german invasion of belgium ww2

[84] Many captured members of the resistance were also sent to concentration camps. The Panzer Corps ran into retreating French columns and inflicted heavy losses on them. The RAF Advanced Air Striking Force, which included the largest Allied bomber force, was reduced to 72 aircraft out of 135 by 12 May. [120] By 4 September, Brussels was in Allied hands. [120], Churchill and Maxime Weygand, who had taken over command from Gamelin, were still determined to break the German line and extricate their forces to the south. The French 1st Army included General René Prioux's Cavalry Corps. However severe the trial may be, you will come through it gallantly. [59] The réfractaires were often aided by resistance organisations, such as Organisation Socrates run by the Front de l'Indépendance, who provided food and false papers. The Belgian Army had 10 tanks, the French 3,063, the British 310 and the Dutch 1 tank. [59], In aerial combat the battles were also one-sided. While a majority voted in March 1950 for Leopold's return to Belgium as king, his return in July 1950 was greeted with widespread protests in Wallonia and a general strike which turned deadly when police open fired on protesters, killing four on 31 July. Wallonia in the wars 39-45 Despite being neutral at the start of World War II, Belgium found themselves at war after the country was invaded by German forces on 10 May 1940. At Nivelles airfield, 13 CR42s were destroyed. [15] The government increased expenditure on modernising the fortifications at Namur and Liège. [132], The Royal Navy evacuated General Headquarters at Middelkerke and Sint-Andries, east of Bruges, during the night. [47] On 10 May 1940, the BEF comprised just 10 divisions (not all at full strength), 1,280 artillery pieces and 310 tanks. [105] In order to make up numbers, and because of a lack of Belgian volunteers, the unit was allocated French and Spanish volunteers. Despite an overwhelming numerical superiority of 1,375 aircraft, 957 of which were serviceable, the air campaign in Belgium had limited success overall on the first day. [82] Over Belgium and France, the day was disastrous for the British: 27 Hurricanes were shot down. [25], The Belgian High Command warned the French and British of their concerns. [111][112] The King also made clear that in the rapidly shrinking area of Belgium still free, there was only enough food for two weeks. The Belgian Army was asked to conform to the plan, or should they choose, the British Royal Navy would evacuate what units they could. c) Our anxieties have been increased by the lightning reoccupation of the Rhineland and the fact that bases for the start of a possible German invasion have been moved near to our frontier. Food and fuel were tightly rationed, and all official news was closely censored. [91] Frequently, figures of 623 German and 415 French tanks are given. Even if present Belgian Army has to lay down its arms, there are 200,000 Belgians of military age in France, and greater resources than Belgium had in 1914 which to fight back. The figures for the Battle of Belgium, 10–28 May 1940, cannot be known with any certainty. German formations pursued the enemy to Gembloux. [30], Adolf Hitler summoned Lieutenant-General Kurt Student of the 7. [110] The main effort had to be made by the French to the south. ), Kampfgeschwader 30 (Stab. The operation failed and one bomber was lost while four M.S.406s fell to I.JG 1. [30] It was first suggested that a conventional parachute drop be made by airborne forces to seize and destroy the forts' guns before the land units approached. The Belgians were determined to hold the border fortifications along the Albert Canal and the Meuse, without withdrawing, until the French Army arrived to support them. They feared that the Dyle plan would put not just the Belgian strategic position in danger, but also the entire left wing of the Allied front. The situation for the Belgian divisions was either to withdraw or be encircled. German invasion of france in May, 1940 during WW2. [130] In fact, on numerous occasions, the Belgians had held on after British withdrawals. [65] Although the German military command, the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW), had advised a ratio of 50 civilians for every one German soldier killed, von Falkenhausen moderated the policy and decreed that the hostages be selected from political prisoners and criminals rather than civilians picked at random. [79][80][81], Because of the Nazi-Soviet Pact, signed in 1939, the Communist Party was briefly tolerated in the early stages of the occupation. Casualties to 28 May are unknown. Canals were drained and used as supply dumps for whatever ammunition and food-stuffs were left. Brooke found Overstaeten to be ignorant of the situation and the dispositions of the BEF. [78], The Belgian III Corps, and its 1st Chasseurs Ardennais, 2nd Infantry and 3rd Infantry Divisions had withdrawn from the Liège fortifications to avoid being encircled. It was agreed the Belgian Army would man the Antwerp–Leuven line, while its allies took up the responsibility of defending the extreme north