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"We await the verdict of honest men "

Reader comment on item: The End of American Jewry's Golden Era
in response to reader comment: Winston Churchill and the Fall of France

Submitted by Daniel Wybo (Canada), Apr 2, 2006 at 11:27

A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get
its pants on."
-- Winston Churchill

"Legend of infidelity and treason of King Leopold was propagated all over
the world by Winston Churchill"

The cowardly declaration by Paul Reynaud and Churchill's insulting words
became the base of the "Legend of infidelity and treason of King Leopold
III, which, as from 28th of May 1940, was propagated all over the world.

This "legend" would, later on, cause internal problems in Belgium that lead
to the abdication of King Leopold III.

All of the above are historical facts to be found in the official documents
and therefore cannot be denied.

But there is more!

Sir Roger Keyes, Lord of Zeebrugge and Dover, had been appointed by Winston
Churchill, on 10th of May, as a special liaison officer to King Leopold III.
The Admiral remained with the King until the evening of 27th May, when he
and Colonel Davy were picked up by a torpedo boat. They reached Harwich at
8h30 on 28th May.

These two officers were expert witnesses of the heroic battles of the
Belgian army..but Churchill had already made up his mind: he, just like Paul
Reynaud, was going to indicate Leopold III and his army as a scapegoat.

He did not want to hear the real story of the two gentlemen officers;
instead he categorically did forbid Admiral Keyes to speak out publicly.

Even though King George spoke out in favour of Leopold III, Churchill
persevered in his vendetta against Leopold III and the Belgian people which
he seemed to dislike altogether.

Lord Keyes would, many years later, state (in his book: A sea of troubles")
that the references, made by Churchill in his book "The Second World War",
were in fact so unfair and misleading-due to omissions and distortions of
the facts-that his son, Randolph Churchill, (according to the former
archduke Otto von Habsburg) furiously said to him: "What you have said and
written about this, is nothing else but a heap of lies, as you very well

The archduke who was present, describes in his book "Naissance d'un
Continent" this heated discussion, which took place at Chequers, the
official country house of the British prime minister.

He remembers how Churchill admitted, in a provocative way: "Of course these
were lies, but you must not forget that the history of a period is
determined by its best author. I am and will remain this author and
therefore, whatever I wrote will have to be accepted as being the truth".

Winston Churchill had, nevertheless, admitted in 1943 (!): .We went at war,
unprepared and almost unarmed."

Further, in his memoires, he stated about the British Expeditionary Force:
".it was only a symbolic contribution..."

When Winston Churchill died, he took his shameful lies into his grave....

The attack on the honour of King Leopold III and his army, continuous, until
today, to throw a shadow of distrust and resentment in the heart of the
Belgian people, certainly with the thousands of veterans and all Belgians
who are still very well aware of what happened in May 1940.


Saturday, 28 May 2005
Leopold III, King of the Belgians - Belgian Bid to Restore His Honour
Topic: In the News
At the start of World War II, Belgium was neutral. However, the Germans, who
had guaranteed Belgian neutrality in 1937, broke their word and, without
warning, invaded Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg on 10th May 1940. The
Belgian Army fought very bravely for eighteen days but, all the time, they
were being pushed further and further back. By the 25th May, the Allies
could see that the crumbling Belgian defence was becoming hopeless and on
the 26th the French army drew up plans to withdraw to the coast. By 1 p.m.
on the 27th, the War Office had issued orders "to evacuate the maximum force
possible". In the early hours of 28th May 1940, Leopold III,
commander-in-chief of the Belgian Army, took the final decision to surrender
to the German Army, despite the opposition of his cabinet. The King wished
to spare his people further bloodshed and suffering - but his action
provoked accusations of treason.

