Feature Articles - The Minor Powers During World War One - Belgium
In 1914, Belgium was neutral. She had kept out of both of the alliances that divided Europe, and was painfully aware that she formed the buffer state between France and Germany. She had made a pact with Britain, that British troops would come to her aid if attacked.
In August of that year, Germany claimed that France was preparing to invade Belgium to attack Germany. "Requesting" free passage across Belgium to meet the French, Germany threatened war if the Belgian army resisted.
On 3rd August, 1914, Germany invaded. By the end of the year, virtually all of Belgium was held by Germany. Only the small strip of coast between Ypres and the French border was held. The Belgian king moved his court to Nieuport, on the French border and remained there for the duration of the war.
Operating behind German lines. Belgian snipers, or Franc-Tireurs (literally, "free-shooters"), caused some damage to German troops before brutal reprisals against the civilian population forced the Belgian army to pull them out.
Meanwhile, in Africa, Belgian colonial troops from the Belgian Congo fought the Germans in East Africa alongside the British and South African forces.
Total Belgian military casualties of the war are estimated at 44,000 although the number of civilian casualties is not included in that figure.
"Wipers" was the British nickname for the Belgian town Ypres.
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