Jump to content
The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Belgian Franctireurs 1914


fritz
 Share

Recommended Posts

My wife, the brilliant book-sleuth, has discovered a third related book, written (supposedly) by the wife of the presumed Canadian private, and published in 1918. The original book, which I now see was published in 1917, supposedly had its first chapter written by her as well. The title of the second book, of 1923, is The Inexcusable Lie. I wonder what he could be writing about?

Bob

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The houses were set on fire with special apparatus, while people were dragged from their houses, already burning, and some were shot in the streets.

From Francis A. March, History of the World War: An Authentic Narrative of the World’s Greatest War (Philadelphia/Chicago/Toronto: United Publishers of the United States and Canada, 1919), p. 92.

Brand Whitlock, American Minister to Belgium, stated in a report that the Germans who burned the Belgian city of Louvain on August 25 were equipped with “apparatus for the purpose of firing dwellings, incendiary pastils, machines for spraying petroleum, etc.”

Although the Germans first used the kleine Flammenwerfer (Kleif) M.1912 in combat in the Argonne on October 4 or 5, 1914, it's entirely possible that they also used the device to burn dwellings in Belgian and French towns prior to this action. I have a postcard that depicts an incident that allegedly took place in Creil, Picardy, France, on September 6, 1914. The interesting thing is that the flamethrower shown in the image is a relatively accurate rendering of the Kleif M.1912. Considering that at the time this was a new weapon nobody had ever seen before, the accurate portrayal seems based on eyewitness accounts, which lends credence to the notion that the attack actually took place.

post-7020-1246574749.jpg

post-7020-1246574843.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Re Aarschot

In 1914 Aarschot was a small (8000 inhabitants) Flemish town near Leuven/Louvain. Its Burgomaster was Jozef Tielemans. He had a (still existing) large house on the corner of the Peterseliestraat and the townsquare.

On the morning of 19 august there was a rearguard action near Aarschot between the Belgian 9th "infanterie de ligne" and the German 8th infantry brigade ( IR 49, IR140, 12 Dragonen, 17 artillery which lasted for several hours. Altough victoriuos some 70 germans were killed in action.

There is a claim that some Belgian pow's were executed (I have got no further evidence for this) What is sure is that some monks from the local " Holy Hart" convent were arrested. They were set free after intervention by the burgomaster.

General Stenger arrived and took the burgomasters house for his quarters. The family could still use the cellars.

Around 7 o'clock in the evening (this would be a good time for a general to have his dinner )shooting was heard from the north of the town. There were shouts of " Thie Fransozen sind da".

Captain Folz , quartermaster of IR49, took a company out on a 3 kilometers wild goose chase. On returning to town he recieved some rifle fire. Meanwhile colonel Jenrich , oberst of IR 140, tried to stop the panic driven (his words) shooting on the town square. General Stenger appeared (quite rightly) on the balcony of the burgomasters house and was shot.

The sole member of the Tielemans family present at the time was the son who was in the cellar.

In reaction to this event several civilians were arrested. During the night the son was accused of the death of the general and 75 civilians were executed. Several hunderd houses were torched. The following morning a second group of 29 civilians (including the burgomaster, his son and the burgomasters brother) were executed with a shot to the head.

The autopsy performed later by the surgeon of IR 140 found that the general had been killed from a bullet which ricocheted into the house from a hard object outside.

I think that is the origin of the well known story of " a general killed by a burgomasters son". A story that was believed as gospell truth by many German soldiers.

The information here is mostly based on German accounts in BAMA Freiburg PHD 6/145 Ministry of War Military investigations department for violations of the laws of war (1915)

There exists a German postcard showing the town square of Aarschot but with the strange mention "house where General von Bulow (!) was killed

Link to comment
Share on other sites

About 19 August 1914 in Aarschot

From Fighting in Flanders, by E. Alexander Powell (1914)

http://www.greatwardifferent.com/Great_War...n_Powell_01.htm

(Also mentioning a version that the mayor's son shot the (drunken) German officier to defend his sister's honour.)

From the magazine Touring Club de Belgique, 1919

by Guilmont and Pieck

http://www.greatwardifferent.com/Great_War...Aerschot_01.htm

Le Crime des Allemands à Aerschot

But this is in French I'm afraid.

The incident is described in the paragraph beginning with : En réalité que s'est-il passé ?

(..."atteint par une balle allemande" (hit by a German bullet) )

And I'm sure there are more (and I did find them, but some in Flemish (Dutch). And I found the description of what happened (the execution of a "bunch" of more than 150 Aarschottenaars) a little disturbing, and sickening.

