Battle of Belgium: Wikis

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Battle of Belgium
Part of the Western Front of World War II
Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1970-048-11, Belgien, Brügge, Entwaffnung.jpg
German soldiers pictured with a Vickers Utility Tractor (VUT) of the Belgian Army, and a pile of Belgian rifles and helmets the day after the Belgian surrender, 29 May 1940
Date 10–28 May 1940
Location Belgium
Result Decisive German victory
Territorial
changes
German occupation of Belgium
Belligerents
 BelgiumSurrendered
France France
 United Kingdom
Poland Poland
 NetherlandsSurrendered[Notes 1]
Nazi Germany Germany
Commanders
France Maurice Gamelin
France Maxime Weygand
United Kingdom Lord Gort
Belgium Leopold III Surrendered
Poland Władysław Sikorski
Netherlands H.G. Winkelman Surrendered
Nazi Germany Gerd von Rundstedt
Nazi Germany Fedor von Bock
Strength
144 divisions[Notes 2]
13,974 guns[Notes 3]
3,384 tanks[Notes 4]
2,249 aircraft[Notes 5]
141 Divisions[2]
7,378 guns[2]
2,445 tanks[2]
5,446 aircraft (4,020 operational)[2]
Casualties and losses
222,443+ casualties (200,000 captured)[Notes 6]
~900 aircraft[Notes 7]
Unknown[Notes 8] but at least 43 paratroopers were killed and a further 100 wounded.[10]

The Battle of Belgium or Belgian Campaign[11] formed part of the greater Battle of France, an offensive campaign by Nazi Germany during World War II. It took place over 18 days in May 1940 and ended with German occupation of Belgium following the surrender of the Belgian Army.

On 10 May 1940, Nazi Germany's armed forces, the Wehrmacht, invaded Luxembourg, The Netherlands, and Belgium under the operational plan Fall Gelb (Case Yellow). The Allied Armies attempted to halt the German Army in Belgium, believing it to be the main German thrust. After the French had fully committed the best of the Allied Armies to Belgium on the 10th through the 12th of May, the Germans enacted the second phase of their operation, a break through, or sickle cut, through the Ardennes, and advanced to the English Channel. The German Army (Heer) reached the Channel after five days, encircling the Allied Armies. The Germans gradually reduced the pocket of Allied forces, forcing them back to the sea. The Belgian Army surrendered on 28 May 1940, ending the battle.[12]

The Battle of Belgium had the first tank battle of the war, the Battle of Hannut.[13] It was also the largest tank battle in the world to that date but was later surpassed by the battles of the North African campaign and the Eastern Front. The Battle also included the first strategic airborne operation using paratroopers.

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.[14] The collapse of Belgium forced the Allied withdrawal from continental Europe. The British Royal Navy evacuated Belgian ports during Operation Dynamo, allowing the British Army to escape and continue military operations. Belgium was occupied until the winter of 1944–1945, when it was liberated by the Western Alliance.

Contents

Pre-battle plans

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Belgium's strained alliances

The Belgian strategy for a defence against German aggression faced political as well military problems. 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. Such a move would leave the Belgians vulnerable to a German assault into their rear, through an attack on the Netherlands. Such a strategy would also rely on the French to move quickly into Belgium and support the garrison there.[15] Politically, the Belgians did not trust the French. 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. Belgium feared it would be drawn into war regardless, and sought to avoid that eventuality. The Belgians also feared being drawn into war as a result of the French–Soviet pact of May 1935. The Franco-Belgian agreement stipulated Belgium was to mobilize if the Germans did, but what was not clear was if Belgium would have to mobilize in the event of a German invasion of Poland.[15] The Belgians much preferred an alliance with Great Britain. The British had entered the First World War in response to the German violation of Belgian neutrality. The Belgian Channel ports had offered the German Imperial Navy valuable bases, and such an attack would offer the German Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe bases to engage in strategic offensive operations against the United Kingdom in the coming conflict. But the British government paid little attention to the concerns of the Belgians. The lack of this commitment ensured the Belgian withdrawal from the Western Alliance, the day before the German re-occupation of the Rhineland.[15][16] The German remilitarization of the Rhineland served to convince the Belgians that France and Britain were unwilling to fight for their own strategic interests, let alone Belgium's. The Belgian General Staff was determined to fight for its own interests, alone if necessary.[15]

The Belgian place in Allied strategy

The French were infuriated at King Leopold III's open declaration of neutrality in October 1936. The French Army saw its strategic assumptions undermined; it could no longer expect closer cooperation with the Belgians in defending the latter's eastern borders, enabling a German attack to be checked well forward of the French border.[17] The French were dependent on how much cooperation they could extract from the Belgians. Such a situation deprived the French any prepared defences in Belgium to forestall an attack, a situation which the French had wanted to avoid as it meant engaging the German Panzer Divisions in a mobile battle.[18] The French considered invading Belgium immediately in response to a German attack on the country.[19] Nevertheless the Belgians, recognising the danger posed by the Germans, secretly made their own defence policies, troop movement information, communications, fixed defence dispositions, intelligence and air reconnaissance arrangements available to the French military attaché in Brussels.[20]

The Allied plan to aid Belgium was the Dyle Plan; the cream of the Allied forces, which included the French Armoured divisions, would advance to the Dyle river in response to a German invasion. The choice of an established Allied line lay in either reinforcing the Belgians in the east of the country, at the Meuse–Albert Canal line, and holding the Scheldt Estuary, thus linking the French defences in the south with the Belgian forces protecting Ghent and Antwerp, seemed to be the soundest defensive strategy.[21] The weakness of the plan was that, politically at least, it abandoned most of eastern Belgium to the Germans. 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 their front. Despite the risk of committing forces to central Belgium and an advance to the Schedlt or Dyle lines, which would be vulnerable to an outflanking move, Gamelin approved the plan and it remained the Allied strategy upon the outbreak of war.[21]

The British, with no army in the field and behind in rearmament, was in no position to challenge French strategy, which had assumed the prominent role for the Western Alliance. Having little ability to oppose the French, the British strategy for military action came in the form of strategic bombing of the Ruhr industry.[22]

Belgian military strategy

(future) King Leopold III (left), with King Albert I

Upon the official Belgian withdrawal from the Western Alliance, the Belgians refused to engage in any official staff meetings with the French or British military staff for fear of compromising its neutrality. The Belgians did not regard a German invasion as inevitable and were determined that if an invasion did take place it would be effectively resisted by fortifications such as Eben Emael.[23] The Belgians had taken measures to reconstruct their defences along the border with the German state upon Adolf Hitler's rise to power in January 1933. The Belgian government had watched with increasing alarm the German withdrawal from the League of Nations, its repudiation of the Treaty of Versailles, and its violation of the Locarno Treaties.[24] The government increased expenditure on modernising the fortifications at Namur and Liège. New lines of defence were established along the Maastricht–Bois-le-Duc canal, joining the Meuse, Scheldt and the Albert Canal.[24] The protection of the eastern frontier, based mainly on the destruction of a number of roads, was entrusted to new formations (frontier cyclist units, "Chasseurs Ardennais").[25] By 1935, the Belgian defences had been complete.[25] Even so, it was felt that the defences were no longer adequate. 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.[25] Significant manpower reserves were also needed, but a bill, made for the provision of longer military service and training for the army, was rejected by the public on the basis that it would increase Belgium's military commitments as well as the request of Allies to engage in conflicts far from home.[26]

King Leopold III made a speech on 14 October 1936 in front of the Council of Ministers, in an attempt to persuade the people (and its Government) the defences needed strengthening.[26] Leopold outlined three main military points for Belgium's increased rearmament:

a) German rearmament, following upon the complete remilitarization of Italy and Russia (Soviet Union), caused most other states, even those that were deliberately pacific, like Switzerland and the Netherlands, to take exceptional precautions.
b)There has been such a vast change in methods of warfare as a result of technical progress, particularly in aviation and mechanisation, that the initial operations of armed conflict can now be of such force, speed and magnitude as to be particularly alarming to small countries like Belgium.
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.[27]

On 24 April 1937, the French and British delivered a public declaration that Belgium's security was paramount to the Western Allies and that they would defend their frontiers accordingly against aggression of any sort, whether this aggression was directly solely at Belgium, or as a means of obtaining bases from which to wage war against "other states". The British and French, under those circumstances, released Belgium from her Locarno obligations to render mutual assistance in the event of German aggression toward Poland, while the British and French maintained their military obligations to Belgium.[28]

Militarily, the Belgians considered the Wehrmacht to be stronger than the Allies, particular the British Army, and engaging in overtures to the Allies would result in Belgium becoming a battleground without adequate Allies.[29] The Belgians and French remained confused about what was expected of each other when, or if, hostilities commenced. 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. Gamelin was not keen on pushing his Dyle plan that far. He was concerned that the Belgians would be driven out of their defences and would retreat to Antwerp, as in 1914. In fact, the Belgian divisions protecting the border were to withdraw and retreat southward to link up with French forces. This information was not given to Gamelin.[30] As far as the Belgians were concerned, the Dyle Plan had advantages. Instead of the limited Allied advance to the Scheldt, or meeting the Germans on the Franco-Belgian border, the move to the Dyle river would reduce the Allied front in central Belgium by 70 kilometres (43 mi), freeing more forces for a strategic reserve. It was felt it would save more Belgian territory, in particular the eastern industrial regions. It also had the advantage of absorbing Dutch and Belgian Army divisions (numbering some 20 Belgian divisions). Gamelin was to justify the Dyle Plan after the defeat using these arguments.[31]

