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Capture of the Willemsbrug, Holland 1940

by Mal Wright & the Reynella Mongrels

In the scenario the German Air Landing Engineers landed at 0530 hrs, quickly taking up positions to block the north side of the Willemsbrug road bridge, and cover the adjacent rail bridge. At 0900 a tram clattered up to the bridgehead and delivered Fallschirmjaeger who had landed at the football stadium. The combined force was pretty small. The air landing group had a CO base, a HQ base, an Air Control Officer base (FAC), a machinegun base, and one base of anti tank rifles plus four bases of engineer infantry. The group arriving by tram had a HQ base, one anti-tank rifle base, one machinegun base, and two bases of infantry. Big Trev. Commanded all these.

Two He59 aircraft remained on the NiewMaas, having become unserviceable.

German troops commandeered motor vehicles and formed roadblocks. The Jutterhof bridge was blocked as was the small one crossing from the Wijnhaven. A large roadblock was established to seal off the northern end of the Willemsbrug. This was to prevent Dutch engineers getting onto the bridge to blow it up. A machinegun unit took up station high in the Insurance building, which gave a commanding view of approaches via the Westnjeuwland and the canal bridge from the Haringvliet. In addition, as the tallest building in Rotterdam, it enabled the Germans a wide view of the city. The majority of the Germans took up station in buildings covering the Hertekade. Others took over the Willemsbrug roadblock from where they could cover any approaches along the Boompjeskade and be able to engage troops crossing from the Haringvliet. The only hostile action during this period was repulsing an attempt by two Dutch Police to arrest the CO for obstructing the traffic.

After a lively verbal brawl between themselves, over what they should do, the Dutch commanders finally launched their assault. I think the result was that Phil commanded the Marines and naval forces, Brett had some of the regular Dutch infantry and Dean controlled the rest. However this was a little uncertain at times as they all seemed to have strong opinions on what the others should be doing.

A strong group of Marines crossed from the Haringvliet to the Boompjeskade under heavy fire from the Insurance building. Their attack looked dangerous but under heavy fire it started to wither, so the remnants took cover in some buildings on the corner of the Boompjeskade and the Hertekade. From here they put up a heavy fire against the roadblock at the bridge and gradually worked house by house along the Boompjeskade. One occupied house was stormed and a German base forced to surrender. However at the next house they encountered stiff resistance. By this time additional Dutch troops were arriving, including some Marine machine gunners and armed sailors. Despite casualties they were able to add weight to the houses seized, and assist with attacks on the one still resisting attacks. Two Dutch warships entered the area and commenced direct fire against the German positions.

At this point one of Big Trev's original air landing bases lost a series of melee's against Dutch Marines. In every case he was forced back, but there was nowhere to go but 'up' so he kept retreating up floor by floor. He reached the sixth floor and was forced into the Attic. Despite surviving the morale checks one more loss and he would be forced to surrender, but at that point managed to reverse the situation and fought his way back down. The initial Marines were killed and more came into replace them. (There were lift jokes about first floor menswear, second floor women’s wear, third floor toys, fourth floor furniture, fifth floor kitchen wear and sixth floor GERMANS!!!) None the less he eventually made his way back down and regained control of the building.

German strength at the Roadblock was fairly weak, but it was at this time that the first elements of troops from the disastrous Waalhaven landings started to arrive. Six bases of infantry rushed across the bridge along with an anti tank rifle base, a machinegun base, and the units HQ base. With them, but left on the south side of the river, were two 75mm infantry guns and two 37mm anti tank guns. These set up in positions from which they could provide fire support across the river. I took command of this group. Having reached the North side without casualties, my group came under very heavy fire and took shelter behind the bridge roadblock and a tram. Still at full strength I expected they would be able to cross the Boompjeskade without too much difficulty and join the fighting from house to house. This proved to be far from correct. As my troops crossed two bases were mown down by Marine machineguns and those behind the tram found themselves under very heavy fire from the warships behind them. Two more bases quickly fell to this murderous fire from the rear. Two of my bases reached the buildings, but only one got inside, the other being quickly killed. Phil's Marines were proving a serious headache for me. (And the corn chips he bought with him to eat were not the best flavour either. so I had to instruct him on flavours and suggest potato chips next time)

