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Remembered Today:

Belgian Franctireurs 1914


fritz
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lets be realistic,

in those days many people only had 1-3 sets of clothing.

Belgian mobilisation must have been rather hectic and panicky... the germans were not nice enough to let them know in advance...

If you march into a country by surprise, it is sure that you will catch certain units half mobilised... and if i only had 2 sets of clothing... the last thing I would do would be to leave it at some depot... I would have crammed it into my backpack, especially if I know that we are pulling back and any clothes stored at a base may never be seen again.

best

Chris

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Carl,

Thanks for the recommendation.

Chris,

Not sure where you're getting this from. The people of Belgian had no idea what going since the assassination of Archduke?

Still curious what three German regiments you're referring to. If one of them happens to be II/RIR31, I've already explained that the "regimental history" is in general not very detailed, and more importantly that you mistranslated the section dealing with Louvain and incorrectly placed them in Louvain on the night of the 25th. (Needless to say I hope you're more careful with your current translation project.)

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Carl,

Thanks for the recommendation.

Chris,

Not sure where you're getting this from. The people of Belgian had no idea what going since the assassination of Archduke?

Still curious what three German regiments you're referring to. If one of them happens to be II/RIR31, I've already explained that the "regimental history" is in general not very detailed, and more importantly that you mistranslated the section dealing with Louvain and incorrectly placed them in Louvain on the night of the 25th. (Needless to say I hope you're more careful with your current translation project.)

Hi,

I think the error is in your translation... are you implying the II. was NOT in Louvain? If you see the histories last two lines for the 23-24th August you will see it says "II. Evening of the 25th on Löwen, III. Evening in Tirlemont" ... or am I mistranslating something there?

No matter HOW sparse a Regt History is, Surely participation in such an event justifies more than 2 lines?

The other regiments,

101st Grenadiers in August to the South of Dinant. They executed about 150 men, women and children on the 23 of August. About half in the village of Les Rivages and half in Neffe. Regimental history does not mention a single execution.

The other regt 182IR, cannot remember what I was looking for there in August 1914, but also no mention of the act.

I am not sure what the gist of your discussion is here... are you claiming the Germans did NOT shoot civilians? Or that they DID document it in histories?

Best

Chris

P.S. any translation help with my latest projects would be happily accepted, I have a number of diaries from different men that need to be done, let me know and I will send you the scans to get going.

P.P.S.

"Not sure where you're getting this from. The people of Belgian had no idea what going since the assassination of Archduke?"

That is not the point, what I am saying is, The Germans had already organised, the Belgians were obviously not. Theoretically noone should have been marching into neutral Belgium... if it was so obvious back then,the French may have changed their plans.

Maybe its just me, but when I was in the army I always put a very high priority on lookig after my stuff, because I knew noone else would. It was also not unknown that after overseas deployments, coming back to base you would find someone had been scratching through your stuff. So yes, I think that a Belgian, being mobilised under slightly chaotic and panicky conditions, would have made sure his stuff did not dissapear, never to be seen again.

Sometimes the solutions to things is just found in the "well, what would I have done..."

Best

Chris

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Chris,

Actually, the last four lines of the 23rd/24th entry deal with the arrival of the regiment in Belgium and begins "Ausladung:". II/RIR31 arrived in Louvain at some unspecified time during the "evening" of the 25th--your guess is as good as mine. Then, at the end of the 25th entry (top of page 16) it states that II/RIR31 arrived at Bueken at about 10 o'clock in the evening ("abds.") and bivouacked to the west of the village with I/RIR31.

As for the other two regiments, I'm not in a position yet to assess the other two regiments.

I'm not really sure why you're arguing that German "regimental histories" are obliged to detail certain events in finite and incriminating detail. That's simply not the purpose of regimental histories. I highly doubt that there are many regimental histories for units from any country that openly discuss the mistreatment of civilians.