On 10 January 1940, in an episode known as the Mechelen Incident, a German Army Major Hellmuth Reinberger crash landed in a Messerschmitt Bf 108 near Mechelen-sur-Meuse.[32] Reinberger was carrying the first plans for the German invasion of western Europe which, as Gamelin had expected, entailed a repeat of the 1914 Schlieffen Plan and a German thrust through the Belgium (which was expanded by the Wehrmacht to include the Netherlands) and into France. The plan was nothing more than a land grab, to occupy the low countries as a base to conduct naval, aerial and ground offensives.[33]

The Belgians suspected a ruse, but the plans were taken seriously. The Belgian intelligence and military attaché in Cologne correctly suggested the Germans would not commence the invasion with this plan. It suggested that the Germans would try an attack through the Belgian Ardennes and advancing to Calais with the aim of encircling the Allied armies in Belgium. The Belgians had correctly predicted the Germans would attempt a Kesselschlacht (direct translation: "Cauldron slaughter", meaning encirclement battle) to destroy its enemies. The Belgians had predicted the exact German plan as offered by Erich von Manstein.[33]

The Belgian High Command warned the French and British of their concerns. 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. King Leopold and General Raoul Van Overstraeten, the King's Aide de Camp, warned the Gamelin and the French Army Command of their concerns on 8 March and 14 April. Their concerns were ignored.[34]

Belgian plans for defensive operations

Eben-Emael: the Belgians hoped to severely delay the Germans using fortifications

The Belgian plan, in the event of German aggression [italic in original] provided for:

(a) A delaying position along the Albert Canal from Antwerp to Liege and the Meuse from Liege to Namur, which was to be held long enough to allow French and British troops to occupy the line Antwerp–Namur–Givet. It was anticipated that the forces of the guarantor Powers would be in action on the third day of invasion.
(b) Withdrawal to the Antwerp–Namur position.
(c) The Belgian Army was to hold the sector – exclusive Leuven, inclusive Antwerp-as part of the main Allied defensive position.[35]

In 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. The British Army's British Expeditionary Force, commanded by General Lord Gort, was to occupy the central position in the BrusselsGhent gap supporting the Belgian Army holding the main defensive positions some 20 kilometres (12 mi) east of Brussels. The main defensive position ringing Antwerp would be protected by the Belgians, barely 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) from the city. The French 7th Army was to reach the Zeeland or Breda, just inside the Dutch border. The French would then be in a position to protect the left flank of the Belgian Army forces protecting Antwerp and threaten the German northern flank.[35]

Further east, delaying positions were constructed in the immediate tactical zones along the Albert Canal, which joined with the defences of the Meuse west of Maastricht. The line deviated southward, and continued to Liege. The Maastricht–Liege gap was protected heavily. Fort Eben-Emael protected the city's northern flank, the tank country lying in the strategic depths of the Belgian forces occupying the city, and the axis of advance into western Belgium. Further lines of defence ran south west, covering the Liege–Namur axis. The Belgian Army also had the added benefit of the French 1st Army, advancing toward Gembloux and Hannut, on the southern flank of the B.E.F and covering Sambre sector. This covered the gap in the Belgian defences between the main Belgian positions on the Dyle line with Naumr in the south. Further south, the French 9th Army advanced to Givet–Dinat axis on the Meuse river. The French 2nd Army was responsible for the last 100 kilometres (62 mi) of front, covering Sedan, the lower Meuse, the Belgian–Luxembourg border and the northern flank of the Maginot line.[35]

German operational plans

Map of the area between Belgium and the Netherlands near Fort Eben-Emael: The fort protected the vital strategic bridgeheads into Belgium

The German plan of attack required the German Army Group B to advance and draw in the Allied First Army Group into central Belgium, while Army Group A conducted the surprise assault through the Ardennes. Belgium was to act as a secondary front with regard to importance. Army Group B was given only limited numbers of armoured and mobile units while the vast majority of the Army Group was infantry divisions.[36] After the English Channel was reached, all Panzer division units and most Motorised infantry were removed from Army Group B and given to Army Group A, to strengthen the German lines of communication and to prevent an Allied breakout.[37] Such a plan would fail still, if sufficient ground could not be taken quickly in Belgium to squeeze the allies against two fronts. Preventing this from happening were the defences of Fort Eben-Emael and the Albert Canal. The three bridges over these obstacles were the key to allowing Army Group B a high operational tempo. The bridges at Veldwezelt, Vroenhoven and Kanne in Belgium, and Maastricht on the Dutch border were the target.[38] Failure to capture the bridges would leave Reichenau's German 6th Army, the southern most army of Group B, trapped in the Maastricht-Albert Canal enclave and subjected to the fire of Eben-Emael. The fort had to be destroyed.[38]

Adolf Hitler summoned Lieutenant-General Kurt Student of the 7. Flieger-Division (7th Air Division) to discuss the assault.[38] It was first suggest that a conventional parachute drop be made by airborne forces to seize and destroy the forts guns before the land units approached. Such a suggestion was rejected as the Junkers Ju 52 transports were too slow, and were likely to be vulnerable to Dutch and Belgian anti-aircraft artillery, even on such a small trip.[38] Other factors for its refusal were the weather conditions, which might blow the paratroopers away from the fort and disperse them too widely. A seven-second drop from a Ju 52 at minimum operational heights led to a dispersion over 300 metres alone.[38]

Hitler had noticed one potential flaw in the defences.[39] The roofs were flat and unprotected; he demanded to know if a glider, such as the DFS 230, could land on them. Student replied that it could be done, but only by 12 aircraft and in daylight; this would deliver 80–90 paratroopers onto the target.[40] Hitler then revealed the tactical weapon that would make this strategic operation work. He introduced the Hohlladungwaffe (hollow-charge) – a 50 kilograms (110 lb) explosive which would destroy the Belgian gun emplacement. It was this tactical unit that would spearhead the first strategic airborne operation in history.[40]

Forces involved

Belgian and Allied forces

A Fairey Fox of the Aéronautique Militaire Belge

The Aéronautique Militaire Belge, the Belgian Air Force, had barely begun to modernise their aircraft technology. They had ordered the Brewster Buffalo, Fiat CR.42, Hawker Hurricane, Koolhoven F.K.56, Fairey Battle, Caproni Ca.312 light bombers and Caproni Ca.335 fighter-reconnaissance aircraft.[7] Only the Fiats, Hurricanes and Battles had been delivered. The shortage of modern types meant single-seat versions of the Fairey Fox light bomber were being used as fighter aircraft.[7] The Belgian air service (Aéronautique Militaire Belge, or AéMI) possessed 250 combat aircraft, of which 90 were fighter aircraft, 12 bombers and 12 reconnaissance aircraft. Only 50 were of reasonably modern standards.[41][42] When including liaison and transport aircraft, a total strength of 377 is reached;[43] however only 118 of these were serviceable on 10 May 1940.[44] Of this number around 78 fighters and 40 bombers were operational.[43] The air service was put under the command of Paul Hiernaux, who had received his pilot's licence just before the outbreak of the First World War,[45] who had risen to the position of Commander-in-Chief of the AéMI in 1938.[7] Hiernaux organised the service into three air regiments; the 1er Régiment d'Aéronautique (First Air Regiment), which contained 60 aircraft, the 2e Régiment d'Aéronautique (2nd Air Regiment), comprising 53 aircraft, and the 3e Régiment d'Aéronautique (3rd Air Regiment), with a further 79 aircraft.[46]

The Belgian Army could muster 22 Divisions,[47] which contained 1,338 artillery guns and just 10 tanks.[42] The Belgians began mobilisation on 25 August 1939, and by May 1940 mounted a field army of 18 infantry divisions, two divisions of Chasseurs Ardennais (partly motorised) and two motorised cavalry divisions; a force totalling some 600,000 men.[41] Belgian reserves may have been able to field reserves of 900,000 men.[48] However, there was a major equipment failure and the army lacked armour and anti-aircraft artillery.[41][49] After the completion of the Belgian Army’s mobilisation, they could muster five Regular Corps and two reserve Army Corps consisting of 12 regular infantry divisions, two divisions of Chasseurs Ardennais, six reserve infantry divisions, one Brigade of Cyclist Frontier Guards, one Cavalry Corps of two divisions and one Brigade of motorised cavalry.[50] The Army contained two anti-aircraft artillery and four Army artillery regiments and an unknown quantity of fortress, engineers and signals force personnel.[50] The British Expeditionary Force fielded only 10 infantry divisions and 1,280 artillery pieces.[42]

The Belgian Naval Corps, was resurrected in 1939. Most of the Belgian Merchant fleet, of some 100 ships, evaded capture by the Germans. Under the terms of a Belgian–Royal Navy agreement these ships, and the 3,350 sailors and crew, were placed under British control for the rest of hostilities.[3] The General headquarters of the Belgian Admiralty were based at Ostend under the command of Major Henry Decarpentrie. The First Naval Division was based at Ostend, while the 2nd and 3rd were based at Zeebrugge and Antwerp.[51]

The Belgians were afforded substantial support by the French Army. The French 1st Army comprised General René Prioux's Cavalry Corps. The Corps was given the 2nd Light Mechanized Division (2e Division Légère Mécanique, or 2e DLM) and 3rd Light Mechanized Division (3e DLM) were allocated to defend the Gembloux gap. The armoured forces consisted of 239 Hotchkiss H35 light tanks and 176 of the formidable SOMUA S35s. All of these types, in armour and firepower, were superior to German types.[52] The 3e DLM contained 90 S35s and some 140 H35s alone.[52] The French 7th Army was to protect the northern most point of the Allied front. Containing the 1st Light Mechanized Division (1e DLM), 1st Light Mechanized Division, 25th Motorized Division and 9th Motorized Division this force would advance to Breda in the Netherlands.[53] The third army to see action on Belgian soil was the French 9th Army. The 9th Army was weaker than both the 7th and particularly the French 1st Armies. The 9th was allocated infantry divisions with the exception 5th Motorized Division. The mission of the 9th Army was to protect the southern flank of the Allied armies, south of the Sambre river and just north of Sedan. Further south lay the French 2nd Army, in France protecting the Franco-Belgian border between Sedan and Montmédy. The two weakest French armies were protecting the area of the main German thrust.[54]