Trevor had been having a reasonably easy time defending the Hertekade as the only Dutch attacks of any concern were down at the main bridges end. He held some strong, and elevated positions which gave him a commanding field of fire. To help the situation at the bridge end he called in Stuka attacks which quickly drove off both warships with serious damage. My 75mm guns also engaged the ships, one being knocked out by them before they were forced to withdraw. My anti tank guns were of limited use against the Dutch infantry, but none the less added their fire to that of my other troops.

While this was going on my single air landing base that had survived the arrival, was similarly hard pressed as waves of Dutch assaulted the building they held. They were able to get a bit of help against those attacking along the Boompjeskade, via the remaining 75mm gun and remnants still at the bridge roadblock. However against attackers from the Hertekade side of the building they were in serious trouble and only just held on due to some better die rolls than the attackers .

Now, with pressure on at the main bridges end, the Dutch launched a major assault across the canal via the Jutterhof bridge. This was commanded by Dean, and I think he was hoping that with all the heavy fighting up the other end, the Germans would have been drawn off. This was not the case. Trevor had laid a strong ambush to deal with anyone trying to cross that canal bridge. A machinegun base had a full view from a tall tower and supporting infantry base were well placed to bring down close range fire on anyone attempting to cross. Moving through the buildings, Dean's troops mostly survived the approach, but eventually had to rush out into the open to cross the bridge, which had a roadblock of cars at the German end. Base after base made the dash and were mown down. Bad die rolls did not help much as he needed several functions to successfully get across and into cover again, but these just would not come. Eventually, with casualties mounting, one base did manage to cross the bridge and get over the roadblock, only to be mown down at point blank by Trevor’s troops.

With casualties mounting, the Dutch withdrew into the dusk. One base of Brett's infantry had managed to cross in all the confusion and occupied an empty house right at the extreme end of the Boompjeskade.

However at the main bridges end, the Dutch marines, and sailors under the command of Phil held on doggedly and were helped by the arrival of some army infantry. At dusk this left the situation as the Dutch holding the Western end of the Boompjeskade in strength, and with a weak foothold on the eastern end. However despite the machinegun fire raking approaches to the area, they did not attempt to dislodge the Germans in the commanding Insurance building position. Under cover of darkness the Germans also succeeded in getting an anti tank gun across to the northern bridge barricade, resited another, and put the remaining 75mm gun in a better position.

The game was very enjoyable. It seesawed back and forth in a fashion that certainly gave one the feeling of a confused battle and as always with Blitzkrieg Commander, the luck alternated between one side and the other. However across the space of the evening I think the Germans had the better of the die rolls, with most of those going to Big Trev, as some of mine were dreadful. Under the scenario the Dutch had failed because they did not force the Germans back to the south side of the NiewMaas, and of course bases of the Waalhaven landing force succeeded in crossing to the north side.

The first wave of Germans land on the Niew Maas, May 10th 1940.

German special Air Landing force lands near the Willemsbrug, May 10th 1940.

Germans land on the Boompjeskade, Rotterdam, May 10th 1940.

German landings seen from the south side.

German landings seen from the air.

A German He-59 taxies ready for take-off.

Curious Dutch civillians watch the Germans deploy.

German air-landing troops open fire from behind a tram.

German roadblock on the north side of the Willemsbrug.

Dutch Marines storm under the railbridge to dislodge the Germans.

Dutch infantry provide covering fire.

Dutch infantry attack!

View from behind the roadblock.

The Germans push forward into the town.

Germans forced to surrender.

Dutch naval trawler under attack!

 
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