Belgian army during ww1

July 28th, 2009  

Topic: Belgian army during ww1

The Schlieffen Plan of the German general staff called for a huge right wing through the neutral country of Belgium to strike at the undefended road to Paris and end the war with a knock out blow. The major powers had all guaranteed the integrity of the Belgian state in 1839 but this was disregarded by Germany completely. In August 1914, when the King of Belgium asked Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany why he had invaded his country, the Kaiser replied that in his defense " it was with the most friendly intentions toward Belgium".

The Belgian army of 1914 had no hope of stopping the German army but was determined to use the rivers and network of 19th Century fortifications to hold them off as long as possible. The German general staff had written the quaint little lowland army off as a merely academic issue. No one on the OHL believed that they would have to fight the Belgians. German diplomats suggested to the Belgian government that their army could simply symbolically line the road and watch the Germans as they passed through unmolested. One staff officer even dismissed the Belgians as ‘chocolate soldiers’ suitable for display purposes only.

Uniforms and equipment of the 117,000 man Belgian forces were notable for their uniqueness. The Belgian Civic Guard wore a green frock coat and top hat, looking something like a peppermint chimney sweep. Machine gun and supply carts were pulled by teams of dogs instead of horses or mules. The vaunted fortresses at Liege, and Namur as well as the national redoubt at Antwerp were considered formidable (Liege itself held four hundred guns of all calibers) however they were obsolete by the standards of the day. The forts were constructed in the 1880’s to withstand blackpowder rounds from iron cannon and by 1914, even though artillery had evolved to the steel cannon firing high explosive shells, no serious upgrades to the fortress had been made, including armaments. The armament and equipment of the army reflected decades of stringent financial budgeting. In all there were available only 93,000 rifles and 6,000 swords, 324 obsolete field guns, and token 102 machine guns.

The meticulously timed and planned Schlieffen plan that the German army marched by did not take into account any time spent fighting the Belgian army. The delay of even a couple days in reaching their objectives in northern France, and the diversion of combat troops to siege Antwerp meant that the German right wing was more vulnerable to the allies at the subsequent miracle battle of the Marne. If the Belgian army had simply rolled over and let the Germans march through their country unmolested, the war may have been fought and lost by the first week of September 1914.

The resistance they gave the Germans was one of the factors that saved Paris. The decision to run through this declared neutral is also what ultimately brought The British Empire off the sidelines and into the war for the allied.

Belgian resistance: Although the Belgian army was only a tenth the size of the German army, it still delayed the Germans for nearly a month, defending fortresses and cities. The Germans used their "Big Bertha" artillery to destroy Belgian forts inLiège, Namur and Antwerp, but the Belgians still fought back, creating a constant threat on German supply lines in the North. In addition, the German attack on neutral Belgium and reports and propaganda about atrocities turned public opinion in many neutral countries against Germany and Kaiser Wilhelm.

Belgian troops remained in possession of the tiny Yser river salient part of their country for four years of bitter trench fighting. The final butcher’s bill for the tiny country of Belgium was 58,637 military dead and 44,686 wounded. (About the size of todays Belgian military active duty personel)

An ode to my forefathers and fellow country men who fought for my freedom and country. Forgotton by the world, but not by us.
July 29th, 2009  
Sadly Belgium like New Zealand suffers from being a small country in a world where history is written by bigger countries and it can be incredibly frustrating.

In the end though I am not sure it matters whether you are forgotten by the world as long as you know the real story then nothing has been lost.
July 29th, 2009  
yeah but as a New Zeelander you can imagine the frustration. + My country got blown to bits more than once by those bigger countries, with milions of civilian deaths. you would expect a little more respect sometimes.
July 29th, 2009  
Why not do what Panzercracker did and give us a pictorial of the Belgian campaigns, I think that was a great way of at least getting information onto the web in general and maybe educating a few other at the same time.

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