The Belgian army of 1914 was quite ill-prepared for a general European war. Its army was relatively small, indifferently equipped and not well-respected even by its own population. To further compound this general malais the Belgian armed forces had no defined set of war plans to provide a strategic focus in any prospective war. Granted much of this can be explained by the unique political position Belgium held at this time. As being a guaranteed neutral power it had to contend with the possibility that any of its neighbours could be a potential hostile force. (Indeed, some of France's pre-war planning seriously entertained the idea of violating Belgian neutrality in order to deny the Germans that avenue of approach.) So instead of having several plans to meet a variety of contingencies Belgium simply chose to have none.
Nonetheless as hostilities began, and it became clear that Germany intended to cross Belgium's frontiers as a part of its advance on Paris, many were surprised to discover that the Belgian King was not about to bow to pressure from Berlin. As a result, the first weeks of the war saw the Belgian army fighting a series of fierce holding actions and rearguard retreats, all in a vain attempt to stem the German onslaught. As it's line of fortifications were systematically reduced and the cities of Brussels and Antwerp abandoned, the Belgian army still managed to confound German efforts to pin and annihilate it. In those furious opening weeks of the war it earned the epithet 'plucky little Belgium' through blood, audacity and sheer stubbornness.
|Minerva's were frequently photographed, being considered the 'Humvee' of its day.|
One unique aspect of this desperate campaign was Belgium's bold use of armoured cars. These vehicles were employed very effectively in hit and run attacks on advancing German columns, covering troop withdrawals and in forward reconnaissance. One of the most iconic armoured cars of this early period was the 'Minerva'. The Minervas were originally private passenger cars that were hurriedly modified for military use with the addition of bolt-on steel plating and pintle-mounted machine guns, all in the effort to provide some level of mobile heavy support to the beleaguered infantry
After the 5mm armoured plate was attached, the Hotchiss installed and the various stores and parts tucked away the Minervas tipped in at around 4 tons! As these cars were only rated as having a four cylinder, 40 HP engine I'm amazed that they were even able to move much less conduct armed operations. (For comparison, the current Ford Focus with it's 160 HP engine weighs about 1.2 tons.) Even with this additional weight they could supposedly rattle along at a top speed of 100 kph - 'Brave Little Belgium' indeed!
This is a 28mm kit from 1st Corps which I picked up at Salute this spring. The body is a single piece of resin with only the wheels, armoured visor and machine gun being separate white metal parts. The crew come as a separate pack and fit well within the hull (Though I pinned these in place to aid their survivability on the tabletop). My only quibble with the kit is that they should have provided dual tires for the rear wheels as that was one of the frequently quoted modifications which was made to the civilian chassis.