and south of the country. Virtually every French weapon from 25mm upward penetrated the 7-13mm of the Panzer I. On 12 May, eleven out of eighteen French Breguet 693 bombers were shot down. During the Battle of Belgium, the Belgian army was pushed back into a pocket in the northwest of Belgium and surrendered on 28 May. The French requested the Belgians withdraw to the Leie and the British to the French frontier between Maulde and Halluin, the Belgians were then to extend their front to free further parts of the BEF for the attack. The Battle of Belgium included the first tank battle of the war, the Battle of Hannut. [60] By February 1941, 105,833 Flemish soldiers had been repatriated. All had supported the Belgian policy of neutrality before the war, but after the start of the occupation began to collaborate actively with the Germans. [99], Although suffering numerous tactical reverses, operationally the Germans diverted the Allied First Army Group from the lower Ardennes area. In April 1941, without orders from the German authorities, members of the Algemeene-SS Vlaanderen and other Flemish fascists pillaged two synagogues in Antwerp and burned the house of the chief Rabbi of the town in the so-called "Antwerp Pogrom. [45], After holding onto the Albert Canal's west bank for nearly 36 hours, the 4th and 7th Belgian infantry divisions withdrew. Leopold formally abdicated in 16 July 1951 and Baudouin ascended the throne and again took a constitutional oath the following day. [98], Hoepner now pursued the retreating French. [2] The military was reorganised into a defensive force and the country left several international military treaties it had joined in the aftermath of World War I. The Belgian Artillery Corps and its infantry support defeated attacks by the Eighteenth Army's infantry and in a communiqué from London, the British recognized the "Belgian Army has contributed largely toward the success of the defensive battle now being fought. Henschel Hs 123s of II. In terms of military strategy, the Belgians were unwilling to stake everything on a linear defence of the Belgian–German border, in an extension of the Maginot Line. [56] The Allied armies had enacted their Dyle plan on the morning of 10 May, and were approaching the Belgian rear. Involvement in illegal resistance activity was a decision made by a minority of Belgians (approximately five percent of the population) but many more were involved in passive resistance. From May 1942, Jews were forced to wear yellow Star-of-David badges to mark them out in public. In World War I, the German Empire invaded Belgium. [20], For the rest of the war, Leopold was held under house-arrest in the Palace of Laeken. [21] [123] As the German army regrouped and the Allies' supply lines became stretched, the front line stabilised along Belgium's eastern border. [105] It was finally accepted in July 1941, after the invasion of Russia, and Degrelle enlisted. Given that the left flank of the BEF rested on its Belgian ally, the British were now unsure about Belgian military capabilities. [27], In an agreement with the British and French Armies, the French 7th Army under the command of Henri Giraud was to advance into Belgium, past the Scheldt Estuary in Zeeland if possible, to Breda, in the Netherlands. This battle was a result of a breakdown in communications and ran contrary to the operational intentions of the Belgian Army. [83] News of the strike spread rapidly and soon at least 70,000 workers were on strike across the province of Liége. Knock France Out of the War. Such a move would leave the Belgians vulnerable to a German assault in their rear, through an attack on the Netherlands. [121] Such a collapse could have resulted in the loss of the Channel ports behind the Allied front, leading to a complete strategic encirclement. [53], Before 1941, Belgian workers could volunteer to work in Germany; nearly 180,000 Belgians signed up, hoping for better pay and living conditions. [83], Many important politicians who had opposed the Nazis before the war were arrested and deported to concentration camps in Germany and German-occupied Poland, as part of the Nacht und Nebel (literally "Night and Fog") decree. For the next 24 hours, missions were postponed as the German anti-aircraft and fighter defences were too strong.[86]. Whole of their supplies are east of Yser. on May 10, 1940. Numerous members of the German administration were involved in the black market, stealing military or official supplies and reselling them. [110], The Belgian position on any offensive move was made clear by Leopold III. [59] At Schaffen-Diest, three Hawker Hurricanes of Escadrille 2/I/2 were destroyed and another six damaged when a wave of He 111s caught them as they were about to take off. [106] In the North, the 7th Army was diverted to Antwerp after the surrender of the Dutch on 15 May, but was then diverted to support the French 1st Army. [60] Many prisoners of war were forced to work in quarries or in agriculture and around 2,000 died in captivity. [62], The German planners had recognised the need to eliminate Fort Eben-Emael if their army was to break into the interior of