Retired Admiral of the Fleet, Sir Roger Keyes (1972-1945), who had been
recalled to serve as liaison officer to the Belgian King Leopold in 1939,
was appointed Director of Combined Operations from 1940-41. He closely
observed the King's conduct at the time of the capitulation and expressed
his thoughts in his diaries. Later his son, Lord Keyes, 2nd Baron, naval
officer and author (14th March 1919-4th March 2005) [see TimesOnLine
Obituaries] believed, as did his father, that historians had treated King
Leopold III most unfairly and that he had been made a scapegoat for the
defeat of France and the British Army in 1940. He wrote a book, Outrageous
Fortune, published in 1984, in which he set out to exonerate Leopold, whom
he regarded as having been traduced by France and Britain for having ordered
the Belgian Army to lay down its arms on May 28, 1940, after it had
courageously fought the Wehrmacht for 18 days.

Recently, [18th March 2005], Belgian Monarchists, urged Tony Blair to
"restore the honour" of King Leopold III; see Belgian bid to restore honour
of their king. Lt. Col. Louis Van Leemputhe, the president of the Royal
League of Veterans of Leopold III, is asking the Prime Minister to repudiate
harsh comments directed at King Leopold by Sir Winston Churchill and other
British officials, both during the war and afterwards.

"We are not asking for an apology but a letter from Mr Blair, simply
stating that the British Government regrets the position taken by Sir
Winston Churchill, which caused internal problems in Belgium that led to the
abdication of the King," he said.
The league has also written to Belgium's prime minister to ask him to
rehabilitate Leopold, who died in 1983, and "lift the veil of lies which
covers this black page in our history".

I am not an historian but, as an outsider, my sympathies are with the late
King (who died on 25th September 1983). Leopold III continued his defiance
of the Germans right through the occupation. He rejected cooperation with
the Nazis and refused to administer Belgium in accordance with their
dictates. The King did meet with Hitler and successfully negotiated the
release of thousands of Belgian prisoners-of-war - an event which resulted
in some regarding him as a 'collaborator'. Although he was exonerated after
the war, he was never forgiven by the Belgium people as a whole and,
eventually, was forced to abdicate in 1951. The reasons for this are diverse
due in part to old divisions between the Dutch-speaking Flemish people in
the north and the French-speaking Walloons in the south. The reasons
probably also extend to Leopold's private life - his behaviour during the
war, particularly his re-marriage, incurring the violent disapproval of the
Belgian people.

It is time he was forgiven.

Daniel Wybo Canada

It is of capital importance to remember that the Belgian army, lead by the
supreme commander, Leopold III, was forced to deliver combats against two
German divisions, without any protection on both flanks. The French and
British forces had left their positions already on the 26th of May without
informing Leopold III. They were on the run to the beaches of Dunkirk.

These hopeless combats by the Belgian army lasted for two days: May 26th and
May 27th

In the meantime, the German Luftwaffe had started murderess attacks on the
refugees (1 ½ million) in the combat zone.

Hitler's aim was very clear: surrender or...extermination of the population?

Leopold III was left with only one possible choice: to lay down the weapons.

All communications between the General Belgian Headquarter, the General
Allied Headquarter as well as the British Expeditionary Force were

Under these circumstances, Leopold III informed his allies (on 27th of May,
at 15h15) about his intentions through general Champon (French Military
Attaché) and colonel Davy (British military Mission) who in turn informed
the War Office where the message was received on May 27th at 16h40 by
general Percival. The General Allied Headquarter at Vincennes received the
message at 18h30.

Hitler's demand was very clear: surrender without any condition!

On May 28th, at 4h00, the Belgian army laid down their weapons by order of
Leopold III. A courageous and noble act of a great man!

Leopold III, Commander in Chief of the Belgian Army, remained with his
soldiers till the very end. He did not desert as was advised by his

The heroic battles of the Belgian army, especially during the last two days,
had provided extra time to the British and French military forces to realize
their evacuation to Great Britain.

Without these battles, the British and French forces would have been
completely annihilated!

Some 338.000 allied troupes were rescued; they became later on the core of
the liberation army!

