly overrun, with SS infantry troops moving towards the Zandijkeline. Being forced to advance through the inundations, the German force was very restricted in movement, and caught between Dutch artillery on the road, and minefields in the soft ground beside. The German advance was quickly pinned down, and supported by the French destroyer “L’Incomprise” the Dutch defenders successfully fought off the initial attack. To dislodge the defences, and assuming total control of the skies, unescorted Stukas were deployed against the artillery. In a very one-sided engagement, the newly arrived Hurricanes successfully intercepted and repulsed the dive bombers without casualties.
During the day the British forces disembarked at Flushing, and advanced to reinforce the Dutch position. By day’s end the Germans pulled back to the Bathline, while French forces had formed a second line of defence further west at the Canal Through Zuid-Beveland.