What if Belgian-Dutch military cooperation from 1938?

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nuyt
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What if Belgian-Dutch military cooperation from 1938?

Post by nuyt » 23 Jan 2021 20:55

What if the two neutral neigbouring countries of Belgium and the Netherlands join forces in 1938, when it becomes clear that war is ever more imminent. Both countries in OTL had their armament and mobilization programs, but in this scenario they work together and take the following measures:

- joint command is set up and there are to be joint maneuvers in both countries;

- defenses and fortresses are rearranged so they cover each other. The Dutch strengthen the Maas- and Peel lines to slow down a possible German advance through the southern part of the country towards Antwerp. A Belgian Division is moved forward to help man these lines on Dutch territory.

- a joint arms manufacturing program is set up in late 1938 to supplement those in place already. FN produces a large batch of 40mm Bofors in 1939/40 for the Dutch to fill a gap (their total production OTL was 150 pieces). Belgian Vickers tanks are also ordered by the Dutch and delivery starts in 1940. 60 Vickers light T15 and 60 T13 B2/3 47mm tank destroyers on Vickers chassis are in Dutch service by May 1940. Van Doorne's M39 (mounting the adequate Bofors 37mm anti tank gun) is jointly produced by Cockerill and Van Doorne and both countries order 40 each. The Vickers Command tank ordered by KNIL is jointly produced as well from late 1939 for the three armies, first deliveries by May 1940 (as in OTL);

- Belgian navy orders 2 gunboats in the Netherlands, while Dutch navy gets access to the Belgian facilities in Boma or Matadi, Congo, which may come handy for convoy duties;

- KNIL Dutch East Indies Army reopens after decades to Belgian recruits and volunteers (about a thousand join before May 1940);

- several joint weapon programs start up, like a light 4x4 armored car, a medium tank, a replacement 75mm or 90mm field gun, 15cm howitzers, etc. but these have not yet come online by May 1940.

By May 1940 the joint defense system looks way certainly impressive and coherent and it will get stronger every month as orders are being fulfilled. Armour wise the Dutch now have close to 200 afv's: 60 light tanks, 60 47mm tank hunters and 40-60 37mm gun carrying armored cars, plus the armor of the BE division.

Will Germany attack as in OTL or change the tactics or...?

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Re: What if Belgian-Dutch military cooperation from 1938?

Post by nuyt » 24 Jan 2021 12:56

I left out cooperation in the air.

It appears the Belgian Air Component was equipped with obsolete combat aircraft mostly, though the Hurricane was on order and in production with SABCA in Brussels. The Dutch Air Force appears to have been slightly more modern, but perhaps a bit smaller. Dutch designed Koolhovens FK58 were also in production with SABCA - for the French Air force. SABCA with its many licenses (also of Italian bombers) seems to have been a big asset. If properly managed and coordinated, the combined efforts of SABCA, Renard and Stampe en Vertongen in Belgium plus Fokker, Koolhoven and Aviolanda in the Netherlands would have resulted in a strong aviation manufacturing base for the two neutrals. Had there been a combined procurement drive from 1938 there would undoubtedly have been a more impressive cover in the skies.

There is a thread about a future Belgian Airforce: viewtopic.php?f=12&t=192087&start=15

Will try to suggest a combined BE/NL airforce overview later.

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Re: What if Belgian-Dutch military cooperation from 1938?

Post by nuyt » 05 Feb 2021 22:05

There would have been lengthy discussion between Belgian and Dutch authorities about the location of the defence lines through Noord Brabant province (southern NL). It appears the Belgians and French planners wanted a line running north south from Heusden down to Tilburg and the border, so not reinforced Peel lines, like I suggested. The French needed the lines there to protect their incoming forces from Northern France to the Dutch Breda area.
In any case I don't think BE-NL joint command would have stopped the Germans....

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Re: What if Belgian-Dutch military cooperation from 1938?

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 08 Feb 2021 05:01

Not without full mobilization and other preparation, neutrality notwithstanding. If the two nation are fully mobilized & executing all preparation practical they might delay the German much better than the reality of 1940. How much the assists the French in halting the attack I can't say.

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Re: What if Belgian-Dutch military cooperation from 1938?

Post by T. A. Gardner » 08 Feb 2021 07:28

If you look at how the Belgians expected to slow or hold off a German invasion, the invasion of the Netherlands makes sense in German planning. If it wasn't for the existence of Eben Emil, the Germans might not have bothered with invading the Netherlands at all.