Aurel

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The autopsy performed later by the surgeon of IR 140 found that the general had been killed from a bullet which ricocheted into the house from a hard object outside.

I think that is the origin of the well known story of " a general killed by a burgomasters son". A story that was believed as gospell truth by many German soldiers.

The information here is mostly based on German accounts in BAMA Freiburg PHD 6/145 Ministry of War Military investigations department for violations of the laws of war (1915)

There exists a German postcard showing the town square of Aarschot but with the strange mention "house where General von Bulow (!) was killed

Now Carl has come up with infomation from creditable sources, not from propaganda materials written with no intent at all to practice any sort of objectivity. Regrettably most of the German records from WW I were destroyed in a fire-bombing raid on the Prussian Archives in 1944. But certain amounts of materials still remain here and there. Carl, do you know who actually dug in the Freiburg archives; a more substantial citation? Not doubting you here.

Again, I have not studied this topic specifically, but see a lot of mention of it in my readings. My grand-father believed the story, and he was in the General Staff Section of the Generalkommando of an army corps, not a private trudging about and hearing rumors, but this event, whtever it was in detail, occurred in a different army corps, and the level of his knowledge would have been lower. I have read that in the area of his army corps there were less killings of civilians than in other areas, which may color my perceptions. He certainly described franc tireur activity where he was actually present, and he was really smart and a very solid individual, who was candid about some misbehavior on both his part and on that of the Germans. When he got to Russia he mentioned that there was nothing at all to loot there.

Bob

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have read that in the area of his army corps there were less killings of civilians than in other areas,

Bob

From an article I read recently (Shrapnel, WFA, June 2007, p. 28)

I think in the same "area" as Aarschot : (Tongeren - Leuven is approx. 50 kilometers)

Tongeren : 12 civilians killed

Sint-Truiden : 21 killed

Linsmau : 18 killed

Tongeren : 12

Schaffen : 18

Attenrode : 10

Linden : 19

Lubbeek : 18

Herselt : 23

Molenstede : 11

Wespelaar : 18

Aarschot : 156

Leuven : 248

The sources of these specific numbers were not mentioned in footnotes, but in the general sources at the end of the article : "Les Atrocités des Allemands" (Horne & Kramer), "L'invasion allemande" (Schmitz & Nieuwland), several publications by local researchers, several websites.

Aurel

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I had mentioned that the diary I am transliterating and translating describes an incident when two Belgian officers were captured attampting to pass thru German lines in an auto with concealed explosives, and that when I found it I would post the details. (One of the Belgian Pals had mentioned a Belgian demolition corps that did behind-the-lines demolition work.) The author's unit, 10. Kompagnie, Reserve=Infanterie=Regiment Nr. 20, had, on Sept. 4, 1914 marched thru Wolverthem and other places, reaching a village called Capellon. The German unit entered the village and were fired upon from the windows of village homes and they had to withdraw from the village. He observed that they did not know if they had been firing on by soldiers or by civilians, as they had not been able to storm the homes. Then he described two Belgian officers in a car being arrested while trying to pass through the German lines. A search of their car revealed concealed "munitions and explosives". The narrator did not describe their dress but it would seem that it would have been almost impossible to pass through German lines dressed in their Belgian uniforms. So I assume that they were either wearing German uniforms or more probably civilian clothes. There is a description of an incident which I really only glanced at (I have not yet translated this section into English) when someone took a wrist watch from one of the officers; there was some fuss, and it was returned. The narrator did not mention anything about the fate of the officers, but if they were not in Belgian uniforms while transporting explosives I believe that the customs of war might call for their being shot?

Is this typical of this corps of demolition that had been mentioned? Seems like a very brave but foolhardy enterprise. Can this be matched with a known incident from the Belgian side?

Later in the diary the sergeant receives a rifle bullet wound to the hand and is seriously disabled ("unfit for combat") and was evacuated to home in Berlin. I cannot find him in the 1914 Berlin Addressbook. The book includes a page and a half long list of his comrades, with addresses, mostly from Berlin, I will look some of them up. (The Berlin Addressbooks back to 1799 are now on-line.)

Bob

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I suppose we out to be glad that the inhabitants of Bleid were not all shot as French soldiers who were billeted in houses along the only street fired on Rommel and his men as they tried to set fire to the village (for reasons that Rommel does not try to elucidate in his memoirs - online).

