VM52 - North Sea near Hook of Holland
The constant spray from the waves was beginning to irritate Lt Van Merwe as the group of motor torpedo boats continued its journey from their normal base at Den Helder to their 'war base' of Zebrugge. The plan was that the flotilla would operate against the French ships operating off the coast of Flanders.
He looked around at the 5 other ships in the flotilla and he wondered how many of them would still be there when hostilities ended, he was realistic enough to know that the life expectancy of coastal forces was not high when the shooting started. The two 20mm mounts were manned and the flotilla had recently had the opportunity to fire them at both surface and airborne targets, he was fairly confident that his crews would more than hold their own against any similarly sized French threats. However Lt Van Merwe fully expected that his likely early opponents were vessels much larger than his own craft engaged in the support of the expected French Offensive along the coast. The strategic objective in his written orders was to provide support to the coastal defences whose role was to secure the right flank of the Dutch Forces and close the Scheldt to enemy forces.
As another wave drenched him, he envied the crews of the two new coastal defence battleships, miniaturised members of the main battle line. The design work which had helped the Finns build their Coastal battleships  had been used to accelerate the production of the two brand new additions to the fleet. Their 6 x 11" guns made them formidable opponents for the size of French ships that were likely to venture north of the French Border, the main French battlefleet with its fearsome new Richelieu class battleships would not be risked in the shallow waters off Flanders. The MTBs had not had chance to exercise with the Coastal Battleships and although the plan was that they would effectively be the torpedo battery of the larger ships - covered by the guns of the battleships on their death or glory rides - they had received orders to proceed south to give all available assistance to the Dutch and Flemish troops.
He wondered how long they would operate from Zebrugge before having to move further north. He was aware that parallel to his southward journey on the water that trains were moving enough supplies for two weeks operations, they would be risking the depot ship this far forward and its separate route to Rotterdam gave a clue as to their final location. That said, he thought although the French may cut off Zebrugge it was not an easy nut to crack and would not fall without a fight.
Some time later he signalled to the other craft to some to action stations as they came within combat range of French forces. His order was perfectly timed as within 10 minutes a L298 floatplane was seen in the distance. As the two combatants saw each other the L298 saw the opportunity to make a passing attach and maybe reduce the odds for the French Coastal Forces. The French were not aware that the VM52 class had 2 x 20mm and this would come as a nasty surprise.
The MTBs came into line astern to allow the greatest number of guns to bear. He looked at his gunner, who returned a determined smile. "hold your fire" order Van Merwe " I want to teach him a lesson not scare him off" the gunner gave him a thumbs up. The floatplane continued to bore in clearly aiming at the lead MTB hoping to cause confusion among the following MTBs if his attack was successful. The L298 was carrying 4 x 50kg bombs which would be more than sufficient to ruin a Dutch mtb's day.
The French plane opened fire first with its two forward firing MGs and a line of splashes marched towards the MTB which was now at top speed. The Dutch flotilla leader signalled to his lead gunner who already lined up on the plane squeezed the trigger, at this the other MTBs also opened fire. The impact of the second, third and fourth shells (from different guns) would have caused major worry for the French pilot however the first shell to hit was a perfect shot crashing through the cockpit glass and detonating in the cockpit. The L298 which was already low immediately lost controlled flight and tilting towards the sea the port wingtip touched the surface and the plane cartwheeled into the sea exploding as the bombs detonated.
The flotilla leader's gunner (for it was his shot) turned to the lieutenant and made the universal gesture of drinking a beer referring to the incentive offered for any one who shot down a plane. Lt Van Merwe made a mental note to next time specify the brand of beer as with shooting like that this could get expensive.
