Belgium 1940

Discussion in '1940' started by handtohand22, Aug 4, 2006.

  1. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Gort knew already on the 26th of May that the Belgian army was unable to " fill the gap in the direction of Ypres "
    and that the only hope of saving the situation was a counter attack by Gort or by reserves of which he had none ! So we are at odds as to what extent of BEF troops rushed into the area to fill the gap?
    Besides the British had abandoned the Weygand Plan after the failure at Arras on May 21-22- 23.
    The Belgians counted on the Weygand Plan for a determined attack south of Arras, the possibility of such an attack being successful had been diminished by the British failure at Arras.Thus Gort diverted troops north to Gravelines Douai- Bethune in the west. The wedge driven by the enemy between the British and Belgian was greatly widened, the Belgians already holding a front of 90 kilometers had no reserves left to throw into the gap.Already deployed toward a different objective, Gort was then in full flight to the coast.

    The Belgians had suffered so seriously from low flying attack that they were on the verge of cracking, unless strong RAF intervention took place.
    No such intervention ever took place.

    On the 25th may, by which time Gort had decided to withdraw, The BEF were holding 97 miles of the 128 mile front of the British / French salient, suggesting that they were doing their share. They were not at that time 'in full flight to the coast.'

    The 'British failure' at Arras was of course a British / French failure and was substantially contributed to by the failure of the French to deliver forces. This is of course a criticism of those in command and not of the soldiers on the ground, of whichever nationality.

    Gort certainly knew that an eight mile gap had appeared beyond the Lys towards Ieper as the Belgians were driven northwards. Only units of the British 12th Lancers were present. 143 Brigade were sent immediately and 13th & 17th Brigades of 5 Division were present from 26th May. These three brigades together with 1 Corps Heavy Artillery faced three divisions of the German IV corps.

    ...That sounds like a pretty determined effort to plug the gap to me.

    If the Belgians were troubled by aircraft attack then one has to question the extent of their anti-aircraft provision and also the state of 'preparedness' which led to their airforce being almost totally destroyed on the ground on 10th May

    It ia also a little unfair to criticise the RAF whose suicidal attempts to destroy the bridges that the Belgians had failed to blow on the Albert canal led to such losses of Fairy Battles and their crews.

    Peter Taghon refers to the decision to locate the Commander of the Grenswielrijders / Cyclistes Frontieres in Lanaken, out of sight of the bridges for which he was responsible as "een fiasco" I have seen it reported that the ultimate decision to demolish the bridges was only taken once a messenger had cycled to HQ to request it.

    Ultimately, it probably is all the fault of the British. After all, it was they who allowed the odd historical anomally of Belgium to be created when with hindsight, it would probably have been better to give half to France and half to the Netherlands. It would certainly have saved a lot of whinging about always being other people's battleground (conveniently forgetting that the indigenous aristocracy of the region were just as prone to starting wars as anyone else).
  2. LIII1940

    LIII1940 Junior Member

    So where does the King of Belgians allegiance lie a hundred years after the creation of Belgium? Does it lie with the big powers or does it lie with the people of Belgium? He thought, correctly I think, that it lay with his people.

    In similar vein does the United States owe anything to France because they finally intervened in their revolution [after it was clear that we were going to win]? I think not.

    Sir Roger Keyes, Lord of Zeebrugge and Dover, had been appointed by Winston Churchill, on 10th of May, as a special liaison officer to King Leopold III. The Admiral remained with the King until the evening of 27th May, when he and Colonel Davy were picked up by a torpedo boat. They reached Harwich at 8h30 on 28th May.

    These two officers were expert witnesses of the heroic battles of the Belgian army.but Churchill had already made up his mind: he, just like Paul Reynaud, was going to indicate Leopold III and his army as a scapegoat.

    He did not want to hear the real story of the two gentlemen officers; instead he categorically did forbid Admiral Keyes to speak out publicly.

    Even though King George spoke out in favour of Leopold III, Churchill persevered in his vendetta against Leopold III and the Belgian people which he seemed to dislike altogether.

    Lord Keyes would, many years later, state (in his book: A sea of troubles) that the references, made by Churchill in his book The Second World War, were in fact so unfair and misleading-due to omissions and distortions of the facts-that his son, Randolph Churchill, (according to the former archduke Otto von Habsburg) furiously said to him: What you have said and written about this, is nothing else but a heap of lies, as you very well know.

    The archduke who was present, describes in his book Naissance dun Continent this heated discussion, which took place at Chequers, the official country house of the British prime minister.

    He remembers how Churchill admitted, in a provocative way: Of course these were lies, but you must not forget that the history of a period is determined by its best author. I am and will remain this author and therefore, whatever I wrote will have to be accepted as being the truth.