The British Army contributed the weakest force to Belgium. The British Expeditionary Force (B.E.F) under the command of Field Marshall John Vereker, 6th Viscount Gort consisted of just 152,000 men in two Corps of two divisions each. It was hoped to field two armies of two Corps each, but this mobilisation never took place. The British I Corps was commanded by Lt-Gen. John Dill, later Lt-Gen. Michael Barker, who was in turn replaced by Major-General Harold Alexander. Lt-Gen. Alan Brooke, 1st Viscount Alanbrooke commanded British II Corps. Later the British III Corps under Lt-Gen. Ronald Adam was added to the British order of battle. A further 9,392 Royal Air Force (RAF) personnel of the RAF Advanced Air Striking Force under the command of Air Vice-Marshal Patrick Playfair was to support operations in Belgium. By May 1940 the B.E.F had grown to just 394,165 men, of whom more than 150,000 were part of the logistical rear area organisations and had little military training.[55] On 10 May 1940, the B.E.F comprised just 10 divisions (not all at full strength), 1,280 artillery guns and 310 tanks.[56]

German forces

German Army Group B was placed under the command of Fedor von Bock. It was allocated 26 infantry and three Panzer divisions for the invasion of the Netherlands and Belgium.[57] Of the three Panzer Divisions, the 3rd Panzer Division and 4th Panzer Divisions were to operate in Belgium under the command of the German 6th Army's XVI Corps. The 9th Panzer Division was attached to the German 18th Army which, after the Battle of the Netherlands, would support the push into Belgium alongside the 18th Army and covering its northern flank. German armour strength in Army Group B amounted to 808 tanks, of which 282 were Panzer I, 288 were Panzer II, 123 Panzer III and 66 Panzer IV;[58] 49 command tanks were also operational.[59] The 3rd Panzer Division's armoured regiments consisted of 117 Panzer Is, 128 Panzer II, 42 Panzer III, 26 Panzer IV and 27 command tanks.[59] The 4th Panzer Division had 136 Panzer I, 105 Panzer II, 40 Panzer III, 24 Panzer IV and 10 command tanks.[59] The 9th Panzer, scheduled initially for operations in the Netherlands, was the weakest division with only 30, 54, 123, 66 and 49 of the respective types.[59] The elements of the 7th Air Division and the 22nd Airlanding Division, that were to take part in the attack on Fort Eben-Emael, were named Sturmabteilung Koch (Assault Detachment Koch); named after the commanding officer of the group, Hauptmann Walter Koch.[60] The force was assembled in November 1939, it was primarily composed of parachutists, from the 1st Parachute Regiment, and engineers, from the 7th Air Division, as well as a small group of Luftwaffe pilots.[61]

The Luftwaffe allocated 1,815 combat, 487 transport and 50 glider aircraft for the assault on the Low Countries.[62] The initial air strikes over Belgian air space were to be conducted by IV. Fliegerkorps under General der Flieger Generaloberst Alfred Keller. Keller's force consisted of Lehrgeschwader 1 (Stab. I., II., III., IV.), Kampfgeschwader 30 (Stab. I., II., III.), Kampfgeschwader 27 (III.).[63] On 10 May Keller had 363 aircraft (224 serviceable) augmented by Generalmajor Wolfram von Richthofen's VIII. Fliegerkorps with 550 (420 serviceable) aircraft. They in turn were supported by Oberst Kurt-Bertram von Döring's Jagdfliegerführer 2, with 462 fighters (313 serviceable).[45]

Keller's IV. Fliegerkorps headquarters would operate from Düsseldorf, as would LG 1. KG 30 was based at Oldenburg, and its III. Gruppe was based at Marx. Support from Döring and Von Richthofen came from North Rhine-Westphalia and bases in Grevenbroich, Mönchengladbach, Dortmund and Essen respectively.[63]

The battle

10–11 May: The border battles

During the evening of 9 May, the Belgian Military attaché in Berlin intimated that the Germans intended to attack the following day. Offensive movements of enemy forces were detected on the border. At 00:10 on 10 May 1940, General Headquarters An unspecified squadron in Brussels gave the alarm.[64] A full state alarm was given at 01:30 am.[65] Belgian forces took up their deployment positions.[64]

At roughly 04:00, the first air raids were conducted against airfields and communication centres.[64] The Allied armies had enacted their Dyle plan on the morning of 10 May, and were approaching the Belgian rear. King Leopold had gone to his Headquarters near Briedgen, Antwerp.[66] The Luftwaffe was to spearhead the aerial battle in the low countries. The Luftwaffe's first task was the elimination of the Belgian air contingent. Despite overwhelming numerical superiority of 1,375 aircraft, 957 of which were serviceable, the counter-air campaign in Belgium had limited success overall.[45] Despite thorough photographic reconnaissance, and although it had a tremendous impact on the AeMI, which had only 179 aircraft on 10 May.[6]

Victors of Eben-Emael: Fallschirmjäger of Sturmabteilung Koch

Much of the success was down to Richthofen's subordinates, particularly KG 77 and its commander Oberst Dr. Johann-Volkmar Fisser whose attachment to VIII. Fliegerkorps, Generalmajor Wilhelm Speidel, commented "...was the result of the well-known tendency of the commanding general to conduct his own private war".[6] Fisser's KG 77 destroyed the AeMI main bases, with help from KG 54.[6] Fighters from JG 27 eliminated two squadrons at Neerhepsen, and during the afternoon, I./St.G 2 destroyed nine of the 15 Fiat CR.42 fighters at Brusthem.[6] The only other success was KG 27s destruction of eight aircraft at Belesle. A total of 83, mostly trainers and "squadron hacks" were destroyed.[6] The AéMI flew just 146 sorties in the first six days.[8] Between 16 May and 28 May, the AéMI flew just 77 operations.[8] It spent most of its time and fuel withdrawing in the face of Luftwaffe attack.[8]

The German planners had recognised the need to eliminate the Fort Eben-Emael if it was to break into the interior of Belgium. It decided to deploy airborne forces (Fallschirmjäger) to land in the fortress perimeter using gliders. Using special explosives (and flamethrowers) to disable the defences, the Fallschirmjäger then entered the fortress. In the ensuing Battle of Fort Eben-Emael, the German infantry overcame the defenders of the I Belgian Corps' 7th Infantry Division in 24 hours.[67] The main Belgian defence line had been breached and German infantry of the 18th Army had passed through it rapidly. Moreover, German army infantry had established bridgeheads across the Albert Canal before the British were able to reach it some 48 hours later. The Chasseurs Ardennais further south, on the orders of their command, withdrew behind the Meuse, destroying some bridges in the wake of their retreat.[68]

Operation Niwi was designed to ease the route of the Panzer Divisions through the Luxembourg–Belgian routes

Further successful German airborne offensive operations were carried out in Luxembourg which seized five crossings communication routes leading into France. 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. The cost was the loss of five aircraft and 30 dead.[69] With the fort breached the 7th and 4th Infantry Divisions were confronted by the prospect of fighting an enemy on relatively sound terrain for armour operations. The 7th Division, and its 2nd and 18th Grenadier Regiments along with the 2nd Carabineers, struggled to hold their positions and contain the German infantry on the west bank.[66] The Belgian tactical units engaged in several counterattacks. At one point, bridge Briedgen, they succeeded in retaking the bridge and blowing it up.[66] At the other points, Vroenhoven and Veldwezeltz, the Germans had time to establish a strong bridgeheads and repulsed the attacks.[66]

A little known third airborne operation, Operation Niwi, was also conducted on 10 May in southern Belgium. The objectives of this operation was to land two companies of the 3rd battalion Großdeutschland Infantry Regiment by Fi 156 aircraft at the Belgian localities of Nives and Witry in the south of the country, in order to clear a path for the advance of the 2nd Panzer and 1st Panzer which were advancing through the Belgian–Luxembourg Ardennes. The original plan called for use of the Junkers Ju 52 transport aircraft, but the short landing run (27 metres) capability of the Fi 156 saw 200 used in the assault. The operational mission was to:

1. Cut signal communications and message links on the Neufchateau–Bastogne [Neufchateau being the largest southern most city in Belgium] and Neufchateu–Martelange roads.
2. Prevent the approach of reserves from the Naufchateu area
3. Facilitate the capture of pillboxes and the advance as such by exerting pressure against the line of pillboxes along the border from the rear.[70]

The German infantry were engaged by several Belgian patrols equipped with T-15 armoured cars. Several Belgian counterattacks were defeated, among them an attack by the 1st Light Ardennes Infantry Division. Unsupported, the Germans faced a counterattack later in the evening by elements of the French 5th Cavalry Division, dispatched by General Charles Huntziger from the French 2nd Army, which had "massive" tank strength. The Germans were forced to retreat. The French, however, failed to pursue the fleeing German units, stopping at a dummy barrier.[71] By the next morning, the 2nd Panzer reached the area, and the mission had largely been accomplished. However, from the German perspective, the operation hindered rather than helped Heinz Guderian's Panzer Corps.[71] The regiment had blocked the roads, and against the odds, prevented French reinforcements reaching the Belgian–Franco-Luxembourg border, but it also destroyed Belgian telephone communications.[71] This inadvertently prevented the Belgian field command recalling the units along the Belgian border. The 1st Belgian Light Infantry did not receive the signal to retreat and engaged in a severe fire-fight with the German armour, slowing down their advance.[71]