Belgians had time enough to prepare properly for the war that became increasingly likely in the weeks leading up to the invasion. The country began officially mobilizing days before and the invasion was not a "surprise". And I'm a little perplexed as to why an army should not enter the territory of an enemy in order to try to win a war. Again it seems to be a case of Germans and Germany having to abide by a particular set of standards not expected of the rest.

Hi,

I think the error is in your translation... are you implying the II. was NOT in Louvain? If you see the histories last two lines for the 23-24th August you will see it says "II. Evening of the 25th on Löwen, III. Evening in Tirlemont" ... or am I mistranslating something there?

No matter HOW sparse a Regt History is, Surely participation in such an event justifies more than 2 lines?

That's the thing that gets me about this issue; any attempt to get to the truth or correct somebody else's (hopefully not deliberate) factual errors is alluded to or considered "denial".

I am not sure what the gist of your discussion is here... are you claiming the Germans did NOT shoot civilians? Or that they DID document it in histories?

Best

Chris

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Belgians had time enough to prepare properly for the war that became increasingly likely in the weeks leading up to the invasion. The country began officially mobilizing days before and the invasion was not a "surprise". And I'm a little perplexed as to why an army should not enter the territory of an enemy in order to try to win a war. Again it seems to be a case of Germans and Germany having to abide by a particular set of standards not expected of the rest.

That's the thing that gets me about this issue; any attempt to get to the truth or correct somebody else's (hopefully not deliberate) factual errors is alluded to or considered "denial".

Belgium was neutral.

I'm not really sure why you're arguing that German "regimental histories" are obliged to detail certain events in finite and incriminating detail. That's simply not the purpose of regimental histories. I highly doubt that there are many regimental histories for units from any country that openly discuss the mistreatment of civilians.

As has been mentioned earlier in this thread, executing combatants who weren't in uniform is prefectly consistant with military law. There would be no need to cover up any possibly execution of guerrila soldiers by the German army and this thread was discussing whether/ to what extent Belgian soldier fought (or not) out of uniform.

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"I'm not really sure why you're arguing that German "regimental histories" are obliged to detail certain events in finite and incriminating detail. That's simply not the purpose of regimental histories. I highly doubt that there are many regimental histories for units from any country that openly discuss the mistreatment of civilians. "

Hi,

then with all due respect, you are agreeing that German Histories do not mention mistreatment of Civilians (even if it took place), the point you challenged me on in the first place.

Secondly, we are arguing (I think?) that the II./RIR31 was IN Louvain during the sacking. We now agree they were, if only for a portion of the time. Last line page 15, "Our troops were attacked". We can argue if it is "our troops" as in "German" or "our troops" as in "Men of the regiment"...

Thirdly, I would appretiate a very clear correction to my mistranslation, because I am at a loss to see where you see an arror.

"And I'm a little perplexed as to why an army should not enter the territory of an enemy in order to try to win a war."

Violating a Neutral Country may have had something to do with it. Belgium was not an "enemy"... just happened to have land the Germans wanted to pass through.

"As has been mentioned earlier in this thread, executing combatants who weren't in uniform is prefectly consistant with military law. There would be no need to cover up any possibly execution of guerrila soldiers by the German army and this thread was discussing whether/ to what extent Belgian soldier fought (or not) out of uniform."

There is no mention of executing people found with weapons in their hands...

I think the German actions of 1914 were a result of German indiscipline, at a higher level.

The gren Regt 101 in its first actions executes over 140 civilians, and this is not worth mentioning in the history (!?)... but the Major (Schlick)who ordered the shootings did so because he ASSUMED the assembeled group of civilians had been guilty of firing on German soldiers. In fact, they had been rounded up at the beginning of the action as soon as a few shots had been heard, and were not involved).

Of the 77 people shot in Les Rivages, 38 were women and girls, 15 were under 14 years of age.

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That's the thing that gets me about this issue; any attempt to get to the truth or correct somebody else's (hopefully not deliberate) factual errors is alluded to or considered "denial".

Ken,

I really hope you are not implying that I am "Anti German" and not objective? I would hope that my site is obviously obejective and avoids polemic about "good guys, bad guys"...