    Lord Keyes son speaks speaks on the topic

    Once again not my words, but that of Lord Keyes son.
  3. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Your link doesn't work.

    I've merged your last 3 posts as they really were about the same thing.

    This might be of interest to those who are trying hard to follow the gist.
    Feeding the Crocodile: Was Leopold Guilty
  4. LIII1940

    LIII1940 Junior Member

  5. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Also dead.

    To test a link before submitting a reply - click Go Advanced and then Preview Post.
    A box will appear above the Message box showing you what the link looks like - you can click and check before committing to sending the post.

    Upon checking with others, the access problem seems to be entirely mine. Apologies LIII.
  6. LIII1940

    LIII1940 Junior Member

  7. LIII1940

    LIII1940 Junior Member

  8. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    You're welcome.
    If it's not too rude to ask, did you have something to do with the research into that article?
  9. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

  10. idler

    idler GeneralList

    Churchill’s comments in the Commons about King Leopold’s surrender, though not as censorious as those of Reynaud or Lloyd George, were certainly significant:

    I have no intention of suggesting to the House [WSC said in the Commons] “that we should attempt at this moment to pass judgment upon the action of the King of the Belgians in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief of the Belgian Army. This army has fought very bravely and has both suffered and inflicted heavy losses. The Belgian Government has dissociated itself from the action of the King, and, declaring itself to be the only legal Government of Belgium, has formally announced its resolve to continue the war at the side of the Allies.3

    Churchill wrote in rather milder terms the second volume of his postwar memoirs:

    Upon all this there now descended a simplifying catastrophe. The Germans, who had hitherto not pressed the Belgian front severely, on May 24 broke the Belgian line on either side of Courtrai, which is but thirty miles from Ostend and Dunkirk. The King of the Belgians soon considered the situation hopeless, and prepared himself for capitulation. 2


    Churchill’s relatively equable handling of the subject in June 1940 was too much for the excitable Reynaud, who complained bitterly that Leopold had let down the Franco-British armies. Churchill thus added in his book:

    Concern was expressed by the French Government that my reference to King Leopold’s action was in sharp contrast to that of M. Reynaud. I thought it my duty, when speaking in the House on June 4, after a careful examination of the fuller facts then available, and in justice not only to our French Ally but also to the Belgian Government now in London, to state the truth in plain terms:

    “At the last moment, when Belgium was already invaded, King Leopold called upon us to come to his aid, and even at the last moment we came. He and his brave, efficient Army, nearly half a million strong, guarded our left flank and thus kept open our only line of retreat to the sea. Suddenly, without prior consultation, with the least possible notice, without the advice of his Ministers and upon his own personal act, he sent a plenipotentiary to the German Command, surrendered his Army, and exposed our whole flank and means of retreat.

    “The brave and efficient army of which I spoke had indeed conducted itself in accordance with its best traditions. They were overcome by an enemy whom it was beyond their power to resist for long. That they were defeated and ordered to surrender is no slur upon their honour or reputation.” 5

    If that's the basis of the case against 'the British', why the hysteria?

    Churchill acknowledges that the King's army fought bravely until its situation was hopeless. Even when he 'moderates' his tone to keep the French and Belgian governments onside, he is pretty much stating fact. Did Churchill say anything after the war that was significantly worse?

    Aren't the real villains of the piece the French and Belgian Governments? The former because they wanted a scapegoat to distract from the even more open southern flank of the BEF; the latter because the King fought instead of signing their armistice?

    Leopold was guilty of ordering the capitulation because he did. I've never heard any suggestion that he should have felt guilty for having done it. The Belgians had reached the point where further sacrifice would have brought little result other than annihilation - precisely the same situation the BEF were in with regard to the French (the only difference being that we had an alternative to capitulation).

    The interesting - though not entirely surprising - detail from the snipped bit:
    Churchill was being inordinately kind to the exiled Belgian government, then in France, led by Prime Minister Pierlot and Foreign Minister Paul-Henri Spaak (a postwar secretary-general of NATO and founder of what became the EU). That same government which Churchill said was resolved to continue the war had repeatedly asked Leopold to sign an armistice with Hitler—which conveniently might have allowed them to return to Brussels (as Nazi puppets). Spaak later admitted that, by refusing his support, Leopold had prevented him and his colleagues from becoming Nazi collaborators. But at the time, Spaak and Pierlot considered the war to be lost. Later they found their way to London, where their government-in-exile remained for the duration of the war.4
    is that the founder of what was to become the EU wanted to be a Nazi puppet.
    dbf likes this.
  11. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    On the subject of Belgium being so well prepared for war...

    There's the story of elgium's 27 A.G.C.1 tanks that they bought from France ;) Remember I noted that the Belgian government specifically DIDN'T buy tanks because of the signal it sent about its neutrality?

    Well - they did. Once....