The failure of the Belgian–French forces to hold the Ardennes gap was a fatal mistake. 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. Devoid of any centre of resistance, the German assault engineers had cleared the obstacles unchallenged. The delay that the Belgian Ardennes Light Infantry, considered to be elite formations, could have inflicted upon the advancing German armour is proved by the fight for Bodange where the 1st Panzer Division was held up for a total of eight hours. This battle was a result of a breakdown in communications and ran contrary to the operational intentions of the Belgian Army.[72]

An abandoned Belgian Renault ACG1 tank, May 1940

Meanwhile, in the central Belgian front, having failed to restore their front by means of ground attack, the Belgians attempted to bomb the bridges and positions that the Germans had captured intact and were holding on to on 11 May. An unspecified squadron which attempted to do so during one mission lost 11 out of 12 machines in the process.[66] The German counter air operations were spearheaded Jagdgeschwader 26 under the command of Hans-Hugo Witt, which was responsible for 82 of the German claims in aerial combat between 11–13 May.[73] Despite the apparent success of the German fighter units, the air battle was not one-sided.[73] On the morning of 11 May, 10 Junkers Ju 87 Stukas of Sturzkampfgeschwader 2 were shot down attacking Belgian forces in the Namur–Dinant gap, despite the presence of two other Jagdgeschwader, Jagdgeschwader 27 and Jagdgeschwader 51.[73] Nevertheless the Germans reported a weakening in Allied air resistance in northern Belgium by 13 May.[73]

During the night of 11 May, the British 3rd Infantry Division under the command of General Bernard Law Montgomery, reached its position on the Dyle river at Leuven. As it did so the Belgian 10th Infantry Division, occupying the position, mistook them for German parachutists and fired on the British. The Belgians refused to yield but Montgomery claimed to have got his way by placing himself under the command of the Belgian force, knowing that when the Germans came within artillery range the Belgians would withdraw.[74]

Alan Brooke, commander of the British II Corps sought to put the matter of cooperation right with King Leopold. The King discussed the matter with Brooke, who felt a compromise could be reached. Van Overstraeten, the King's military aid, stepped in and said that the 10th Belgian Infantry Division could not be moved. Instead, the British should move further south and remain clear of Brussels completely. Brooke told the King the 10th Belgian Division was on the wrong side of the Gamelin line and was exposed. Leopold deferred to his advisor and chief of staff. Brooke found Overstaeten to be ignorant of the situation and the dispositions of the B.E.F. Given that the left flank of the B.E.F rested on its Belgian ally, the British were now disconcerted about Belgian military capabilities.[74] The Allies had more serious grounds for complaint about the Belgian anti-tank defences along the Dyle line, that covered the Namur–Perwez gap which was not protected by any natural obstacles.[74][75] Only a few days before the attack, General Headquarters had discovered the Belgians had sited their anti-tank defences (de Cointet defences) several miles east of the Dyle between Namur–Perwez.[74]

After holding onto the Albert Canal's west bank for nearly 36 hours, the 7th and 4th Belgian infantry divisions withdrew. The loss of Eben-Emael allowed the Germans to force through the Panzer Corps of the German 6th Army. The position of the Belgian divisions was either to withdraw or be encircled. The enemy had advanced beyond Tongres and was now in a position to sweep south to Namur, which would threaten to envelope the entire Albert Canal position along with the Liege position. Under the circumstances, both divisions withdrew.[76] On the evening of 11 May, the Belgian Command withdrew its forces behind the Namur–Antwerp line. The following day, the French 1st Army arrived near Gembloux, near Hannut, to cover the "Gembloux gap", a flat area of terrain, devoid of prepared or entrenched positions.[76]

The French 7th Army, on the northern flank of the Belgian line, protected the BrugesGhentOstend axis and, covering the Channel ports, had advanced into Belgium and into the Netherlands with speed. It reached Breda, Netherlands on 11 May. But German parachute forces seized the Moerdijk causeway on the Meuse river, splitting the Dutch state in two. The Dutch Army withdrew north to Rotterdam and Amsterdam, and made it impossible for the French to link up.[77] The French 7th Army continued east and met the 9th Panzer Division about 20 kilometres (12 mi) east of Breda at Tilburg. The battle resulted in the French retiring, in the face of Luftwaffe air assaults to Antwerp, Belgium, across the border and it would help in the defence of the city.[78] The Luftwaffe had given priority to attacking the French 7th Army's spearhead into the Netherlands as it threatened the Moerdijk bridgehead. Kampfgeschwader 40 and Kampfgeschwader 54 supported by Ju 87s from VIII. Fliegerkorps helped drive them back.[79] Fears of Allied reinforcements reaching Antwerp forced the Luftwaffe to cover the Scheldt estuary. KG 30 bombed and sank two Dutch gunboats and three Dutch destroyers, as well as badly damaging two Royal Navy destroyers. But overall the bombing had limited effect.[79]

12–14 May: The battles of the central Belgian plain

General Hoepner commanded Army Corps XVI at the Battle of Hannut and the Gembloux gap offensive

During the night of 11/12 May, the Belgians were fully engaged in withdrawing to the Dyle line, covered by a network of demolitions and covered by rearguards astride Tongres. During the morning of 12 May, King Leopold III, General van Overstraeten, Édouard Daladier, General Alphonse Georges (commander of the First Allied Army Group, comprising of the B.E.F, French 1st, 2nd, 7th, 9th Armies), General Gaston Billotte (coordinator of the Allied Armies) and General Henry Royds Pownall (Lord Gort's – c-in-c of the B.E.F – chief of staff) met for a military conference near Mons. 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. The Belgian III Corps, and its 1st Chasseurs Ardennais 2nd Infantry and 3rd Belgian Infantry Divisions had withdrawn from the Liege fortifications to avoid being encircled. One Regiment, the Liege Fortress regiment, stayed behind to disrupt enemy communications. Further to the south, the Namur fortress, manned Belgian VII Corps 5th Infantry Division and 2nd Chasseurs Ardennais along with the 12th French Infantry Division, fought delaying actions and participated in a lot of demolition work while guarding the position.[80] As far as the Belgians were concerned it had accomplished the only independent mission assigned to it: to hold the Liege–Albert Canal line long enough for the Allied forces to reach the Allied forces to occupy the Namur–Antwerp–Givet line. For the remainder of the campaigning season, the Belgians would execute their operations in accordance with the overall Allied plan.[80]

The Belgian rearguard units fought rearguard actions while the Belgian units already on the Dyle line worked tirelessly to organize better defensive positions in the Leuven–Antwerp gap. The 2nd Regiment of Guides and the 2nd Carabineers Cyclists of the 2nd Belgian Cavalry Division covered the retreat of the 7th and 4th Belgian divisions and were particularly distinguished at the Battle of Tirlemont and the Battle of Haelen.[81][82] In light of the main withdrawal to the main defensive line, which now was being supported by the British and large French Armies, King Leopold issued the following proclamation to improve morale after the defeats at the Albert Canal:

Soldiers
The Belgian Army, brutally assailed by an unparalleled surprise attack, grappling with forces that are better equipped and have the advantage of a formidable air force, has for three days carried out difficult operations, the success of which is of the utmost importance to the general conduct of the battle and to the result of war.
These operations require from all of us – officers and men – exceptional efforts, sustained day and night, despite a moral tension tested to its limits by the sight of the devastation wrought by a pitiless invader. However severe the trial may be, you will come through it gallantly.
Our position improves with every hour; our ranks are closing up. In the critical days that are ahead of us, you will summon up all your energies, you will make every sacrifice, to stem the invasion.
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.
Leopold.[81]

German tanks in western Belgium, May 1940

To Allies, particularly the French and British, the Belgian failure to hold onto its eastern frontiers (thought to hold out for two weeks) was a disappointment. The Allied Chiefs of Staff had sought to avoid a 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.[83] Nevertheless, a brief lull fell on the Dyle front on 11 May enabled the Allied armies to get into position by the time the first major assault was made on 12 May. Allied cavalry had moved into position and infantry and artillery were reaching the front, more slowly, by rail. Although unaware of it, the First Allied Army Group and Belgian Army outnumbered and outgunned Walther von Reichenau's German 6th Army.[84]

On the morning of 12 May, in response to Belgian pressure and necessity, the Royal Air Force and the Armée de l'Air undertook several air attacks on the German-held Maastricht and Meuse bridges to prevent German forces flowing into Belgium. 74 sorties had been flown by the Allies since 10 May. On 12 May, 11 out of 18 French Breguet 693 bombers were shot down. The RAF Advanced Air Striking Force, which was the largest Allied bomber force, was reduced to 72 aircraft of 135 by 12 May. For the next 24 hours missions were postponed as the German anti-aircraft and fighter defences were too strong.[85]

The results of the bombing is difficult to determine. The German XIX Corps War Diary's situation summary at 20:00 on 14 May noted:

The completion of the military bridge at Donchery had not yet been carried out owing to heavy flanking artillery fire and long bombing attacks on the bridging point … Throughout the day all three divisions have had to endure constant air attack — especially at the crossing and bridging points. Our fighter cover is inadequate. Requests [for increased fighter protection] are still unsuccessful.