Belgium. These had an excellent 47 mm antitank gun and a coaxial FN30 machine gun in a turret. It was weaker than both the 7th and the 1st Armies. [107] The Belgians successfully defended the northern part of the city, delaying the German infantry forces while starting to withdraw from Antwerp on 16 May. It was very significant; critical in fact: The UK amongst other nations had signed the 1839 Treaty of London guaranteeing Belgian neutrality. Army Group B would continue its own offensive to force the collapse of the Meuse front. Belgium German invasion of Belgium German invasion. Contrary to popular belief, the Germans did not outnumber the French. ... when Army Group B launched its feint offensive into the Netherlands and Belgium. On the evening of 27 May, he requested an armistice.[3]. [41] Allied bombing during the liberation in September 1944 killed 9,750 Belgians and injured 40,000. That the British Army and French 1st Army should attack south-west toward Bapaume and Cambrai at the earliest moment, certainly tomorrow, with about eight divisions, and with the Belgian Cavalry Corps on the right of the British. The German official history stated that in the 18 days of bitter fighting, the Belgian Army were tough opponents, and spoke of the "extraordinary bravery" of its soldiers. [129], The fighting of 26–27 May had brought the Belgian Army to the brink of collapse. No. [12] The Germans retained the Committee during the occupation; it was responsible for implementing demands made by the Militärverwaltungsstab. [12] The capture of Eben-Emael allowed the Germans to force through the Panzers of the 6th Army. It also had the advantage of absorbing Dutch and Belgian Army formations (including some 20 Belgian divisions). That December, the territory was incorporated de jure into the Greater German Reich although its collaborationist leaders were already in exile in Germany and German control in the region was virtually non-existent. In the case of the German invasion of Norway, these reasons were of the utmost importance German troops overran Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and France in six weeks starting in May 1940. After 18 days of fighting in which Belgian forces were pushed back into a small pocket in the north-east of the country, the Belgian military surrendered to the Germans, beginning an occupation that would endure until 1944. [101], As a result of the Flamenpolitik, Rex was not given the same favoured status accorded to Flemish Fascists. The Allies had known, and admitted it privately on 25 May through contact with the Belgians, that the latter were on the verge of collapse. It was hoped to field two armies of two Corps each, but this scale of mobilisation never took place. [40] The phase of bombing in the lead up to D-Day alone resulted in 1,500 civilian casualties. Belgian Fairey Battles of 5/III/3 escorted by six Gloster Gladiators attacked the Albert Canal bridges. [105] It was reformed and sent to the Eastern Front, and became part of the Waffen SS (as the 28th SS Wallonien Division) in 1943. [37], During the preparation for D-Day in the spring of 1944, the Allies launched the Transport Plan, carrying out intensive bombing of railway junctions and transport networks across northern France and Belgium. Foot 2005, p. 322. The French 7th Army was to reach the Zeeland or Breda, just inside the Dutch border. During the fighting at the Korsun–Cherkassy Pocket, the unit was nearly annihilated and its popular commander, Lucien Lippert, was killed. [49] Of the three Panzer Divisions, the 3rd and 4th were to operate in Belgium under the command of the 6th Army's XVI Corps. Recriminations abounded with the British and French claiming the Belgians had betrayed the alliance. Just as they did in 1914 on the Yser, so now the French and British troops are counting on you: the safety and honour of the country are in your hands. [12], Before leaving the country in 1940, the Belgian government had installed a panel of senior civil-servants, the so-called "Committee of Secretaries-General", to administer the territory in the absence of elected ministers. [14] [111] The will of the CIGS won out. [117] The Belgian I Corps, with only two incomplete divisions, had been heavily engaged in the fighting and their line was wearing thin. Killed in action: 10,232 officers and soldiers, This page was last edited on 21 December 2020, at 08:57. Hitler then revealed the tactical weapon that would make this strategic operation work, introducing the Hohlladungwaffe (hollow-charge) – a 50 kilograms (110 lb) explosive weapon which would destroy the Belgian gun emplacements. The three bridges over the canal were the key to allowing Army Group B a high operational tempo. Bombing of targets in Belgium steadily increased as the Allies advanced westward across France. [119] As the Allies neared the border, coded messages broadcast on Radio Belgique encouraged the resistance to rise up. Belgium was occupied by the Germans until the autumn of 1944, when it was liberated by the Western Allies. Also committed the Dutch Air Force on few, ineffective and costly missions. A significant mobile reserve was