This was a German special forces operation by elements of Hauptmann Dr Theodor von Hippel’s Bau-Lehr-Bataillon ‘Brandenburg’ zbV 800, in Belgian and Dutch uniforms, to take and hold tactically important bridges on the Belgian/Dutch border at the start of ‘Sichelschnitt’ (9/10 May 1940).
The Bau-Lehr-Bataillon ‘Brandenburg’ zbV 800 saw extensive service in 'Sichelschnitt' to open the way for the Fallschirmjäger before the Battle of Fort Eben-Emael. On 8 May, two nights before the opening of the German strategic offensive, the 'Brandenburg' unit went into action wearing their opponents' uniforms over their own German uniforms so they could quickly change in case of capture and be treated as prisoners of war rather than spies. Small groups began to cross the border into the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.
One of the few actions which was wholly successful in the opening days of the campaign was the seizure of the river over the Mass river in the Dutch town of Gennep. Here an eight-man team, led by Leutnant Wilhelm Walther, had been given the task of capturing the bridge intact. At 02.00 on 10 May, Walther’s team, disguised as Dutch military policemen escorting German prisoners, made their assault. Two guard posts were destroyed, but three men of the 'Brandenburg' unit were wounded and the team was pinned down. Still dressed in his Dutch uniform, Walther advanced across the bridge, and the confused defenders hesitated, allowing the rest of the German team to kill or capture then before taking control of the bridge and disabling the detonators for the demolition charges the Dutch had attached to the bridge.
Many small-scale operations of this nature were attempted over the course of the campaign. Very few were successful, however, and on another bridge, the men of the 'Brandenburg' unit were arrested by Dutch troops and shot as spies.