In order to capture the Queen of the Netherlands and the government, the German army launched operation Fall Gelb on May 10th 1940, where for the first time in modern warfare thousands of paratroopers were deployed in large numbers. The airports Ypenburg, Valkenburg and Ockenburg were among the first attack targets. Kees Oversier (88), then cadet with the Garde Regiment Grenadiers, fought near Ockenburg in The Hague, where the airport was recaptured from the Germans.
It was around four o’clock in the morning of May 10 when hundreds of German paratroopers were dropped around Ockenburg. Kees Oversier, who as a 19-year-old Reservist Cadet Officer and section commander of the 1st Company of the 1st Battalion Grenadiers was stationed a few kilometres north of the airport, said that they were completely taken by surprise by the airborne troops. “We had never been trained for an attack from the air.”
Awakened by the sound of airplanes he immediately reported to Reservist Captain Muller Massis, the company commander. “Ammunition was distributed and we made ourselves ready to advance on the enemy. Where they were, we did not know exactly, but we did go in the direction of the airport Ockenburg in Loosduinen. In any case, we had to ensure that the enemy forces could not advance towards the center of The Hague. In those days communications were very poor, there was little coordination thus allowing anyone acting on their own initiative. However, also a lot of courage was displayed. Knowledge of the strength of the airborne troops we did not have. ”
The airport itself was guarded and defended by troops of the 22nd Depot Company under Captain Boot.
Oversier: “There were roughly a hundred men who had only been in service for three months. They courageously stood firm and given us an opportunity to mobilize and march on”. While the Depot troops battered the German paratroopers and planes with rifles and faltering machine guns, several German transport aircraft still saw a quick opportunity to land, with the result that within a short time about four hundred Germans landed in and around the airport and immediately opened fire on the Dutch troops. Because of their superiority, the Germans managed to capture the airport early in the morning. The Depot troops lost 24 men and 13 were wounded in this attack. Because of the shelling the airport was out of order; it was one big disaster with twenty plane wrecks blocking the runway, making further German landings impossible. Led by General-Lieutenant Graf von Sponeck the Germans spread out in groups into the surrounding woods. In the meantime Dutch troops had begun encirclement of the woods.
Grenadiers and Jagers were quickly given orders to move up to the airport to recapture it. On the north side of Ockenburg the 1st Battalion Grenadier was in action, south-west of the airport, at Monster, the 1st Battalion Jagers. To the east, at Loosduinen, positions where a Grenadiers Section of the 47th Machine Gun Company, 47 PAG (anti-tank guns) and some reinforcements were stationed. The 1 Company Grenadiers, with among others, Oversier marched around eight o’clock in the morning of the 10th of May towards Loosduinen and the airport.
“Civilians were applauding us along the way, glad we went to fight the Germans. The ammunition car soon fell into enemy hands, and there were many skirmishes with the Germans. In the neighbourhood of Loosduinen we came under heavy fire, killing several soldiers and injuring our captain Muller Massis. Command was then transferred to Reservist 1st Lt. Verspyck Mijnssen and I was given responsibility for another section. Now I had as a 19-year-old man suddenly sixty men under me, all fathers with families who were called up during the mobilization. ”
The next day, on May 12, the Grenadiers, in cooperation with the Jagers, were ordered to clear the entire wooded area around Ockenburg. “I have seen dead German paratroopers hanging in the trees. We also came across a number of motor bikes of the DKW brand, which I myself have ridden. The Germans had all sorts of things with them. I heard that they even had a white horse with them one of the planes to parade and mark their triumphal entry. That day we drew further through the woods to Monster, but by then our war was over and done”.
The parachute troops of Graf von Sponeck had regrouped and did not linger here but had moved toward Wateringen. There they fought on properly. Our task came to an end on that third day though, when Rotterdam was bombed and we as winners became the losers. For that we did cry.”
In the Militaire Spectator of August 1941 the fighting around Ockenburg was discussed in detail. The article also mentions the bold attack on the Belvedere by Kees Oversier: ‘Said Ensign behaved here very brave and showed a lot of prudence.’ ‘Fort this courage I received from my Queen Wilhelmina the Bronze Cross, which, in 1946 was awarded to me in the Dutch East Indies. “I was there, since March 1946, after traveling around the world, as staff officer and head of the Combat Intelligence with the Tiger Brigade in Semarang and Salatiga.
But the Bronze Cross is not the only award that Oversier received. During the war he was actively involved in Dordrecht with the underground resistance and he hid, among others, an American pilot who later could flee through the Biesbosch to the liberated south. For that Oversier received the Verzetsherdenkingskruis (Resistance Commemorative Cross) and even an award from General Eisenhower and the British Air Chief Marshal.
Oversier, when folding the old topographic maps of The Hague dunes and airport Ockenburg, says he can look back on an exciting military episode from his life in the Grenadiers, retiring as reserve Major. But when he talks about those days in May 1940, the bombing of Rotterdam and the subsequent capitulation, his voice falters. It keeps sticking in his throat. Never forgotten.
Van overwinnaars naar verliezers door Anne Salomons uit: Checkpoint nr. 4 / mei 2009. Vertaald door John Papenhuyzen op verzoek van Jacques Brijl.