The great tragedy started when (on May 28th, at 8h30) Paul Reynaud,
president of the French Council, held a vicious speech which was
broadcasted, and in which he declared:

"...that the Belgian army had surrendered, without conditions, in open
field, by order of its King, without notifying his comrades in arms, French
and British, opening the route to Dunkirk for the German divisions..."

In stating this false declaration, Paul Reynaud had no other intention but
to indicate a scapegoat in order to cover his incompetence and the
shortcomings of the French military organisation (ref. declaration by
general Weygand).

Proof of his incompetence was delivered when, on 16th June 1940, Paul
Reynaud felt compelled to resign and to hand over the power to Maréchal

Paul Reynaud succeeded even to impose his campaign of slander onto Winston
Churchill (who appeared to be very pleased with the indication of a common

On 29th May, Sir Roger Campbell, British ambassador in Paris, transmitted a
request from Mr. Frossard, French minister of information, to the British
Cabinet, urging the British authorities to avoid the disclosure of the truth
as stated by Admiral Roger Keyes. According to Mr. Frossard, the French
public opinion had been "horrified by the "apparent treason of the Belgian
king" (end of quote). Any denial would therefore be "an approval of

On June 4th: Churchill held a speech in the House of Commons where he
announced the successful completion of 'Operation Dynamo' (the withdrawal of
the British Expeditionary Force from the continent). Until that day, he had
left the British people unaware of the defeat. He took the opportunity to
denounce King Leopold III in even stronger words than Paul Reynaud did

It is above any doubt that Churchill's attitude was dictated by, on the one
hand, the political pressure by Paul Reynaud and, on the other hand, the
fear to recognize publicly the shortcomings of the British Expeditionary
Force: no training, no proper equipment, incompetent leadership of general
Gort and general Pownall.

Even worse: these generals deserted on their allies (France and Belgium)
without any warning

"That was the prospect a week ago. But another blow which might well have
proved final was yet to fall upon us. The King of the Belgians had called
upon us to come to his aid. Had not this Ruler and his Government severed
themselves from the Allies, who rescued their country from extinction in the
late war, and had they not sought refuge in what was proved to be a fatal
neutrality, the French and British Armies might well at the outset have
saved not only Belgium but perhaps even Poland. Yet at the last moment, when
Belgium was already invaded, King Leopold called upon us to come to his aid,
and even at the last moment we came. He and his brave, efficient Army,
nearly half a million strong, guarded our left flank and thus kept open our
only line of retreat to the sea. Suddenly, without prior consultation, with
the least possible notice, without the advice of his Ministers and upon his
own personal act, he sent a plenipotentiary to the German Command,
surrendered his Army, and exposed our whole flank and means of retreat.

I asked the House a week ago to suspend its judgment because the facts were
not clear, but I do not feel that any reason now exists why we should not
form our own opinions upon this pitiful episode. The surrender of the
Belgian Army compelled the British at the shortest notice to cover a flank
to the sea more than 30 miles in length. Otherwise all would have been cut
off, and all would have shared the fate to which King Leopold had condemned
the finest Army his country had ever formed. So in doing this and in
exposing this flank, as anyone who followed the operations on the map will
see, contact was lost between the British and two out of the three corps
forming the First French Army, who were still farther from the coast than we
were, and it seemed impossible that any large number of Allied troops could
reach the coast."


To those in the English and French speaking world, we should be able to
understand their contempt, for theses peoples feel betrayed. Especially when
we called on them to come to our aid and fulfill their
Speech June 4 1940)

However, lets consider the historical facts from a Belgian point of view.

Our policy of armed neutrality was a policy that was wholly Belgian.

After the Nazi reoccupied the Rhine Line and the British and French did
nothing it became very obvious that the very possibility of Belgian
territory being used again as a passageway or battlefield was very very

In order to rearm and reinforce Belgium's defense capabilities, the Belgian
Parliament would need to vote for massive expenditures to make Belgium's
army 10 times stronger than it was in 1914.

You need unity of the people to do this. The Fleming's of Belgium were just
beginning to get some kind of equality.

