The Dutch and the defence of Belgium.
Although both the Netherlands and Belgium looked at the re militarisation of Germany and growing international tension as a rising threat so that both decided to renew their military defences, the 2 countries did not conduct any joint discussions as regards their defensive plans. This lack of co-operation between the Dutch and the Belgians was partly historical and partly the result of their neutral status.Historical background: Relations between the Dutch and the Belgians.
Unfortunately relations between the Dutch and the Belgians were not particularly good. From the birth of Belgium as an independent state, when it actively separated itself from the United Kingdom of the Netherlands relations had been tense. During the First World War the Netherlands had remained neutral while almost all of Belgium was occupied. At the end of the war the Dutch allowed the German Kaiser to remain in exile in the Netherlands.
Given the active role of Belgium in the war, the Belgians decided to petition the Allies to make certain territorial adjustments at the expense of the neutral Dutch. The main Belgian desires were to annex the Dutch Limburg and the area to the south of the Scheldt estuary thus ensuring Belgian rights of access to the major port of Antwerp.
The Dutch were invited to attend the discussions at Versailles so they could, if they wished, oppose any such Belgian claims. A strong Dutch diplomatic delegation headed by Minister Van Karnebeek attended and on June 3rd 1919 presented a comprehensive reply to the Belgian suggestions. The Allied powers accepted the Dutch arguments and the Allies re imposed the Convention of 1839 on both parties with bi lateral review meetings. Nothing really changed and the only result that remained was that the Netherlands and Belgium remained suspicious of each other and the relationship remained cool during the inter war years. Treaties and neutrality
The Treaty of Locarno of 1925 played a very significant role in establishing Belgium’s position as regards Germany and France, with Britain and Italy being the other signatories. At first Belgium was closely allied to France in the military sphere. However with the German re occupation of the Rhineland and the lack of effective Allied response and the development of French treaty obligations to various other European countries e.g. Czechoslovakia, , the Belgians shifted their position to one of armed neutrality formally severing ties with the French as regards military matters.
Meanwhile the Dutch had never signed any treaty regarding military matters with either the Allies or Germany. She did join the “Oslo States” which was a group consisting of the Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands and was basically a trading group with some political objectives, mainly in supporting the League of nations in its economic role.
Thus neither country ahd military links with any major power at the time they were deciding on their new defence strategies.The growing threat
The German re-occupation of the Rhineland and the Italian invasion of Ethiopia heightened international tensions leading both Belgium and the Netherlands to study their her defence needs more closely .
The Dutch felt that her neutral status precluded discussions on joint defence plans with the Belgians. Having said that some Dutch military and politicians felt that some contact with the British and French military was important while contact was also made with the Belgian military attaché in The Hague.
The Belgians declared their neutral status to allow for internal political agreement as regards the need to modernise the Army and increase defence spending especially of fortifications.The Dutch and the defence of Belgium
There were 2 areas in which the choices of the Dutch could have a possible significant influence on decisions of the Belgians regarding the latter's defence plans.1) The defence of the Maastricht appendix.
from http://www.waroverholland.nl/images/kaa ... art_1.html
The 4 battalions in the Maastricht appendix were only a light covering force and were to retire to join the main Dutch Army having covered planned demolitions, especially of the bridges over the Meuse river.
Note the light forces covering the Dutch Belgian border in line with Dutch neutrality
During the First World War the Germans respected Dutch neutrality and had to manoeuvre round the Maastricht appendix during its advance into Belgian. Some post war commentators suggested that if the Germans had invaded the Netherlands, or at least the Maastricht appendix then they would have had a greater chance of success in their initial advance.
There was no realistic prospect of the Dutch being able to defend the 15 mile wide Maastricht appendix and the best they could do was to ensure the destruction of the bridges in the area before retiring. This meant that the Belgians faced the prospect of a rapid German advance through territory over which they had no control up to the Meuse river. The speed of the advance may give an opportunity for the surprise capture of the Maastricht bridges and hence the possibility of a quick German advance across a major river barrier into a strategically important area of Belgium.
In the light of this possibility the Belgians built the Albert Canal together with associated defences and a major new fort at Eben Emael designed to cover all the bridges across the canal and the Meuse in this area. Although this area had little depth and there could be little warning of a German advance it was felt that if the Dutch could blow the bridges then the canal line should be able to hold for a few days allowing an Allied advance into defensive positions in Belgium. Any German attempts to replace the Maastricht bridges or to build new ones over the Meuse/ across the Albert canal would be halted by the guns of Eben Emael a fort that was felt to be one of the strongest in Europe.2) Extending the Peel - Raam line into Belgium
extracted from Bikars map see http://amb3940.be/amb/travail40.pdf
Note 11 Infantry Division (11 D.I.) was in training at Beverloo. Near the Dutch Belgian border were just light covering forces designed to give warning and cover planned demolitions. They would then retire behind the Albert Canal line which is shown held by Infantry divisions.
The question of the Peel Raam line was particularly important to the Dutch as at one stage they intended this to be a major defence line based on a specially dug-out and flooded canal and on natural barriers, rivers and marsh, strengthened by bunkers and manned by c20% of the Dutch field army. However the line ended just south of Weert by the Belgian border thus leaving its southern flank open .
see http://www.waroverholland.nl/index.php? ... nt-in-wwii
Given this weakness the Dutch sought to get the Belgians to consider extending their defences to join with the southern end of the Dutch Peel-Raam line somewhere just south of Weert
The Dutch also wanted to know from the French if the French intending to advance into the Netherlands in the event of a German invasion and if so how far.
The Belgians decided not to extend their defences to meet the Peel Raam line as this would , from the Belgian perspective , serve no useful purpose as regards defending Belgian territory. . This decision plus the uncertainty of French intentions meant that the Peel Raam line would have no southern flank and would lack sufficient troops to defend it and protect this open flank. thereby leaving the line's southern flank open effectively rendering the line useless. Because of this Winkelman (the new Dutch C in C) secretly decided to have the Peel-Raam line evacuated on the first war night. This would mean the Dutch forces would retire to the north and west i.e. away from any possible link up with Belgian forces.
The Dutch and the Belgians fought seperate wars against a common enemy. Apart from blowing the Maastricht bridges Dutch and Belgian military actions never had important effects on each other. The nature of the German attack, with its use of airborne forces, concentrated armour and air power, meant it was unlikely that, even if the Dutch and Belgians had co-operated, the result of the German attack would have been different. It may however have been more costly and possibly, just possibly more uncertain.
see http://www.waroverholland.nl/index.php? ... troduction
for the Dutch view
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