However, I believe in seeing things warts and all, and think trying to argue that the Germans did NOT execute wrongfully and out of frustration in 1914 is airbrushing history.

I am still at a loss here... are you claiming it did not happen, or that it did, but you dont like the way I say it happened?

Best

Chris

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Carl,

Thanks for the recommendation.

Chris,

Not sure where you're getting this from. The people of Belgian had no idea what going since the assassination of Archduke?

Well, you see, the Germans were guarantors of the neutrality of both Belgium and Luxembouirg and invaded both on the first day of the war. In the case of Luxembourg they announced to the government that the invasion was not aggressive! and not directed against them!

Gee, thanks.

My book Victoms Nonetheless talks about this in detail.

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You see you still keep raising that point and try to couch in terms like you're not trying to accuse me of this when doing so is specifically your intent. And this is exactly my point with this issue; anyone can make any sort of claim about what the Germans did, and anyone who points out specific errors or questions the allied propaganda is immediately accused of "denying" everything that the Germans did. I only pointed out that you were wrong about II/RIR31. That's it. So I hope this clarifies the matter.

Ken,

I really hope you are not implying that I am "Anti German" and not objective? I would hope that my site is obviously obejective and avoids polemic about "good guys, bad guys"...

However, I believe in seeing things warts and all, and think trying to argue that the Germans did NOT execute wrongfully and out of frustration in 1914 is airbrushing history.

I am still at a loss here... are you claiming it did not happen, or that it did, but you dont like the way I say it happened?

Best

Chris

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Moot point since both France and England were prepared to do the same if it was to their advantage. Goading Germany into war knowing that the German plan likely meant moving through Belgium certainly suggests that the Entente wasn't overly concerned about what became of Belgium.

Well, you see, the Germans were guarantors of the neutrality of both Belgium and Luxembouirg and invaded both on the first day of the war.

Was it?

In the case of Luxembourg they announced to the government that the invasion was not aggressive! and not directed against them!

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No, you're the one claiming that they don't at all. I stated that in some case they do mention that they countered what they believed to be attacks from hostile Belgians, whether civilian or military in civilian clothing. But what I'm saying is that I don't see how you can legitimately argue that German regimental histories have to specifically mention these events. I can't think of any country where regimental histories would do so.

Hi,

then with all due respect, you are agreeing that German Histories do not mention mistreatment of Civilians (even if it took place), the point you challenged me on in the first place.

On your website you stated that II/RIR31 "bivouacked" in Louvain on the night of the 25th, when the regimental history states that it did not. It arrived by train in the evening (abds.) and then marched to Bueken where it arrived at about 10 in the evening (abds.). If "unsere Truppe" refers to the battalion--which I don't think it does--the the regimental history states that they took fire and responded. Are you suggesting that German troops should never have acted to defend themselves? Shouldn't have engaged in house to house combat like just about any other military would?

The fact of the matter is that we don't know (yet) when II/RIR31 arrived in Louvain, how long it took to reach Bueken, what route they took, or what specifically they did along the way.

Secondly, we are arguing (I think?) that the II./RIR31 was IN Louvain during the sacking. We now agree they were, if only for a portion of the time. Last line page 15, "Our troops were attacked". We can argue if it is "our troops" as in "German" or "our troops" as in "Men of the regiment"...

Thirdly, I would appretiate a very clear correction to my mistranslation, because I am at a loss to see where you see an arror.

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Carl;

Thanks for the information about backpacks. What might have been the situation was that active duty Belgian troops did not carry civilian clothes in their packs, while, as Chris pointed out, it would have been reasonable that reservists reporting to depots to receive kit and march off might stuff the set of civilian clothes he arrived in into his pack, or even tie it to his pack; if he left it at the depot there would be little chance of ever seeing them again, especially as the Germans seemed to be overrunning the country. And in those times and quite a bit later people tended to put on their best clothes for events to which we would wear casual clothes; when my family lived in Puerto Rico during WW II, men from the somewhat poorer classes would put on a suit jacket and a tie to ride the trolley-car! (And in summer it might be 115 degrees Fahrenheit in the trolley.) I could see men wearing quite good clothes for the important event, mobilization, and then taking the set of clothing with them.