A policy whole heartily Belgian, was the only policy that the Fleming's
would vote for.

Thus a little nation of 8 million souls approved expenditures to raise an
Army of twenty infantry divisions, and one Calvary corps and troops for the
fortifications, in all 650,000 men. To form a strong army of 650,000,
Belgium had to mobilize 8% of her entire population or 46 % of the men
between the ages of twenty and forty years of age. It was a tremendous
effort and strain. Can any historian doubt had the British or French made
the same effort and flexed its muscle, would Hitler have stayed in the

You see, the Belgian people knew what was best for Belgium! Since the
British and the French with their old generals were ready to fight World War
I over again, where do you think they preferred the battlefield."? It is on
our soil that the issue would be fought out, and owing to the small size of
our territory, this would spell utter destruction for Belgium no matter what
the issue of the war "

Belgium was created as a buffer state to protect Britain from invasion.
Britain would send its troops to protect Britain by fighting on Belgian
soil. The same can be said of the French.

So there we have it, the conundrum of what was right.

It is also important to add that I believe his majesty had some poor

It is a historical fact that younger officers in the Belgian Army called
General Raoul Van Overstarten the "vice roi"

General Van Overstraten was an over bearing military tutor to his majesty.
Van Overstraten dislodged the pro alley war minister Denis and worked to
remove General Van den bergen. To what extend Van Overstraten contributed to
the King's attitude is still up for debate.

In any event I say to the English and French historians, the King was
conscious that his first duty was not to the allies but to Belgium. too many
Belgians had died already, for a cause that was doomed from the start.

On this the 28th May 2005, we remember King Leopold III

" History will relate that the army did its duty to the full "

" Our Honour is safe "

" I shall not leave you in our misfortune, and shall watch over your future
and that of your families "

" Tomorrow we will set to work with the firm intention of raising our
country from its ruins "

Leopold III King of the Belgians


St-Andries Brugge

May 28 1940

The army had resisted the German aggression with all its means and power.

Its Inability to check it was due to military events outside its control,
with events that occurred elsewhere. (Sedan)

It did not lay down its arms until - with its backs to the sea, hemmed in
the last remaining strip of the territory, with no means of escape- it could
continue the struggle no longer.

As he had proclaimed in order to strengthen the courage of his soldiers at
the height of battle, the commander in chief linked up his future with that
of the army.

By his dignified attitude, in captivity to which he condemned himself, he
has shown himself to be the incarnation of a people, which will not accept

My Sources

Wybo, Daniel A. National League of Veterans of King Leopold III

Leopold III. The Eighteenth Day. Remy

Sir Roger Keyes. Outrageous Fortune.

A R Arrango. Leopold III and the Belgian Royal Question,

Was Leopold a Traitor Goffin

Belgium 39/40 the official account,

The Prisoner of Laeken Cammaerts

Leopold III Kroongetuige (His majesties Memoirs).

Princess Esmeralda. Leopold III Mijn Vader. Esmeralda of Belgium

Written by Sir Admiral Keyes M.P. Admiral of the British Fleet May 1941

From his memoirs

I quote some important eyewitness passages for the man who was the British
Liaison to the Belgian Army during the 18 days of fighting.

He remained with Leopold until May 27 before he returned to England.

Admiral Keyes diaries and papers and numerous documents prove beyond doubt
that Churchill, his boss was fully aware of the fact that the Belgian army
did not expose the flank of the BEF. The Belgian army by its brave and
prolonged resistance until nearly two days after the BEF began its
evacuation (without informing Belgians or French)

The Belgian Army held up the advance of what was originally 8 divisions and
was increased to 14 divisions supported by the bulk of the Lutwaffe.

By holding up the Germans for this four day period and preventing them from
cutting off the BEF's retreat to the coast, made the Miracle of Dunkirk

I'm not saying this; Lord Keyes Admiral of The British Fleet makes this
written statement, based on his own eyewitness accounts.

