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Piron Brigade

Creation in United Kingdom


On May 22, the Lieutenant General Baron V. VAN STRYDONCK de BURKEL is on the disposition of the Belgian authorities. He arrives in London accompanied by officers of the 1st Military district Staff.

On May 25, further to a contact between British War Office and Captain-Commandant Charles CUMONT (the Military attaché in London) and with the military situation in Belgium deteriorating, it is decided to regroup surviving elements of the Belgian Army at PENALLY Camp near TENBY in Pembrokeshire, West Wales. Lieutenant General Van STRYDONCK is appointed by the Defence Minister, Lieutenant General DENIS, to command the Belgian Military Regrouping Camp (CMBR).

On May 28, the Belgian army capitulates.

In June, 1940, Lieutenant General Van STRYDONCK is appointed as commander of the Belgian Forces in Great Britain. Three days later, Minister JASPAR makes a statement on BBC Radio. He calls for all Belgians to stay close those who continue to fight and to join him in Great Britain.

On July 21, the CMBR contains 462 men.

August 8, military records are distributed and the regimental numbers are attributed.


August sees the formation of the 'Fighting Unit' and the 'Pioneer Unit', as well as the creation of the 1st Rifle Company (Cdt LEGRAND)(in August 20) at LLANELLY and of the 2nd Rifle Company (Lt SMEKENS) (in August 25)at PENALLY. The strength of the CMBR is then 692 men.

At the beginning of September, the 3rd Rifle Company is created (Cdt CAMBIER) at PENALLY.

On September 21, a Training Section is created (Lt J. BLOCH).

October 30, Ministers PIERLOT, GUTT, SPAAK and DE VLEESCHAUWER reconstitute the Belgian Government in London.

The Staff Company is created on November 8.

At the end of December, 1940, the 1st Rifle Battalion reaches its complete strength: 825 officers, non-commissioned officers and privates.



On January 3, 1941, the Battery of Artillery is created (Cdt HIRSCH). The 3rd Rifle Company leaves TENBY to settle down at HAVERFORDWEST.

The beginning of February sees the birth of the Armoured Car Squadron (Cdt de WALCKIERS)

On February 15, a parade is mounted, during which Mister PIERLOT, the Prime Minister, presents the 1st Rifle Battalion with its FLAG.

On February 20, the Battalion leaves its barracks at TENBY to new billets in CAMARTHEN. General Van STRYDONCK's Staff, some services and the troops still under training stay in TENBY.

In April, it is ordered that all the vehicles of the Belgian Forces in Great Britain should wear 4 distinguishing features :1. The Belgian number of registration - 2. The identification number of the unit on a coloured square, displayed on the right front and rear wings of the vehicle (1st Rifle Battalion : 110 in white on a red square - Battery of Artillery: 114 in white on a red-over-blue square (as Royal Artillery)) - 3. The letter " B " displayed on the left front and rear wings of the vehicle. - 4. A rosette in the national colours displayed on the rear of the vehicle.

May 13, the Battery of Artillery is sent to new billets in ST-DOGMAELS (near the town of CARDIGAN), and is then moved to FELINDRE.

At the beginning of June, the Staff and the services still in TENBY move to GREAT MALVERN in Worcestershire, England.

At the end of June, the Belgian Company formed in Canada arrives in Great Britain. This troop, which would for a long time be known as "The Canadians", is sent to MALVERN (Company A of the 2nd Rifle Battalion now started training).

In September, 1941, the Squadron receives its first armoured cars: one 1920-vintage Rolls-Royce and two 1930 Lanchesters.

In October, the Squadron receives 14 GUY Mk IA Armoured Cars.



In January, 1942, the Battery of Artillery begins its training in the use of the artillery - 25 Pounder Gun-Howitzers received in December, 1941.

On January 6, Major J-B PIRON lands in GREENOCK (Scotland) coming from Gibraltar on the passenger ship BATORY. He had made the journey accompanied by Commandant F. de SELLIERS de MORANVILLE and by Lieutenant R. DIDISHEIM.

On February 14, Major PIRON is taken on to the strength of the Staff Company of the Ground Forces.

On February 20, the Train 'Brigade' is formed. The Commandant WINTERGROEN commands it. The lieutenants DIDISHEIM and PATERNOTTE are appointed to the 1st Rifle Battalion.

On April 9, Captain G. HOUBION, Lieutenants OSSELAER, BERTHELSON and SAUSSEZ are taken on to the strength of the Staff Company of the Ground Forces.

At the end of April, the Armoured Car Squadron leaves MALVERN to new billets in PEMBREY, in Carmarthenshire, West Wales, where it assumes its first war mission: the surveillance of the coast near PEMBREY and KIDWELLY.

Captain PONCELET is taken on to the strength of the Staff Company of the Ground Forces and is then transferred to the Battery of Artillery.

Major J-B. PIRON receives from the commander of the Belgian Forces in Great Britain, the title of superior officer and is charged with steering and perfecting the training of the whole 1st Rifle Battalion, the Battery of Artillery and the Armoured Car Squadron. He creates a small advanced Staff with Commandant CANNEPEEL and Lieutenant DIDISHEIM and establishes his HQ at KINETON.

On May 8, the Independent Paratrooper Company commanded by Commander THISE is created under the orders of the Commander of the Ground Forces.

At the beginning of June, the Armoured Car Squadron moves to occupy a new station at HUMBERSLADE PARK.

On June 4, the Belgian Forces in Great Britain are officially at the disposal of Allies. While they have existed since July 30 1940, they are now finally ready for combat operations.

