Bombing of the Bezuidenhout

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Bombing of the Bezuidenhout
Part of World War II Operation Crossbow
V-2 Rocket On Meillerwagen.jpg
Motorized Nazi artillery launched 1,027 V-2 rockets at London from The Hague – 79 failed at launch and only 600 reached London[1] (Backfire V-2 shown on Meillerwagen).[2]
Date 3 March 1945
Location The Hague
52°05′02″N 4°20′17″E / 52.084°N 4.338°E / 52.084; 4.338Coordinates: 52°05′02″N 4°20′17″E / 52.084°N 4.338°E / 52.084; 4.338
Result All bombs missed the 1.5 miles x 0.5 miles forest target (Haagse Bos)[3] by more than 500 yards ("incorrect allowance for the wind"[4]/"map-reading error")[5] and hit the Bezuidenhout neighbourhood instead.[6][7][8]
Belligerents
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Second Tactical Air Force
-No. 137 Wing
-No. 139 Wing
Flag of German Reich (1935–1945).svg 902nd Artillery Regiment z.V. (Motorized)[9]
Commanders and leaders
Air Marshal Sir Arthur Coningham
Strength
56 Boston & B-25 Mitchell bombers[5]
Casualties and losses
Bezuidenhout civilian casualties (collateral damage):

The bombing of the Bezuidenhout took place on 3 March 1945, when the Royal Air Force accidentally bombed the Bezuidenhout neighbourhood in the Dutch city of The Hague. At the time, the neighbourhood was more densely populated than usual with evacuees from The Hague and Wassenaar; tens of thousands were left homeless and had to be quartered in the Eastern and Central Netherlands.

The British bomber crews had intended to bomb the Haagse Bos where the Germans had installed V-2 launching facilities that had been used to attack English cities. But the pilots were issued with the wrong coordinates so the navigational instruments of the bombers had been set incorrectly, and fog and clouds obscured their vision. The bombs were instead dropped on the Bezuidenhout residential neighbourhood.

Event[edit]

On the morning of 3 March 56 medium and light bombers of the North American B-25 Mitchell and Douglas Boston types from No. 137 and No. 139 wings of the Second Tactical Air Force took off from Melsbroek near Brussels and Vitry in Northern France. Between 8 and 9 o'clock in the morning the bombers dropped 67 tonnes of high explosive bombs on the Bezuidenhout,[10] wreaking widespread destruction.[11]

Because there were insufficient fire engines and firemen (as many of them had been either called up for forced labour in German industry or had gone into hiding to prevent being signed up) the resulting fire was largely unchecked,[10] killing 511 people,[6] including eight firemen.

The Theresiastraat in the Bezuidenhout before World War II

As soon as the British realized the extent of the damage, they dropped fliers over the neighbourhood apologizing for the error.[12] Trouw, the Dutch resistance newspaper, reported:

"The horrors of the war are increasing. We have seen the fires in The Hague after the terrible bombings due to the V2-launching sites. We have seen the column of smoke, drifting to the south and the ordeal of the war has descended upon us in its extended impact. We heard the screaming bombs falling on (the) Bezuidenhout, and the missiles which brought death and misery fell only a hundred metres from us. At the same time we saw the launching and the roaring, flaming V-2, holding our breath to see if the launch was successful, if not falling back on the homes of innocent people. It is horrible to see the monsters take off in the middle of the night between the houses, lighting up the skies. One can imagine the terrors that came upon us now that The Hague is a frontline town, bombed continuously for more than ten days. Buildings, burning and smouldering furiously, a town choking from smoke, women and children fleeing, men hauling furniture which they tried to rescue from the chaos. What misery, what distress."[12]

Commemoration[edit]

Monument of Juliana of Stolberg and her five sons, which survived the bombing and now also doubles as a monument for its victims

The bombing is commemorated every year on the first Sunday after 3 March. In 2011 Mayor Jozias van Aartsen[13] of The Hague as well as the Mayors of Wassenaar and Leidschendam-Voorburg (residents of both towns helped with firefighting and caring for the survivors) were present at the remembrance ceremony, which consisted of a church service, the laying of a wreath at the Monument of the human mistake (Dutch: Monument van de menselijke vergissing) and a remembrance concert in the Royal Conservatory of The Hague.[14] A similar church service and concert were held in 2012.[15]

Statistics[edit]

As a result of the bombing, there were:[6]

  • 511 fatalities
  • 344 wounded
  • 20,000 people left homeless
  • 3,250 burned out residences
  • 3,241 damaged residences
  • 391 irreparably damaged residences
  • 290 destroyed businesses
  • 5 destroyed churches
  • 9 destroyed schools
  • 10 destroyed public buildings

References[edit]

  1. ^ Kooy, Dr. J. M. J; Uytenbogaart, Prof. Dr. Ir J. W. H (1946). Ballistics of the Future With Special Reference to the Dynamical And Physical Theory of the Rocket Weapons.  (Kooy-Uytenbogaart launch figures are from Space Travel, Gatland & Kunesch, 1953 Second impression, p. 52-3; and Kooy-Uytenbogaart location information was used as source for the 1973 Gravity's Rainbow.)
  2. ^ Kennedy, Gregory P. (1983). Vengeance Weapon 2: The V-2 Guided Missile. Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution Press. pp. 44, 45, 48. 
  3. ^ "Bezuidenhout Bombing Remembered". The Hague Online. 4 March 2011. Retrieved 13 March 2012. 
  4. ^ Collier, Basil (1976) [1964]. The Battle of the V-Weapons, 1944–1945. Yorkshire: The Emfield Press. p. 133. ISBN 0 7057 0070 4. 
  5. ^ a b Garliński, Józef (1978). Hitler's Last Weapons: The Underground War against the V1 and V2. New York: Times Books. p. 184. 
  6. ^ a b c d (Dutch) Bombardement Bezuidenhout 3 maart '45 Voor velen stortte in luttele minuten de wereld in elkaar, Amigoe di Curacao, 4 March 1965
  7. ^ (Dutch) Geschiedenis van 747. Afl.4: Bombardement Bezuidenhout, VPRO, 25 July 2004
  8. ^ (Dutch) Bommen op Den Haag, NOS, 3 March 2005
  9. ^ Ordway, Frederick I, III; Sharpe, Mitchell R (1979). The Rocket Team (hyperlink to index). Apogee Books Space Series 36. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell. pp. 221, 226. ISBN 1894959000. 
  10. ^ a b (Dutch) "Bombardement op Bezuidenhout maart 1945" [Bombing of the Bezuidenhout March 1945]. Koninklijke Bibliotheek. Retrieved 5 December 2013. 
  11. ^ Stichting Ons Erfdeel (1998). The Low Countries: arts and society in Flanders and the Netherlands, a yearbook 9. Flemish-Netherlands Foundation. p. 113. 
  12. ^ a b Verbeek, J. R. (2005). "Bombardment on Bezuidenhout". Retrieved 13 March 2012. 
  13. ^ (Dutch) Speech by Mayor Van Aartsen at the commemoration of the bombing, Municipality of The Hague, 7 March 2010
  14. ^ (Dutch) Honderden herdenken bombardement Bezuidenhout, ANP (published on Nu.nl), 6 March 2011
  15. ^ "Bezuidenhout Bombing Commemorated". The Hague Online. 5 March 2012. Retrieved 13 March 2012. 

Further reading[edit]

  • (in Dutch) Carlo Tinschert, Boodschap aan de bevolking van Den Haag – Oorzaken, gevolgen en nasleep van het mislukte bombardement op het Bezuidenhout, 3 maart 1945, Sdu Uitgevers, The Hague ISBN 9012111889