The Luftwaffe's operations includes a note of "vigorous enemy fighter activity through which our close reconnaissance in particular is severely impeded". Nevertheless, inadequate protection was given to cover RAF bombers against the strength of German opposition over the target area.[86] In all, out of 109 Fairey Battles and Bristol Blenheims which had attacked enemy columns and communications in the Sedan area, 45 had been lost.[86] On 15 May, daylight bombing was cut down.[86] Only 23 aircraft were employed and only four failed to return. Equally, owing to Allied fighter presence, the German XIX Corps War Diary states, "Corps no longer has at its disposal its own long-range reconnaissance … [Reconnaissance squadrons] are no longer in a position to carry out vigorous, extensive reconnaissance, as, owing to casualties, more than half of their aircraft are not now available."[86]

The most serious combat to evolve on 12 May 1940 was the beginning of the Battle of Hannut (12–14 May). While the German Army Group A advanced through the Belgian Ardennes, Army Group B's 6th Army launched an offensive operation toward the Gembloux gap. Gembloux occupied a position in the Belgian plain, an unfortified, untrenched gap in the main Belgian defensive line.[87] The Gap stretched from the southern end of the Dyle line, at Wavre, to Namur in the south, 20 kilometres (12 mi) to 30 kilometres (19 mi). After attacking out of the Maastricht bulge and defeating the Belgian defences at Liege, which compelled the Belgian I Corps to retreat, the German 6th Army's XVI Panzer-Motorised Corps under the command of Erich Hoepner, containing the 3rd and 4th Panzer Divisions, launched an offensive in the area where the French mistakenly expected the main German thrust.[88][89] The Gembloux gap was defended by the French 1st Army, with six elite divisions including the 2nd Light Mechanized Division (2e Division Légère Mécanique, or 2e DLM) and 3rd Light Mechanized Division.[87] The Prioux Cavalry Corps, under the command of Rene-Jacques-Adolphe Prioux, was to advance 30 kilometres (19 mi) beyond (east) of the line to provide a screen for the move. The French 1st Armoured and 2nd Armoured Divisions were to be moved behind the French 1st Army to defend the strategic depths behind its main front defence lines.[87] The Prioux Cavalry Corps was equal to a German Panzer Corps, and was to occupy a screening line on the TirlemontHannutHuy axis. The operational plan called for the Corps to delay the German advance on Gembloux and Hannut until the Infantry and armoured units had reached the area.[87]

Hoepner's Panzer Corps and Prioux' Cavalry ran into each other head-on near Hannut, Belgium, on 12 May. Contrary to popular belief, the Germans did not outnumber the French.[90] Frequently figures of 623 German tanks and 415 French tanks are given.[90] Actually, the German 3rd and 4th Panzer Divisions numbered 280 and 343 respectively.[90] The 2e DLM and 3e DLM numbered 239 Hotchkiss H35 light tanks and 176 Somua tanks.[90] Added to this force is the considerable numbers of Renault AMR-ZT-63s in the Cavalry Corps. The R35 was superior or equal to the Panzer I and Panzer IIs in armament terms.[90] This applies all the more to the 90 Panhard 178 armoured cars of the French Army. Its 25mm main gun could penetrate the armour on the Panzer IV. In terms of tanks that were capable of engaging and surviving tank-v-tank action, the Germans possessed just 73 Panzer IIIs and 52 Panzer IVs.[90] The French had 176 SOMUA and 239 Hotchkiss light tanks.[90] Most of the German tank numbers contained 486 Panzer I and IIs, which were of "dubious" combat value given losses in the Polish Campaign.[52]

The German forces were able to communicate with radio during the battle and they could shift the point of the main effort unexpectedly. The Germans also practised combined arms tactics, while the French tactical deployment was rigid and linear as in the First World War. The French tanks did not possess radios and often the commanders had to dismount and issue orders to other tanks. The French were tactically inferior.[91] Despite the disadvantages of the Germans in armour, they were able to gain the upper hand in the morning battle on 12 May, encircling several French battalions. The combat power of the French 2e DLM managed to defeat the German defences guarding the pockets and freeing the trapped units.[92] Contrary to German reports, the French were victorious on that first day, preventing the Germans from achieving a breakthrough to Gembloux or seizing Hannut.[91] The result of the first day's battle was:

The effect on the German light tanks was catastrophic. Virtually every French weapon from 25mm upward penetrated the 7-13mm of the Panzer I. Although the Panzer II fared somewhat better, especially those that had been uparmoured since the Polish Campaign, there losses were too high. Such was the sheer frustration of the crews of these light Panzers in face of heavier armoured French machines that some resorted to desperate expedients. One account speaks of a German Panzer commander attempting to climb on a Hotchkiss H-35 with a hammer, presumably to smash the machine's periscopes, but falling off and being crushed by the tank's tracks. Certainly by day's end, Prioux had reason to claim that his tanks had come off best. The Battlefield around Hannut was littered with knocked out and destroyed tanks – the bulk of which were German Panzers -with by far and away the bulk of them being Panzer Is and IIs.[93]

The following day, 13 May, the French were undone by their poor tactical deployment. They strung their armour out in a thin line between Hannut and Huy, leaving no defence in depth, as was the point of sending the French armour to the Gembloux gap in the first place. This left Hoepner with a chance to mass against one of the French Light Divisions (the 3e DLM) and achieve a breakthrough on that sector. Moreover, with no reserves behind the front the French denied themselves the chance of a counterattack. The victory saw the Panzer Corps outflank the 2e DLM on its left flank.[91] The Belgian III Corps, retreating from Liege offered to support the French front held by the 3e DLM. This offer was rejected.[94]

On 12–13 May, the losses of the French side amounted to zero AFVs being lost by the 2e DLM, but the 3e DLM lost 75 Hotchkiss and 30 SOMUA tanks. The French had disabled 160 German tanks, many of them by the 3e DLM.[95] But as the poor linear deployment had allowed the Germans the chance of breaking through in one spot, the entire battlefield had to be abandoned,[95] and the Germans repaired nearly three quarters of their disabled tanks; 49 tanks were destroyed and 111 tanks repaired. The Germans had 60 men killed and another 80 wounded.[96] In terms of battlefield casualties, the Hannut tank battle had resulted in the French knocking out 160 German tanks for 105 losses.[97]

Hoepner now pursued the retreating French. Being impatient, he did not wait for his infantry divisions to close up, instead he hoped to continue pushing the French back and not to allow them time to construct a coherent defence line. German formations pursued the enemy to Gembloux. The Panzer Corps ran into retreating enemy columns and inflicted heavy losses on them. The pursuit created severe problems for French artillery. The combat was so closely fought that creating friendly fire was too risky. Nevertheless the French, setting up new anti-tank screens, and Hoepner, lacking infantry support, caused the Germans to attack positions head on. During the following Battle of Gembloux the two Panzer Divisions reported heavy losses during 14 May and were forced to slow their pursuit.[98]

Although suffering numerous tactical reverses, operationally the Germans and Hoepner diverted the Allied First Army Group from the lower Ardennes area. In the process his forces, along with the Luftwaffe depleted Prioux' Cavalry Corps. With news of the German breakthrough at Sedan reaching Prioux, he withdrew from Gembloux. With the Gembloux gap breached, the German Panzer Corps, the 3rd and 4th Panzer Divisions, were no longer required by Army Group B and were handed over to Army Group A. Army Group B would continue its own offensive to force the collapse of the Meuse front. The Army Group was in a position to advance westward to Mons, outflank the B.E.F and Belgian Army protecting the Dyle–Brussels sector or turn south to outflank the French Ninth Army. German losses had been heavy at Hannut and Gembloux.[99] The 4th Panzer was down to 137 tanks on 16 May, including just four Panzer IVs. The 3rd Panzer Division was down by 20–25 percent of its operational force, while the 4th Panzer Division was down to 45–50 percent of its tanks were not combat ready.[99] Damaged tanks were quickly repaired, but its strength was initially greatly weakened.[99] The French 1st Army had also taken a battering and despite winning several tactical defensive victories it was forced to retreat on 15 May owing to developments elsewhere, leaving its tanks on the battlefield, while the Germans were free to recover theirs.[100]

15–21 May: Counterattacks and retreat to the coast

German infantry in western Belgium in May, 1940.

On the morning of 15 May, German Army Group A broke the defences at Sedan and was now free to sprint to the English Channel. The Allies now considered a whole sale withdrawal from the Belgian trap. The withdrawal would reflect three stages: night of 16/17 May to the River Senne; night of 17/18 May to the river Dendre; night of 18/19 May to the river Scheldt.[101][102] The Belgians were reluctant to abandon Brussels and Leuven, especially as the Dyle line had withstood German pressure well.[101] The Belgian Army, B.E.F and French 1st Army, in a domino effect, was ordered/forced to retire on 16 May to avoid their southern flanks from being turned by the German armour forces advancing through the French Ardennes and the German 6th Army advancing through Gembloux. The Belgian Army was holding the German Fourteenth Army on the K.W line, along with the French 7th and British Army. Had it not been for the collapse of the French 2nd Army at Sedan, the Belgians were confident they could have held the line, and checked the German advance.[103]

This decision called for the French and British to abandon the Antwerp–Namur line, and strong positions in favour of improvised positions, behind the Scheldt, without facing any real resistance.[104] In the South, General Deffontaine of the Belgian VII Corps retreated from the Namur and Liege regions,[104] while the Liege fortress region put up stiff resistance to the German 6th Army.[105] 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.[104] In the centre, the Belgian Army and the B.E.F suffered little German pressure. On 15 May, the only sector to really be tested was the Leuven sector which was held by the British 3rd Division. Thereafter the B.E.F was not pursued vigorously to the Scheldt.[101]