After all, being fired on by people in the houses; obviously terrorists.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Anyone who has read honest descriptions of actions involving inexperienced troops will know that they generally have no idea what is happening, this is not confined to privates. Most junior officers have only the sketchiest idea of who is on either flank, where the enemy is and certainly no idea of who the enemy is. I wonder how many German Reservists had even the sketchiest idea what the Belgian Landwehr uniform looked like? A street action is very confusing, even to troops who have been specially trained and experienced. The incidents of friendly troops firing on each other are myriad. Any other rank saying he was fired on by franc-tireurs is merely passing on the consensus of opinion, arrived at some time later over wurst and kaffee and perhaps endorsed by his officers. This sort of thing was not confined to any single army. Behind the French and British armies, the country was thick with so many spies, it is a wonder there was any time for agriculture or mining. There were far too many official statements and warnings to doubt that Schrecklichkeit was an official policy and deliberately indulged in and that would require official justification.

My opinion: Citizens and stragglers in or out of uniform would almost certainly taken the opportunity to bush whack Germans. Was there as much as the Germans claimed? No. In view of the deliberate terrorisation of the civilian population by the invading troops, such reaction had to be expected and only the most narrowly legalistic view would regard it as unjustified. A very interesting read on this subject is, " Absolute Destruction", I.V. Hull.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hello Bob

When I was at university (too long ago) I spent some time researching in the Freiburg archives. I know that the Kramer and Horne book mentions these sources too. They do however mix them in with other sources (Bryce report, Belgian report) where there is a certain amount of bias.

Re Franc tireurs I'm currently searching for material about the "koekoeken" (= flemish for "the cuckoo's") . They were Belgian companies raised in september 1914 to operate behind enemy lines. You know the type , communicating by bird calls, blackened faces etc.

Not Franc tireurs per se but I'm sure that for German soldiers who encountered them they were just that.

Carl

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I wonder how many German Reservists had even the sketchiest idea what the Belgian Landwehr uniform looked like?

Not very many. I have read one account where German soldiers encounter 'English' forces early in the war and are surprised that they were not wearing bright red tunics....

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My wife the "Book Detective" has located two copies of the 2nd book by the Canadian actor who popped up as the central actor (literally) of a major propaganda campaign by the Brits in the US and Canada about 1916. I am not totally sure about the topic of the second book, published in 1923, but the fact that the title seems to have the word "Lies" in it suggests that the book may "spill the beans" about his role in WW I disinformation campaign. Interestingly, the same guy seems to pop up in the late 1930's corresponding with three well-known philosophers; his letters to them being held in a rare book room at a major US library.

I really hate to divert myself from the work that I already have on my plate, which is more than enough to last to the end of my life, but the enormously successful disinformation campaign conducted, mainly aimed at the US and Canadian public, really is a fascinating topic. One thing that I did was conduct a little study of the publication dates of books published on "The Rape of Belgium" topic, and there literally were hundreds published during the war, and suddenly their publication halted in mid-1917. Their job was done, the US was in the war, and they could save the paper. By that time Wilson was arresting people not sufficiently enthusiastic about the war, convicting them of this and that, and tossing them in Federal prison, with some of them being murdered in prison, like some Mennonite pacifist conciencious objectors. It really was not necessary to continue the campaign at full bore.

Will have a copy of the book in my hot little hands in a few days (There is one at Princeton University, and one at Yale; they both cooperate closely with the wife's library), and give you guys a bit of info as to what it contains.

Bob

The 1923 book by "Private Peat" has not arrived, but my wife also found a book written by the wife of "Private Peat" and published in 1918. I just glanced at it for 10 minutes last night. Lots of interesting things about war-time Britian, how it was absolutely swarming with German spies, how she turned a neighbor in for cycling to work with a Union Jack on his handle bars, as he must have been trying to mislead people, so he had to be spying from his bicycle. How another neighbor was found to have a "wireless labratory", a large radio station in his house, how the hotels were simply overflowing with spies, etc. She descriibed anti-German riots, smashing up stores, etc., but felt that they were much too mild. Dhe felt that some of the spies turned in by her and her friends were executed before the next dawn.

As to Belgium, she described how the Germans would conduct bayonet charges with a crowd of Belgian women and children before them, and at first the gallant Tommies refused to fire on the advancing mob. Also that, in a variant of a common story, how the Germans chained captive women to their machine guns and forced them to fire the MGs on the Allies.

All of this is from thumbing thru the book for 10 minutes. The book is very well written.