I have specific information that in the German Army of the period the men did not have civilian clothing even in their home Kaserne, and I am sure that the idea of carring civilian clothing in your pack would have been absolutely unthinkable, evidence that you were planning to desert or flee. I am sure that German soldiers seeing some Belgian troops with some civilian clothes with them would find it astonishing, and proof that they were planning to don those clothes and ambush German troops.

I don't want to trivialize the many irregular things that happened, but in one sense I see that phase of the conflict exhibiting on perhaps 20 levels an enormous cultural clash, as well as military engagements.

There has been some "energetic" discussion going on, interesting; I am tired and don't have the energy to get into them.

Bob

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On your website you stated that II/RIR31 "bivouacked" in Louvain on the night of the 25th, when the regimental history states that it did not.

I agree that "bivouack" has to go, will change it in the next update.

However.. "Are you suggesting that German troops should never have acted to defend themselves? Shouldn't have engaged in house to house combat like just about any other military would" .... the sacking of Louvain was barely what "any other " military would have done. Ditto for mass shootings of civilians because a few may have taken up arms. Killing civilians for vengence, or out of frustration was out of fashion in European Militaries by then, at least, while they were still on the continent.

"But what I'm saying is that I don't see how you can legitimately argue that German regimental histories have to specifically mention these events. I can't think of any country where regimental histories would do so. "

Initialy you had issue with ma statement saying they avoided mentioning these events.

The History of the Gren Regt 101. has about 200 pages of wartime diary... many of the pages go on about nothing happening. On very few days in the war did the Regt actually kill over 150 people, on only 1 day did they kill 150 civilians. You find it normal that such an event is not worth a mention, I do not.

For the rest I think neither of us will convince the other, so I suggest we agree to disagree.

Best

Chris

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Last night , on one of those history channels, another Trench Detective episode was broadcast, this one dealing with the fate of a rich French Mayor who was taken prisoner and held as a hostage by the Germans.

What caught my attention was an allusion to a French town ( forgive my failure to remember the name, but it began with "L") , which, on 24th August 1914, was put to the torch by the Germans.

According to the local historian interviewed by Andrew Robert Shaw (?), 213 houses were destroyed and 256 people killed. Again, the Germans suspected that they had been fired upon by the townsfolk, and women and children were among the victims.

The reason I mention this is to remind us that it was French, as well as Belgian, people who suffered these atrocities.

The number of people killed is large.

In the meantime, I'll try and pick up the recording from my hard drive, and, if I can find out the name of the town, I'll add it as an edit.

Edit : the name of the town is LONGUYON.

The allegation of civilians firing on the troops was used as a "pretext" - according to Andrew Robert Shaw - to discourage resisitance.

I find it remarkable that such a sizeable massacre has not been more publicised. I've just googled Longuyon, to find out about this event in the history of the town, and it's not mentioned ! Indeed, this is the singular feature of this thread that I find odd....there seems to have been a sort of amnesia on the part of the world at large about the deaths of thousands of Franco -Belgian civilians in 1914. I can understand that the Holocaust and other horrors a generation later have eclipsed the atrocities of 1914, and that this might account for their comparative obscurity. But the numbers involved in some of these killings are so high that they approach Oradour Sur Glane, which we will never be allowed to forget.

Phil (PJA)

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Moot point since both France and England were prepared to do the same if it was to their advantage. Goading Germany into war knowing that the German plan likely meant moving through Belgium certainly suggests that the Entente wasn't overly concerned about what became of Belgium.

Was it?

Was it aggressive? What else do you call an invasion?

Since Luxembourg was invaded who on earth else could it have been directed against?

That it was not aggressive or directed against them was announced in the Reichstag. Germany even promised compensation 'for the wrong done them'. It was never paid (but was in the Treaty of Versailles) and the Allies then used this promise as a way of alleging that Luxembourg had collaborated with Germany in the invasion, which they hadn't.