After the withdrawal of the French Army from the northern sector near, the Belgians were left to guard the fortified city of Antwerp. Four infantry divisions (including the Belgian 13th Reserve Infantry Division and the Belgian 17th Reserve Infantry Division) engaged the German Eighteenth Army's 208th Infantry Division, 225th Infantry Division and 526th Infantry Divisions.[106] The Belgians successfully defended the northern part of the city, delaying the German infantry forces while starting to withdraw from Antwerp on 16 May. The city fell on 18/19 May after considerable Belgian resistance. On 18 May the Belgians received word that Namur's fort Marchovelette had fallen, fort Suarlee fell on 19 May, St. Heribert and Malonne on 21 May, Dave, Maizeret and Andoy on 23 May.[105]

Between 16–17 May, the British and French withdrew behind the Willebroek Canal, as the volume of Allied forces in Belgium fell and moved toward the German armoured thrust from the Ardennes. The Belgian I Corps and V Corps also retreated to what the Belgians called the Ghent bridgehead, behind the Dendre and Scheldt. The Belgian Artillery Corps and its infantry support defeated attacks from the Eighteenth Army's infantry and in a communiqué from London, the British recognised the "Belgian Army has contributed largely towards the success of the defensive battle now been fought.[105] Nevertheless, the now-outnumbered Belgians abandoned Brussels and the Government fled to Ostend. The city was occupied by the German Army on 17 May. The very next morning, German XVI Corps commander Erich Hoepner was ordered to release the 3rd and 4th Panzer Divisions to Army Group A.[107] This left the 9th Panzer Division attached to the Eighteenth Army as the only armoured unit on the Belgian front.

By 19 May, the Germans were hours away from reaching the French Channel coast. Lord Gort had discovered the French had neither plan nor reserves and little hope for stopping the German thrust to the channel. Gort was concerned that the French 1st Army on its southern flank had been reduced to a disorganised mass of "fag-ends", fearing that the German armour might appear on their right flank at Arras or Péronne, striking to the channel ports at Calais or Boulogne or north west into the British flank. Their position in Belgium massively compromised, the B.E.F. considered abandoning Belgium and retreating to Ostend, Bruges or Dunkirk, some 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) to 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) inside the French border.[108]

A Belgian Renault ACG1 tank, knocked out during the Battle for Antwerp, 19 May 1940

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). They dispatched General Ironside to order Lord Gort to conduct an offensive to the south west "through all opposition" to reach the "main French forces" in the south [the strongest French forces were actually in the north]. The Belgian Army was asked to conform to the plan, or should they choose, the British Royal Navy would evacuate the units they could.[108] The British cabinet decided that even if the "Somme offensive" was carried out successfully, some units may still need to be evacuated, and ordered Admiral Ramsay to assemble a large number of vessels. This was the beginning of Operation Dynamo.[108] Ironside arrived at British General Headquarters at 06:00 am on 20 May, the same day the continental communications between the France and Belgium were cut.[109] When Ironside made known his proposals to Gort, Gort replied such an attack was impossible. Seven of his nine divisions were engaged on the Scheldt and even if it was possible to withdraw it would create a gap between the Belgians and British which the enemy could exploit and encircle the former. The B.E.F had been marching and fighting for nine days and was now running short of ammunition.[109] The main effort had to be made by the French to the south.[109]

The Belgian position on any offensive move was made clear by King Leopold III. As far as Leopold was concerned the Belgian Army could not conduct offensive operations as it lacked tanks or aircraft; it existed solely for defence.[110][111] The King also made clear that in the rapidly shrinking area of Belgium still free, there was only enough food for two weeks.[110] Leopold did not expect the B.E.F to jeopardize its own position in order to keep contact with the Belgian Army, but he warned the British that if it insisted with the southern offensive the Belgians would be overstretched and the Army would collapse.[110][111] King Leopold suggested the best recourse was to establish a beach-head covering Dunkirk and the Belgian channel ports.[110] The will of CIGS won out. Gort committed only a two infantry battalions and the only armour battalion of British Army to the attack, which despite some initial tactical success, failed to break the German defensive line at the Battle of Arras on 21 May.[112]

In the aftermath on the failure, the Belgians were asked to fall back to the Yser and protect the Allied left flank and rear areas. The King's aid, General Overstraten said that such a move could not be made and would lead to the Belgian Army disintegrating. Another plan for further offensives were suggested. 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 B.E.F for the attack. The French 1st Army would relieve two more divisions on the right flank. Leopold was reluctant to under take such a move because it would abandon all but a small portion of Belgium, the Belgian Army was exhausted, and it was an enormous technical task that would take too long to complete.[113]

At this time, the Belgians and British concluded that the French were beaten, and the Allied Armies in the pocket on the Belgian–Franco border would be destroyed if action was not taken. The British, having lost confidence in their Allies, decided to look to the survival of the B.E.F.[114]

22–28 May: Last defensive battles

The German advance to the English Channel until 21 May 1940.

The Belgian battle front on the morning of 22 May extended some 90 kilometres (56 mi). From north to south, beginning with the Belgian Cavalry Corps which held its advances at Terneuzen, there were drawn up side by side, the Belgian V Corps, Belgian II Corps, Belgian VI Corps, Belgian VII Corps and Belgian IV Corps. Two further signal Corps were guarding the coast.[115] These units were now largely holding the eastern front as the B.E.F and French withdrew to the west to protect Dunkirk, which was unprotected from German assault on 22 May. The eastern front remained intact, but the Belgians now occupied its last fortified position at Leie.[116] The Belgian I Corps, with only two incomplete divisions, had been heavily engaged in the fighting and the Belgian line was wearing thin. On that day, Winston Churchill visited the front and pressed for the French and British Armies to break out from the north east. He assumed that the Belgian Cavalry Corps could support the offensives right flank. Churchill dispatched the following message to Gort:

1. That the Belgian Army should withdraw to the line of the Yser and stand there, the sluices being opened.
2. That the British Army and French 1st Army should attack south-west towards 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.[117]

Such an order ignored the Belgian Army could not withdraw to the Yser, and there was little chance of any Belgian Cavalry joining in the attack.[117] The plan for the Belgian withdrawal was sound, the Yser river covered Dunkirk to the east and south, while the La Bassée Canal covered it from the west. The ring of the Yser also dramatically shorted the Belgian Army's area of operations. Such a move would have abandoned Passchendaele and Ypres, and would have certainly meant the capture of Ostend while reducing the amount of Belgian territory still free by a few square miles.[118]

On 23 May, the French tried to conduct a series of offensives against the German defensive line on the Ardennes–Calais axis but failed to make any meaningful gains. Meanwhile, on the Belgian front, the Belgians, under pressure, retreated further, and the Germans captured Terneuzen and Ghent that day. The Belgians also had trouble moving the oil, food and ammunition that they had left.[119] The Luftwaffe had air superiority and made everyday life troubling in logistical terms. Air support could only be called in by "wireless", and the RAF was operating from bases in southern England which made communication more difficult.[119] The French denied the use of the Dunkirk, Bourbourg and Gravelines bases to the Belgians, which had initially been placed at its disposal. The Belgians were forced to use the only bases left to them, at Nieuport and Ostend.[119]

Churchill and Maxime Weygand, who had taken over command from Gamelin, were still determined to break the German line and exit their forces to the south. When they communicated their intentions to King Leopold and van Overstraten on 24 May, the latter were stunned.[120] A dangerous gap was starting to open between the British and Belgians between Ypres and Menen, which threatened what remained of the Belgian front.[120] The Belgians could not cover it, and such a move would have overstretched them. Without consulting the French or asking permission from his government, Lord Gort immediately and decisively ordered the British 5th Infantry Division and 50th Infantry Division to plug the gap and abandon any offensive operations further south.[120][121]

On the afternoon of 24 May, Von Bock had thrown four divisions, of Reichenau's German 6th Army, against the Belgian IV Corps position at the Kortrijk area of the Leie. The Germans managed, against fierce resistance to cross the river by dark and force a one mile penetration along a 13-mile front between Wijik and Kortrijk. The Germans, with superior numbers and in command of the air, had won the bridgehead.[120] Nevertheless, the Belgians had inflicted considerable casualties on the German attackers and inflicted several tactical defeats on them. The Belgian 1st Infantry Division, Belgian 3rd Infantry Division along with the Belgian 9th Infantry Division and Belgian 10th Infantry Division, acting as reinforcements, had counterattacked several times and managed to capture 200 German prisoners.[122] Belgian artillery and infantry were then heavily attacked by the Luftwaffe which forced the Belgian defeat. The Belgians blamed the French and British for not providing air cover.[122] The German bridgehead dangerously exposed the eastern flank of the southward stretched B.E.F's 4th Infantry Division. Montgomery dispatched several units of the 3rd Infantry Division (heavy infantry 1st and 7th Middlesex battalions and the 99th Battery, 20th Anti-Tank Regiment anti-tank battery) were brought up as an improvised defence.[123]

A critical point of the "Weygand Plan" and the British Government and French Army's argument for a thrust south was the withdrawal of forces to see the offensive through had left the Belgian Army overextended and was instrumental in its collapse. It was forced to cover the areas held by the B.E.F in order to enable the later to engage in the offensive.[120] Such a collapse could have resulted in the loss of the Channel ports behind the Allied front, leading to a complete strategic encirclement. The B.E.F could have done more to counterattack von Bock's left flank to relieve the Belgians as von Bock attacked across the fortified British position at Kortrijk.[124] The Belgian High Command made at least five appeals for the British to attack the vulnerable left flank of the German divisions between the Scheldt and the Leie to avert disaster.[124]

Admiral Sir Roger Keyes transmitted the following message to GHQ:

