Siege of Lille (1940)

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Siege of Lille
Part of the Battle of France in the Second World War
21May-4June1940-Fall Gelb.svg
Situation, 21 May – 4 June 1940
Date28–31 May 1940
Lille, France

Coordinates: 50°38′0″N3°4′0″E / 50.63333°N 3.06667°E / 50.63333; 3.06667
Result See Aftermath section

Flag of France (1794-1958).svg  France

Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Germany
Commanders and leaders
Flag of France (1794-1958).svg Jean-Baptiste Molinié   (POW)
Flag of France (1794-1958).svg Gustave Mesny   (POW)
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg Fritz Kühne   (POW)
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg Erwin Rommel
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg Joachim Lemelsen
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg Max von Hartlieb-Walsporn
Flag of Germany (1935-1945).svg Ludwig Ritter von Radlmeier
elements of 5 divisions c.35,000 men [1] 4 infantry divisions
3 armoured divisions c.160,000 men [1]
France location map-Regions and departements-2016.svg
Red pog.svg
Lille, capital of Nord-Pas de Calais region and the prefecture of the Nord department

The Siege of Lille or Lille Pocket was a Second World War battle fought during the Battle of France. It took place from 28 to 31 May 1940, in the vicinity of Lille during the Battle of France. It involved about 40,000 men of the French IV Corps and V Corps, part of the First Army (General René Prioux), after the III Corps managed to retreat to the Lys river with the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) divisions nearby. The surrounded portion of the army fought seven German divisions, including three armoured divisions, that were attempting to cut off and destroy the Allied armies in the Battle of Dunkirk. The defence of Lille was of great assistance to the Allied troops retreating into the Dunkirk perimeter.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Battle of France Successful German invasion of France

The Battle of France, also known as the Fall of France, was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries during the Second World War. In the six weeks from 10 May 1940, German forces defeated Allied forces by mobile operations and conquered France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, bringing land operations on the Western Front to an end until 6 June 1944. Italy entered the war on 10 June 1940 and invaded France over the Alps.

The 4th Army Corps of the French Army was formed in 1873 at Le Mans under Général Édouard-Jean-Étienne Deligny. On mobilisation in 1914, it came under control of the Third Army and comprised the 7th and 8th Infantry Divisions.



On the night of 27/28 May, the BEF divisions near Lille were able to retreat over the Lys but only the III Corps of the French First Army (General René Prioux) managed to get away. Many of the French units had retreated from much further south and were still around Lille when German units attacking from the west and east met behind the city. [2] [lower-alpha 1] The 4th Panzer Division, 5th Panzer Division and 7th Panzer division and the 11th Infantry Division, 217th Infantry Division, 253rd Infantry Division and 267th infantry Division surrounded most of the First Army in Lille. [3]

The 3rd Army Corps was a corps-sized military formation of the French Army that fought during both World War I and World War II, and was active after World War II until finally being disbanded on 1 July 1998.

René Jacques Adolphe Prioux was a general of the French Army who served in both world wars. A cavalry officer of great talent, Prioux rapidly rose through the officer ranks and commanded the Cavalry Corps of the First Army during the Battle of Belgium in May 1940. He was captured by the Germans and spent two years as a prisoner of war. Repatriated in 1942, Prioux came to be seen as a strong supporter of the Vichy regime and was consequently removed from a position of authority in the French Army by Charles de Gaulle, the leader of the Free French, after the landings in French north Africa by U.S. and British forces in November 1942.

4th Panzer Division (Wehrmacht) division

The 4th Panzer Division was an armored division in the German Army, the Wehrmacht, during World War II, established in 1938.


The IV Corps ( Général de corps d'armée Aymes) and V Corps (General René Altmayer) attempted a break-out on the west side of Lille, to retreat towards the Lys at 7:30 p.m. on 28 May. The 2e Division d'infanterie nord-africaine (2e DINA, Major-General Pierre Dame) tried to cross the Deûle river over the bridge to Sequedin (just south of Lomme). The 5e Division d'infanterie nord-africaine (5e DINA, Major-General Augustin Agliany) tried to escape over the Moulin Rouge bridge on the Santes road, south of Haubourdin. [4] Another attempt was made during the morning of 29 May. The Germans had mined the bridge but two French tanks and two companies of infantry got across, although they were then repulsed. [4]

The 5th Army Corps was a military unit of the French Army.

Félix-René Altmayer (1882–1976) was a French general. His father Victor Joseph Altmayer and elder brother Robert Altmayer were also generals. They were of German descent.

The 2nd North African Infantry Division was a French Army formation during World War II.

Molinié and mainly French North African troops (most of them pieds-noirs) from five divisions of the First Army, fought from house to house in the Lille suburbs, German troops trying to infiltrate through gaps and the many civilian refugees stranded in the city. With food and ammunition dwindling, Molinié and Colonel Aizier negotiated surrender and hostilities ended on the night of 31 May. On Saturday, 1 June, 35,000 French troops and some British soldiers surrendered to the Germans at the Grand Place. [5] The German commander, General Kurt Waeger, allowed the French the honours of war and the garrison paraded through the Grand Place as German troops stood to attention, for which Waeger was reprimanded. [6]



Wrecked vehicles near Lille in 1940 Bundesarchiv Bild 121-0396, Frankreich, Allee mit zerstorten Fahrzeugen.jpg
Wrecked vehicles near Lille in 1940

In The Second World War (1949), Winston Churchill described the Allied defence of Lille as a "splendid contribution", which delayed the German advance for four days and allowed the escape of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk. [7] William L. Shirer wrote in 1969 that the "gallant" defence of Lille "helped the beleaguered Anglo-French forces around the port to hold out for an additional two to three days and thus save at least 100,000 more troops". [1] Alistair Horrne wrote in 1982 that the French defence of Lille enabled the BEF and the rest of the First Army to retreat into the Dunkirk perimeter and in 2013, Douglas Fermer wrote that the Battle of Lille diverted about seven German divisions during the evacuation of Dunkirk. [5] [6]

<i>The Second World War</i> (book series) literary work by Winston Churchill

The Second World War is a history of the period from the end of the First World War to July 1945, written by Winston Churchill. Churchill labelled the "moral of the work" as follows: "In War: Resolution, In Defeat: Defiance, In Victory: Magnanimity, In Peace: Goodwill".

Winston Churchill Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a British politician, army officer, and writer. He was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945, when he led Britain to victory in the Second World War, and again from 1951 to 1955. Churchill represented five constituencies during his career as a Member of Parliament (MP). Ideologically an economic liberal and British imperialist, for most of his career he was a member of the Conservative Party, which he led from 1940 to 1955, but from 1904 to 1924 was instead a member of the Liberal Party.

British Expeditionary Force (World War II) British Army in Western Europe from 1939 to 1940

The British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was the name of the British Army in Western Europe during the Second World War from 2 September 1939 when the BEF GHQ was formed until 31 May 1940, when GHQ closed down. Military forces in Britain were under Home Forces command. During the 1930s, the British government planned to deter war by rearming from the very low level of readiness of the early 30s and abolished the Ten Year Rule. The bulk of the extra money went to the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force but plans were made to re-equip a small number of Army and Territorial Army divisions for service overseas.



  1. 1 2 3 Shirer 1969, p. 746.
  2. Ellis 2004, p. 191.
  3. 1 2 Ellis 2004, Map, 214–215.
  4. 1 2 Sebag-Montefiore 2006, p. 624.
  5. 1 2 Horne 1982, p. 604.
  6. 1 2 Fermer 2013, p. 208.
  7. Churchill 1949, p. 94.

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Further reading