Jean-Baptiste Piron, born in Belgium in 1896, was a military officer who fled to England during the Second World War. He returned to Belgium as commander of the 1st Belgian Infantry Brigade, also known as Piron Brigade. At the end of the war he participated in the liberation of Belgium and the Netherlands.
After the capitulation of Belgium on 28 May 1940 the military officer Jean-Baptiste Piron was internated. He escaped and in April 1941 he succeeded in reaching England. There he joined the Belgian army in reconstruction in January 1942. Almost a year later Piron was called to London by the Belgian Prime Minister in exile Hubert Pierlot. In London he wasinformed about the definitive plans for the reorganization of the Belgian Ground Forces. Piron was appointed commander and soon thereafter lieutenant-colonel of the 1st Belgian Infantry Brigade, a new Belgian unit. The unit consisted of 2,500 soldiers and was trained in Wales. This unit, also known as the Piron Brigade (Brigade Piron), was created in January 1943. In spring 1944, 2,200 soldiers of the Piron Brigade were ready for the fight on the continent.
On 8 August 1944 they landed in Arromanches, on the Normandy coast. They actively participated in the Battle of Normandy, for instance in Operation Paddle, that aimed at precipitating the fall of the Germans armies in the direction of the Seine. The Brigade moved further up to the north and on 3 September 1944 Piron and his men crossed the French-Belgian border. Only one day later they liberated Brussels. After that, they participated in the liberation of the Netherlands.
Piron continued his military career as commander of the Belgian occupying army in Germany. In 1947 he was promoted to Lieutenant-General of the Belgian army. He finished his career, from 1951 to 1957, as chief of staff and aide-de-camp to King Baudouin.
The Belgian 1st Infantry Brigade led by Colonel Piron landed in Arromanches on 8 August 1944. Operating under the command of the 6th British Airborne Division and later under the 49th Infantry Division. The Brigade was engaged in the Sallenelles area on 16 August and freed the towns of Cabourg, Trouville, Deauville and Honfleur. It entered Brussels on 4 September 1944.
The Landing Museum (D-Day Museum) of Arromanches, Normandy explains the technical prowess used in the (pre)fabrication – in Britain – of the artificial port of Arromanches. A model and a film complement the educational presentation, allowing a better understanding of the visible remains that can be seen through a large window overlooking the bay.
On 2 September 1944 allied troops crossed the Belgian border at diverse places. The process of liberation went fast: in ten days a large majority of the country was liberated. But it did not put an end to the German occupation. Two months later Hitler surprised the Allies with his last offensive: the Battle of the Bulge.
Hubert Pierlot, born in Cugnon, Belgium, was Prime Minister of the Belgian government in exile in London from September 1940 to September 1944. During the war he played an important role in the negotiations between the Allied powers. After the liberation of Belgium Pierlot returned to Brussels, where he headed a government of national unity until February 1945.
On Sunday 3 September 1944, shortly before 20:00, the British Second Army entered Brussels by the Avenue de Tervuren. On the Boulevard de Waterloo, the liberators were welcomed by jubilant crowds of Belgians, celebrating the liberation of the capital city from the German occupation.
In addition to being Belgium’s capital city, Brussels is the capital of Europe and the beating heart of the European Union. Its European district is unique and its renowned squares, like the Grand-Place, are prestigious. During WWII Brussels suffered from
Apart from the actions carried out by the armed resistance forces in September 1944, Belgium’s strictly military contribution to its Liberation was rather minimal. It was personified by the First Belgian Group, later known as the “Brigade Piron” after its commanding officer, Colonel Jean-Baptiste Piron (1896-1974).