France and Belgium May–June 1940


Map Code: Ax00281

On 10 May 1940, Germany invaded westwards with a strategy that surprised the Allies geographically and tactically. The Belgian fort Eben Emael fell the next day, allowing German forces to cross the Albert Canal and the heavily defended Belgian border, distracting the Allies from the German Ardennes offensive. They advanced quickly, crossing the Meuse and moving towards the coast. In Belgium, Allied forces became trapped between German armies. The Dutch surrendered on 15 May; Antwerp and Brussels fell on 17–18 May. The Germans reached the English Channel at Abbeville on 20 May and, a day or so later, there was a failed Allied counterattack near Arras. Allied troops retreated to Dunkirk and on 27 May, ‘Operation Dynamo’ began, evacuating over 338,000 Allied servicemen over eleven days. On 28 May, Belgium fell and a few days later the bombing of Paris began. By 12 June, Germany had penetrated the final French lines of defence; France signed an armistice with Germany on 22 June.

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