    The Auto Mitrailleuse de Combat Renault type A.C.G.1 Modèle 1935 or abbreviated, the A.M.C. Renault type A.C.G.1 Mle. 35, was armed with a 47mm canon and a coaxial MG. Twenty-five units were ordered by the Belgians from Renault.

    These ACG1 weren't completely finished when delivered, the turret wasn't on the hull and they weren't armed, though separately the Belgian governement ordered more turrets then hulls. The Belgian army assembled and tested one example by the Chasseurs Ardennais during a maneuvre in the Ardennes forest, the Chausseurs Ardennais said the vehicle was not suited for there operations in the Ardennes forest...

    But meanwhile the belgian government had a change of heart; as discussed, it thought that these "aggresive" weapons might threaten their Neutrality and they decided not to assemble the others :huh:

    So the remaining 24 weren't assembled, they were pushed out of the Carel factory in Ghent and left to rust in the factory yard! In a panic, in 1939 12 examples were overhauled, armed and out into service - but the others were lost to corrosion or had to be cannibalised for spare parts to get those 12 ACG1s up and runing! :lol:

    Other examples? Only about 60% of the pillboxes in the KW-Line were ever built at all; a further 10% were built but never armed or equiped. This left HUGE holes in the belgian Army's plans for interlocking fields of MG fire protecting the quite thin Line.

    Another? When the Cointet fence was constructed, where there were no convenient river bottoms to flood, a line of flood ditches were built - basically concrete-lined anti-tank ditches with ponds/dams along its length; in a panic, the dam gates could be lifted, flooding the ditch...

    On the three occasions the Belgians moved the Cointet fence - they didn't build new flood ditches!

    The above story of tghe AGC1 tanks dates from 1937-38....they SHOULD have been bought in 1935 out of the new expanded defence budget!

    Avions Fairey, the Belgian-based licensee formed to built Fairey aircraft under licence for the belgian government, built Fairey Fox light two-seat recce bombers for the Belgian Air Force mid-decade - however, again the belgian government ordered these to be completed NOT as bombers - an offensive weapon - but as single-seat defensive fighters!

    The Aeronautique Militaire seems to have pursued the same "non-offensive" idea of neutrality as rigidly as the Belgian Army did :lol: In 1935 it replaced its Breguet Br.19 recce bombers with the Renard R-31 recce and Army cooperation aircraft. Most were destroyed on the ground in 1940...BUT of the 56 sorties flown by the survivors in May 1940, notably NONE were Army Cooperation ground-support sorties, they were ALL only recce sorties.
  12. LIII1940

    LIII1940 Junior Member

  13. Colane

    Colane Junior Member


    How funny this rather "hostile" posting ends on the 11th of november!

    I find it very suiting!

    Being a Belgian myself (From Flanders I might add)
    I regret that this thread, wich seemed promising in it's title,
    turned out to be such a flaming about who should be gratefull to who etc.

    I guess another opinion can't harm ... :)

    I believe Leopold did the best he could!
    Belgium was still recovering from the first war;
    It's people had suffered and Leo tried his best to prevent it from happening again!
    Little did he know in the very beginning, that Adolf was going to do what he did?!
    Hell, the entire world couldn't believe it when he started invading and ripping up conventions...

    When the shit actually hitted the fan; it was too late!
    I guess Leo then took on his "marterer" role wich by the way,
    I found noble of him! Stick with your people!

    OK, Belgium was scared as hell to get caught in a war again!
    they didn't want to challenge anyone, so they didn't "gear up".

    The only thing that was awesome was the "reserve army"!
    Untill it had to be deployed;
    this is how it went in limburg; the province closest to the german border

    On 27 sept. 1938 there was a mobilization;
    but after the Munich Convention Leo thinks the coast is clear for now.
    there is a demobilization on 1 oct. 1938.
    Some negative experiences makes the general staff decide that the next mobilization schould be fazed... (from A to E)
    When things heat up between Germany and Poland in august 1939 the general staff mobilizes the army through these fases in august, september and november...
    fase E; full mobilization; is done on 10 may 1940.

    Young men between 16 and 35 have to report to gathering places by own means (train, foot, bycicle, hitch-hike, whatever)
    But the german troops march so fast, chaos erupts and the gatheringpoints can't sustain the mass flow of reservists.

    on may 18 1940 Belgium surrenders and most of the men can go home wothout much troubles ...

    SO, that great army didn't really get together...
    so, you can't make a stand without an army ...

    Honestly; I'm glad the mobilization failed!
    Those poor soldiers would have been trampled by the german warmachine!
    some "armored cars"? machine guns?

    I'm sorry; but our army couldn't match that of germany, or brittain...

    we just had some bolt rifles...

    It's a good thing the belgian army didn't really come to a fight;
    many would have lost their lives!

