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Belgium National Anthem

The Use of Armored Cars for the Defense of Belgium
Belgians were the first to make extensive use of armored cars as a military weapon, in World War I. During the siege of Antwerp, from mid August to the first week of October 1914, numerous motor vehicles were stripped and rebuilt with armor plating. Machine guns were mounted, and even rotating cupolas were fitted on these vehicles. Most of these vehicles were either rebuilt existing motor cars, or newly manufactured by the Minerva Motor Car Company in Antwerp, though other large industrial metal works and manufacturing firms, such as SAVA and Morse contributed in the building of armored cars, to the war effort.

These armored vehicles were used for reconnaissance, long distance messaging, and for carrying out raids, and small scale engagements. Circumstances dictated that the small, outnumbered Belgian Army use these highly mobile armored cars in guerrilla style hit-and-run engagements against the besieging Imperial German army. Not only were they quite effective in conducting raids, blowing bridges and delivering messages to exposed positions, they were extremely photogenic as well, a news editors dream. The British press, playing up the 'Brave Little Belgium' angle in newspapers and magazines, published many photos of Belgian armored cars in and around Antwerp.


For more information on the armored cars used by the Belgian and British armies, "click-on" the link below

Minerva Armored Motor-car web site

If, you would like to visit the web site later on, the web address is;
http://www.minervamotor-car.20m.com




 
The Belgian Expeditionary Corps, ordered to Russia
After the fall of Antwerp in October 1914, and the retreat to the Yser, the front line stabilized, and since a breakthrough was not forthcoming, there was little use for a highly mobile armored car force.
The Russian military attached to the Belgian armed forces, suggested that the Belgian's armored car force, could be of use on the Eastern Front. Following protocol, Czar Nicholas made an official request to King Albert of the Belgians. It was decided to send a force of several hundred Belgians, and the Morse armored motor-cars to Russia.
Since Belgium and Russia were co-belligerents and not official allies, for legal reasons the Belgian soldiers were to be considered as volunteers in the Russian army.




Minerva Armored Motor-car



 
Armored Motor-cars at War!
The painting on the left, shows one of the first battles the Belgians took part in.
It was in Galacia that the Belgian Expeditionary Corps, first seen action. In an effective maneuver with the armored cars, and coordinated artillery attacks, to routed the entrenched soldiers, of the Austrian and German armies.




Painting of Battle in Galacia.



 
"The Belgian Expeditionary Corps in Russia"
When it first set sail, the Belgian armored car force numbered 333 Belgians, all volunteers. In Russia 33 Russians joined its ranks. Counting reinforcements and replacements, 444 Belgians passed through the ranks. There were 58 vehicles of which 12 were armored cars plus 23 motor-bikes and 120 bicycles. 16 Belgians were killed in action while in Russia. Only one armored car was lost, which was captured by German forces, and is said to have been used in Berlin, during the insurrections in 1919.
The Belgian armored car force was then recalled to Belgium, but had a difficult time returning home. The trip back to Archangel being unfeasible, the Belgians, much like the Czech Legion, had to follow the Trans-Siberian railway, they then crossed northern China, and ultimately arrived in Vladivostok. On April 18th, 1918 they boarded an American vessel, the SS Sheridan and sailed to San Francisco. From there they traveled on a much acclaimed, and widely publicized trip through the United States, and sailed from New York on June 15th 1918, finally reaching Paris two weeks later. They were disbanded shortly afterwards. The last member who belonged to the Belgian Expeditionary Corps in Russia, died in 1992.



Belgian Soldier




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