Saturday, 25 December 2010

The almost forgotten story behind the lion from Rotterdam.

On the 16 th of december 2010 this Lion was moved to a new location with a special ceremony.

But what is so special about this Lion ?

This Lion was a gift from the city of Rotterdam to the Signal units from the Royal Dutch Army which fought bravely in the defence of Rotterdam and his bridges in 1940 against the invading Germans.
The Lion is one of four lions which where part of the pre-war Four Lion bridge at Rotterdam.

On the 10 th of may 1940 the Germans invaded the neutral Netherlands and due to terrible budget cuts our defence was at a low level.

"We are not prepared " from the famous Fritz Behrendt.

After the First World War which ended in 1918 , a lot of people believed that this war ended all wars and the believe in peace and the deep economic depression in the twenty's and thirties made investments in a strong military defence impopular. Symbolic for the peace movement was the broken rifle.
In the late thirties the Dutch government was not blind for the dangers of Nazi Germany.
But is was to late, for a solid and strong defence you need years and years of investment , and intensive training.
And when a little country is not part of an international defence alliance like the NATO today, you are on your own.

Although we had not sufficient numbers and quality in weapons and ammo, the soldiers from the Dutch Army tried to resist the Nazi invader as good as it could get.

This story is published by Lt. Col. Eppo Brongers in his triology
"Advance to Rotterdam "
In Dutch : Opmars naar Rotterdam, deel 1 De Luchtlanding
ISBN 90 6045 288 7.

From this quality publication , internet sources and the official military history publications i found the following story of heroism.

In 1940 the Signal Units where part of the Engineers which made bridges, cleared minefields and worked with explosives to blow bridges.

The egineers at work with a bridge.

The signal units (Dutch : Verbindingstroepen) where active in sending messages.

This soldier is working with the field telephone.
He is armed with the Carbine M95.

The Carbine M95.

The helmet  M 1934.

A soldier from a signal unit (two crossed flags on the left arm)
with telephone cables in the field.

The badge from the Signal Unit.

Field equipment for telephone line communication.

The German attack 10 th may 1940.

For the Germans the city of Rotterdam was inportant because it was the southern part of the stonghold Holland (Vesting Holland) today called Randstad , the area between Rotterdam, The Hague (Den Haag), Amsterdam and Utrecht. The troops landed on airfield Waalhaven and tank units from the south (area Moerdijk) needed to join for a further attack
in the heart of the Dutch defence.

In the german planning the deployment of paratroopers was rejected because of the density of buildings in the area around the Willems bridge and the Four Lions bridge.
Therefore the Germans used waterplanes from the type Heinkel HE-59.

The Heinkel HE59 was able to land on water
and was armed with machineguns
positioned in front of the first seat.

The Four Lions bridge marked in the circle.

For the defence of Rotterdam the Colonel Scharroo (engineer)
had no impressive fighting force under his command.

The Colonel Scharroo was an intelligent vigorous and
charasmatic officer

One guard company was spread over the different locations in Rotterdam with his logisitc importance.
There where training depots from the Navy, Air Force and
the Army Egineers, most conscripts with a little basic training
or just arrived from civillian life.
The greatest in number was the training depot from the Signal troops : 1500 men with just basic training or less.
The Infantry batalion (III-39 R.I.) had guard troops and was spread over the whole harbor and city ,guarding important locations.

But dont think that the men from III-39 R.I could not fight !
The soldier N.W. Boontjes from this unit was decorated after he was killed in action against German Airborne troopers with a high medal for bravery :
(de bronzen leeuw)
He was armed with the heavy machine gun Schwarsloze :

A serious fighting force where the Professional soldiers from the Royal Dutch Marines, hundred of them where higly trained and 200  where just for 3 or 7 months in active duty.

Officer and N.C.O from the Royal Marines.
The fight from this Marines on the nearby Willemsbrug is also famous.
The Germans called them the black devils.