    Hold on! I'm not saying the were NO battles!
    the battles fought by belgians were fierce and heroic!
    we just didn't stand a chance!
  14. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    From Flanders Colane ? You're a Limburger (or a Luikenaar if you go back far enough !:))

    This was an old thread which was rather hi-jacked by someone calling himself Leopold III. (I suspect that it was actually Queen Fabiola on a bad hair day):unsure: He joined on 7th November, posted untill the 11th and last visited on 13th November.

    Poor old Leo didn't quite realise that the way to win friends for Belgium on what is after all a predominantly UK based forum with a great deal of respect for the British armed forces, is not to wade in without introduction and start slagging off the Commonwealth forces (during 1940 or at any other time).
  15. Colane

    Colane Junior Member

    Idd :D
    I am a Limburger indeed ;)

    I can understand Leo's frustration a bit;
    but we can't really say we had a massive army and gave Jerry a hard time ...

    I am truly gratefull en full of respect for the sacrifices made by all soldiers on our soil ...

    It was by looking up info on the Irish Guards that I stumbled upon this forum...

    Our village just installed a new monument for the victims of WW1+2
    It's a Mill-stone because a family was excecuted by their mill by the germans during their retreat ...
    but it's also for several soldiers ...
    I'll try to post some pictures around here someday!

  16. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Our village just installed a new monument for the victims of WW1+2
    It's a Mill-stone because a family was excecuted by their mill by the germans during their retreat ...
    but it's also for several soldiers ...
    I'll try to post some pictures around here someday!

    You could link to 'Het Belang' :)

    Houthalen-Helchteren - Helchteren onthult oorlogsmonument -
  17. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Something resembling a translation of that page here
  18. phylo_roadking

    phylo_roadking Very Senior Member

    they didn't want to challenge anyone, so they didn't "gear up".

    Credit where credit is due - they did....through the 1920s ;) During that decade Belgium's army was as strong as any in Europe for its size, and it was a FULL member of the Locarno pact, kept up its annual exercises/manouvers with the French and British etc.

    The problem was - of course - technology changes, and perhaps nowhere faster than in the armed services of the day. by 1930 the Belgian Army needed a great deal of new investment....and got it....but by 1935 was needing MORE! :( By 1935 it was short on aircraft, short on mechanisation/motorisation, short on AA capability...tho' the levels it DID have were once perfect for a 1920's army.

    Belgium only faced the same problem that affected small countries all over Europe; you couldn't have enough money to spend if you only had a relatively small taxpaying population! :mellow: Norway for instance slid past the problem in ANOTHER way; the first true "Welfare State" in Europe, to fund THAT the personal tax burden on individual Norwegians was very large. To get the money for this the Norwegian government spent pennies on its armed forces through the 1930s...they stopped holding even the Reserve army's annual manouvers in 1936, and of each year's three conscript divisions, only TWO were ever fully equiped or even trained during their conscript service! Coastal defences were elft to rot, there were cracked barrels and trunions in many coastal batteries, and guns sent to Narvik were never ever mounted, just left to rust among the weeds.

    Belgium tried - they at least DID build the KW-Line, however useless, they DID form and equip the Chasseurs Ardennais, and those few dozen Vickers-hybrid "self propelled guns" WERE excellent tank-killers as it turned long as they lasted.
  19. Colane

    Colane Junior Member

    You could link to 'Het Belang' :)

    Houthalen-Helchteren - Helchteren onthult oorlogsmonument -

    Something resembling a translation of that page here

    Nice jobs! :D

    Phylo; your absolutely right!
    I was'nt trying to bring down the belgian army of those days,
    I was however trying to get back onto other historical facts about belgium during 1940 ...

    I don't know too much about it really;
    therfore I'd like to know more :)
    (also +1940 ...)

  20. Hi,

    I assumed they were his words and your last post is a cut and paste from Wikipedia-Keep reading down and see what it says about his connection with Guderian after the war ;)

    He also falsly claimed that Blitzkrieg tactics were his idea after the war. I wouldn't read too much into what he said if he falsly claims credit for ideas that are not his.

    Quote After the First World War, two men, Captain Basil Liddell Hart and Major General JFC Fuller, preached that the future lay in massed formations of fast tanks, supported by mobile self-propelled artillery and infantry carried in tracked armoured vehicles. Instead of hammering away at a wide sector of front, as in 1914-1918, the armoured formations would exploit a weak spot in the enemy defences and pour through in what Liddell Hart and Fuller called an 'expanding torrent', to attack vital points in the enemy's rear and paralyze him. In 1926, the British Army set up an experimental mechanized force to practice and develop these theories of Armoured warfare. But two years later the conservative element within the army disbanded the force. Unquote What do you think Guys. Is this another british invention put on the heap for another to take up. I don't know. I am just quoting out of a book.

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