Allin detail in my book on Amazon Kindle.

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Moot point since both France and England were prepared to do the same if it was to their advantage. Goading Germany into war knowing that the German plan likely meant moving through Belgium certainly suggests that the Entente wasn't overly concerned about what became of Belgium.

And apparently not too concerned about actually adapting their defence plans to counter this move through Belgium that they were then supposedly aware of?

But the "Goading the Germans" thing I like... know I understand what your baseline is and the reason for the debate above.

Best

Chris

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Bob and Chris

There is also this about the Belgian army and their backpacks. According to Belgian practices in 1914, backpacks were not worn when going into action. So I think that with the regular withdrawing of Belgian troops, soldiers would be disinclined to put to many personal belongings in the backpacks.

Ken

I found your quote very interesting.

"the regimental history states that they took fire and responded. Are you suggesting that German troops should never have acted to defend themselves? Shouldn't have engaged in house to house combat like just about any other military would?

Where did the house to house fighting in Leuven take place ? Even major von Manteuffel, German town commander of Leuven during the period in question, stated in court that he had no evidence at all of civilians firing at German soldiers.

Carl

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Bob and Chris

There is also this about the Belgian army and their backpacks. According to Belgian practices in 1914, backpacks were not worn when going into action. So I think that with the regular withdrawing of Belgian troops, soldiers would be disinclined to put to many personal belongings in the backpacks.

Hi,

Unless they knew they were pulling back and anything left behind would probably never be seen again... then (I personally) would have tried to save all my affairs by taking them with.

The key question is... what would you do with your best suit, if you knew leaving it in a barracks would mean the Germans would find it and do whatever with it...

best

Chris

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Belgians had time enough to prepare properly for the war that became increasingly likely in the weeks leading up to the invasion. The country began officially mobilizing days before and the invasion was not a "surprise". And I'm a little perplexed as to why an army should not enter the territory of an enemy in order to try to win a war. Again it seems to be a case of Germans and Germany having to abide by a particular set of standards not expected of the rest.

Proclamation by General von Emmich, Commander-in-Chief of the Armies of the Meuse:

"AU PEUPLE BELGE

C'est à mon grand regret que les troupes allemandes se voient forcées de franchir la frontière de la Belgique. Elles agissent sous la contrainte d'une nécessité inévitable, la neutralité de la Belgique ayant été déjà violée par des officiers français, qui, sous un déguisement, ont traversé le territoire belge en automobile pour pénétrer en Allemagne.

Belges! c'est notre plus grand désir qu'il y ait encore moyen d'éviter un combat entre deux peuples qui étaient amis jusqu'à présent, jadis meme alliés. Souvenez-vous du glorieux jour de Waterloo où étaient les armées allemandes qui ont contribué à fonder et établir l'independance et la prospérité de votre patrie. Mais il nous faut le chemin libre. Des destructions de ponts, de tunnels, de voies ferrées devront etre regardées comme des actions hostiles. Belges, vous avez à choisir.

J'espère donc que l'armée allemande ne sera pas contrainte de vous combattre. Un chemin libre pour attaquer celui qui voulait nous attaquer, c'est tout ce que nous désirons. Je donne des garanties formelles à la population belge qu'elle n'aura rien à souffrir des horreurs de la guerre; que nous payerons en or monnayé les vivres qu'il faudra prendre au pays; que nos soldats se montreront les meilleurs amis d'un peuple pour lequel nous éprouvons la plus haute estime, la plus grande sympathie.

C'est de votre sagesse et d'un patriotisme bien compris qu'il dépend d'éviter à votre pays les horreurs de la guerre"

La Belgique et La Guerre Vol 2

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... la neutralité de la Belgique ayant été déjà violée par des officiers français, qui, sous un déguisement, ont traversé le territoire belge en automobile pour pénétrer en Allemagne.

Gleiwitz ...

