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After an original idea by Paul Freeman.
First published 7 Nov 2010. This collection of airfields is © 2010 - 2018 RonaldV





51°52'26"N 004°26'38"E

Flying field xx/xx - xxxxmeter/xxxxfeet - Grass

Airfield Waalhaven (Dutch: Vliegveld Waalhaven ) was an airfield on the south side of the Nieuwe Maas in Rotterdam.
It was opened on 16 July 1920 as the first European airfield strictly for civilian use. Initially it was just a field made of dregded up sand, with no runways. The aircraft that used it were converted military planes. The first Dutch all air-cargo flight left from this airfield in 1924.
In the 1930s the airfield became a major hub in the air routes to London and Paris.

Undated, but known to be before 1930 photo of Waalhaven. We can date the photo because the Waalhaven bassin has not yet reached its ultimate size, which was achieved in 1930. Photo: NiMH on Wikimedia.

Waalhaven was also home to aircraft manufacturers Nationale Vliegtuig Industrie (NVI) and NV Vliegtuigenfabriek Koolhoven.
In 1932 the Graf Zeppelin visited airfield Waalhaven.
Because of it's proximity to the Rotterdam harbour Waalhaven also accepted flights from waterplanes and flying boats.
For this purpose a pier was built into the Waalhaven harbour.

Airfield Waalhaven with a Junkers floatplane (source: Frans Gordijn).

Airfield Waalhaven at night in the 1930s

Undated photo of Waalhaven, presumed to be 1930s. Photo: NiMH on Wikimedia.

Photo of Waalhaven, shot between 1934 and 1940. The photo can be dated because of the two large metal aircraft in the photo: they are Douglas DC series (likely DC-2s). Photo: NiMH on Wikimedia.

By 1935 passenger flights appeared to develop favourably, so a station building and control tower were pressed into service. Unfortunately at the same time KLM decided to move its technical center to Amsterdam Schiphol that same year. The next year the timetable showed only one flight per day to London, whilst four left from Amsterdam. It became necessary to modernise if Waalhaven wanted to keep playing on an international level. Longer runways were needed to cope with larger aircraft. It was thought to be better if Rotterdam invested in a new airfield north of the city in the polder Zestienhoven. The city council was not opposed to the idea, but the real push came when the MoD declared it was willing to buy the airfield for 1.1million Dutch Guilders. A deal was struck that allowed civilian aircraft to operate from Waalhaven until the airport at Zestienhoven was completed. In 1938 the MoD bought the airfield.

Airfield Waalhaven looking west in 1938 (source:

Before the deal was completed mobilisation was declared.
Waalhaven was completely taken over by the military, and closed to civilian air traffic.
Even worse: part of the inventory of the civilian airport was brought to Schiphol
On 30 March 1940 KLM proposed a deal with the Rotterdam Chamber of Commerce: they would open a daily connection to England if the Chamber guaranteed a number of passengers
The flights would leave from a strip of land on the airfield that was cleared for civilian use by the military
The deal was never concluded: on 10 May 1940 the airfield was completely destroyed, first by German and then by Dutch bombs.

Airfield Waalhaven on the eve of World War II (10 May 1940, via Peter van Kaathoven).

May 1940. While preparing to start this Fokker G.1 Mercury 302 of 3e JaVA at Waalhaven was nosed over by an exploding bomb.
(Photo: collection Nederlands Instituut voor Militaire Historie)

On the eve of the invasion 13 Fokker G.I fighters were based at Waalhaven, 11 of which were combat ready.
At 4am two bombers opened the attack, first bombing and then strafing the airfield.
3 Fokkers were lost in the raid, and most of the buildings were burning.
The other 8 went airborne, and found themselves in combat almost immediately.
While more bombers attacked the airfield, the Fokkers shot down 13 enemy planes, against one loss.
Two G.Is landed at Waalhaven due to combatdamage, the others diverted to De kooy, Zevenbergen and the beach at Oostvoorne
Around 5.15am a second wave attacked the airfield, this time joined by Ju-52 troopcarriers.
After heavy fighting the Germans captured the airfield, killing 51 soldiers and taking some 400 prisoners (out of 700 defenders).
the other 250 soldiers got dispersed and were not a coherent fighting force anymore.
Counter attacks, both from the air and from land failed.

Airfield Waalhaven after it was bombed by the Luftwaffe in 1940 (Source Wikipedia/Deutsches Bundesarchiv).

Airfield Waalhaven was one of the locations for food droppins during Operation Manna (29 April - 7 May 1945).
This film of food 'bombings' by RAF Lancasters in Rotterdam surfaced from a house south of Rotterdam in 2011.

Waalhaven was never rebuilt, as both the Germans and later the Dutch deemed it a total loss.
After the war it became the main site of the NATO Pipeline Organisation that provided western Europe with fuel in case the Cold War would turn hot.

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