needed to guard the rear areas, and as a result it was considered that the protection against a sudden assault by German forces was not sufficient. Belgian civilians living near possible targets such as railway junctions were in danger of Allied aerial bombing. On that day, Winston Churchill visited the front and pressed for the French and British Armies to break out from the north-east. [88] Because of their different ideological backgrounds, they often differed with the Nazis on a variety of ideological issues such as the role of Catholicism or the status of Flanders. The German forces were able to communicate by radio during the battle and they could shift the point of the main effort unexpectedly. Belgium had a weak fighting force of 117,000 troops, but the Belgians erected several defensive positions to keep out any invaders. [73] Among them was the celebrated artist Felix Nussbaum. [55], Keller's IV. The German attempts to capture Gembloux were repulsed. But overall the bombing had a limited effect. The disintegration of the Belgian Army and its front caused many erroneous accusations by the British. [49], Armour strength in Army Group B amounted to 808 tanks, of which 282 were Panzer Is, 288 were Panzer IIs, 123 were Panzer IIIs and 66 were Panzer IVs;[50] 49 command tanks were also operational. Belgium was occupied by the Germans until the autumn of 1944, when it was liberated by the Western Allies. [91] This applies all the more to the 90 Panhard 178 armoured cars of the French Army. The Belgian Army consisted of 22 divisions, the French provided 104, the British provided 10, and the Dutch 8 divisions. [60] Most had been reservists, rather than professional soldiers, before the outbreak of war and their detention created a large labour shortage in civilian occupations. The Doctrine decreed that Belgian companies continue producing goods necessary for the Belgian population (food, consumer goods etc.) [86] Unusually, Breendonk was mainly guarded by Flemish collaborators of the Vlaamse SD-wacht, rather than German soldiers. [54][55] About 3,000 Belgians joined the Organisation Todt (OT), and 4,000 more joined the paramilitary German supply corps, the Nationalsozialistisches Kraftfahrkorps (NSKK). In just over six weeks, German armed forces overran Belgium and the Netherlands, drove the British Expeditionary Force from the Continent, captured … The Allied Chiefs of Staff had sought to avoid an encounter mobile battle without any strong fixed defences to fall back on and hoped Belgian resistance would last long enough for a defensive line to be established. Meanwhile, 114 Squadron lost six Blenheims destroyed when Dornier Do 17s of Kampfgeschwader 2 bombed their airfield at Vraux. Withdrawal over open roads without adequate fighter support very costly. [105] In the centre, the Belgian Army and the BEF suffered little German pressure. [120] The Luftwaffe had air superiority and made everyday life hazardous in logistical terms. In both World Wars, the fighting in the West began with a German invasion of Belgium. German Invasion (May 10, 1940) Belgium remained strictly neutral, but was invaded by the Germans for a second time (on May 10, 1940). [102] [64] From August 1941, the Military Government announced that for every German murdered by the resistance, five Belgian civilian hostages would be executed. Militarily it would put the Allied rear at right angles to the French frontier defences; while for the British, their communications located at the Bay of Biscay ports, would be parallel to their front. Kampfgeschwader 40 and 54 supported by Ju 87s from VIII. [54] On 10 May Keller had 363 aircraft (224 serviceable) augmented by Generalmajor Wolfram von Richthofen's VIII. Areas in the south-east of the country remained in German hands, and were briefly recaptured during the German Ardennes Offensive in the winter of 1944. The Belgians had withdrawn laterally upon the initial invasion and had demolished and blocked routes of advance, which held up the French 2nd Army units moving north toward Namur and Huy. The casualty reports include total losses at this point in the campaign. The Germans gradually reduced the pocket of Allied forces, forcing them back to the sea. The Belgians had predicted the exact German plan as offered by Erich von Manstein. Marshal Philippe Pétain had suggested a French strike at Germany's Ruhr area using Belgium as a spring-board in October 1930 and again in January 1933. 