I should have the third book in a few days. As the title is "The Unforgiveable Lie", or something of the sort, hopefully it is a mea culpa on his part in the disinformation campaign. My wife's rare book room has manuscript letters from him corresponding with several philosophers in the 1930's and 1940's, suggesting that he developed into a thoughtful person.

Bob

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hello Bob

When I was at university (too long ago) I spent some time researching in the Freiburg archives. I know that the Kramer and Horne book mentions these sources too. They do however mix them in with other sources (Bryce report, Belgian report) where there is a certain amount of bias.

Re Franc tireurs I'm currently searching for material about the "koekoeken" (= flemish for "the cuckoo's") . They were Belgian companies raised in september 1914 to operate behind enemy lines. You know the type , communicating by bird calls, blackened faces etc.

Not Franc tireurs per se but I'm sure that for German soldiers who encountered them they were just that.

Carl

Dear Carl;

Your contribution above is very important to this discussion, and I thought that I had responded to it, but I see that my post does not exist; occasionally I write a post, preview the results, edit the post if necessary, and then forget to do the final resubmission.

The "koekoeken", whom I had never heard of (I am not a serious student of the Belgian Campaign, but merely trying to write a chapter or two about my grand-father's activities in Belgium in 1914 before his III. Reservekorps departed for Russia in early December 1914), may be an important element here in the perception of franc tireur activity, when in fact it might have been legitimate military activity. In the two observations of suspected franc tireur activity that I found in the diary that I am translating and posted here previously; in the first incident, very early in the invasion of Belgium, the author's company was fired on from a house in a village; the house was stormed, and civilians were dragged out, including a young teen-aged boy and a priest. In the second incident, later in the campaign, his company had just entered a village (Capellon) and they were briskly fired upon from the houses of the village, forcing them out of the village again; as they were not able to storm one or more houses, he fairly observed that they did not know if they were fired on by troops or by franc tireurs.

Sorry that I seemed not to have responded to your post, which was addressed to me.

I have read more of the "Mrs. Peat" book which was part of the extraordinary "Private Peat" disinformation campaign, which included a one year lecture tour of the US and Canada, and even a commissioned Hollywood movie, and although it is mostly about the domestic situation in the UK, the authoress frequently threw in fairly astonishing misinformation on the situation in Belgium in 1914, the book being published in the US in 1918. I might start a thread in the "Other" sub-forum, especially if the third book turns out to be what it seems to be.

Bob Lembke

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks again for your interesting replies.

I see this is a difficult and emotional topic. Difficult because the truth is covered by masses of informations and desinformations. Emotional because a lot of innocent persons must have been victims of this way of war, that we call today asymetric and that seems to be the kind to make modern war without rules, war as an criminal act.

So I want to add the report of Holger Ritter from his history of Schleswig-Holsteinisches Infanterieregiment 163. In these days he was involved as commanding officer of a battalion. I read a similar report in the history of Jägerbataillon 10, even more detailed. But it is not available just now. Sorry for all mistakes in this quick translation.

25.07.1914

At 5 p.m. the inhabitants opened fire. Just those that had been peaceful all the time, some of them had eaten together with us from our field-kitchens.They opened fire upon our troops and vehicles from ambush, out of windows, dormer-windows and doors. Horses were hit and there was some confusion by the vehicles. Nine inhabitants with arms in their hands were captured and executed by a party 9th company. A disgusting order for soldiers. Bueken was torched for punishment.

In the meantime the I. and II. battalion and the Machine-Gun-Company arrived Herent and prepared for disposal. They also were attacked at 5 by armed inhabitants. This men were shot and the houses from where they had fired were torched. And so it happened to the staff- and transport-company in Leuwen. Exactly at 5 there was an artful fire-raid by population. We had casualties by horses and material.

At 11.30 p.m. the regiment advanced again to Leuwen to rest there. The III. Battalion organized the out-posts and the protection of bridges at Cologne. The regiment had losses of 2 dead and 15 wounded men. At midnight there was an attack by inhabitants again. Our troops bivouacing in the streets replied the firing. So developed a violant shooting without any success. The commanding officers ordered to stop firing and to attack the determined houses with fixed bayonets. A lot of inhabitants were captured and shot by martial law. In spite of that shooting went on in the whole town. Some big buildings burned. The II. battalion left Leuwen and bivouaced out of the town. Major von Rettberg, commanding officer of the regiment, was wounded. The battalion now was commanded by Hauptmann Ritter (the author). The companies of I. Battalion rested in the town in billets for large numbers.

