Netherlands

Netherlands

 

At the outbreak of hostilities in September 1939, the Netherlands intended to remain neutral but was forced into the war on the night of May 10th. 1940, when the country was invaded by paratroop assault. Amongst other targets captured in the early hours of that day, were the airfields at Ypenburg, Ockenburg and Wakenburg, all near the Hague.

At this time the Dutch Air Force possessed a total of 248 aircraft, but many of these were destroyed during the first attacks. Those which survived were heavily outnumbered in the air and were forced down and destroyed by waves of German aircraft. However, they did not go without a fight and over 100 German aircraft were shot down by the Dutch on that first day alone.

Even with the limited help available from the RAF and the French Air Force, the odds against them were too great and by May 13th only 10 aircraft remained and these too were destroyed later that day, the pilot of the last remaining Dutch aircraft announcing his intention to drop his bombs on the occupied airfield at Waalhaven, knowing he would never return.

On May 13th. members of the Dutch Royal family arrived in London, (although Prince Bernhard, who had arrived with them, immediately returned to Holland and fought on with his troops) and on May 14th. they were joined by the Dutch government who continued to govern in exile.

By the end of May, the last of the Netherlands provinces had fallen. However, at the very last moment, the pupils of an army flying school, barely fledgelings, took off and landed on French airfields.

On June 1st 1940, Dutch airmen who had escaped from Holland, especially those from the Dutch Naval Air Service, formed number 320 (Dutch) squadron Royal Air Force, at Pembroke Dock and continued to operate and fight as members of Coastal Command, these men were joined during 1942 by the first Dutch crews trained by the RAF.

Between 1942 and 1945, a further four squadrons were formed. Number 322 (Dutch) squadron, Royal Air Force, numbers 18 and 19 squadrons operating under Australian command, and number 321 squadron operating in the Indies.

In addition to these "Dutch" squadrons, individual Dutchmen fought throughout the war within the Royal Air Force, or as members of other allied air forces.