Friday 24 March 2023

Fall Gelb: Documenting Equipment Losses During The 1940 German Invasion Of Luxembourg

By Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans

The Battle for Luxembourg was a short battle between the Luxembourg Gendarmerie, Volunteer Corps and the German Wehrmacht that resulted in a swift victory for Nazi Germany. The invasion that prompted it began on the 10th of May 1940 and lasted just one day. As a result of the 1867 Treaty of London, Luxembourg had no army and relied on a small force of Gendarmes and volunteers for its defence. Despite not even possessing an army, Luxembourg still managed to fend off the German Blitzkrieg longer than Denmark, which despite actually possessing an army and air force surrendered after just two hours of fighting when it got invaded by Nazi Germany on the 9th of April 1940.

The German invasion of Luxembourg commenced at 04:35 when three Panzer Divisions crossed the border into Luxembourg. Ramps and explosives were used to cross the Schuster Line's barricades. Apart from sporadic exchanges of fire, the Germans did not encounter any significant resistance as the majority of the Volunteer Corps remained confined to their barracks. A handful of German soldiers secured the bridge at Wormeldange and captured the two customs officers there, who had demanded that the Germans halt their advance. The partially destroyed bridge over the Sauer was quickly repaired by German engineers, allowing the crossing of Panzers further into Luxembourg.

Communications from border posts to the Gendarmerie and Volunteer Corps headquarters informed the Luxembourgish government and Grand Ducal court that the invasion had begun. At 06:30 the majority of the government evacuated the capital by motorcade to the border town of Esch. In Esch a group of 125 German soldiers had landed by Fi 156 Storchs to secure the area until the main invasion force arrived. A lone Gendarme confronted the 125 soldiers and demanded that they leave, but was taken prisoner instead. The government motorcade, along with the Grand Duchess of Luxembourg, managed to avoid capture in Esch by fleeing to France over countryside roads.

Rifle-toting Luxembourgish Gendarmes pose in front of a barricade of the Schuster Line shortly before the invasion of Luxembourg. Others Gendarmes were armed with Model 1884 revolvers fitted with a tiny little spike bayonet.

At 08:00, elements of the French 3rd Light Cavalry Division supported by the 1st Spahi Brigade and the 5th Armoured Battalion, crossed the southern border into Luxembourg in a failed attempt to launch a probing attack on German forces. The Royal Air Force, impatient with the reluctance of the French Air Force to conduct sorties against the advancing Germans, ordered several flights of Fairey Battle light bombers stationed in France to carry out daylight low-level attacks against the advancing German military columns. Above Luxembourg the aircraft encountered heavy anti-aircraft fire and suffered significant losses. Nine aircraft were lost on May 10th and a further two on May 11th. [1]

A crashed Fairey Battle at Hierzenhaff, the 10th of May 1940. The crew of three was pulled out of the burning wreckage by German soldiers, but Flying Officer Douglas Cameron would later succumb to his injuries in a local hospital

In the meantime the Gendarmerie continued resisting the German troops to little avail; the capital city was occupied before noon. By the evening of the 10th May 1940, most of the country, with the exception of the south, was occupied by German forces. Total Luxembourgish casualties amounted to seven WIA (six gendarmes and one soldier), while the Wehrmacht suffered 36 KIA. On the 11th of May the Luxembourgish government reached Paris and installed itself in the Luxembourg legation. Fearing German aerial attacks, the government moved further south, first to Fontainebleau, and then Poitiers. It later moved to Portugal and the United Kingdom, before finally settling in Canada for the remainder of the war. In exile, the Grand Duchess Charlotte became an important symbol of national unity.

A car passes through one of the 41 concrete blocks and iron gates of the Schuster Line that proved unable to substantially delay the advance of the German Wehrmacht.

A list of the destroyed and captured equipment of both sides can be seen below. Horses are not included in this list. This list will be updated if additional evidence of equipment losses becomes available.


Nazi Germany (0)

Luxembourg (Unknown)


  • An Unknown Number of Government-Issued Bicycles: (A lot, captured)

France (0)

Tanks (3, of which destroyed: 3)

  • France 3 Renault R35: (1, 2 and 3, destroyed)

United Kingdom (11)

Aircraft (11, of which destroyed: 11)

  • 11 Fairey Battle: (1, K 9183, destroyed) (2, L5540, destroyed) (3, L5247, destroyed) (4, L5190, destroyed) (5, L5578, destroyed) (6, P2200, destroyed) (7, K9264, destroyed) (8, K9372, destroyed) (9, K9390, destroyed) (10, P2203, destroyed) (11, P2249, destroyed)

[1] Fairey Battle crash site in Luxembourg

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