This painting gives a good impression of the fight in Rotterdam harbour by the Marines.
In the middle, the Lewis machine gun is used.

The lewis machine gun, the magazine on top gave troubles
with jamming parts during low maintenance.

In the early morning on the 10 th of may 1940 Captain Duhoux went to the commandpost from Colonel Scharroo after he had send out patrols to give him information about the enemy airplanes and the shooting of the Dutch anti aircraft guns.
Modern 2 cm Oerlikon anti aircraft gun.

The 2 th Lieutenant H.A. Rodrigo (Signal unit) was send out with ten recruts to the 4 Lions bridge, to clear it from enemy troops and capture the bridge.

Captain J.T. Dohma ( 3 th Cie Signal troops) received orders to recapture the Maas railway station with 80 soldiers. In his plan he attacked from three sides. The enemy was suprised and retreated to the 4 Lions Bridge.

The 2 th Lieutenant Rodrigo reached the bridge and saw that the enemy hold strong defence possitions and was armed with machine guns. A frontal attack with his 10 recruts whith no combat expirimence would be fatal.
The Lieutenant made a smart plan to use the houses near the bridge and Hotel Weimar as fire position.

 The went with his unit to the back of this houses and asked the owners politely if he could use the roof as fire position for his soldiers.
With 5 men he went to the roof.
When he was on the roof he realised that they had a perfect fire possition and he ordered to open fire on the Germans on the bridge.
His men hesitated, not used to war conditions.
The lieutenant took one carbine and opened fire, this was
enough to bring the other soldiers on the roof in action.

The Germans from the 11 th cie from the 16 th Airborne regiment under command of Oberleutant Schrader where suprised.

Oberleutant Schrader and his men.
Schrader did not survive the war, he was killed in 1943 near Sebastopol.

The Germans thougth that the five men on the ground had opened fire and gave fire in that direction. This had no effect because the fire came from the roof. This situation gave panic to the Germans and they went back to the place called Bolwerk near the bridge and made a new fire position behind car opstacles.

The fire position (filled black cirkle) from the Dutch and the retread
of the Germans to the Bolwerk.
After the German retread the Captain L. van Waegeningh ( 2 th. cie. signal troops) arrived from the direction Haringvliet and Oosterkade with 90 men.
They possitioned themselve after receiving heavy fire near the Four Lions bridge and Oosterkade.

The deffencive possitions at the Oosterkade (near the river) near the
Four Lions bridge.

After this action the Germans retreated from the barricade at the Bolwerk and left there anti tank rifle behind.

German 7.92 mm Panzerbusche.

This anti tank rifle was recaptured with 20 rounds by two vollonteers the soldier Van der Werff and the sergeant Verver. And they could use it against the Germans when they went back to their own possioton at the Oosterkade.
The forces from Capt. Van Waegeningh had just one light machinegun but Lieutenant Rodrigo had also captured two German light machine guns from the Heinkel airplanes in the harbour.

A young officer cadet F.C. de Boer from the first Cie. Signal troops was send with a few men to the White house which had a great view on the surroundings.

The White house with perfect firing positions to all sides.
Below the Willems bridge and right the Four Lions bridge.

 Into the White House this unit could open fire on German troops which came from the north and wanted to capture the Jan Kuiten bridge.

The firing position on the Jan Kuitenbridge.

But with the light carbines it was not possible to fire on the Willems bridge.
With the help of the Marines with machine guns this problem was solved.

I hope this story gave you a good impression about the fight of the Signal Units around the Four Lions bridge in Rotterdam 1940.
One Lion is now a Regimental Lion and a iconic symbol for
the fighting spirit of these days.
With great respect we will remember all the men who died in this war and the missions after the Second World War. There names are on copper plates near the Regimental Lion.

Today the three remaining lions from the Four Lions bridge have a new destination since 1964 at the Maas boulevard near the Lion apartments.

Let us never forget what happened at Rotterdam in 1940.

