Belgium is a European country located near Germany and the Netherlands. Together with the Netherlands and Luxembourg, it is classed as one of the Low Countries. It was taken over in 1940 by Germany, during the Invasion of Belgium, part of Operation Gelb.
Involvement in World War II
Belgium became directly involved in the conflict when German forces invaded the Low Countries on 10th May 1940, on the grounds that this action was designed to prevent a planned Anglo-French attack on Germany. The German government claimed to possess 'irrefutable evidence' of the planned attack, and stated it was to have been launched via the neutral territories of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, and that the governments of Belgium and the Netherlands were directly conspiring with the Allies on action that would threaten Germany. Belgium responded by protesting German violation of their neutrality, stating that all the information and documents in their possession proved the German attack to have been per-meditated. The United States of America responded to the German invasion by freezing the assets of the Low Countries, and applying the Neutrality Act to them. The Belgian Government were forced to surrender on 28 May 1940.
Following the surrender, the majority of the forces of Belgian politics and society shunned both collaboration and resistance, with only a small minority, led by the Rexist Leon Degrelle, working for the Nazis as Quislings.
Belgian personnel during World War II
Following the Belgian capitulation, some personnel from the Belgian Military Air Arm made their way to France, where efforts were made to re-form and re-equip a small Belgian Air Force, accredited to it's own government. The collapse of France six weeks later prompted the Belgian pilots to escape to Great Britain. After joining the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, these pilots were posted to various squadrons in Fighter and Coastal Command.
In October 1940, the legal Belgian government was reconstituted in London, leading to the reformation of the Belgian armed forces in Great Britain, including a Belgian section of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. During the four year following the German occupation, a number of Belgian airmen, soldiers and civilians managed to escape from occupied territory, with the majority of those reaching England volunteering for the Royal Air Force. Twenty-nine Belgians fought during the Battle of Britain.
Significant numbers of Belgian citizens served with the Axis forces. There were approximately 9,000 Flemish and 6,000 Walloon volunteers with the Waffen-SS while others joined the Wehrmacht, the Kriegsmarine or auxiliary formations. in 1944, 2,000 Belgians formed the Flamische Flakbrigade (Flemish Anti-aircraft brigade) However, former members of the Belgian Air Force and the airline Sabena who decided to join the Axis were normally barred from flying with the Luftwaffe on operations.
- Goralski, Robert. World War II Almanac 1931-1945. Hamish Hamilton Ltd. 1981. ISBN 0 241 10573 0 Page 112
- Roberts, Andrew. The Storm of War - A new history of the Second World War. Penguin Books. ISBN 978 0 141 02928 3. (2010). Page 85
- Gunston, Bill (Forward). Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War II. Tiger Books. 1989. ISBN 1-85501-996-5. (Reprint of Jane's All The World's Aircraft 1945/1946. Bridgeman, Leonard (Editor). 1946). Page 17
- Roberts, Andrew. Page 107
- Neulen, Hans Werner. In the Skies of Europe - Air Forces allied to the Luftwaffe 1939-1945. The Crowood Press. 2000. ISBN 1-86126-326-0 Page 268