German conquest of a neighboring nation is thought to be an event that occurred exclusively during the early years of World War Two. However, the same thing happened 25 years earlier in 1914 when Germany marched through Belgium intent on invading France.
The German invasion was part of the Schlieffen Plan, a plan written to quickly conquer Paris.
Timeline of Events
- 2 August 1914: German requests passage through Belgium, a neutral country.
- 3 August: Belgium refuses.
- 4 August: Germany invades. Great Britain declares war on Germany.
- 5-16 August: The Battle of Liege puts the Germans 11 days behind in their timetable.
- 20 August: Brussels surrenders.
- 6-12 September: Belgium slows Germany’s advancement enough for the First Battle of the Marne to be fought outside Paris. But 95 percent of the nation is eventually occupied. A number of civilians are executed; cultural treasures and villages are destroyed.
- More than a million Belgian refugees flee to France and the Netherlands. Many of those who stayed were forced into unpaid labor.
- 10 October: Antwerp surrenders. The Race to the Sea begins. The British manage to keep Ostend, a town near Dunkirk, in Allied hands.
- Spring 1915: Germany electrifies the Belgian border with the Netherlands.
- 1916: Liberals and Socialists are permitted in Belgium’s Catholic government as an expression of unity.
- 1914-1918: Many battles are fought in Belgian in the Ypres and Yser areas. Battles also were held in a few parts of Belgian colonies.
Mighty Little Belgium
At the time of the invasion, Belgium had a population of 7.5 million and a standing army of 43,000 with another 115,000 in reserve.
King Albert I was commander in chief throughout the entire war. Belgium did not join the Allies until 1918. Prior to that it was an independent associate power commanded in the field by Albert.
He is quoted as saying, “Belgium is a nation, not a road.”
Belgium suffered 267,000 military casualties during the war.
Multiple fundraisers were established to give relief to the beleaguered nation.
What became known as the Rape of Belgium also was used in propaganda in other Allied nations as a recruitment tool. Here are a few examples:
Were you aware of this part of European history? Leave a comment below.
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