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I think it's been established that II/RIR31 was not in Louvain during the night of the 25th. At the most if they were engaged in anything it could have been little more than returning fire if they were in fact shot at from windows. If you want to believe the account in Rehearsals all of the shooting at about 8pm, II/RIR31 arrived in Bueken about 10pm German time. Given that it is, if I recall correctly, an over 2 hours hike from Louvain to Bueken, and I'm sure that the battalion didn't just hop off the train in column and start marching. So they were likely long gone before any of the real fighting started.

I'm not sure how I can make it any clearer that I don't agree with the killing or execution of civilians, but I think part of the problem here is the persistence of propaganda-based beliefs from the era that what the Germans did was completely unique. It's clearly led to a situation where some have been inclined to read-into something that they've misunderstood and as a result have made false statements about facts and events. One can only wonder how often this has occurred over the last century or so, each error compounding on the next.

However.. "Are you suggesting that German troops should never have acted to defend themselves? Shouldn't have engaged in house to house combat like just about any other military would" .... the sacking of Louvain was barely what "any other " military would have done. Ditto for mass shootings of civilians because a few may have taken up arms. Killing civilians for vengence, or out of frustration was out of fashion in European Militaries by then, at least, while they were still on the continent.

I think I've been clear enough on this matter. First off, claiming that I think it's "normal" misrepresents what I've been saying. I just don't understand why you think that Germans alone should make specific reference to such events--especially when you consider that regimental histories from other countries wouldn't mention such things.

"But what I'm saying is that I don't see how you can legitimately argue that German regimental histories have to specifically mention these events. I can't think of any country where regimental histories would do so. "

Initialy you had issue with ma statement saying they avoided mentioning these events.

The History of the Gren Regt 101. has about 200 pages of wartime diary... many of the pages go on about nothing happening. On very few days in the war did the Regt actually kill over 150 people, on only 1 day did they kill 150 civilians. You find it normal that such an event is not worth a mention, I do not.

For the rest I think neither of us will convince the other, so I suggest we agree to disagree.

Best

Chris

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I just don't understand why you think that Germans alone should make specific reference to such events--especially when you consider that regimental histories from other countries wouldn't mention such things.

Well... which other countries had mass executions to include in thier WW1 histories? I must be missing something here.... French Killeing Belgian cicilians? British killing French civilians?

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Chris, you know as well as I that many things happen in wars that get glossed over when the "official" story is told. Some of these controversial issues have been discussed on GWF to some extent, and given the fact that it's quite difficult to argue that participants on all sides were known to violate the rules of war, why is it that only German regimental histories, in your opinion, should document these (alleged) "atrocities" when others don't? But like I said a number of German regimental histories do state that they were ambushed by what they believed to be civilians and that they retaliated. So I wonder what you're trying to accomplish. Are you suggesting that German regimental histories should include detailed accounts that corroborate allied propaganda? Or should they include lengthy accounts that provide a distinctly contradictory account of what happened, which you and most others in the English-speaking world wouldn't believe anyway? Seems to me you're really grasping for straws now.

Well... which other countries had mass executions to include in thier WW1 histories? I must be missing something here.... French Killeing Belgian cicilians? British killing French civilians?

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So I wonder what you're trying to accomplish. Are you suggesting that German regimental histories should include detailed accounts that corroborate allied propaganda?

No, I am suggesting that if a Regt shoots 150 civilians, it is theoretically a big enough event to be worth a line or two in a 200 page history of the war.

Of course, you fail to answer if the allies did similar things (which IMHO may explain why THEY dont mention it in their histories)

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I think it's been established that II/RIR31 was not in Louvain during the night of the 25th. ....... Given that it is, if I recall correctly, an over 2 hours hike from Louvain to Bueken, and I'm sure that the battalion didn't just hop off the train in column and start marching.

Well, if they marched through it on the 25... and "its been established" that they were not in Louvain on the 25th... then I see a logical problem here.... can you guess what it is?

I cannot claim to be working from Recall, so I will have to admit I used google maps, but Bueken is to the North West... and the trains from liege come into the station from the South East... so they would have marched through the city from the South East and out in the North West... which more or less implies they went right through the middle?

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