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The Only Dutch Tank - A WOII story

renault dutch tank water grebbe ft-17 sinking

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Tomah4wk #1 Posted 01 May 2013 - 02:15 PM

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As a Dutchy I wanted to share a little story. Bold and embarrassing at the same time, and a classic example of the mindset of the Dutch in the later 1930s, early 40s.

Since Germany started to talk vicious language, the Dutch found it wise to mobilize and modernize the army. However, since the neutrality of WOI worked out well for the Dutch, it was chosen to remain neutral this time. No one thought war was a realistic option. Still, it was decided to buy 110 light tanks and 35 medium tanks. The tanks never made it to the Netherlands before the Germans attacked at May 10 1940. There were however some armored cars in the army, so called "Overvalswagens" (Raid cars). These however more not much more than armor plated tractors or armored cars from Sweden, where the factory was owned by the Germans (hence they knew all the weak spots).

So...no tanks were delivered and only a few armored cars...what was there for the Dutch? A Renault FT-17, as displayed below; the only vehicle that could come close to being a Tank in the Dutch army in 1940.

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Caption: Last week there was an excercise, in the surrounding of Houten, with a device that allows the tank to cope with the "Polder" [Low, wet land], this device is displayed on the back.



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Caption: The war vehicle takes the moat without a problem, before it would have been stuck. Let's hope this invention never has to be used in practice!

The Dutch army prepared for the war, however their mindset, had not progressed much and could be compared to WW1: fortifications and a sitting war were likely, and that's where the enemy would be brought to a standstill.

In order to prepare, the Dutch made use of their low land. They would inundate a whole line (the Waterline), from the Ijsselmeer (former Zuiderzee) all the way to the big rivers, creating a huge bottleneck to the Randstad (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht, The Hague). As displayed below. The red dots are fortifications (often pillboxes).

Posted Image

In order to prove that this line would be impenetrable, they would exercise with their impressive Renault "Gevechtswagen" (Combat vehicle). The result was devastating...the tank nearly sunk in the water and mud as displayed below:

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With great peril and effort the tank was salvaged. The picture however was sent to neighboring countries to induce fear: "Look what happens if you come to our country! Our defenses are impenetrable!". After that the tank was reassigned and kept at an army base, where the engine was taken out; the tank saw no action in May 1940. Further exercises were not needed, since the use of the line was proven. The Dutch had nothing to fear behind the water.

Arrogance is sadly often intertwined with stupidity, so it went for the Dutch. Media footage showed proud soldiers posing at artillery that was from 1894, a bicycle platoon is cycling with high spirits and their uniforms remind of WO1. The Netherlands thought they were ready for war.

So, how did it go for the Waterline? Estimations showed that the line would be able to hold its ground from 4 weeks to 4 months. In reality, it was 3 days. More than 500 Dutch soldiers died, more than 800 Germans bought the farm. The Germans however, skipped the line by dropping paratroopers in the Randstad (in a daring attempt to kidnap the Dutch Queen). Some Dutch high-ranking officer is believed to have said that Paratroopers were "not fair" to use as a form of warfare.

The Dutch signed a surrender treaty not much later, since the Germans threatened to bomb major cities. Even though the treaty was signed already, the bombers were already on the way and the message never reached the planes....Rotterdam was bombed and over 2000 citizens lost their lives.

What can we conclude? The Dutch were very ignorant by thinking that the war would not affect them, then they thought their Waterline would keep the Germans out, but not taking mobile warfare (including airborne attacks) into account. Spirits were high, but they were simply not ready for the highly modernized and mechanized German Wehrmacht. The Netherlands would remain occupied till the 5th of May, 1945.


Edited by EPIC_JackTheRipper, 01 May 2013 - 02:22 PM.


No_One001 #2 Posted 01 May 2013 - 02:22 PM

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The Dutch (me included) have something with water, wet feet and all. And #1 in water engineering

Chamby85 #3 Posted 01 May 2013 - 02:27 PM

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That was a really interesting read +1.

Such a nice change to read a post that isn't complaining

WoTDaFoCh #4 Posted 01 May 2013 - 02:29 PM

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lol great read...and good luck too your new king

yaourti #5 Posted 01 May 2013 - 02:32 PM

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Best post for ages :)

Arkhell #6 Posted 01 May 2013 - 02:32 PM

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Our army is more of a peace keeping army anway because our country is to small to really pose any real threat to anyone. one decent sized bomb and were gone anyway :D

Tomah4wk #7 Posted 01 May 2013 - 02:34 PM

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Thanks for the nice feedback and thanks for the King's wish too:)

Have a few other stories like that, but I "don't want to waste all my gunpowder at once" (old Dutch saying :))

Redez #8 Posted 01 May 2013 - 02:36 PM

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Great read, and as a Dutchman I approve of this thread +1

MissBunny #9 Posted 01 May 2013 - 02:37 PM

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What a great post.  So nice not to read a whine :) Thanks

LekkerBezig #10 Posted 01 May 2013 - 02:41 PM

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That was very interesting to read! Good job. :great:

Koudwater #11 Posted 01 May 2013 - 02:45 PM

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Leuk om te lezen zo!mijn naam is wel erg van toepassing hier, haha :D

Nice read!