On June 8, the 1st Rifle Battalion leaves CARMARTHEN to settle down at WALTON HALL. The Battery of Artillery comes back from LLANELLI to be stationed at MORETON MORELL. This is situated about 10 kilometres to the South of LEAMINGTON SPA.

At the beginning of July, the Belgian Government agrees to form a unit of Commando groups. Directives are given to the military authorities to recruit the staff.

Major PIRON is transferred to the staff of the 1st Rifle Battalion.

In August, the first voluntary candidates for the Commando unit leave the 1st Battalion for ABERSOCH in North Wales. Captain G. DANLOY is appointed as commander of the group. The Belgians form henceforth the 4th Troop(i.e. Company) of 10th Army Commando (a 'Commando' being a battalion-equivalent of four 'Troops') which also includes units of French, Dutch, Norwegian and Polish troops.

In September, the Armoured Car Squadron leaves HUMBERSLADE PARK to a new posting near PORTHCAWL (on the South Wales coast between Cardiff and Swansea) where it is attached to the 49th Recce Regiment of the 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division (the 'Polar Bears'). The 1st Rifle Battalion leaves WALTON HALL for a new posting under canvas at PENYBONT.

On September 23, 1942, Major PIRON takes command of the 1st Rifle Battalion.

In October, the Battalion moves towards CHEPSTOW on the estuary of theRiver Severn.

On November 24, Major B. de RIDDER is appointed to take command of the Battery of Artillery.

It is ordered that the soldiers having 9 months service in the Belgian Forces are authorized to wear the metal badge " BELGIAN ARMY IN UNITED KINGDOM ".

The end of December 1942 sees a radical upheaval of the command structure and organization of the Belgian Ground Forces in Great Britain.

Major PIRON is called to London by Prime Minister PIERLOT to be informed of the definitive plan for the reorganization of the Ground Forces. He returns newly-appointed as the commander of a new unit: THE FIRST BELGIAN BRIGADE.

The British 'War Office' had decided that a Belgian independent mobile unit would be ideal for its plans for forthcoming operations in Europe and this was most agreeable to the Belgian Government. This decision also resulted in the creation of the Dutch 'Princess Irene' Brigade on the same date.



At the beginning of January, 1943, the 1st Battalion and the Battery of Artillery leave CHEPSTOW for CLACTON-ON-SEA.

On January 21, further to the decisions of December, the 1st Rifle Battalion is disbanded and is reorganized as a Group of three Independent Motorised Units (reinforced company-equivalents) of 300 men each.

Each Independent Unit consisted of a staff and 7 sections:

1. Signals
2. Support (3 inches Mortars, Antiaircraft, Antitank)
3. Assault (i.e. Infantry)
4. Assault
5. Assault
6. Machine Gun (VICKERS Medium MGs)
7. Administration (transport, supply, stretcher-bearers, armourers)

In February, 1943, the Brigade leaves CLACTON for LOWESTOFT.

Major PIRON is promoted to Lieutenant Colonel with effect from April 15,1943

The reorganization of the Ground Forces and of the Group results in a redistribution of the officers:

To the Brigade Staff: Commandants PONCELET and HOUBION, Captains WOLFERS, RICHIR, VAN HOVER and RICHARD and Lieutenants DIDISHEIM, KIRSCHEN and JACQUES.

To the Armoured Car Squadron: Commandant de SELLIERS de MORANVILLE, who takes command from Commandant WALKIERS.

The Commanders of the Independent Units are: Commandants WINTERGROEN (1st) WATERLOOS (2nd) and NOWE (3rd)

The Battery of Artillery is commanded by Major B. de RIDDER.

In March and April, the Armoured Car Squadron is supplied with 14 HUMBER Mk IV Armoured Cars, while the Independent Units receive 6 Pounder Antitank Guns.




On 11th of January the Group moves to the Kent. The Armoured Cars Squadron moves into Broadstairs. The other units fits out in Ramsgate and Margate.

Beginning February : boarding exercices with sea route and landing on beach.

In March, the Belgian Group receives a Light Field Ambulance unit.

On 31st of March : creation of the Luxemburg Troop inside the Battery of Artillery.

On 30th of April : the Battery participates in fire competition in South Down Plain. The Belgian Battery comes first from all the Allied Regiments.

6th of May : the Brigade leaves Broadstairs to Great Yarmouth area.

5th of June : all the Belgian units receive new material. The spirits rises but the news about the landing in Normandy provokes a disappointment. The "First Belgian Group" won't participate.

2nd of July : moving near Cambridge.

On 11th of July, the Armoured Cars Squadron receives 12 new Scout Cars DAIMLER Mk II and on the 20th : two STAGHOUND AA with .50 machine guns.

On 29th of July, order from the 21st Army Group : "The Belgian Group will move to a marshalling area on 3rd of August at 0001 Hr.

On 30th of July, all the men prepares their equipment.

On 3rd of August the Group moves to Tilbury.

On 4th of August the boarding operation begins at 09 a.m. in the docks of Tilbury. There are three LIBERTY SHIPS :

The "Henry Austen" for the Staff, the second Unit and the signal.

The "Paul Benjamin" for the Armoured Cars Squadron.

The "Finlay" for the 3rd Unit.

The First Unit and the Battery of Artillery board on a Britain cargo : the "Empire Gladstone".


At 06.30 p.m. they leave Tilbury in order to form a convoy to Whistable.

On 6th of August at 06.15 p.m. the convoy leaves the Britain coast…….to....... NORMANDY