MUSEE FRANÇAIS ASBL
B 1450 CORTIL NOIRMONT
In March 1936, the German Nazi army
invaded the west bank of the
Since the treaty of
This violation of the treaty of
The geographical situation of
Secret plan was planned in the case of invasion
This defensive position is lined from the Dutch army position in Netherland , the 7 French Army of general Giraud bound with the Belgian defensive position « KW « (Koningshoikt – Waver) hold by the Belgian Army and the British Army.
In the South of Waver, behind the
Southwards begins the sector behind the
Initially the Belgian forces are defending the
covering position of the ‘Canal Albert ».This waterway is a good
obstacle defended with Belgian infantry
divisions. It did normally permit to cover the build up of allied forces in
3. - THE GERMAN PLAN
To maximize the surprise effect, the German staffs has chosen a solution.
The big thrust was given in the Ardenne forests South of Namur, normally little useful for an principal effort of a modern army with numerous heavy armed vehicules.
To maximize the surprise effect it was
necessary to have a powerful secondary attack in the North in order to attract there the maximum
allied units to allow the principal German attack to progress very
smoothly and fast in the direction of the ocean coast in order to encircle the
allied forces in
The strength of the secondary attack was
calculated as minimum as possible but
his most powerful unit was the XVI Panzerkorps with the 3 and 4 the Panzerdivisionen
and the 20 motorized riffle division. This XVI Panzerkorps
has to attack trough the Dutch border to Maestricht
to cross the Albert canal with the support of airborne units to seize three
bridges and neutralize the powerful fort of EBEN EMAEL .
Afterwards he has to progress in the direction of Gembloux
meanwhile the principal attack in the Ardenne forests
4.-SITUATION OF THE 1st FRENCH ARMY
In order to cover the movement and to build up of its units in Belgium, the 1st French Army push a armed covering force to the East for delaying the enemy in order to permit the arrival of the units on the defensive position and the preparation for the combat behind the railway tracks Brussels Luxembourg.
The « Cavalry Corps Prioux » had two armed divisions the 2nd and 3rd light mechanical Division with 435 light tanks of 20 tons, Somua and Hotchkiss with a good armour, good guns but without radio equipment. This lack of transmission did not permit to react fast to any combat situation. The 700 German tanks had radio equipment allowing practising the new German tactic for tanks « Klotzen nicht Klekkern » the use of tanks in mass. Moreover the Germans dispose of an up to date air support able to rally numerous combat air plane as air support for the heavy columns of tanks far of their normal artillery support.
The Cavalry Corps Prioux got the mission to delay the enemy during four days.
He succeed in its mission, the German tanks were in contact with DYLE position on May 14 at .The covering forces cross the Dyle defensive position.
The battle Gembloux is beginning …
The 1st French Army had disposed its forces as follows:
Three army corps from North to south: the 3, 4, and 5 Corps each with two divisions
One motorized riffles divisions and a normal
infantry division from
The three divisions of
The motorized riffle divisions (1, 12, 15 motorised Infantry Divisions) with soldiers of the national service.
On the attack axis of the XVI Panzerkorps are the 1 Moroccan Division and one regiment of the 1 DIM (the 110th Regiment).
The XVI Panzerkorps try to seize the bridges on the railway and to cross the French defensive position by surprise with the tanks units heading with full speed to their objectives. After a while, surprised by the swift movements of the panzer divisions, the French army strong reacted and repulse all the tentative to cross the railway.
In the evening, the French with counter attacks had the control of the situation.
The position has been crossed by armed elements but for the night the position is intact. Twenty German tanks were burning in front of the defensive position.
During the night, the French artillery, good prepared for the combat, was firing on the spotted German detachments, the command posts and concentrations of vehicles obliging the Germans to withdraw the two tanks brigades of the 3 and 4 Panzer divisions to put their tanks out of the bursts of the French artillery.
Considering it was impossible to breach the French position with an mounted attacks (Effectively the obstacle of the railway is reinforced with thousands of antitank mines) the XVI Panzerkorps launches an attack against the French position with his infantry. An artillery group for counter battery normally must destroy the French batteries before the start of the attack but it completely missed its objectives.
The French artillery is completely safe on the start of the German attack.
Following the old Roman route, on the high
ground between the two rivers,
It was a hell for the German infantry, the losses are important.
In the sector of the 4 Panzer, the infantry was
not able to cross the French position.
The tanks brigade was engaged to support the infantry but the heavy French artillery intervene and destroy the heavy tanks of the 4 Panzer. Having all his heavy tanks out of combat, the 4 Panzer was unable to continue his attack.
Its remaining light tanks were not able to manage against the French tanks best armed.
In the sector of the 3 Panzer, in the afternoon, the reserve battalion of the infantry brigade with the support of tanks succeed to breach the position, but deeply weakened by his losses and counterattacked by the French tanks, at about 20 hours 45 (German time) general Hoeppner, commanding officer of the XVI Panzerkorps ordered to stop the attack and to withdraw after the railway, excepted a few points in the French position.
The German strategic plan succeed, on May 20 the encirclement is performed.
The campaign of May 1940 was a great defeat for
the allied. Although the re-embarkation at Dunkerk of the BRITISH EXPEDITIONARY FORCE (BEF) will have
a great influence on the final victory of WW2. 330.000 professional soldiers
of the British Army are safe. The battle of Gembloux
has played an important role in this final succes. We
can easy imagine how disastrous would have been a breach in Gembloux
of two Panzerdivisions and the rush in the rear zone
of the BEF. It had been the end of the BEF .These professional soldiers were
the basis of the invasion army on the coast of