Van Overstraten is desperately keen for [a] strong British counterattack. Either north or south of Leie could help restore the situation. [The] Belgians expect to be attacked on the Ghent front tomorrow. [The] Germans already have a bridgehead over canal west of Eecloo. There can be no question of the Belgian withdrawal to Yser. One battalion on march NE of Ypres was practically wiped out today in attack by sixty aircraft. Withdrawal over open roads without adequate fighter support [is] very costly. Whole of their supplies are east of Yser. They strongly represent [insist an] attempt should be made to restore the situation on Leie by British counter-attack for which opportunity may last another few hours only.[125]

No such attack came. The Germans brought fresh reserves to cover the gap (Menen–Ypres). This nearly cut the Belgians off from the British. The Belgian 6th Infantry Division, Belgian 10th Infantry Division and Belgian 2nd Cavalry Division frustrated German attempts to exploit the gap in depth but the situation was still critical.[122] On 26 May, Operation Dynamo officially commenced, in which large French and British contingents were to be evacuated back to the United Kingdom. By that time the Royal Navy had already evacuated 28,000 British non-fighting troops. Boulogne had fallen and Calais was about to, leaving Dunkirk, Ostend and Zeebrugge as the only viable ports which could be used for evacuation. However, the advance of the 14th German Army would leave Ostend available for much longer. To the west, the German Army Group A had reached Dunkirk and were 4 miles (6.4 km) from its centre on the morning of 27 May, bringing the port within artillery range.[126]

The situation on 27 May had changed considerably from just 24 hours earlier. The Belgian Army had been forced from the Leie line on 26 May, and Nevele, Vynckt, Thelt and Iseghem had fallen on the western and central part of the Leie front. In the east the Germans had reached the outskirts of Bruges, and captured Ursel. In the west, the Menen–Ypres line had broken at Kortrijk and the Belgians were now erecting railway trucks and anti-tank defences on a line from YpresPassendaleRoulers. Further to the west the B.E.F had been forced back, north of Lille, France just over the border, and was now in danger of allowing a gap to develop between themselves and the Belgian southern flank on the Ypres–Lille axis.[127] The danger in allowing a German advance to Dunkirk which would mean the loss of the port was now too great. The British withdrew to the port on 26 May. In doing so they left the French 1st Army's north-eastern flank near Lille exposed. As the British moved out the Germans filled the gap, encircling the bulk of the French Army. Both Gort and his Chief of Staff, General Henry Pownall excepted that their withdrawal would mean the destruction of the French 1st Army, and they would be blamed for it.[128]

The fighting of 26–27 May had brought the Belgian Army to the brink of collapse. The Belgians still held the Ypres–Roulers line in the west, and the Bruges–Thelt line in the east. However, on 27 May the central front collapsed in the Iseghem–Thelt sector. There was now nothing from preventing a German thrust to the east to take Ostend and Bruges, or west to take the ports at Nieuport or La Panne, deep into the rear of the Allied front.[127] The Belgians had practically exhausted all available means of resistance. The disintegration of the Belgian Army and its front cause many erroneous accusations from the British for withdrawing.[129] In fact, on numerous occasions, the Belgians had held on after British withdrawals.[129] One example was the taking over of the Scheldt line, where they relieved the British 44th Infantry Division, and allowed it to retire through their ranks.[129] Despite this, Gort, and to a greater extent Pownall, showed unjust contempt for the Belgians.[129] When it was enquired if any Belgians were to be evacuated, Pownall was reported to have replied, "We don't care a bugger what happens to the Belgians".[129]

Belgian surrender

The Belgian Army was stretched from Cadzand south to Menin on the river Leie, and west, from Menin, to Bruges without any sort of reserves. With the exception of a few RAF sorties, the air was exclusively under the control of the German Luftwaffe, and the Belgians reported attacks against all targets considered an objective, with resulting casualties. No natural obstacles remained between the Belgians and the German Army, and retreat was not feasible. The Luftwaffe has destroyed most of the rail networks to Dunkirk, and just three road axis were left: Bruges–Thourout–Dixmude, Bruges–Ghistelles–Nieuport, Bruges–Ostende–Nieuport. But such axis of retreat was impossible without losses owing to German air supremacy (as opposed to air superiority). The water supplies were damaged and cut off, gas supplies and electricity was also cut. Canals were drained and used as supply dumps for whatever ammunition and food stuffs were left. The total remaining area covered just 1,700 km², and compacted military and civilians, which numbered some 3 million people.[130] Under those circumstances Leopold deemed further resistance useless. On the evening of 27 May, Leopold had requested an armistice.[12]

Churchill sent a message to Keyes the same day, and made clear what he thought of the request:

Belgian Embassy here assumes from King's decision to remain that he regards the war as lost and contemplates separate peace. It is in order to dissociate itself from this that the constitutional Belgian Government has reassembled on foreign soil. 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 on which to fight back. By present decision the King is dividing the Nation and delivering it into Hitler's protection. Please convey these considerations to the King, and impress upon him the disastrous consequences to the Allies and to Belgium of his present choice.[131]

Negotiating the Belgian capitulation

The Royal Navy evacuated General Headquarters at Middelkerke and St. Andrews, east of Bruges, during the night. Leopold III, and his mother Queen Mother Elisabeth, stayed in Belgium to endure five years of self-imposed captivity.[131] In response to the advice of his government to set up a government in exile Leopold said, "I have decided to stay. The cause of the Allies is lost."[12] The Belgian surrender came into effect at 04:00 on 28 May. Recriminations abounded with the British and French claiming the Belgians had betrayed the alliance. In Paris, the French Premier Paul Reynaud denounced Leopold's surrender, and the Belgian Premire Hubert Pierlot informed the Belgian people that Leopold had taken action against the unanimous advice of the Belgian government. As a result, the king was no longer in a position to govern and the Belgian government in exile that was located in Paris (later moved to London following the fall of France) would continue the struggle.[12] The chief complaint was that the Belgians had not given any prior warning that their situation was so serious as to capitulate. Such claims were largely unjust. 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.[132][133] Churchill's and the British response was officially restrained. This was due to the strong-willed defence of the Belgian defensive campaign presented to the cabinet by Sir Roger Keyes at 11:30 am 28 May.[134] The French and Belgian ministers had referred to Leopold's actions as treacherous, but they were unaware of the true events: Leopold had not signed an agreement with Hitler in order to form a collaborative government, but an unconditional surrender as Commander-in-Chief of the Belgian Armed Forces.[135]

Casualties

German casualties

The consolidated report of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht regarding the operations in the west from 10 May to 4 June (German: Zusammenfassender Bericht des Oberkommandos der Wehrmacht über die Operationen im Westen vom 10. Mai bis 4. Juni) reports:[136]

  • Killed in action: 10,232 officers and soldiers[136]
  • Missing in action: 8,463 officers and soldiers[136]
  • Wounded in action: 42,523 officers and soldiers[136]
  • Losses of the German Luftwaffe from 10 May to 3 June: 432 aircraft[136]
  • Losses of the Kriegsmarine: none[136]

The casualty reports include total losses at this point in the western campaign. The figures for the Battle of Belgium, 10–28 May 1940, cannot be known with exact certainty.

Belgian casualties

Belgian casualties stood at:

  • Killed in action: 6,093 and 2,000 prisoners of war died in captivity[3]
  • Missing in action: more than 500[3]
  • Captured: 200,000[4]
  • Wounded in action: 15,850 WIA[4]
  • Aircraft: 112 destroyed[6]

British casualties

Numbers for the Battle of Belgium are unknown, but the British suffered the following losses throughout the entire western campaign, 10 May – 22 June:

  • 68,111 killed in action, wounded in action or captured.[137]
  • 64,000 vehicles destroyed or abandoned[137]
  • 2,472 guns destroyed or abandoned[137]
  • RAF losses throughout the entire western campaign (10 May – 22 June) amounted to 931 aircraft and 1,526 casualties. Casualties to the 28 May are unknown.[137] Total British losses in the air numbered 344 in 12–25 May, and 138 for 26 May – 1 June.[9]

French casualties

Numbers for the Battle of Belgium are unknown, but the French suffered the following losses throughout the entire western campaign, 10 May – 22 June:

  • Killed in action: 90,000[5]
  • Wounded in action: 200,000[5]
  • Prisoners of War: 1.9.[5]
  • Total French losses in aircraft numbered 264 in 12–25 May, and 50 for 26 May – 1 June.[9]

See also

References

Notes

  1. ^ contributed lightly armed infantry units retreating from Dutch territory. Also committed the Dutch Air Force on few, ineffective and costly missions.[1]
  2. ^ The Belgium Army consisted of 22 divisions, the British provided 10 divisions, the Dutch 8 divisions and the French provided 104 divisions.[2]
  3. ^ The Belgium Army had 1,338 guns, the British 1,280 guns, the Dutch 656 guns and the French 10,700 guns.[2]
  4. ^ The Belgium Army had 10 tanks, the British 310 tanks, the Dutch 1 tank and the French 3,063 tanks.[2]
  5. ^ The Belgium Air Force consisted of 250 aircraft, the British Royal Air Force provided 456 aircraft, the Dutch Air Force 175 aircraft and the French Air Force 1,368 aircraft.[2]
  6. ^ The Belgium Army sustained 6,093 men killed, 15,850 men wounded in action, more than 500 men missing and 200,000 men captured, of which 2,000 died in captivity.[3][4] British and French losses on Belgian territory are unknown.[5]
  7. ^ The Belgium Air Force lost 83 planes on the ground on 10 May,[6] 25 lost in aerial combat between 10–15 May,[7] and four lost in the air between 16–28 May.[8] French and British losses are not certain however the French Air Force lost 264 aircraft between 12–25 May, and 50 for 26 May – 1 June while the British Royal Air Force lost 344 and 138 aircraft in these respective periods.[9]
  8. ^ German air units doubled up and flew missions over the Netherlands and Belgium. Case specific loss totals for Belgium only cannot be certain. Total German losses in the air numbered 469 in 12–25 May, and 126 for 26 May – 1 June.[9]

