Who's Who - Paul Hymans

Paul Hymans (1865-1941) was a liberal nationalist Belgian politician who travelled to the U.S. in August 1914 and secured both humanitarian and (more importantly) political support for his country's plight, at that time being overrun by the German army.

Fresh from his success in the U.S., where he significantly raised his country's profile and encouraged anti-German propaganda, Hymans was appointed Belgian ambassador to Britain in February 1915.  Once there he attempted to soften King Albert I's policy of denying the Allies a full alliance with Belgium, culminating with the Declaration of Sainte-Addresse the following February.

Continuing (and growing) opposition to the King's stance led in October 1917 to Hymans recall to Le Havre to join the Belgian cabinet as Minister of Finance.  The political composition of the government was increasingly swinging towards a full alliance with the Allies - and firmly against a separate peace deal with Germany (as favoured by Albert).

In January 1918 Hymans was promoted to Foreign Secretary, replacing politically damaged Prime Minister Charles de Broqueville.  With an end to the war - and victory - in sight at last, Hymans harboured hopes of Belgian territorial gain, to Luxembourg and the Netherlands' cost.  These ultimately proved illusory however.

Hymans attended the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 at the head of the Belgian delegation and sought reparations against the Central Powers (aided by the removal of Belgium's neutral status).

He also worked to bolster the representation of small nations at the nascent League of Nations (without notable success).  He was however appointed its first President the same year, standing down as Belgian Foreign Secretary in 1920.

Hymans helped to form the customs union of Belgium and Luxembourg in 1921, and played a notable role in the negotiation of the 1924 Dawes Plan, under which Germany restarted reparation payments to the Allies.

Back in government, Hymans served as Minister of Justice from 1926-27, Foreign Secretary from 1927-35 and was a member of the Council of Ministers from 1935-36.

He died on 8 March 1941 in Nice, France, aged 75.

A 'Base Rat' was a soldier perpetually at the base, typically in conditions of comfort and safety.

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