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The Belgian Army in World War I (Men-at-Arms) Paperback – June 23, 2009

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Product Details

  • Series: Men-at-Arms (Book 452)
  • Paperback: 48 pages
  • Publisher: Osprey Publishing (June 23, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846034485
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846034480
  • Product Dimensions: 7.3 x 0.2 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,078,574 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"This book fully covers the build up of the army, those heroic days and weeks in 1914 when the Belgians held back the German offense and their continuing defense of the northern part of the front until the end of the war. As with all Osprey Men-at-Arms books, it takes a look at the uniforms and equipment that were used by these men during the war. Assisted by a good choice of period photographs and the superb illustrations of Patrice Courcelle, you get a look at how these men lived and fought, defending what was, during most of the war, basically a swamp land dotted with small defensible islands... This all makes yet another great addition to the superb library of Osprey titles and one you can purchase with confidence." -Scott Van Aken, Modeling Madness - (July 2009)

"The first half of the book is a well-constructed concise overview of the Belgian Army’s part in the campaigns of the western front. It covers their courageous fight against the German invasion and how this brought time for British and French forces to arrive in the region. It then goes onto their part in holding the line from 1915 to 1917 until the final grand offensives in 1918...Overall this a great introduction to the Belgian Army of World War One and it will prove a handy resource to Wargamers and Modellers alike." - Flames of War (December 2009)

About the Author

Ronald Pawly was born in Belgium in 1956 and still lives and works there. He is a respected member of several societies for Napoleonic studies and an expert on 19th century military portraiture. He has previously written for Osprey Men-at-Arms 355, Wellington's Belgian Allies 1815; MAA 371, Wellington's Dutch Allies 1815; MAA 371, Napoleon's Red Lancers; MAA 378, Napoleon's Guards of Honour; and Elite 115, Napoleon's Imperial Headquarters (1). Although, a leading Napoleonic historian, Ronald Pawly has also always been fascinated by the First World War and has heavily researched the Belgian involvement in such a conflict.

Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is not a very good Osprey book - it is readable in some parts, but nothing more. The valiant fight of Belgian Army between 1914 and 1918 deserves to be more known than it is and I was very happy that Osprey made a book on this topic - but it was not well done.

The description of events is of course superficial, because Osprey MAM books are only 48 pages long - but it was still possible to write more on the battles waged by Belgians. Author however mostly wasted pages 3 to 8, describing XIX century Europen politics and a general history of beginning of World War I - something it was not necessary to do. Those six pages could have been put to a better use.

The description of organisation, weaponry and equipment of Belgian Army at the beginning of 1914 is extremely superficial! There is not even a one page battle order with names of great units and their commanders! We have to dig deep in descriptions of color plates to find some information about weaponry - and even there it is fragmentary.

The campaign of 1914 is described in some detail, on pages from 8 to 20, but after that the whole period January 1915-December 1917 is expedited on six pages, with mostly the generalities like "Belgium purchased guns, rifles and machine guns to make up the shortfalls" - but what kind of weapons and from whom? Mystery... Also the description of Belgian front from 1915 to 1918 is mostly just a copy of press articles written by a journalist in 1916 and 1917...

Not only this book is very superficial, but it is also poorly written and chaotic - and there is only one little and poorly made map!

But the WORST thing are the color plates by Patrice Courcelle - or should I rather say "no color" plates, as there is hardly any color in most of those plates!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Robert A. Lynn on July 21, 2013
Format: Paperback

When Belgium's army mobilized for World War I in August, 1914, it was small and inexperienced compared with its European counterparts. Because of Belgium's neutrality, the Belgian officer corps, trained at the Ecole de Guerre, didn't attract superior candidates.

The Belgian Army had evolved from the Belgian Civic Guard, established in 1831. That force maintained order and provided wartime auxiliary services such as supply. It wasn't until 1913, when threatened by German military expansion, that Belgium established compulsory military service. By August, 1914, it had grown to 117,000 men serving in six infantry divisions and one cavalry division.

But even with this re-organization, supplies were minimal: only one bullet per man was available for training at weekly range practice. Soldiers had to improvise or borrow equipment. Few machine guns were distributed, and the Belgian Army had no heavy field artillery. The Belgian Parliament refused to purchase more sophisticated weapons equivalent in quality to those used by German troops.

The Belgian Army also encountered difficulties in administration. General Selliers de Moranville, Chief of the Belgian Army's General Staff, didn't want King Albert I to devise strategy, and disagreements between the two men causd conflicting orders to be dispatched; King Albert I wanted to strengthen the forts while Selliers wanted to concentrate troops in Belgium's center.

The German invasion of Belgium from August, 1914 to November, 1914 was quick and decisive and provided the Germans access to France.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Graves VINE VOICE on August 26, 2010
Format: Paperback
In the summer of 1914 The German army, on a pretense of self defense crossed the Belgian border as a part of their long established battle plan with France and were shocked to find the Belgian army actually resisting them. The Belgians never had a chance, unsupported and out numbered they were pushed back but the days the Germans spent grinding them down became vital days for the British and French to reorganize and while the suffering of occupied `little Belgium' became a rallying cry to the free world, the battered and bruised Belgian army fell back in good order, finally coming to a stand along the Yser with a small sliver of Belgian soil under them, where they would hold their ground until going on the offensive in 1918.

Pawly and Lierneux do a very good job of following the early campaigns of the Belgian army which surprised everyone with their tenacity and then paint a vivid picture of the eternally wet conditions faced by the Belgians during the long stalemate from November 1914 through March of 1918. With most of their homeland occupied there was not a stream of home industry providing refits so as the war progressed Belgian uniforms and gear became more of a hodgepodge as different sources were found for gear.

The one thing I did not like and the one thing I would really like to see to make this better, is a map of Belgium, seriously a single map of the country. There is a small 1/3 of a page map of the Yser front but as the Germans cross the national border and later fall back before the Allied push in the summer of 1918 it is more than a little confusing to try and follow the action. The last days of the war are recounted as merely 'they reached X on Y' but if you don't know where these are, well. I went from loving the book to feeling very frustrated.
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The Belgian Army in World War I (Men-at-Arms)
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