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Secret Army (Belgium)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Secret Army
Armée Secrète  (French)
Geheim Leger  (Dutch)
Participant in the Belgian Resistance (World War II)
Belgian res.jpg
Uniformed members of the Secret Army with a Canadian soldier in Bruges in September 1944
ActiveAugust 1940–October 1944
IdeologyRight wing, Catholic, Leopoldist
LeadersCharles Claser
Jules Bastin
Jules Pire
Area of operationsBelgium
Size54,000 men (1944)
Originated asBelgian Legion
Reconstructed Belgian Army
Army of Belgium

The Secret Army (French: Armée Secrète or AS, Dutch: Geheim Leger, GL) was the largest group within the Belgian Resistance active during the German occupation of Belgium during World War II. Founded in August 1940 as the Belgian Legion, the Secret Army changed its name on a number of occasions during its existence, adopting its final appellation in June 1944. Politically, the group was dominated by right-wing conservatives and royalists and incorporated many former officers from the defeated Belgian Army. Though relations were sometimes strained, the Secret Army enjoyed the closest relations with the Belgian government in exile in London of any large resistance movement.

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  • ✪ Meet The Forgotten "Hitler" Who Killed 15 Million Africans...
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Hey Thoughty2 here. Names like Hitler, Stalin and Mao Zedong are often thrown around as some of the evilest men to have walked the Earth; each one causing the deaths of many millions. But there’s a man equally as a despicable as Adolf Hitler, yet very few people even known of his existence. King Leopold II is one of the least reviled tyrants from history, yet he was directly responsible for the deaths of an estimated 15 million people, he caused a hidden holocaust that is rarely mentioned, devastating an entire country, murdering the vast majority of its population. So why is so little spoken about King Leopold II? Some say it’s because he only murdered Africans. Leopold was the King of the Belgians between 1865 and 1909. Nothing about his upbringing spelled “genocidal psychopath”; as a young prince he was perfectly well behaved, an upstanding member of the royal family. But it all went to pot when gained ownership of The Congo in 1885. But let’s just rewind a little, how does a Kind in Belgium come to own a large country smack bang in the middle of Africa? Throughout the late 1800s Africa was being slammed by Europe, multiple European countries attempted to and successfully colonized vast parts of the continent. The methodology behind all this colonization was basically… oh look, Africa isn’t as civilized or technologically advanced as us – let’s take their land and freedom then force them to practice our religion, use our technology and we’ll take all the profits from their mineral rich land – surely that’s a better life than what they’re use to, no? The British empire came first and claimed the South, the North East and bits of the North West. The French took the North East and Madagascar, the rest was snatched up by the Italians and Portuguese, oh and Germany got their hans on a few bits as well. This left one massive gaping hole in the center of Africa. The Congo was the hardest to take because it was far from the coast and was covered in treacherous jungle. Leopold set his eyes on it, knowing it was rich in natural resources such as rubber, which was highly valuable in those days. So how exactly did Leopold come to own the Congo? Bearing in mind it is 76 times the size of Belgium and was home to millions of people. Did he simply invade and stick flags everywhere? Nope, he basically said to the world’s most powerful nations “Hey if you guys aren’t using this bit, can I have it?” and they said “sure, if you give us a bit of money for it”. However, the Congo was different to other African states. Unlike the others, such as South Africa and the Spanish Sahara, which were colonies of European governments, the Congo Free State as it was known, was deemed the private property of one man – his own personal play thing. Leopold formed the International African Society, which was a supposedly philanthropic scheme to “help” Africans by introducing them to Christianity and giving them clothes. But this was just a ruse to get the Belgian government to give him money to startup his supposed “humanitarian” project in Africa. What Leopold actually did in the Congo was far from “humanitarian” – he forced the Congolese people into hard labour, so hard that millions died from exhaustion, disease and starvation. The unfortunate natives were forced to dig up gold, hunt and kill elephants for their ivory and chop down hundreds of miles of forest, to set up rubber plantations all across the Congo. Gold, ivory and rubber were three of the most expensive commodities in the world at that time and King Leopold sold all the resources he ruthlessly mined through slave-labour, to European countries, in order to generate vast, vast sums of money for his own personal enjoyment. As if all that wasn’t enough, Leopold also sold swathes of Congolese into slavery. So how did King Leopold organize such a large operation across an enormous country with millions of natives. He was very smart and basically used his wealth and power to turn the Congolese people against themselves. He recruited a large army of mercenaries which he named the “Force Publique” made up of Congolese natives and paid them to enforce his ruthless regime against their own people. Leopold setup a hierarchy, handpicking the most loyal members of the Force Publique to become governors over a specific region of the country. Governors would be given complete dictatorial control over their realm and they had quotas of ivory, gold and rubber that they had to enforce. If workers didn’t meet their monthly quota of raw materials, they were mutilated. The most common way was to amputate their hands and feet. And if they fled town, the Force Publique would amputate the limbs of their entire family. Governors were paid by commission, so it was in their interest to force those under their control to work even harder. The result of this is that millions of natives were literally worked to death either down the mines or in the fields. If you don’t already hate this guy enough, he also used the Congo as a giant hunting ground for himself and his wealthy friends – where they freely hunted animals such as lions and elephants. No one knows for sure what the exact population of the Congo was before it was colonized by King Leopold, since it was so remote and dangerous. But it’s estimated it was over 20 million. By the end of King Leopold’s reign of terror, the population had dropped to well under 10 million. So what ended his tyranny? Competition. (1) The United States, Britain and the Netherlands owned large rubber-producing colonies of their own and so King Leopold’s efforts were stifling their profits on the global market. The three nations forced Leopold to surrender his land and hand it back to the Belgian Government. Whom by the way still treated the Congolese people horrifically for many years afterwards – it wasn’t until the country gained independence in 1971 that the Congo was free from the tyranny of Belgium, but the ripples of history run deep throughout the land - they still have a long way to go to achieve political stability today. Thanks for watching.



