The Battle for The Hague 10th – 14th May 1940

The Battle involved the first opposed paratroop assault in history. At 4.00am on 10th May 1940, German bombers raided the Dutch airfields of Ypenburg, Ockenburg and Valkenburg which surrounded The Hague. German paratroopers were dropped immediately thereafter to capture these objectives and the city itself. The ultimate plan was to capture the Dutch royal family and government and force the immediate capitulation of the Netherlands. The operation failed to capture the Queen and strong counter-attacks from Dutch forces stationed nearby had, by the evening of the 10th May, dislodged the German paratroopers from the airfields. The main body of surviving troops under Von Sponeck retreated towards the nearby sand dunes where they proceeded to harass and tie down material Dutch forces until the Dutch general surrender five days later.

German paratroopers over the Netherlands

The failure of this operation was due to several factors. The number of actual paratroopers used was relatively small; too small to hold all of the objectives once seized. This aspect was compounded by the fact that due to poor navigation and anti-aircraft fire, a number of groups were dropped miles from their objectives. The paratroops were essentially shock troops and were dependent upon further waves of conventional infantry being flown in to the airfields themselves. German intelligence was poor and failed to identify that the surface of the airfield at Valkenburg was unsuitable for heavy transport aircraft like the Junkers Ju52 to operate from. Hence, when the first wave of reinforcements was landed, a large number of aircraft were damaged or destroyed in heavy landings, or from the attentions of the airfield defences. With the landing strips effectively blocked, the following waves of aircraft were forced to divert, force-land on the nearby beaches or highways, or return to base. Furthermore, the Germans had not appreciated that since their successful use of airborne troops in Norway and Denmark, the Dutch had reacted by concentrating some of their best troops, artillery and heavy armoured cars to the defence of their strategically important airfields. This was particularly the case at Ypenburg and Valkenburg. Anti-aircraft guns were also sited in close proximity to the landing approaches.

Composite of two aerial photographs taken during an attack on Ypenburg airfield, Holland, by Bristol Blenheim Mark IVs of the RAF Advanced Air Striking Force. 250-lb GP bombs can be seen falling over the main Delft-Den Haag road onto the airfield where two German aircraft are parked near the hangars. The bomb craters on and around the site were made during Luftwaffe attacks immediately prior to the German invasion.

While the Luftwaffe was able to provide some air cover from its bases in Germany, it was unable to prevent the Royal Dutch Air Force and RAF Blenheims bombing and strafing the airfields and the stranded transport planes.

German map of The Hague dated 1940

On the first day, in the intense actions immediately around the airfields, the Dutch suffered 239 killed and the Germans 260. The wounded on both sides were more than twice that number and the Germans, over a five day period, had around 1,700 troops captured. The Germans also suffered the loss or damage of 182 transport aircraft. It was a significant reverse for them, in what was a largely swift and decisive campaign in the Netherlands.

To discover more about the Dutch defences, click here.

To read the story of a Dutch soldier in 1939-1940, click here.

To view the relics from a Bristol Blenheim shot down in the RAF raid on Valkenburg airfield, click here.


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