Memorial Register, Netherlands 85-87, War Dead of The British Commonwealth 1939-1945

autumn providing for an Allied line extending from Antwerp southward through Louvain Wavre and Namur covering Brussels. The British section of this line was to reach from Louvain to Wavre. When early on ioth May the Germans started their assault by bombing airfields communications and towns in Belgium and by crossing into Belgium through the Maastricht appendix as well as farther south the British Expeditionary Force was immediately ordered to move from France up to its newline. By the time the British troops were in position on the line of the Dyle River on 12th May the situation was already beginning to worsen. Important bridges over the Maas and the Albert Canal were lost at the very beginning and the Belgians were forced to withdraw to positions on the left of the British Expeditionary Force, from the Scheldt Estuary to near Louvain. Withdrawal from the Dyle line however, was dictated by the German success farther south in breaking through the weakest part of the French front between Sedan and Namur. On 16th May the British Expeditionary Force were ordered to fallback to the line of the Escaut (Scheldt). This withdrawal was successfully completed by the night of 18th May. Two days later the German forces driving across Northern France reached Abbeville on the Somme and the British force in Belgium was cutoff from its supply lines and from the other British troops in France south of the German wedge. The Allied Armies in Belgium now had to look both ways defending the Escaut line to the north-east, and being in danger from the German Panzer divisions to the south. The British Expeditionary Force had so far suffered less from the infighting Belgium than had the Belgian and French armies there it was accordingly called upon to shoulder much of the burden of the new southern front. On 22nd May a meeting of the Supreme War Council at Vincennes agreed that the Belgian Army should withdraw to the line of the Yser (sacrificing all but avery small comer of their own country), and that the British Expeditionary Force and the French First Army should attempt to force away southwards through the German corridor to linkup with the French and British forces on the other side of it. By then however the British were with­drawing from the Escaut to the French frontier and could not disengage their troops to make any strong thrust southwards an attempt that had been made on 21st May ended in a withdrawal two days later. By 25th May the Germans had broken through the Belgian Army front and there was a gap on the left of the British Expeditionary Force between them and the Belgians near Menin. On the morning of 26th May it was decided that there was nothing for it but to withdraw behind the Lys and to prepare for the defence of a perimeter protecting the ports of Dunkirk and Nieuport. Orders were received from England that afternoon for the British Expeditionary Force to fallback upon the coast. By then the Belgian Army was showing signs of collapse and in its withdrawal was being forced northwards instead of conforming to the Allied withdrawal behind the Yser. On 27th May King Leopold asked for an armistice. This left the British to infill a gap of some 32 kilometres on their left flank between Ypres and the sea.
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