Image

On the other hand, had the Belgians had better finances, their fortification of Liege and the Belgo-Dutch border might have been made far more effective than it was.

So, I don't think Belgian-Dutch cooperation or alliance would make much if any difference.

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Re: What if Belgian-Dutch military cooperation from 1938?

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 08 Feb 2021 12:04

For more context heres a description of the Belgian ground forces deployment 10 May 1940. Note the relatively strong left wing along the neutral Dutch border. The Belgians had more concern about envelopment from that flank. Conversely the the Luxembourg border was less defended, expecting the French to be active there. What the map also shows is the complete array of prewar built fortifications. This includes a zone covering the eastern border. That line, of MG & AT bunkers, road blocks, wire, and minefields was given up 10 May, the first day of the campaign. There were existing fortified complexes around Namur, Antwerp, an a scattering of small works along the north border and the interior Dyle line.

The KG Corps covering the border south of Liege was a mobile formation of a light motorized division and a mostly motorized cavalry division. The Cavalry Corps HQ at St Trond also had one mostly motorized cavalry division and a motorized inf div. It was initially deployed in a screen on the "outpost line" north of the Albert Canal. The corps in the interior included four infantry divisions recently formed out of new conscript classes and cadre drawn from other formations. They lacked much of their training, equipment, and full command and technical staff. The other formations were targeted for 90% strength and had been training since autumn 1939. However the reservists were given extended leave for personal business & only required to be present for scheduled training. This was to reduced the economic consequences of the extended mobilization and having so many men absent from the work force. When the attack came on 10 May the actual battalion strength varied between 50% & 90% Depending on the unit & its current training schedule. ie: the rifle regiment responsible for the Eban Emael fortress are was scheduled for training that week, but was sleeping in a barracks/armory compound a couple km distant. Only part of the fortress battalion was actually on duty in the Fortress the night of 9-10 May.

Belgian Defense.jpeg
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Last edited by Carl Schwamberger on 08 Feb 2021 15:55, edited 1 time in total.

nuyt
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Re: What if Belgian-Dutch military cooperation from 1938?

Post by nuyt » 08 Feb 2021 13:05

I agree that the German attack would succeed nonetheless, also considering your great info.
And in my scenario, a Belgian Division stationed in the NL would have to be drawn from the other ready (or semi-ready) formations of the Belgian Army, thus weakening other areas. A German attack through the Ardennes might succeed even better than in OTL. Also, the time gained by a bit more opposition from the Dutch/Belgian forces in the Peel and Tilburg lines, would give the French 7th Army more time to more or less deploy completely around Breda - and then the trap around them would close...
With the French Army penned up north with their supply columns still trying to get through Antwerp (the arrow on the map is misleading - everything would have to go through Antwerp - the German attackers in the center would steamroll around Liege towards Brussels and cut off the French 7th south of Antwerp completely.

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Re: What if Belgian-Dutch military cooperation from 1938?

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 08 Feb 2021 15:54

The arrow on the map is misleading. One corps of the 7th Army & a portion of the logistics tail traveled by boat. I'm unsure of the disembarkation points, but some sources indicate the Walcheren & Beveland ferry docks were some of the destinations. One French corps did occupy Beveland for several days to secure the north side of the shipping channel to Antwerp. Im searching for a more detailed map showing the location of the Belgian divisions and select regiments.

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Re: What if Belgian-Dutch military cooperation from 1938?

Post by nuyt » 13 Feb 2021 20:12

French troops were landed mainly at Flushing, see map. Most by way of two ferry services, but part of the 68 Div apparently from a port in Belgium or France further south.
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Re: What if Belgian-Dutch military cooperation from 1938?

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 14 Feb 2021 20:56

nuyt wrote:
13 Feb 2021 20:12
... but part of the 68 Div apparently from a port in Belgium or France further south.
Boulogne, Calais, & other French ports. Regiments of the 7th Army were posted close to all those cities/ports. The sea transport direct from those ports would have some advantages over a road march or railroads.

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Re: What if Belgian-Dutch military cooperation from 1938?

Post by nuyt » 14 Feb 2021 21:18

Indeed, and I learned that the French navy simultaneously expanded operations north along the Belgian coast...

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