“A phoney little army” in the Phoney War: The Luxembourgish Armed Forces between September 1939 and May 1940

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Abstract

By September 1939, Luxembourgish diplomatic efforts to see the neutral status of the Grand Duchy reaffirmed by a multilateral declaration of the European powers had reached a dead end. With the outbreak of hostilities, the country found itself caught between the Maginot and Siegfried Line, hence risking to become a battle-contested area between the war-waging armies. To make the situation even more difficult, neutral Luxembourg could not call upon a strong military to protect its national integrity but had to rely merely on its 700-head strong Force Armée. Besides their numerical inferiority, these armed forces were – due to their police-like character – neither organized, trained nor equipped to meet the requirements of a “real” military deployment along the national borders facing Germany and France. Worst of all, an internal order even forbade the troops to use their weapons in case of an enemy invasion – seemingly making it a national military without any military value or raison d’être in the face of the imminent conflict.
This contribution aims to discuss the role of the Luxembourgish armed forces in the Phoney War by analysing their functions and tasks through military documents in the Foreign affairs section of the Luxembourgish National Archives. By examining the steps and measures taken by the Force Armée in face of the conflict, the paper focusses on its potential room for manoeuvre, its role and its actual raison d’être in the Phoney War. In the face of a largely inexistent Luxembourgish military historiography, the contribution finally also tries to provide a clearer picture of the Luxembourgish armed forces before 1940 in general by giving deeper insight into the institutional characteristics and dispositions of the Force Armée.
Translated title of the contribution“A phoney little army” in the Phoney War: The Luxembourgish Armed Forces between September 1939 and May 1940
Original languageGerman
Pages (from-to)279-309
JournalHémecht: Zeitschrift für Luxemburger Geschichte
Volume71
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes

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