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

Recommended Posts

René Fidèle Colaert was born on March 10, 1848 in Poperinge. After his studies at the University of Leuven, he settled in Ypres as a lawyer .


After the elections of February 188 , he became a member of the House of Representatives, and he remained so until 1926. His role in the parliament was striking. In October 1887, he was selected as councilor and he was from February 1, 1891 Eeste Schepen. In 1900 he became mayor of the town of Ypres, when his predecessor baron Arthur Surmont de Volsberghe laid down his ambt as mayor and was on 5 February appointed as Minister of Industry and Labour .

From the beginning of his career, he dedicated himself to the restoration of the buildings and monuments in Ypres. A good example is the Cloth Hall and Belfry who are standing during the outbreak of the war in the pipeline for a thorough renovation of the façade. The St. Martin's Cathedral was then under construction when the work had already begun on the new tower roof. Unfortunately, on 28 June 1914, the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie Chotek was murdered by Gavrilo Princip and made soon a gruesome four-year long war .

On August 4, 1914, Germany falls into Belgium within no formal declaration of war. It soon became clear that the Belgian defense in both Liege and Antwerp could not withstand the German advance. The Belgian army was crushed and started a march to the Ijzer river at the west of the country. For Ypres, it saw not very promising. On 3 October, the first Belgian soldiers were in the city. It was Klas 1914 from Lier. Rene Colaert wanted the town and its inhabitants saved from the war and forbade themilitary to escape or to cover themself as civilian in the town. And the followed day, the first Uhlans are been seen around Waasten and Le Toucquet.

The days afterwards they were seen in small groups around the city and on 7 October, six riders from the 14th Husaren-Regiment (Husaren-Regiment Landgraf Friedrich II. von Hessen-Homburg (2. Kurhessisches) Nr. 14) entered the town, accompanied by René Colaert, his son and a priest. They demanded pass the night in the city and 75,000 BEF (some sources spoke against) . Eventually, the mayor paid 65,000 BEF (some sources say about 62,000 ) with money from the town. The mayor, a dean and the commissioner of police were taken hostage for a smooth passage, wich took place the next day or two days later. They were then left free when the Germans have safety leave the town.

The mayor had done everything to avoid casualties and damage Only one civilian was killed by the militia. This was a farmer named Henri Van Damme. The ban to escape was not respected by many. Rene had yet to invent a lie when the Germans asked who have fired them from the Lille Gate. He blamed the gendarmerie, who also already escaped, and say nothing about the Civic Guard who have fired the Germans from the Lille Gate.

Despite these actions, the city wasn't safe. Ypres was a ruin after four years of war. The British decided to keep the city ruin as a reminder. But the inhabitants was against those plans. After many adversities, the city was rebuilt .

Unfortunately, René has never seen the city built back. The mayor - who bravely sacrificed his life for the welfare of the city - died on October 3, 1927 in Ypres. He is buried in the old cemetery of Ypres.

Source: Ieperboog Verbeeldt - Ypres Salient on Pictures

Edited by Sniper Snoop
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

  • Create New...