This no more than delayed the total liberation of the country and on 4 February 1945, with the capture of the village of Krewinkel, the entire country was in Allied hands. Gort committed just two infantry battalions and the only armoured battalion in the BEF to the attack, which despite some initial tactical success, failed to break the German defensive line at the Battle of Arras on 21 May. [100] The 4th Panzer Division was down to 137 tanks on 16 May, including just four Panzer IVs. The Germans managed, against fierce resistance, to cross the river at night and force a one-mile penetration along a 13-mile front between Wervik and Kortrijk. Living standards in occupied Belgium decreased significantly from pre-war levels. The Battle of Belgium included the first tank battle of the war, the Battle of Hannut. Germany annexed Eupen-Malmedy, a German-speaking region that Belgium seized after the Treaty of Versailles of 1919. In a raid on the Erla Motor Works in the town of Mortsel (near Antwerp) on April 5, 1943, just two bombs dropped by the B-17 Flying Fortresses of the U.S. 8th Air Force fell on the intended target. Kampfgeschwader 40 and 54 supported by Ju 87s from VIII. 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. The German invasion of Belgium was a military campaign which began on 4 August 1914. "[71] The Germans also created a Judenrat in the country, the Association des Juifs en Belgique (AJB; "Association of Jews in Belgium") in which all Jews were required to inscribe. The BEF 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. [87] On 15 May, daylight bombing was significantly reduced. But overall the bombing had a limited effect. [72], 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. Total German losses in the air numbered 469 in 12–25 May, and 126 for 26 May – 1 June, but at least 43 paratroopers were killed and a further 100 wounded. [14], Leopold III became King of the Belgians in 1934, following the death of his father Albert I in a mountaineering accident. This battle was a result of a breakdown in communications and ran contrary to the operational intentions of the Belgian Army. Meanwhile, the Belgian Resistance, formed in late 1940, expanded vastly. 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. In September 1944, Allied forces arrived in Belgium and quickly moved across the country. [24], The Belgians suspected a ruse, but the plans were taken seriously. [106] The danger of infiltration posed by German informants[115] meant that some groups were extremely small and localised, and although nationwide groups did exist, they were split along political and ideological lines. 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. Although the Panzer II fared somewhat better, especially those that had been up-armoured since the Polish Campaign, their losses were high. The battle resulted in the French retiring, in the face of Luftwaffe air assaults, to Antwerp. [83] News of the strike spread rapidly and soon at least 70,000 workers were on strike across the province of Liége. In both World Wars, the fighting in the West began with a German invasion of Belgium. [117] The Belgian I Corps, with only two incomplete divisions, had been heavily engaged in the fighting and their line was wearing thin. In 1944, Rexist paramilitaries massacred 20 civilians in the village of Courcelles in retaliation for an assassination of a Rexist politician by members of the resistance. [40] The AéMI possessed 250 combat aircraft. [17] He outlined three main military points for Belgium's increased rearmament: a) German rearmament, following upon the complete re-militarisation of Italy and Russia (the Soviet Union), caused most other states, even those that were deliberately pacifistic, like Switzerland and the Netherlands, to take exceptional precautions. Contributed lightly armed infantry units retreating from Dutch territory. Air support could only be called in by "wireless" and the RAF was operating from bases in southern England which made communication more difficult. Virtually every French weapon from 25mm upward penetrated the 7-13mm of the Panzer I. The city was occupied by the German Army on 17 May. Belgium was to act as a secondary front with regard to importance. [95] The Germans also encouraged the formation of independent Flemish paramilitary organisations, such as the Vlaamse Wacht ("Flemish Guard"), founded in May 1941, which they hoped would eventually be able to act as a garrison in the region, freeing German troops for the front. 1. to go through Switz. [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. During the following Battle of Gembloux the two Panzer Divisions reported heavy losses during 14 May and were forced to slow their pursuit. [87] 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. 