On 29 March 2021 Peter Sijnke, historian and former Omroep Zeeland presenter, gave an online lecture titled: ‘’The Forgotten Bombardment,” during which he discussed in detail the devastating bombardment of Middelburg during May 1940. The lecture was complemented by a screening of the short film “Days of May,” produced by former RIAS intern and filmmaker Juri Ferri, which deals with Ferri’s great-grandfather’s experiences as a soldier stationed in Zeeland during the bombardment.
‘’Days of May’’
The event started with a screening of the film ‘’Days of May’’, which deals with the German invasion of the Netherlands from the perspective of a Dutch soldier stationed in Zeeuws-Vlaanderen, the southernmost part of the province of Zeeland. From his post the soldier witnesses the attack on Middelburg. The film focusses mainly on the personal effect of the war in general, and the attack in particular, on the soldier. This due to the fact that the highlighted soldier in the film is the great-grandfather of Juri Ferri himself, and his memoirs form the basis of the story.
‘’The Forgotten Bombardment’’
During the subsequent Roosevelt Lecture, Peter Sijnke provided a unique analysis of the often overlooked attack on Middelburg during the German invasion of the Netherlands in the Second World War. While the bombardment of Rotterdam during the same period is well-known, the city of Middelburg suffered a fate not dissimilar to that of Rotterdam on 17 May 1940. The historical inner city of Middelburg was severely damaged, and many buildings were destroyed.
During the lecture Peter Sijnke explained the confusing nature and purpose of the bombardment. He debunked the myth that it was conducted by German aircraft, as there were simply not enough aircraft in the area to conduct the raid. Furthermore, the airplanes that were in the area, were mostly Junker Ju 87 bombers, better known as Stukas. Stukas were dive bombers, a type of bomber not suitable for city raids, but used for targeting strategic objectives such as bridges.
With the possibility of a bombing from the air excluded, Sijnke explained that the damage on Middelburg was the result of either targeted artillery fire or suppressive artillery fire. With the ongoing battle of the Sloedam and a lot of movement from allied troops in the area, it is safe to argue, according to Sijnke, that the fires which burned the inner city to ashes were a result of artillery shelling from the German side.
The lecture was followed by a lively discussion regarding both the history of the bombardment and Ferri’s great-grandfather’s personal experiences during the event.
The invitation can be downloaded here. The event was recorded, and will soon be available at the RIAS YouTube channel.