The origin of the Secret Army can be traced back to shortly after the Belgian surrender after the German invasion of 10–28 May 1940. A number of career officers from the defeated Belgian Army joined together to create the first small resistance organisations, such as the "Belgian Legion" (Légion Belge or Belgisch Legioen) and "Reconstructed Belgian Army" (Armée Belge Reconstituée or Heropgericht Belgisch Leger). The members involved were generally right-wing authoritarians in their political views and strongly identified with King Leopold III, expressing hostility towards Belgian politicians and communists as well as the German occupiers.[1] In the spring of 1941, the Reconstructed Belgian Army and Belgian Legion merged, keeping the Belgian Legion name, under the leadership of Charles Claser, Robert Lentz and Jules Bastin.[2] The organisation had units across the country, with as many as 50,000 members, and its own local organisation.[2][3]


British parachute drops of weapons and supplies to the resistance in the countryside near Brussels
British parachute drops of weapons and supplies to the resistance in the countryside near Brussels

The group's leaders attempted to forge contacts with the Belgian government in London and with the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) and MI9. In 1942, Claser travelled to London in person to bring the organisation into contact with both the Belgian and British authorities.[4] The Belgian government, however, distrusted the intentions of the Belgian Legion.[5] Although expanding rapidly, the Belgian Legion was beset by internal political disputes. Arrests of leading resistance members also destabilised the movement.[1] By the end of the occupation, Claser, Lentz and Bastin had all been arrested.[3]

In 1943, the Belgian Legion changed its name to "Army of Belgium" (Armée de Belgique or Leger van België) and subsequently to the Secret Army (Armée Secrete or Geheim Leger) in June 1944. Between 1943 and 1944, the majority of the aid sent to the resistance in occupied Belgium was delivered to the group.[1] In exchange, however, the group had to subscribe to the government's strategic plans to avoid confrontation with the Germans until shortly before the Liberation of Belgium when the group was tasked with providing tactical help to the Allied forces.[1] Relations between the Belgian government and the Secret Army remained tense throughout the war, however, with neither party trusting the other.[6] In February 1944, Jules Pire took over as its leader and began to restructure the group's leadership and make it more cohesive.[7][8] As part of its attempt to resemble an official army, the group even adopted its own form of uniform in April 1944 based on worker's overalls.[9]

Shortly after D-Day in June 1944, the Secret Army was ordered to begin sabotaging railway and communications networks.[10] Together with other groups including the Front de l'Indépendance and Witte Brigade, Secret Army personnel played an important role in the capture of the Port of Antwerp in September 1944 before the arrival of Canadian troops, preventing the Germans from destroying the installation as they prepared to retreat.[11]

At its height in 1944, the Secret Army had as many as 54,000 members across Belgium. Around 4,000 members of the Secret Army were killed during the occupation. After the liberation, many members of the Secret Army were incorporated into the re-formed Belgian Army's new Fusilier Battalions. As many as 80 percent of the 53,700 soldiers in the battalions had previously been members of the Secret Army or the small National Royalist Movement.[12]



  • Bernard, Henri (1986). L'Armée Secrète, 1940-1944. Paris: Duculot. ISBN 978-2-8011-0608-2.
  • Conway, Martin (2012). The Sorrows of Belgium: Liberation and Political Reconstruction, 1944-1947. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-969434-1.
  • Deleuze, Lucien (1958). "Aperçu sur l'Armée Secrète, Groupement Militaire de Résistance Armée". Revue d'Histoire de la Deuxième Guerre Mondiale. 8 (31): 44–54. JSTOR 25731813.
  • Dujardin, Vincent; Van den Wijngaert, Mark (2010). La Belgique sans Roi, 1940-1950. Nouvelle Histoire de Belgique. Brussels: Le Cri édition. ISBN 978-2-8710-6520-3.

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This page was last edited on 13 October 2019, at 16:58
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