It's 1940. The German war machine is pushing west, towards Belgium and France.
Rommel, at the head of his infamous “ghost division”, along with other divisions in the force, are aimed straight at the Ardennes. With the Allies not expecting the German forces to advance in this direction, Rommel suspected that it would be easier for his forces to push through here, despite the fighting spirit the Belgians had become known for.
While it took him very little time to punch through the defences arrayed against him, the fact there was even a minor hold up against entire divisions, under the command of someone who is considered one of the finest military minds to have ever lived, is a testament to the spirit of the men who earned the motto that makes the title of this piece.
The Chasseurs Ardennes. A Belgian unit created to defend the heavily wooded mountains of the Ardennes. Arrayed in regiment strength, their main objective was to slow the tide of any German onslaught, with the main defences being behind them (mainly along the Meuse river and Albert canal). This defensive strategy was due to the allied belief of where any attack would come from.
When the Germans did come, they came straight at the chasseurs. The hunters. And these men, these incredibly brave men, did what incredibly brave men do, when confronted with the brutal truth known only to men whose bodies form a living wall between their loved ones, and the bullets of an enemy. When orders to retreat where given to the hunters, the radio transmission didn’t make it through, and a small band of them was left to fend for themselves in the face of overwhelming odds. When some junior men tried to turn and flee, their commander, Lieutenant Catin pulled his pistol on them, ordering them back to their positions. And there, at these positions, men who and only a short time ago tried to run, fought like lions.
When their position was overrun, they fought to the death, with this small company of men requiring an entire battalion, and tanks, to beat them into submission.
Elsewhere, other hunters also found themselves up against incredible numbers. Two companies, under the command of Major Bricart, earned themselves places in the history books with their refusal to stop. Between them, these two companies held up both a battalion of motorcycle soldiers, and a battalion of infantry. At one point, a single platoon of men held off a battalion. A BATTALION.
They lasted nine hours. While it would be easy to sneer at such a length of time, especially when considered against the span of the war, it is a mammoth effort from these men that they were able to do even that.
They fought hard, as hard as they could, and they gave their lives to protect their loved ones, and their homeland. When 40 of them were captured and questioned by the Germans, their enemies could not believe that such a small number of men had given such difficulty.
The lesson in their sacrifice ties into one that we have written about before. Absolute commitment to a goal. To resist, and bite. Bite hard, and fight to the utter last.
The greatest generation.