Gembloux’n taistelu käytiin Saksan ja Ranskan joukkojen välillä 14.–15. toukokuuta 1940 Gembloux’n alueella Belgiassa toisessa maailmansodassa.
Ranska oli sijoittanut 1. armeijansa puolustukseen Gembloux’n ja Wavren väliselle linjalle. Ranskan panssarijoukot muodostivat eteentyönnetyn varmistuslinjan Hannutin alueelle tehtävänään viivyttää eteneviä saksalaisjoukkoja. Samanaikaisesti Gembloux’hun valmisteltiin pääpuolustuslinjaa.
Toukokuun 14 alkoi kaksipäivää kestävä taistelu, jossa ranskalaiset estivät Saksan 6. armeijan etenemisen. Ranskan 1. armeija joutui kuitenkin vetäytymään Lilleen asti, jouduttuaan saarrostusuhan alaiseksi.
Saksan joukot koostuivat Erich Hoepnerin XVI armeijakunnasta ja Viktor von Schwedlerin IV armejakunnasta. XVI armeijakuntaan kuuluivat 3. ja 4. panssaridivisioona, 20. motorisoitu jalkaväkidivisioona ja 35. jalkaväkidivisioona. Armeijakunnan oikealla puolella etenivät IV armeijakunnan 31., 7. ja 18. jalkaväkidivisioonat.
Näistä 117 oli PzKw I panssarivaunua
129 kpl oli PzKw II panssarivaunua ja 42 x PzKw III, 26 x PzKw IV
sekä 27 esikuntavaunua.
Divisioonaan kuului lisäksi 3. motorisoitu jalkaväkiprikaati, tykistörykmentti ja divisioonajoukot. Johann-Joachim Steverin 4. panssaridivisioonan 5. panssariprikaatin vahvuus oli ollut hyökkäyksen alkaessa 36 panssarirykmentillä
66 x PzKw I, 55 x PzKw II, 20 x PzKw III, 12 x PzKw IV ja 5 x esikuntavaunua.
Sekä 35. panssarirykmentillä 69 x PzKw I, 50 x PzKw II, 20 x PzKw III, 12 x kpl PzKw IV
ja 5 x esikuntavaunua.
Divisioonaan kuuluivat lisäksi 4. motorisoitu kivääriprikaati, tykistörykmentti ja divisioonajoukot.
The Germans reached the Hannut area just two days after the start of the invasion of Belgium. The French won a series of delaying tactical engagements at Hannut and fell back on Gembloux as planned.
However, the Germans succeeded in tying down substantial Allied forces at Hannut which might have participated in the decisive blow through the Ardennes.
The Germans failed to neutralise the French 1st Army completely at Hannut, despite inflicting significant casualties and it withdrew to Gembloux. There, the French once again scored tactical successes at the battle of Gembloux during 14–15 May. In the aftermath of that battle, although seriously damaged, the French 1st Army was able to retreat to Lille, where it delayed the Wehrmacht and was instrumental in the British Expeditionary Force's escape from Dunkirk.
The German PzKpfw III
and IV PzKpfw were the only German tanks that could outmatch the SOMUA S35 in battle.
The SOMUA S35 was generally considered to be the most formidable tank during the campaign in the west.
The German plan failed to forestall the French 1st Army at Gembloux, despite their victory over the 3rd DLM. Still, Hoepner's advance to the Belgian plain tied down the Cavalry Corps and part of the French First Army while the decisive German assault succeeded across the Meuse to the south-east. The Germans had hoped that Hoepner's panzers and their neighbouring corps would tie down and neutralise the threat of the First Army. However on 15 May, forces of the First Army, properly settled into position, checked the Panzerwaffe which gained them time and space to manoeuvre. In the end it was the First Army which, sacrificing itself, held up the bulk of the Panzers which had broken through to the Southeast, enabling the British Expeditionary Force and other French units to escape from Dunkirk.
|Battle of Gembloux|
|Part of the Battle of Belgium, Western Front of World War II|
The Gembloux Gap. The flat terrain on Belgium's central plain between Namur and Wavre was occupied Gembloux. Holding it was vital to preventing a German breakthrough
|Commanders and leaders|
|René Prioux|| Erich Hoepner|
Viktor von Schwedler
|3 Motorised Divisions|
3 Infantry Divisions
|2 Panzer Divisions|
3 Infantry Divisions
|Casualties and losses|
~ 2,000 killed, wounded and missing
/III Corps; a few hundred casualties
33—37% of German tank strength lost
IV Corps, a few hundred casualties.
The Allied Armies attempted to halt the German Army in Belgium, believing it to be the main German thrust. After the Allies had fully committed the best of the Allied Armies to Belgium on the 10th through the 12th of May, the Germans enacted the second phase of their operation, a break through, or sickle cut, through the Ardennes, and advanced to the English Channel.