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. [96], From 1942, VNV's dominance was increasingly challenged by the more radical DeVlag, which had the support of the SS and Nazi Party. [82], By 1944, Belgian collaborationist groups began to feel increasingly abandoned by the German government as the situation deteriorated. [71], The German counter-air operations were spearheaded by Jagdgeschwader 26 (JG 26) under the command of Hans-Hugo Witt, which was responsible for 82 of the German claims in aerial combat between 11 and 13 May. [30] Other factors for its refusal were the weather conditions, which might blow the paratroopers away from the fort and disperse them too widely. The RAF Advanced Air Striking Force, which included the largest Allied bomber force, was reduced to 72 aircraft out of 135 by 12 May. [13], 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. [87] Around 15,000 Belgians served in two separate divisions of the Waffen-SS, divided along linguistic lines. This left Hoepner with a chance to mass against one of the French Light Divisions (the 3e DLM) and achieve a breakthrough in that sector. Belgian Fairey Battles of 5/III/3 escorted by six Gloster Gladiators attacked the Albert Canal bridges. [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. 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. [132], The Royal Navy evacuated General Headquarters at Middelkerke and Sint-Andries, east of Bruges, during the night. They were ignored.[26]. Both were more or less a consequence of the failed execution of the so-called Schlieffenplan. [123] The German bridgehead dangerously exposed the eastern flank of the southward stretched BEF's 4th Infantry Division. The Belgian Army was asked to conform to the plan, or should they choose, the British Royal Navy would evacuate what units they could. [86] Unusually, Breendonk was mainly guarded by Flemish collaborators of the Vlaamse SD-wacht, rather than German soldiers. It would later help in the defence of the city. [93] There was also an organisation, the Duits-Vlaamse Arbeidsgemeenschap ("German-Flemish Work Community", known by its acronym DeVlag), which advocated Nazi-style anti-clericalism and the inclusion of Flanders into Germany itself. [44], The French 7th Army was assigned to protect the northernmost part of the Allied front. Numerous members of the German administration were involved in the black market, stealing military or official supplies and reselling them. [13] In turn, the VNV was important in recruiting men for a new "Flemish Legion", an infantry unit within the Wehrmacht, formed in July 1941 after the invasion of Russia. The Belgian I Corps and V Corps also retreated to what the Belgians called the Ghent bridgehead, behind the Dendre and Scheldt. The AéMI had ordered Brewster Buffalo, Fiat CR.42, and Hawker Hurricane fighters, Koolhoven F.K.56 trainers, Fairey Battle and Caproni Ca.312 light bombers, and Caproni Ca.335 fighter-reconnaissance aircraft, but only the Fiats, Hurricanes, and Battles had been delivered. He was concerned that the French 1st Army on its southern flank had been reduced to a disorganized mass of "fag-ends", fearing that German armour might appear on their right flank at Arras or Péronne, striking for the channel ports at Calais or Boulogne or north west into the British flank. The casualty reports include total losses at this point in the campaign. Germans already have a bridgehead over canal west of Eecloo. [40] The phase of bombing in the lead up to D-Day alone resulted in 1,500 civilian casualties. 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. The figures for the Battle of Belgium, 10–28 May 1940, cannot be known with any certainty. It decided to deploy airborne forces (Fallschirmjäger) to land inside the fortress perimeter using gliders. 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. [40] Hiernaux organised the service into three Régiments d'Aéronautique (air regiments): the 1er with 60 aircraft, the 2ème with 53 aircraft, and the 3ème with 79 aircraft. Under the Belgian Constitution, Leopold played an important political role, served as commander-in-chief of the military, and personally commanded the Belgian army in May 1940. At least 90 were fighters, 12 were bombers and 12 were reconnaissance aircraft. [23] 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 Belgium (which was expanded by the Wehrmacht to include the Netherlands) and into France. New lines of defence were established along the Maastricht–Bois-le-Duc canal, joining the Meuse, Scheldt and the Albert Canal. [121] A dangerous gap was starting to open between the British and Belgians between Ypres and Menen, which threatened what remained of the Belgian front. The fort had to be captured or destroyed. 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 armoured forces consisted of 176 of the formidable SOMUA S35s and 239 Hotchkiss H35 light tanks. The combat was so closely fought that the danger of friendly fire incidents were very real. German formations pursued the enemy to Gembloux. [17] Despite his position, he remained prominent in the occupied territory, and coins and stamps continued to carry his portrait or monogramme. The Germans also practiced combined arms tactics, while the French tactical deployment was a rigid and linear leftover from the First World War. [69] The vast majority were recent immigrants to Belgium fleeing persecution in Germany and Eastern Europe and, as a result, only a small minority actually possessed Belgian citizenship. 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. [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. 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 guns. (S)./Lehrgeschwader 2 (LG 2) which assisted in the capture of the bridges at Vroenhoven and Veldwezelt in the immediate area.