CountOfTuscany #12 Posted 01 May 2013 - 02:50 PM

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Interesting post! I didn't knew the army had a single tank in the country and a couple of tanks in order.

OP do you know what tanks were ordered (the 110 lights & 35 meds) and are you willing to post/pm the sources you got the information from?

Cobra6 #13 Posted 01 May 2013 - 02:51 PM

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The Dutch politicians, just like they do now, continue to believe they don't need an army and keep cutting expenses on it. It's only tragedies like this that remind them why every country, no matter the location or the size, needs a proper military machine.
It's a shame those Dutch soldiers had to die so easily because of the stupidity of politicians (who, like now, are rarely in the firing line).

Cobra 6

Edited by Cobra6, 01 May 2013 - 02:53 PM.


Richthoffen #14 Posted 01 May 2013 - 02:58 PM

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verry nice read, never new that tank served in the dutch army,small footnote: not realy tank related but the army had also 50 colt machineguns in order from the USA ("the potato digger")2 where recived for testing and the rest was canceled by the USA as they entered the war.machineguns never saw action and where used for training only

Edited by Richthoffen, 01 May 2013 - 03:00 PM.


Coyotee #15 Posted 01 May 2013 - 02:59 PM

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When the Dutch prepared their defensive lines German officers went over to the netherlands as " tourists" and were just photographing everything. The soldiers knew and informed higher ups and eventually politicians. The politicians decided to do nothing about it since they didn't want to piss off the Germans :P

Also the para assault on the netherlands was super costly for the Germans and can be considered a complete disaster, they lost about 525 transport planes in the assault which was about half of what they had at that time, which made following assaults (crete for instance) much harder.

After 2 days most German paras were either dead  or captured, they had caused chaos in the start, but weren't able to hold any of their objectives, before the Dutch surrendered they send off all the captured paras, some 2000 of them, on a boat to England aswell, among them there were some very high ranking officers, apparently this pissed off the Germans alot :P

In the end the Germans were still at the waterline, were still at the south of rotterdam and couldn't cross the afsluitdijk. Only when they started bombing Rotterdam city center and were threathening to do the same with the rest of our big cities the Dutch surrendered. So eventho the Dutch were ill prepared they held out much longer than to be expected. The Germans expected to go through the Netherlands in 1-2 days tops.

Edited by Coyotee, 01 May 2013 - 03:04 PM.


Redez #16 Posted 01 May 2013 - 03:00 PM

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View PostCobra6, on 01 May 2013 - 02:51 PM, said:

The Dutch politicians, just like they do now, continue to believe they don't need an army and keep cutting expenses on it. It's only tragedies like this that remind them why every country, no matter the location or the size, needs a proper military machine.
It's a shame those Dutch soldiers had to die so easily because of the stupidity of politicians (who, like now, are rarely in the firing line).

Cobra 6
They're actually thinking of buying back some of the Leopards/parts (2A6/7) they've sold to various countries at the moment.. /facepalm

So stupid of them

Edited by Redez, 01 May 2013 - 03:01 PM.


Tomah4wk #17 Posted 01 May 2013 - 03:04 PM

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View PostCountOfTuscany, on 01 May 2013 - 02:50 PM, said:

Interesting post! I didn't knew the army had a single tank in the country and a couple of tanks in order.

OP do you know what tanks were ordered (the 110 lights & 35 meds) and are you willing to post/pm the sources you got the information from?

I PM-ed you, enjoy!

The tanks they had ordered were mainly French and British (Vickers Mk. IV, Matilda I, Somua S35, Renault H-35 and Hotchkiss H-39)

anonym_kL7qtn3e52MB #18 Posted 01 May 2013 - 03:13 PM

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They should reïnstate conscription. Deal done.
Cheaper then a full pro army.
Also less likely to be used in aggressive situations.

I used to be a conscript myself, signed a 4 year contract after that.
Served in the Dutch Airforce as a security guard and in wartime I would be a Stingeroperator.
I was also one of the last conscripts for the Dutch Airforce (Army conscription continued for another year)

Tomah4wk #19 Posted 01 May 2013 - 03:16 PM

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View PostCostarring, on 01 May 2013 - 03:13 PM, said:

They should reïnstate conscription. Deal done.
Cheaper then a full pro army.
Also less likely to be used in aggressive situations.

I used to be a conscript myself, signed a 4 year contract after that.
Served in the Dutch Airforce as a security guard and in wartime I would be a Stingeroperator.
I was also one of the last conscripts for the Dutch Airforce (Army conscription continued for another year)

I do agree, my girlfriend's brother (they are Finnish) had to go in the army for a year (Everyone has to do so in FIN, just like the Germans did up till 4 years ago). It was great fun and a good life's lesson he said. I am sad I never got to do this.

Tomah4wk #20 Posted 01 May 2013 - 04:46 PM

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Big thanks to WG Moderator here - post was restored, but moderated. Thx :)





Also tagged with renault, dutch, tank, water, grebbe, ft-17, sinking

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