However, in operational terms, the damage done to the French First Army, and developments elsewhere, forced it to retreat from Gembloux, out of Belgium and eventually toward the city of Lille inside the French border. The retreat caused the absence of coherent defence on the central sector of the Belgian front which in turn allowed the Wehrmacht to advance its operations toward French territory and subdue central Belgium. In strategic terms, the battle was inconclusive. Both sides benefitted from the engagement.
For the Wehrmacht, it delayed and distracted the most powerful French Army from their decisive breakthrough point near Sedan, which allowed the Germans to achieve their strategic goals as laid out in Fall Gelb. However, the French First Army survived the initial battles and diverted German forces from the Battle of Dunkirk, which allowed the British Expeditionary Force to escape to continue military operations after the French surrender in June 1940.
Erich Hoepner, commanded the German armoured formations at Gembloux
Between industrial northern France and Paris on the one hand and the industrial Rhine-Ruhr River basin of Germany on the other, the plain of central Belgium was a natural route of invasion. A ridge running roughly northeast to southwest through the Gembloux area forms a watershed: to the west streams flow into the Escaut (Scheldt) River, to the east, into the Meuse (Maas). This was the Gembloux gap, which was ideal manoeuvre terrain.
The German plan called for the German Sixth Army to push its mechanised and motorised formations into the Belgian plain and strike at Gembloux, defeating or at least tying down the Allied corps de bataille, while the main German thrust through the Meuse River cut off the Allied forces in Belgium and northern France. General Walter von Reichenau, commanding the Sixth Army, reckoned that he would meet Allied motorised forces in the Dyle River—Namur area from the second day of operations, with troops brought up by railway from the fourth day. He chose to concentrate his attack between Wavre and Namur where prepared defences seemed the weakest. Air power, in the shape of the Luftwaffe 's medium bombers were to hinder the march of Allied units into Belgium.
The French command was sure that there would be a major German effort on the Belgian plain, and the high command decided to send a limited but powerful corps de bataille of the French First Army, including the majority of the French (and Allied) mechanised and motorised troops, forward to halt it. However, French doctrine opposed an encounter battle with an enemy superior in the air, nor was the command willing to invest more than a limited amount of French manpower in what was likely to prove a bloody battle
The First Army, commanded by General Blanchard, received the critical mission of holding the Gembloux gap. Blanchard's army would have to advance some 100 km (62 mi) from the Franco—Belgian frontier. In the process, its front would shrink from some 100 km (62 mi) to 30 km (19 mi) in the Gembloux gap, where the Belgian army was to prepare defences for it, an important advantage. This also meant cramming the army down a funnel, rendering it vulnerable to the aircraft of the Luftwaffe. The high command allotted Blanchard his conventional infantry installed on the frontier plus advance formations of motorised infantry divisions and the 1st DCR (Division Cuirassee de Reserve, or "Heavy Armored Division", including some 70 heavy tanks).
Blanchard was concerned about the Luftwaffe. He received no more than a third of the anti-aircraft weaponry he requested and decided to move his troops only at night.
This meant that he would require at least eight days to dig in his infantry divisions, only three of which were motorised, before the Panzers arrived, otherwise, "it would be an encounter battle delivered under the worst conditions."
General Gaston Billotte—commanding the Allied First Army Group to which the French First Army belonged—insisted that First Army have a force of powerful armour to guarantee holding the Gembloux gap. He wanted to have two DCRs operating under an armoured corps, with the 1st DCR ready for action by the sixth day of operations. He designated three axes of counter-attack of which one (Mellery-Gembloux) would in fact be used during the Battle of Gembloux. He also warned that enemy armour might attack the position from the sixth day of operations (in fact, they attacked one day earlier), but General Alphonse Joseph Georges—Billotte's superior—refused to commit the 2nd DCR in advance. In practice, the 1st DCR was ready for action by the morning of 14 May (the fifth day of operations).
An important consideration in the Allied plan was the assurance that the Belgian army would prepare defences in the Gembloux gap which was now the centre of the Dyle position. The first trace of this Belgian position used the Namur—Brussels railroad line as the basic anti-tank obstacle, in accordance with French intentions. As the German invasion was repeatedly postponed, the Belgian command revised the trace eastwards in the hope of "dragging" the future French front closer to the German-Belgian frontier.
The results were that on 10 May there was only a partial anti—tank obstacle east of the position chosen by the French command, while around Gembloux itself defences barely existed. French intelligence was at least partially aware of this; nonetheless, the French command was taken by surprise by what it found on the terrain from 10 May.