"On the night of May 23, with grave misgivings King Leopold III fell back,
order by the General Weygand from his strong positions on the Scheldt to a
very much weaker one behind the Lys river.

On May 24th General Weygand told the commanders of the British Army and
French Northern army to attack with vigor southwards, in order to close the
gap behind the German Panzer divisions, which had broken through.

By this time the Belgian army was heavily engaged, and it was evident to the
Belgian GHQ that they were faced with an attack by eight German divisions,
with the object of driving the Belgian army to the northward and severing
its contact with the British army, which was now lying behind its pre May
10th phony war winter line on the frontier.

Although King Leopold did not know at the time and no message to this effect
ever reached him. Lord Gort had already received orders to with draw to the

In a message to Gort from Churchill " It is now nessessary to tell the
Belgians. I am sending to Keyes, but your personal contact with the King is
desirable. Keyes will help.

We are asking them to sacrifice themselves for us.

Although Gort had his orders to tell king Leopold, he did not.

Mean while the fight on the Belgian front had been continuous for four days.

Every road, village and town in the small part of Belgium left was thronged
with hundreds of thousands of refugees, and low flying aircraft was
mercilessly bombing the refugees and the troops.

The Belgian Army was created solely for defense; it had neither tanks nor
aircraft to mount any kind of offensive.

From the moment it was ordered to retreat to weaker and weaker positions,
its fate was doomed.

With no RAF support, it maintained a 90-kilometer front.

Most British and French account fail to recognize the significance of the
Battle along the Lys. Here the Belgian army suffered 4o,ooo casualties. Yet
it may well be asked what would have happened to the BEF and The Northern
French armies if the Belgians had not prepared to fight to the last. Before
this important battle the King promised his troops, no matter what happens I
will share your fate.

"Wat er ook moge gebeuren, mijn lot zal het uwe zijn".

As long as the Belgian army could fight, it kept on fighting to the last.
All reserves were in the fight up until the end.

Knowing he could do nothing further to help his Allies, King Leopold told
Keyes, The British and the French that he intended to ask for an armistice.

His Government and the British Government asked King Leopold to leave his
country and carry on the war from England.

As commander in chief of his army, he maintained his promise to his troops
to share their fate. He made no separate peace and became a Prisoner of War

Written by Sir Admiral Keyes M.P. Admiral of the British Fleet May 1941

From his memoirs


Outrageous Fortune: The Tragedy of Leopold III of the Belgians, 1901-1941 by Roger Keyes
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $34.95
Availability: This item is currently unavailable.

3 used & new from $24.00

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:

Long overdue rehabilitation of Leopold III, January 25, 1999
Keye's "Outrageous Fortune" casts a strong light into the part of World War II that most would rather forget. It is also a systemic antidote to the hagiographic musings of Stephen Ambrose.
The further I get into the book the more impressed I am by Leopold III. Given the thankless task of spending 24% of the budget on rearming, feebly buttressed by hypnotically apathetic French and woefully incompetent British, and having a howling Nazi war machine on the border would snap lesser men in half.

The thrust of the book thus far is that 1] Leopold had clear intelligence from within Germany 2] His vigilance postponed the Nazi invasion from Nov '39 thru to June '40, 3] that the Belgian defense was far superior to anyone else's [including artillery, which was a big surprise to the Wehrmacht].

What else: Leopold managed to sideline homegrown Belgian Fascist Leon Degrelle by dint of personal authority and leadership. Only after capitulation did Degrelle get any play. There is a sympathetic treatment of Leopold's youth and early years, including his service with father Albert on his summers off from Eton, on the remaining 20 sq miles of Belgium free of German occupation.

The book also highlights Leopold's difficulties with fractious Belgian politics and double-dealing by Churchill. His accomplishments in national unity were nothing short of astonishing. None of the political parties (Belgian, French or British) come out looking very good.

I would recomend this as an essential part of any serious scholar or laymen's understanding the antecedents to the Second World War.

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