Belgian Army, WW I


Armée belge | Une section de mitrailleuses Maxim
(Belgian Army: a Maxim machine gun section)
c.1914
Publisher: Nels

At the beginning of the First World War the Belgian Army could field only 102 machine guns. However, many of these guns were transported by a very unusual method. They were pulled on small gun carriages by specially trained dog teams. The machine guns seen in the photographs above are Maxim guns, but the Belgian Army also had a number of French Hotchkiss guns. The dogs used to pull the machine guns were Belgian Mastiffs, this strong breed were more than capable of drawing the 60lbs weight of a Maxim gun. . . .The relatively cheap cost of pack dogs compared to horses, along with their relative lack of maintenance – with no need for horse shoes etc, made the dogs an excellent option. They also offered a much lower profile than that of a pack horse, allowing them to stay close to the guns ready to move under cover when in action, and were much easier to handle without the need for specially trained troops. The dog teams were attached to most Belgian line infantry regiments with each battalion with 6 guns, split into 2-gun sections – each battalion had 36 dogs for the 18 gun and ammunition carriages. The machine guns could be brought into action very quickly and it was said that the dogs were so well trained they would remain quiet and patient in their harnesses until it was time to move again.
Historical Firearms


Armée belge | Les Cyclistes
(Belgian Amry: The Cyclists)
c.1914
Publisher: Nels

Bicycle infantry are infantry soldiers who maneuver on (or, more often, between) battlefields using military bicycles. The term dates from the late 19th century, when the “safety bicycle” became popular in Europe, the United States, and Australia. Historically, bicycles lessened the need for horses, fuel and vehicle maintenance.
Wikipedia.

With the advent of WWI, the thickly-roaded districts of France and Flanders meant that military cyclists would find the ground better suited for their wheels than combatants found in the South African veldt. The flat landscape of the low countries meant that Belgium in particular was an ideal environment for military cyclists and they were well used in the initial stages before the static stalemate of the trenches set in. Four Carabinier battalions of the Belgian army had attached companies of cyclists. They wore a distinctive uniform with a somewhat old-fashioned peaked hat similar to a kepi. Their cycles were the “Belgica” which was a foldable cycle. This allowed the bicycle to be slung across the shoulder when encountering difficult terrain. A dedicated military cycling school in Belgium provided troops with specific training in reading maps, reconnaissance and communication techniques, as well as the mechanical skills needed to maintain the bicycles.
Suburban Militarism: Belgium’s Carabinier Bicyclists


Armée belge | Escadron de cavalerie
(Belgian Amry: cavalry squadron)
c.1914
Publisher: Nels

The use of horses in World War I marked a transitional period in the evolution of armed conflict. Cavalry units were initially considered essential offensive elements of a military force, but over the course of the war, the vulnerability of horses to modern machine gun, mortar, and artillery fire reduced their utility on the battlefield. This paralleled the development of tanks, which ultimately replaces cavalry in shock tactics. While the perceived value of the horse in war changed dramatically, horses still played a significant role throughout the war.
Wikipedia.

Destroyed Tank, Belgium

Ruines d’Ypres-Hooge  | 1914-18 | Tank détruit
Ruines des Halles et Grand  Place | 1914-18 | A destroyed tank
c.1920
Publisher: Nels (Ernest Thill)

The red text (repeated on the back) is promoting a magarine factory in Belgium (link is in Dutch).

Wikipedia: Tanks in World War I

Wikipedia: British heavy tanks of World War I

Nobody was prepared for the bloody stalemate which prevailed during the First World War. Officers from all countries had in mind brash pictures of daring offensives with waving flags and blaring trumpets, epic cavalry charges and massive infantry squares marching under fire, bright uniforms, tactical genius and glory. This was quite a romantic view which was familiar to the commoners, the very same ones who then embarked with happiness and chants onto the trains. But, quickly, the grim reality of an attrition war became apparent, with death on an industrial scale. The early French offensives sank before the whirling staccato of the German Mauser machine-guns.

After a full retreat, the German offensive was miraculously stopped on the Marne, a few dozen miles north-east of Paris. From Belgium to Switzerland, all the opponents entrenched themselves. Artillery, barbed wire and machine guns took their toll on every offensive. On the German side, some attempts to break the stalemate included assault squads equipped with portable machine guns and grenades, as well as gas and flamethrowers. . . The idea of the “tank”, in the modern meaning of the word, appeared simultaneously in France and in Great Britain. In the latter, it was due to Lt. Col. Ernest Swinton, and in the former due to Col. Jean Baptiste Estienne. Both advocated the use of the Holt Tractor, which was then largely in use with the Allies as a gun tractor. This led to further developments and, despite many setbacks, culminated in 1916 when the first operational tanks were put to the test.
The Online Tank Museum

Lange Max, Koekelare, Belgium


Pièce du Leugenboom à Moere
Chariot pour transport de munitions de l’abri à la pièce
(Cart for transporting ammunition from storage to the gun.)
On back:
Service des Sites de la Guerre 1914-18
Vendu au profit des Œuvres des Invalides et Orphelins de la Guerre
c.1920
Publisher: Nels (Ernest Thill)

Google Street View.

Lange Max Museum
Memories of the Great War: Leugenboom’s Lange Max (in French)

Batterie Pommern, also known as Lange Max, was the world’s biggest gun in 1917, during World War I. The German gun was of type 38 cm SK L/45 “Max” and had a modified design by Krupp compared to earlier German 38 cm gun types. The modification allowed the gun to shoot from Koekelare to Dunkirk, which is about 50 km away.

Batterie Pommern is located in Koekelare in the neighborhood called Leugenboom. It is part of Site Lange Max, next to the Lange Max Museum. Today, the immense artillery platform can still be visited.

The 15inch (38 cm) long range gun, protected by armour, was mounted on a steel bridge having a pivot in front. The rear part of the gun travelled along a circular rail-track in a concrete pit of about 70 feet in diameter. The gun was manoeuvred by means of electric motors. On either side were large shelters in reinforced concrete. In front of and below the platform there was an electric generator group. A large shelter of reinforced concrete on the right was probably the Post of Commandment. There was a dummy gun emplacement further on.
Wikipedia.