26.07.1914

In the morning of 26th both battalions marched again to Herent, from there via Doorn to Ecluse for readiness. At 12 noon the III. Battalion arrived too and the whole regiment marched now to Thildonck. During the march we had the repellent view of inhabitants face to the wall and with their hands up. It was disgusting to see women and even small children had to do so during our march past. But this was necessary to protect our troops.

We had experienced sufficiently the strength of war. A real enemy we had not faced, but we had suffered losses and horrible occurences.

The enemy had started a vulgar lying instigation against German troops all over the world. All imaginable cruelties were reproached to us, plunderings and arsons, murders of women and children, all atrocities of an uncivilized nation. This all was believed as true, even propaganda movies were presented abroad with scenes of morbid phantasy. A poisonous weapon of our enemy.

But we, in experience of the raids in Leuwen, Herent and Bueken, we can bear witness to God and our conscience, that all this accusations were lies. Only when Belgian civilians attacked us we used our arms. Hardness by punishment is a matter of war. What our enemies would have done in Germany in a similar situation? Just this was proved in East Prussia by Russians and at Ruhr and Rhein after war by French occupators. When French planes bombed Karlsruhe in 1914 and hit a children´s party and killed more than 100 children nobody of international press was interested in.

Thank you for further replies.

Fritz

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hello Fritz

your dates seem to be wrong (25 and 26 07 1914 is before the declaration of war). The destruction of the university town of Leuven is an interesting topic to say the least !

Carl

Link to comment
Share on other sites

your dates seem to be wrong (25 and 26 07 1914 is before the declaration of war).

Sorry Carl, you are right. It was August 25th and 26th. :)

Fritz

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hello Fritz

Do you know the date of the regimental history of IR 163 you quote (they were part of 17 reserve division) I think it is post war (reference to French occupation forces and to the bombing raid of 22/06/1916 on Karlsruhe when a circus giving a performance for children was accidentaly hit.

Carl

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Correct, Carl, IR 163 belonged to 81. Infanterie-Brigade, 17. Reserve-Division, IX. Reservekorps. My grandfather joined this regiment in summer 1916.

The regimental history written by Oberstleutnant Holger Ritter was published in 1926 by Leuchtfeuer-Verlag, Hamburg.

Fritz

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Are there more informations about that what happened in Dinant?

Was General d´Elsa called to account?

http://www.deutsche-kriegsgeschichte.de/elsa.html

I like this idea to boycott the German flag for 90 years!!! But what now? Do they hoist up black-white-red??

Fritz

Link to comment
Share on other sites

When ever I read a German Regimental history of 1914 it was told about Belgian franctireurs shooting advancing German troops in the rear and fighting like guerilla-troopers. If anybody was captured as suspected he was shot. Otherwise I heart there was even a mass-execution in Dinant with 600 victims, killed by Saxon army.

Did the franctireurs really exist or only the feared fiction of people´s rebellion?

Fritz

The term "franctireurs" was used by the German Army in 1914 to describe illegal civilian combattants. It was an old term left over from the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, were

according to German records French civilians took part in the fighting, this happened after

the French field armies were crushed and the Germans moved deeper into France.

In reality there never were Belgian civilian combattants, After the first battles :

Liege Fortres, The Cavalry battle of Halen (Haelen), The river Gete (Gethe) battles the

Belgian Army retreated to Antwerp, which then became a base for very extensive raids against

the exposed northern flank of the marching German Armies going to France via Brussels,

these military raids took a variety of forms :

sending small units of Cavalry, Artillery and Infantry into these Northern parts of Belgium not yet firmly under control of the Germans, to ambush, snipe, blow up bridges, tear up railroadtrack

destroy small and isolated German units, attack German supply lines, collapse tunnels, cut telegraph and telephone cables, etc.... etc...

Often with the support of Armoured Cars (Minerva models - Mors models), cyclist units, small motorised groups (trucks and cars), and a little later 3 big armoured Trains, armed with British naval guns (4 inch and 6 inch, crewed by combined crews from the Royal Navy and the Belgian Army), and 2 smaller armoured scout trains (75mm gun and 2 - 3 machine guns)

Also in support were recon operations by aircraft, which sometimes dropped crude bombs, iron

darts and grenades on the German units they found.