Citations

  1. ^ Gunsburg 1992, p. 216.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Holmes 2005, p. 324.
  3. ^ a b c d Keegan 2005, p. 96.
  4. ^ a b c Ellis 1993, p. 255.
  5. ^ a b c d Keegan 2005, p. 326.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Hooton 2007, p. 52.
  7. ^ a b c d Hooton 2007, p. 49.
  8. ^ a b c d Hooton 2007, p. 53.
  9. ^ a b c d Hooton 2007, p. 57.
  10. ^ Dunstan 2005, p. 57
  11. ^ As referred to by the article: The Belgian Campaign and the Surrender of the Belgian Army, May 10–28, 1940, by Belgian American Educational Foundation, Inc, Third edition. Published by Belgian American educational foundation, Inc, 1941, University of Michigan
  12. ^ a b c d Shirer 1990, p. 729.
  13. ^ Healy 2007, p. 36.
  14. ^ Keegan 2005, pp. 95–96.
  15. ^ a b c d Bond 1990, p. 8.
  16. ^ Ellis 2009, p. 8.
  17. ^ Bond 1990, p. 9.
  18. ^ Bond 1990, p. 21.
  19. ^ Bond & Taylor 2001, p. 14.
  20. ^ Bond 1990, pp. 9–10.
  21. ^ a b Bond 1990, p. 22.
  22. ^ Bond 1990, pp. 22–23.
  23. ^ Bond 1990, p. 24.
  24. ^ a b Belgium, Ministère des Affaires Étrangères 1941, p. 2.
  25. ^ a b c Belgium, Ministère des Affaires Étrangères 1941, p. 3.
  26. ^ a b Belgium, Ministère des Affaires Étrangères 1941, p. 4.
  27. ^ Belgium, Ministère des Affaires Étrangères 1941, p. 53.
  28. ^ Belgium, Ministère des Affaires Étrangères 1941, pp. 4–5.
  29. ^ Bond 1990, pp. 24–25.
  30. ^ Bond 1990, p. 25.
  31. ^ Bond 1990, p. 28.
  32. ^ Bond 1990, p. 35.
  33. ^ a b Bond 1990, p. 36.
  34. ^ Bond 1990, pp. 46–47.
  35. ^ a b c Belgium, Ministère des Affaires Étrangères 1941, pp. 32–33.
  36. ^ Holmes 2001, p. 313.
  37. ^ Bond 1990, pp. 100–101.
  38. ^ a b c d e Dunston 2005, p. 34.
  39. ^ Dunston 2005, p. 35.
  40. ^ a b Dunston 2005, p. 36.
  41. ^ a b c Keegan 2005, p. 95.
  42. ^ a b c Keegan 2005, p. 324.
  43. ^ a b Frieser 2005, p. 47.
  44. ^ Frieser 2005, p. 46.
  45. ^ a b c Hooton 2007, p. 48.
  46. ^ "Aéronautique Militaire Belge". http://www.epibreren.com/ww2/belgium/af/index.html#ep. Retrieved 3 February 2010. 
  47. ^ Bond & Taylor 2001, p. 37.
  48. ^ Fowler 2002, p. 12.
  49. ^ Frieser 2005, p. 36.
  50. ^ a b Belgium, Ministère des Affaires Étrangères 1941, p. 32.
  51. ^ Niehorster, Leo. "Belgian Navy Order of Battle". http://niehorster.orbat.com/021_belgium/ghq_navy.html. Retrieved 3 February 2010. 
  52. ^ a b c Healy 2007, p. 37.
  53. ^ Bond 1990, p. 58.
  54. ^ Foot 2005, p. 322. (map of French dispositions is avaliable in Keegan's book)
  55. ^ Foot 2005, p. 130.
  56. ^ Foot 2005, p. 324.
  57. ^ Bond 1975, p. 20.
  58. ^ Prigent & Healy 2007, p. 32.
  59. ^ a b c d Healy 2007, p. 32.
  60. ^ Harclerode, p. 51
  61. ^ Tugwell, p. 52
  62. ^ Hooton 2007, p. 47.
  63. ^ a b Hooton 2007, pp. 45–46.
  64. ^ a b c Belgium, Ministère des Affaires Étrangères 1941, p. 33.
  65. ^ Sebag-Montefiore 2006, pp. 50–51.
  66. ^ a b c d e Belgium, Ministère des Affaires Étrangères 1941, p. 35.
  67. ^ Belgium, Ministère des Affaires Étrangères 1941, p. 34.
  68. ^ Bond 1990, p. 59.
  69. ^ Hooton 2007, p. 54.
  70. ^ Frieser 2005, p. 123.
  71. ^ a b c d Frieser 2005, pp. 126–127.
  72. ^ Frieser 2005, pp. 138–139.
  73. ^ a b c d Hooton 2007, p. 56.
  74. ^ a b c d Bond 1990, p. 58.
  75. ^ Ellis 2009, p. 37.
  76. ^ a b Belgium, Ministère des Affaires Étrangères 1941, p. 36.
  77. ^ Jackson 2003, p. 37.
  78. ^ Shepperd 1990, p. 38.
  79. ^ a b Hooton 2007, p. 51.
  80. ^ a b Belgium, Ministère des Affaires Étrangères 1941, p. 37.
  81. ^ a b Belgium, Ministère des Affaires Étrangères 1941, p. 38.
  82. ^ Niehorster, Leo. "Belgian Army Order of Battle". http://niehorster.orbat.com/021_belgium/organization/belgian_div-cav.html. Retrieved 3 February 2010. 
  83. ^ Bond 1990, pp. 59–60.
  84. ^ Bond 1990, p. 60.
  85. ^ Hooton 2007, p. 55.
  86. ^ a b c d Ellis 2009, pp. 56–57.
  87. ^ a b c d Frieser 2005, p. 240.
  88. ^ Frieser 2005, p. 239.
  89. ^ Ellis 2009, pp. 37–38.
  90. ^ a b c d e f g Frieser 2005, p. 241.
  91. ^ a b c Frieser 2005, p. 242.
  92. ^ Gunsburg 1992, p. 221–224.
  93. ^ Healy 2007, pp. 37–38.
  94. ^ Gunsberg 1992, p. 228.
  95. ^ a b Frieser 2005, p. 243.
  96. ^ Gunsburg 1992, p. 237.
  97. ^ Healy 2007, p. 38.
  98. ^ Frieser 2005, p. 243–44.
  99. ^ a b c Frieser 2005, p. 246.
  100. ^ Sebag-Montefiore 2006, p. 71.
  101. ^ a b c Bond 1990, p. 64.
  102. ^ Ellis 2009, p. 59.
  103. ^ The Belgian Campaign and the Surrender of the Belgian Army, May 10–28, 1940, By the Belgian American Educational Foundation, inc, Third edition. Published by Belgian American educational foundation, inc. 1941, University of Michigan, p. 30.
  104. ^ a b c Belgium, Ministère des Affaires Étrangères 1941, p. 39.
  105. ^ a b c Belgium, Ministère des Affaires Étrangères 1941, p. 40.
  106. ^ Bloock, Bernard. "Belgian Fortifications, May 1940". http://niehorster.orbat.com/021_belgium/forts/_forts-part_02.htm. Retrieved 3 February 2010. 
  107. ^ Sebag-Montefiore 2006, pp. 70–71.
  108. ^ a b c Bond 1990, p. 67.
  109. ^ a b c Bond 1990, p. 69.
  110. ^ a b c d Bond 1990, p. 70.
  111. ^ a b Ellis 2009, p. 105.
  112. ^ Bond 1990, p. 71–72.
  113. ^ Bond 1990, p. 72.
  114. ^ Bond 1990, p. 73.
  115. ^ The Belgian Campaign and the Surrender of the Belgian Army, May 10–28, 1940, By the Belgian American Educational Foundation, 1941, p. 54.
  116. ^ Bond 1990, p. 75.
  117. ^ a b Bond 1990, p. 76.
  118. ^ Bond 1990, p. 78.
  119. ^ a b c Belgium, Ministère des Affaires Étrangères 1941, p. 43.
  120. ^ a b c d e Bond 1990, p. 84.
  121. ^ Ellis 2009, p. 172.
  122. ^ a b c Belgium, Ministère des Affaires Étrangères 1941, p. 44.
  123. ^ Ellis 2009, pp. 135–136.
  124. ^ a b Bond 1990, p. 85.
  125. ^ Bond 1990, p. 86.
  126. ^ Bond 1990, p. 88.
  127. ^ a b Belgium, Ministère des Affaires Étrangères 1941, pp. 44–5.
  128. ^ Bond 1990, p. 89.
  129. ^ a b c d e Bond 1990, p. 92.
  130. ^ The Belgian Campaign and the Surrender of the Belgian Army, May 10–28, 1940, By the Belgian American Educational Foundation, University of Michigan, p. 60.
  131. ^ a b Bond 1990, p. 93.
  132. ^ Bond 1990, p. 94.
  133. ^ Sebag-Montefiore 2007, p. 304.
  134. ^ Bond 1990, p. 95.
  135. ^ Bond 1990, p. 96.
  136. ^ a b c d e f Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 1, p. 189.
  137. ^ a b c d Holmes 2005, p. 130.

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