Allies

Page 2 – Kingdom of Belgium

Flag

Kingdom of Belgium flag

1914 Map

Map of Kindom of Belgium

Click on map for more detail

General facts

  • Population: 7.64 million (1914)
  • Capital: Brussels (1914 population 750,000)

Government  

  • Head of State: King Albert I (23 December 1909 – 17 December 1934)
  • Head of Government:
    • Prime Minister Charles de Broqueville (17 June 1911 – 1 June 1918)
    • Prime Minister Gérard Cooreman (1 June – 21 November 1918)
    • Prime Minister Léon Delacroix (21 November 1918 – 20 November 1920)

Participation in the War

  • Entered the war: 4 August 1914 (Germany invaded Belgium)
  • Ceased hostilities: 11 November 1918 (armistice with Germany)
  • Ended belligerent status: 28 June 1919 (Treaty of Versailles signed with Germany)  

Military Forces

Army

  • Peacetime strength 1914: 117,000
  • Reserves 1914: 115,000 (including 70,000 older men of the Fortress Garrisons and 45,000 Civic Guard) 
  • Total mobilised 1914: 270,000 (including 40,000 volunteers) 
  • Total mobilised during war: 300,000

After October 1914 nearly all of Belgium was under German occupation. Only a thin piece of territory along the Channel coast west of the river Yser remained in Belgian hands. The Belgian Army, reduced to 80,000 men after three months of fighting, would hold the Yser sector, the northernmost point of the Allied line on the Western Front, for the rest of the war. To maintain its strength the army relied on volunteers from the Belgian refugee population in France, and on men from the occupied zone who were willing to either cross the front line or travel via neutral Holland. Anyone caught trying to escape from occupied Belgium into France or The Netherlands – or even helping someone else do so – was liable to execution if caught by the Germans.

Navy

Belgium had no naval forces at this time.

Casualties

  • Military dead (all causes): 44,000
  • Civilian dead: 9000

Approximately 6000 Belgian civilians were killed or executed by the Germans during their conquest of most of the country between August and October 1914. The rest were killed or executed during the four years of German military occupation that followed.

Sources

  • Ronald Pawley and Pierre Lierneux, The Belgian Army in World War I, Osprey, Oxford, 2009
  • Hew Strachan, The First World War, Volume I: To Arms, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2001
How to cite this page

'Kingdom of Belgium', URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/war/kingdom-belgium-facts, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 13-Jan-2016