Victor van Strydonck de Burkel
|Baron van Strydonck de Burkel|
General van Strydonck de Burkel in London, 1943
|Birth name||Victor Jean Clement van Strydonck|
16 July 1876|
|Died||4 August 1961
|Commands held||Chief of the Belgian Military Mission to Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
Lieutenant-general BEM Victor Jean Clement, Baron van Strydonck de Burkel[a] (16 July 1876 Antwerp; died 4 August 1961 Etterbeek)[b] was a general of the Belgian Army and the primary architect of the formation of the Free Belgian Forces after Belgium's official surrender on May 28, 1940 in World War II.
First World War and Interwar
In 1918, as an officer in the 1st Regiment of Guides, Victor van Strydonck commanded the last cavalry charge in western Europe, the successful Charge of Burkel. For his role in the charge, van Strydonck was made a baron and given the title "de Burkel" in 1937 after the location of the battle.
A cavalry officer, van Strydonck de Burkel commanded the Cavalry School (1920–1923) and the 1st Cavalry Division (1928–1933), served as the inspector-general of the Belgian Gendarmerie (1933–1939), and was the commander of the Cavalry Corps (1933–1939) prior to World War II. In 1938, Van Strydonck announced his retirement from the army but was re-activated in late 1939 when war between Britain, France and Germany broke out although Belgium remained neutral.
Second World War
During the invasion of Belgium by Germany in May 1940, van Strydonck de Burkel commanded the 1st Military Zone. In May 1940, he was sent to England to head a delegation charged with acquiring horses for the Belgian Army and, with the Belgian surrender, was the only Belgian staff officer in England. At his own initiative, Van Strydonck created a camp in Tenby, Wales where he established a Camp militaire belge de Regroupment (CMBR) for Belgian soldiers who had escaped to Britain after the surrender. Initially, morale among the several hundred soldiers was extremely low among the troops in Tenby and drunkenness and insubordination presented a major problem. Van Strydonck lobbied the British to improve the conditions and, to keep the soldiers busy, organized a major parade on Belgian National Day (21 July) 1941. He succeeded in affiliating the Belgian contingent with the local Home Guard which improved morale.
With the arrival of the Belgian government in exile and the formal creation of the Free Belgian Forces, he became the Commander in Chief and presided over the gradual organization of the 1st Belgian Infantry Brigade, a unit that later fought in the campaign in northwestern Europe. In 1941 he became the Inspector-General of the Belgian ground forces in Great Britain.
- "van STRIJDONCK de BURKEL, Baron Victor, J.-C.". Retrieved 6 May 2013.
- Grosbois 2007, p. 280.
- "Van Strydonck de Burkel, Victor-Jean-Clement Baron, General". Generals.dk. Retrieved 6 May 2013.
- Keegan, John, ed. (2001). "Strydonck de Burkel, General Victor van". Who's Who in World War II. Abingdon: Routledge. p. 151. ISBN 9781107612334.
- Decat, Frank (2007). De Belgen in Engeland 40/45: de Belgische strijdkrachten in Groot-Brittannië tijdens WOII. Tielt: Lannoo. ISBN 978-90-209-6981-8.
- De Vos, Luc (2001). "The Reconstruction of Belgian Military Forces in Britain, 1940-1945". In Conway, Martin; Gotovitch, José. Europe in exile : European exile communities in Britain 1940-45 (1st ed.). New York: Berghahn. pp. 81–99. ISBN 1-57181-503-1.
- Grosbois, Thierry (2007). Pierlot, 1930–1950. Brussels: Racine. ISBN 2873864850.