What they could not have known however that although the French pilot had underestimated the defensive armament of the Dutch MTBs with fatal consequences that he had not failed to make a sighting report prior to commencing his attach run. Thus the French Admiral Du Nord (Northern Region) in his bunker at Dunkerque was now aware that the Dutch coastal forces would be operating in his backyard. The rapid buildup of French coastal forces when the Channel/North Sea became a likely battleground meant that the operation of Dutch MTBs off the coast of Flanders would be a significant headache. When their base was known, and there were not many possibilities, he would task the LN411s based at Cherbourg to pay them a visit. His only doubt was whether the Dutch would risk the craft forward in Flanders or further back in the Scheldt at Vlissingen.
 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finnish_coastal_defence_ship_Ilmarinen "Ilmarinen was a Finnish Navy Panssarilaiva ("Armored ship"), a coastal defence ship by British classification. Ilmarinenwas the flagship of the Navy. It was built at the Crichton-Vulcan shipyard in Turku, Finland,..They were designed by the Dutch company NV Ingenieurskantoor voor Scheepsbouw, and were optimized for operations in the archipelago areas of the Baltic Sea. Their shallow draft and super-compact design however gave the ships poor performance in open sea."
Part 5 –
Pieters ducked as another random mortar bomb landed in the fields close to his
foxhole. As a lump of turf next to his spade, he looked at his makeshift unit
and wondered, not for the first and probably not the last time how things had
come to this. He was a member of an LVV (leger van Vlaanderen- Army of
Flanders) unit tasked with the defence, if possible, of Oostende (Ostend)
(which lay close to the French positions on the border. Since the internal
conflict had spread beyond the borders of Belgium and the neighbouring counties
had become involved, at first by political and financial support, then more
actively the position held by Wim's unit had become much more untenable.
The French army was massing a few kilometres away and it was only a matter of time before it advanced, Wim knew his unit stood little chance in the face of a determined assault. Like most of the LVV units it was a mixture of former members of the regular army, reservists and largely untrained volunteers from the area. The breakup of the Belgian armed forces had not been easy and access to arms meant that fist fights following the assassination of the King had rapidly become more serious. A few units tried to stand apart but as violence escalated and it became clear that Flanders and Wallonia were heading for 'divorce' rather than a simply another regional dispute, even these fractured along regional lines. Wim knew that he was lucky, his largely Flemish unit had been stationed at Zeebrugge and there had been no violence with any Walloons allowed to leave peacefully - over the border to France. He knew it hadn't been these peaceful everywhere.
The LVV would depend heavily on its Dutch allies for high command as few of the commanders of the former Belgian army had been Flemish. Their equipment was mostly former Belgian army, the only distinguishing factor an armband in Flemish colours. The Dutch army was deploying into Flanders but Wim knew that would probably be too late to help his unit. He smiles ironically that the only sliver of his, he still thought of it as his, country unconquered during the great war may be the first to fall to their former allies.
Wim's unit knew their main hope lay in French inertia in launching their deliberate offensive and the rumour that Britain would join the Dutch. From where Wim sat the British could help most urgently with air cover and or gunfire support from the Royal Navy, or preventing the French navy doing the same. Both Oostende and Zeebrugge had been 'visited' by French warships last night, from the sound of the explosions the 'visitors' were heavy ones.
The sound of an aircraft engine made Wim look up, he recognised a former Belgian air force Fairy Battle. One of the new recruits started to train the unit's lewis gun on its home made AA mounting at the Battle. Wim shouted to hold fire and as the plane drew closer he could see the hastily applied yellow recognition stripe that identified that the pilot of this plane was Flemish. He wondered when things got 'hot' how many pilots would suffer from 'shoot first apologise later' exacerbated by ex-BAF planes on both sides. This was less of an issue at the coast where Wim's unit was currently dug in (the prime adversary being the French rather than Walloon) than around Bruxelles were the intra-Belgian conflict was more severe.
Wim, as a long term regular soldier knew that the maxim 'if in doubt dig, then dig more' was a good one. He picked up his entrenching tool, turned to his companions, and told them to resume their digging in. They had already constructed a dugout for the ex British great war 18pdr which Wim looked at with professional pride as a job well done, well sited to command the river crossing and well protected from anything but a direct hit.