Letter: In defence of King Leopold

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The Independent Online
From Mr John Cairns

Sir: In the report "Allies' dilemma over 'cowardice' of Belgian king" (4 January), commenting on a release of Public Record Office papers, it is stated that

King Leopold III's surrender of the Belgian army jeopardised the Dunkirk evacuation and branded him a coward..."

Let us consider some facts:

The evacuation from Dunkirk started on 26 May 1940, following the gradual withdrawal by the RAF of air cover for the Belgian army. Lord Gort, the Commander of the British Expeditionary Force, deliberately omitted to inform the king of this decision. The Belgian army held out until 28 May, thus assisting the British forces' evacuation. Sir Basil Liddell Hart, one of the best commentators on military matters of his day, stated that by prolonging his troops' resistance, King Leopold had "saved the British army from destruction".

Paul-Henri Spaak, the Belgian foreign minister, and other members of the government attempted to persuade the king to back them in efforts to negotiate a settlement with the Nazis. The king would have nothing to do with it. Spaak later admitted that, by his refusal, the king had prevented him and his colleagues from being cast in the role of Quislings.

There is a dictum that truth is the daughter of time. How much more time is needed for the injustices perpetrated against King Leopold, and the shame of those guilty of them, to be exposed and universally acknowledged, once and for all?

Yours faithfully,

John Cairns

Ghent

Belgium

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