Marked on the Regimental standard from the Signal Troops :
Rotterdam 1940.

Today's badge with blue/white background.
Nunsius Transmitendus !
The message most come trough !

And with the fighting spirit from the Signal troops during the
Second World War in our mind, today every soldier
is also a rifleman.


Saturday, 20 November 2010

You can talk about the political side of the story, who's right and who is wrong.
You can discuss how long you must stay with your mission.
You can have a dissent about local corruption.
You may think that we must look to the other side or go home as soon as possible.

But let us never forget that this is a story which goes about people.
Men women and children who want to live a normal live without terror and political or religious pression.

This great picture which i received from a Dutch Lebanon Veteran tells
the story about a little girl in Afghanistan which survived an attack by rebels
which wanted to kill the whole family.
All died, she survived.

The nurses told that the little girl could only sleep in the arms
of John Gebhardt,  he took her in his arms in this chair for 4 nights
to calm her and give her a comfortable rest.

I think that a lot of fathers like me think about the time
their children were little baby's when they see this picture.
And think about the nights they gave comfort to their child.

John Gebhardt, you are a great man !
With deep respect.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Two books and a stack of mysterious pictures.

In 1985 after my grandfather died
i received two books and
a stack of mysterious

Two books about The Great War
written by Dr. A . Zijp.

The content of the two books was in its original form a magazine with news from The Great War (1914-1918) and later compiled in a book.
With this two books came a stack of original pictures with date marks, stamps and discribtions on the backside.
What was the meaning of this combination ?
The pictures series follows the different regional news on various fronts like the Polish Legion in the Carpathian mountians, the Turkish front, etc.
Are the pictures the left overs after they published the book ?

What i realised in later years after some research in books and files is the fact that a few pictures are very special.
The first picture is about the German wing adjutant of the German Emperor Count Estdorf in a meeting with a delegation of Greek Officers.
Note the envelope with the seal.
What's the meaning of this meeting and what's in the
sealed envelope ?

Has this something to do with the neutral position of Greece ?
The Prime Minister Venizelos was on the side of the Western Allies but King Constatin was on the side of the Germans and promissed strict neutrality to Germany by his pro-German Minister for Foreign affairs Streit.

The following serie is from a German oficer during the First World War (1914-1918), but who was this officer and why did he receive so much medals and such an impressive funeral ?

After some research i found out that this is a original picture from the greatest German aviator ever, Oswald Boelcke.
Not the German type war crime nazi from what we later called the Second World War but a very intelligent and nobel man who was the founding father of what's now called Dog fight. The basic rules, organisation and tactics for air combat.
Together with his commerade Max Immelmann they transformed military aviation with most reconnaissance flights and observer tasks into fighting units.

This started with a copied and improved design from the Morane-Saulnier and
Anthony Fokker the Dutch pilot and producer of airplanes in Germany build with the Morane in his mind the Fokker E1. The special thing about this design is its capability to fire the machinegun with a synchronised desgin meganism in front of the pilots face and through the propeller blades without damage for the propeller.
This was a big advantage in air combat and a novelty these days.
But what's so nobel about Oswald Boelcke ?
The first thing is that he rescued a boy from the water in occupied France and saved the life of this 11 years old boy.
The second thing is that he had a positive attitude against his opponent when a pilot survived after being shot down.

As one of the first German pilots Boelcke and Immelmann both received the highest German award, The Blue Max, The Pour Le Merite.
The German version of a Pilots wing
on the uniform.
An artist impression of air combat.

In october 1916 in a fatal accident in the air Oswald Boelcke did not survive.
He received an inmpressive funeral.
The following pictures are from my grandfathers collection :

On the site from Gaston Graf about Jagdstaffel 2 "Boelcke"i found this picture of his grave.

Even today the name of Oswald Boelcke lives on
in the modern German Fighterbomber wing 31 Boelcke in Norvenich.