Feature Articles - Brave Little Belgium - German Terror Campaign

As early as 6th August, the Germans were expressing outrage at the unexpected resistance of the Belgian army, and also civil resistance.  With memories of the francs-tireurs of 1870, the German newspapers called for retribution.  The headlines in the Kolnischer Zeitung read: 'The beast in Belgium'; 'From savage Belgium'; 'Liege atrocities'.

In Liege province there were 1200 victims of German retribution.  In Luxembourg 842; Namur 2000; Brabant (where on 25 to 28 August the old town and library of Leuven were set aflame, to the horror of the rest of Europe) 839.  In the Henegouwen, 350.  Some 16,000 houses were destroyed.  The terror was wild and needless, and not at all systematic.  There can be no conclusion but that the German command allowed the troops their fun.  Unfortunately for the Belgian people, it was just a foretaste of 4 years of severe treatment.


The action at Aarschot was notable for the violent reaction of the Germans.  A single brigade of Belgian infantry, with one artillery battery, held up the German advance for several hours, but after suffering heavy losses and being attacked from three sides, they withdrew.  Inevitably the Germans took prisoners, mostly wounded men.  A large number were marched to the banks of the River Demer, where they were shot.

Those that escaped were thrown in the river to drown.  The Germans then turned on the citizens of the Aarschot.  400 houses were plundered and set on fire, and 150 people executed.  During the next few days, the fury continued, and the towns of Diest, Schaffen, and Tremelo were razed.

After The Belgian Army Sorties From Antwerp

A tragic result of this action was that German violence on the Belgian people was renewed.  Aarschot was finally completed razed.  In Leuven, the 27th Landwehr Brigade panicked at the sound of shelling by a Belgian battery in Haacht.  Their commander, Von Mantueffel, ordered the town to be set on fire.  Hundreds of houses, St Peter's Church and the world-famous library and university were destroyed.  Civilians, fleeing the flames, were hunted down and executed.  The whole area of Mechelen, Leuven, and Vilvoorde was affected by the fury.

Article contributed by Chris Baker, website.

Britain introduced conscription for the first time on 2 February 1916.

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