These actions as described above is what has been described by the Germans as "franctireur" activity, for example : Belgian Lanciers and cyclists ambushing and sniping at them from concealed positions and then retreating before a countermeasures could be taken, (often the Germans never saw their attackers)

All this took place between the 18th of august and the 10 of october 1914, when the Belgian Army

retreated from Antwerp to the coast. Also during that period 2 divisional size attacks were launched from Antwerp causing some sharp fighting.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have read more of the "Mrs. Peat" book which was part of the extraordinary "Private Peat" disinformation campaign, which included a one year lecture tour of the US and Canada, and even a commissioned Hollywood movie, and although it is mostly about the domestic situation in the UK, the authoress frequently threw in fairly astonishing misinformation on the situation in Belgium in 1914, the book being published in the US in 1918. I might start a thread in the "Other" sub-forum, especially if the third book turns out to be what it seems to be.

Bob Lembke

The British indeed practised a disinformation campaign, the name given to such

activity was "Black Propaganda"

During the latter stages of the 1914 campaign contact

was made by British propaganda personnel with Belgian authorities requesting witness accounts

from Belgian refugees, the goal was to use these accounts in the propaganda war.

That was one thing, another request made to the Belgian authorities was more controversial,

To allow the British to use Belgian refugees who were prepared not only to tell their real accounts but who were also prepared to tell taller invented stories in order to "flesh out" the cruelty stories, since many refugees had actually witnessed random killing of civilians (adult males for the most part) it was pointed out to them that the Germans had killed their compatriots in cold blood, surely

compared to that it was only a small crime to tell a lie about the enemy, next to cruelty stories made up by the "Black propaganda" personnel without any Belgian assistance.

This led to a mix of real stories of killings and cruelties and invented taller and more imaginative ones. Used with very considerable success in the Allied "hearts and minds" campaigns of the Great War.

This was perhaps usefull during the war but hit back like a boomerang after 1918.

The Germans during the 1920's in an attempt to clean up their reputations, carefully dissected the Allied propaganda, finding among others that some Belgian stories were indeed true, or truthfull enough to be left alone, in their counterattack against the Allied propaganda they took a lawyer's approach,

only attacking those stories from which they were certain that they were inventions, there by avoiding a backlash that would have occured if the attacked story was after all proven to be true.

The result : those attacked stories were successfully exposed as false.

Since many truthfull accounts had been mixed with these, it all led to a complete credibility loss of all the accounts.

For the Belgians this had a bitter side-effect, since some cruelty stories had been proven as invented, all stories were being discredited and distrusted, even the truthfull ones.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have just received a book written by Harold Peat in 1923 which is, I believe, his mea culpa for his role in the disinformation campaign. Quite an extraordinary book. The three books together are quite something. In a few hours I will start a thread on the three books.

The mechanism that Alexander describes certainly occurred, and has had a little parallel in myself. Although I am English, Scottish, and Danish, as well as German, my grand-father fought in Belgium, and in the context of military history I identify with "the Hun". When I started to read seriously about WW I 8-9 years ago I kept on reading about, for example, the crowds of Belgian 13 year-old girls, each raped, each with either the left or right hand and fore-arm chopped off (but never both, never cut off at the wrist, never at the elbow, but always in mid-forearm), always scantily clad, wandering the roads of Northern France in such numbers that they were a traffic hazard (Private Peat repeats this one). I was quite put off. My father had told me about the continuing rediculous propaganda of this sort that was in the hollywood films when he came to the US in 1926, stuff so pervasive that he stopped going to the movies, and did so till he died more than 50 years later. So I largely if not entirely dismissed these stories.

In the periodic discussions of this topic on the GWF I have come to realize that there must have been a considerable amount of injustice meted out on Belgian civilians in 1914, while also recognizing that a great deal of this sort of story is invented nonsense. As English is barely a primary source language for the 1914 Belgian fighting, the vast bulk of English language material on this topic is invented rubbish. It is also absolutely clear to me that there also was a great deal of classic franc tireur activity, and as I have previously mentioned one sees the French and Belgian boasting of this activity in the French literature, while the English language material denies it. As I said, you can't have it both ways.

But, as I have said, I have come to appreciate that there must have been excessive repression of the civilian population. One of my grand-father's letters from Belgium mentioned 125 "franc tireurs" being shot, perhaps at one time, and this number is far too large to, at the least, suggest legal "due process" was not observed, and probably indicates that innocent people were mixed in with the mass, at the least. On the other hand, the diary that I am now translating describes his regiment (not his company) being fell upon while passing thru a city, and 140 men being killed, being buried in two mass graves.

Alexander, do you have specific sources for these early British-Belgian contacts? I am getting dragged deeper into this topic despite by best intentions to only skirt by the topic as I write up my grand-father's activities.

I will open a thread on the three "Private Peat" books soon in "Other".

Bob Lembke

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...