2. [63], From 1941, the regime became significantly more repressive. The offensive, carried out by 125 volunteers of the 34th Infantry Division under the command of Wenner Hedderich, achieved their missions by flying to their objectives using Fieseler Fi 156 Störche. Although unaware of it, the First Allied army Group and the Belgian Army outnumbered and outgunned Walther von Reichenau's German 6th Army. The standard Belgian anti-tank gun was the 47 mm FRC, towed either by trucks or by fully tracked armoured Utilitie B-tractors. [121][122], On the afternoon of 24 May, von Bock had thrown four divisions, of Reichenau's 6th Army, against the Belgian IV Corps position at the Kortrijk area of the Leie during the Battle of the Lys (1940). [11] Under von Falkenhausen's command, the German administration had two military units at its disposal: the Feldgendarmerie ("Field Gendarmerie", part of the Wehrmacht) and the Gestapo (the "Secret State Police", part of the SS). The battlefield around Hannut was littered with knocked-out tanks–the bulk of which were German Panzers–with by far and away the bulk of them being Panzer Is and IIs. In terms of military strategy, the Belgians were unwilling to stake everything on a linear defence of the Belgian–German border, in an extension of the Maginot Line. [74], From 1942 and the introduction of the Star-of-David badges, opposition to the treatment of the Jews among the general population in Belgium grew. [17] Despite his position, he remained prominent in the occupied territory, and coins and stamps continued to carry his portrait or monogramme. [34], Because of the tight rationing, a black market in food and other consumer goods emerged. [22] While imprisoned, he sent a letter to Hitler in 1942 credited with saving an estimated 500,000 Belgian women and children from forced deportation to munitions factories in Germany. to avoid the heavily fortified Maginot Line along the Belgium lasted the longest, in German-occupied lands. [94], During the occupation in World War I, the Germans had favoured the Flemish area of the country in the so-called Flamenpolitik, supporting Flemish cultural and political movements. The total remaining area covered just 1,700 km2, and compacted military and civilians alike, of which the latter numbered some 3 million people. [13] In practice, the Committee merely enabled the Germans to implement their policies more efficiently than the Military Government could have done by force. In the ensuing battle, German infantry overcame the defenders of the I Belgian Corps' 7th Infantry Division in 24 hours. [45], The considerable Belgian gold reserves, on which the Belga had been secured,[b] were mostly transported to Britain, Canada and the United States before the German invasion. The delay that the Belgian Ardennes Light Infantry, considered to be an elite formation, could have inflicted upon the advancing German armour was proved by the fight for Bodange, where the 1st Panzer Division was held up for a total of eight hours. [109], The proposals of a British strategic withdrawal from the continent was rejected by the War Cabinet and the Chief of the Imperial General Staff (CIGS). [82], After the war, 53,000 Belgian citizens (0.6 percent of the population) were found guilty of collaboration, providing the only estimate of the number involved during the period. [61], In the first year of the occupation, the German administration pursued a conciliatory policy toward the Belgian people in order to gain their support and co-operation. Ironside arrived at British General Headquarters at 06:00 am on 20 May, the same day that continental communications between France and Belgium was cut. Total French losses in aircraft numbered 264 from 12 to 25 May, and 50 for 26 May to 1 June. [96], From 1942, VNV's dominance was increasingly challenged by the more radical DeVlag, which had the support of the SS and Nazi Party. As political tensions escalated in the years befor… Messerschmitt Bf 110s from Zerstörergeschwader 26 (ZG 26), and bomber units LG 1, 2 and KG 27 were also involved. [57] 145,000 Belgians were conscripted and sent to Germany, most to work in manual jobs in industry or agriculture for the German war effort. They were assisted by the Belgian civil service, which believed that limited co-operation with the occupiers would result in the least damage to Belgian interests. The Belgians also had trouble moving the oil, food and ammunition that they had left. By the end of the occupation, more than 40 percent of all Jews in Belgium were in hiding; many of them hid by gentiles and in particular Catholic priests and nuns. The French 7th Army turned east and met the 9th Panzer Division about 20 kilometres (12 mi) east of Breda at Tilburg. 74 sorties had been flown by the Allies since 10 May. [c][83] The Germans increased workers' salaries by eight percent and the strike finished rapidly. [60] The only other success was KG 27s destruction of eight aircraft at Belesle. The BEF was not pursued vigorously to the Scheldt. [50] The 3rd Panzer Division's armoured regiments consisted of 117 Panzer Is, 128 Panzer IIs, 42 Panzer IIIs, 26 Panzer IVs and 27 command tanks. The Allied Armies had thought that this battle was Germany’s main attack, so they tried to impede the Germans in Belgium. [86] Though it was reasonably small, the camp was infamous for its poor conditions and high death rate. The next day Leopold announced his intention to abdicate in favour of his son, Baudouin, who took a constitutional oath before the United Chambers of the Belgian Parliament as Prince Royal on 11 August 1950. Nevertheless, inadequate protection was given to cover RAF bombers against the strength of German opposition over the target area. Aide, stepped in and said that the Belgian plain ; it was the Paul-Émile! 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