Formation of the Chasseurs Ardennais
Resist and Bite from Heroes 10 Mar - 1933
The Bataillon de Chasseurs Ardennais is an infantry unit of the Belgian Army whose motto is “Resist and Bite”. The unit has a proud place in Belgian heritage and is most famous for its part in the vigorous defence of Belgium against the Nazi invasion in 1940. The outgunned Belgians resisted the Germans for 18 days, prompting the feared Panzer division commander Erwin Rommel to describe the soldiers as “green wolves”. Their bravery inspired the Sabaton song Resist and Bite, from the 2014 album Heroes.
The unit is named after the Ardennes region of Belgium, in which it is based, and was created in the period between the two world wars, for the specific purpose of protecting the east of the country against a possible German attack. It began life as a regiment and remained so until 2011 when it was reduced to a battalion. The Régiment des Chasseurs Ardennais was given its formal name by King Albert I in 1933, and the soldiers then began to wear the wild boar, symbol of the Ardennes, on the large green berets that distinguish them from the rest of the Army.
Over the next few years, the Chasseurs would be expanded greatly as the German threat grew – in 1937 they were divided into three regiments and a bicycle battalion was added to their numbers. By 1939 the regiments had become a division, and by the time WWII broke out it had 35,000 men, requiring the creation of a second division.
On 10 May 1940 the event for which the Chasseurs were created happened: Germany invaded Belgium. The Belgian Armed forces put up fierce resistance, and the Chasseurs were among the most famous participants, making several courageous counter-attacks. Belgium was considered a key line of defence for the Allies and the country was supported by Britain and France, but the Germans displayed superior tactics, took out much of the country’s road and rail networks, and pushed the Allies back toward the English Channel. After 18 days of intense fighting, Belgium’s armed forces surrendered and Germany formally occupied the country. Although Belgium’s decision to surrender was unpopular with the Allies at the time, German records refer to the toughness of the Belgian forces, and General Erwin Rommel – commander of the fearsome Ghost Division – was so impressed with them that he stated: “they are not men, they are green wolves”.
The fall of Belgium would bring about the withdrawal of the Allies from continental Europe, and the country would remain under Nazi control until late in 1944, when it was liberated by the Western Allies.