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  • Project 1944
    The weather is good we need a rest A young guy asks me a cup of water He hasn t got a lot of luggage I hope it s not a German spy or a member of the 5th column People around us are telling that parachutists have landed everywhere A little further in the street I see some military movement Father says they are British while pointing at their flat helmets Indeed the so characteristic MkI tin hats are reflecting on their heads These British soldiers are members of the British Expeditionary Force BEF They arrived in Belgium some months ago during the phoney war As their fathers did before they came to protect the low countries against the German threat Three soldiers who probably belong to the 4th Division received their orders to withdraw They don t know much about the situation The officers said they are retreating to the Escaut line Schelde line From a distance they watch the pitiable stream of refugees not knowing the same fait awaits them Their uniform and kit consists of the new battledress serge and the pattern 37 web equipment blancoed in a pea green colour They wear Mk V or

    Original URL path: http://www.project1944.be/May1940/Page2/May2.html (2016-05-02)
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  • Project 1944
    armed with the Belgian Mauser rifle 36 which was a conversion of the Belgian Mauser 1889 They are wearing the infantry greatcoat which is part of the regulated combat tunic over the uniformjacket model 1935 The leather basic equipment is quite equal to those of the opponent armies and has some similarities with the equipment of the French soldier Two young Belgian soldiers are passing by an opportunity to regain some information Their news is not very positive The KW line the defensive line between Kwatrecht and Waver with some 350 bunkers and a dozen miles of large steel components anchored in the ground forming an iron wall the so called Cointet elements had to be abandoned The army is now falling back to the Escaut line further to the west Brussels is in German hands the Dutch Army has surrendered the 15th Suddenly we are surprised by an approaching plane immediately followed by a loud explosion in the town nearby Stukas The Stuka entered everyone s vocabulary in May 1940 The appearance of its characteristic silhouette in the sky caused Stuka fright among the columns of soldiers and refugees fleeing across Belgium Ordered to attack the movement of Allied

    Original URL path: http://www.project1944.be/May1940/Page3/May3.html (2016-05-02)
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  • Project 1944
    35 horses were wounded or killed Taking shelter in a ditch during such an airstrike is impossible for the men of the mounted units They must stay with the horses and trying to calm them A horse bursting out in fear is the nightmare of every mounted soldier Those risks showed the extreme vulnerability of horse drawn units in modern warfare Not all Belgian artillerymen were armed with a personal weapon This was because of some shortages of carabines in the Belgian army caused by the rapid expansion during the full scale mobilisation  Support units often received only a limited amount of rifles Also sabres were not carried anymore in mounted units these were retracted from active service in 1938 and remained stored in the depots Note that the Belgian Cavalry Corps was totaly motorized in 1938 the artillery and most of the transport units in the infantry divisions however remained horse drawn The rider is wearing the greatcoat for mounted troops with single button row Also typical for these units are both the waterbottle with carrying sling and the type of mess tin called a marmite After a long day marching down the overcrowded roads we re searching a place where we can stay the night We meet a woman selling eggs to the refugees along the road We ask her if we can stay the night at the farm Luckily she is very helpful and understanding we may sleep in the barn It was a dusty old barn but we made it ourselves comfortable Finally we could give our blistered feet a rest Several other people were lying in the straw People from different regions and origins braught together by the faith of war Families gave themselves some improvised privacy making compartments with blankets attached to the

    Original URL path: http://www.project1944.be/May1940/Page4/May4.html (2016-05-02)
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  • Project 1944
    will be the baptism of fire on the battlefield for some of these young guys When the German Army mounted its Western Offensive in 1940 it had had 2 5 million men and 2500 tanks Whereas the French Army had the ability to mobilize 5 million men the army supported by motorized infantry units and aircraft easily secured victory The image of the German infantry soldier is quite specific for May 1940 The M36 jacket with darkgreen collar the stonegray pants and the high boots are typical to that early war look Note that all buckles and ironwork is made of aluminum Most of the leatherwork is blackenend the innerside that was in contact with the uniform is left in natural brown The breadbag and gasmask straps are reinforced with leather He is armed with the Mauser K98k The early war type differs from the later model i a the flatt butt plate the open front sight without tunnel protector and the milled H shaped front and sling band These early carabines have all their parts milled in contrast to the later pressed models These two soldiers are putting on a communication line by operating the fieldtelephone Feldfernsprecher 33 The

    Original URL path: http://www.project1944.be/May1940/Page5/May5.html (2016-05-02)
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  • Project 1944
    potato masher The mood amongst the troops is good Till now the advance through Belgium went very smoothly But some days later when the Belgian and BEF troops are leaving the Escaut line for a new defensive line along the Leie they will get hard resistance along this twisted river The soldier in the middle is wearing the M35 helmet in Rautarn The shell is finished with a mixture of

    Original URL path: http://www.project1944.be/May1940/Page6/May6.html (2016-05-02)
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  • Project 1944
    are near now we are very tensed Suddenly we hear movements on top of the stairs A German soldier with a flashlight comes down the staircase Soldaten he asks No one dares to move Father who speaks a little German because of the First World War shouts Nein kein Soldaten Wir allein Zivilisten The flashlight is searching our faces he hesitates a moment when he lightens the younger guys Then

    Original URL path: http://www.project1944.be/May1940/Page7/May7.html (2016-05-02)
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  • Project 1944
    a grave His comrades took the time to decorate the grave with flowers and mark it with a cross His broken rifle with the helmet on top gives him the last honor Most people dit not reach their safe goals because of the traffic jams and got overhauled by the quickly advancing German troops When the German tanks reached the French coast the way to the south was totally cut off The dreary procession proceeded now in the opposite direction towards home We are on the move for almost a week now When having marched some miles we need a rest The lack of water food and a decent sleep takes its toll We are exhausted On several places German soldiers were giving bread or chocolate to the hungry roaming refugees These were the wealthy times for the German Wehrmacht the campaign was a big success Very opposite to 1944 when the Allies were throwing chocolate to the civilians liberating them from 5 years of German occupation A German kneels down in front of me and offers a bar of chocolate He looks gentle but I must think on those stories about poisoned food I take the bar but we

    Original URL path: http://www.project1944.be/May1940/Page8/May8.html (2016-05-02)
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  • Project 1944
    change of positions was completed by mid November and on 28th November the Fusillierkompanie of the Division joined a large excercise around Dahlem organised by Feldmarschall Model During daytime only routine movements of small groups were allowed This was one of the many security measurements for masking the preparation of the coming offensive The movement of larger units took place during the long hours of darkness One of the three

    Original URL path: http://www.project1944.be/Volksgrenadiere/Page3/VGD3.html (2016-05-02)
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