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World War II Armed Forces — Orders of Battle and Organizations Last Updated 02.10.2003

Belgian Fortifications, May 1940

Written by
Bernard Vanden Bloock

[ Overview | Deep Defences | Border Defences | Conclusions ]
[ Appendix A: Bunker Types | Appendix B: Weapons | Bibliography ]


The fact that the various lines and positions the Belgians built prior to May 1940 didn’t play a major role should not mislead one into thinking that they were worthless. The Liège position was a formidable obstacle and its four modern forts were comparable in every respect to the Maginot works. It is the German breakthrough on the Albert canal North of Liège that sealed the fate of the PFL, not the intrinsic worth of its defences. The KW line, the Namur position (PFN), the Antwerp position (PFA) and the Ghent bridgehead (TPG) were likewise evacuated due to the general Allied retreat forced by developments further South (Sedan and the German rush to the sea). Though there was some fighting on several positions, especially on the Dyle position, the Allies always pulled out before a conclusion could be reached.

The main weakness of Belgian pre-war fortifications is that they were not integrated into a unified strategic concept but were the result of political compromises. Liège was way too strong for a position so close to the German border. The light fortifications in the Ardennes served no real purpose. On the other hand, the Albert canal was too weak for the role the Belgians intended for it and the Dyle position presented a gaping hole of 30 km between Wavre and Namur. Finally, the vital Meuse line from Namur to the French border was devoid of fortifications ...

With the 2000 bunkers, 23 infantry forts, 19 artillery forts and hundreds of kilometres of anti-tank obstacles that Belgium built or renovated in the thirties, they could have created a formidable position on the Antwerp-Namur-Givet line. It might not have averted the disaster of May 1940 - like their French counterparts, the Belgian strategists never considered the Ardennes to be a danger zone - but it would certainly have influenced German and French strategic thinking, forcing perhaps a change in plans on one side or another.

This article first appeared in World War II Online - Technical Publications.
Copyright 2005 Bernard Vanden Bloock
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