14 May 1940. A German bombardment of less then a quarter of an hour destroys the centre of Rotterdam. The city burns for days. Later the periphery of the bombardment is coined: Fire Boundary.
The first days of war in Rotterdam
The German attack on the Netherlands and on Rotterdam begins on 10th May 1940. Already early in the morning, the Germans conquer the military airbase Waalhaven and soon German water planes land near the “Maasbruggen”, the bridges across the river Meuse. By lack of resistance the enemy can quickly take up its position on both sides of the Maasbruggen, which is very essential to its advance. The Dutch soldiers, with the exception of the Marine Corps based in Rotterdam, are under the command of colonel Scharroo. They are not able to recapture the Maasbruggen. Two efforts of the Navy to try doing so, using torpedo-boats and a torpedo-boat destroyer, are of no avail. In spite of the fact that some German units manage to keep their status quo on the northern bridgehead, the enemy cannot advance any further for the time being. The German and Dutch troops are firing at each other across the river Meuse.
Five days of combat
The time span of the German attack until the Dutch capitulation took up five stirring days. When it becomes clear that the Germans have the intention to further penetrate Holland from southern Rotterdam by crossing the Maasbruggen, the Marine Corps are given the assignment to prevent this. The Maasbruggen must be reconquered on the Germans and be blown up. It is during this futile battle that heroic marines develop into “black devils”, who are supposed to have slaughtered frightened Germaaans with knives in man-to-man combats. Fact is that the marines, with little support, manage to stand firm at the Willemsbrug, because of their tough and persistent defence.
Air raids of 10th – 14th May
Between 10th and 14th May at least twenty airborne attacks are carried out on Rotterdam by the Luftwaffe (10), the Military Aviation (5) and the Royal Air Force (5). The number of casualties amongst the civilian population amounts to an estimated 850 to 950 people. On the 11th May around midnight a heavy bombardment is carried out by the Luftwaffe. Target is the barracks of police forces on the Westersingel and the shelter of soldiers on the Robert Fruinstraat. Among other things, the Schietbaanlaan is struck by some direct hits. There are 40 casualties. The Dutch armed forces lost in total 185 soldiers during those days in May in Rotterdam and surroundings because of bombardments and shootings. Of these perished soldiers, 33 of them belonged to the Royal Dutch Navy and 152 to the Royal Dutch Air force.