This is the next in a blog series on the notable people of World War One.
February 20, 1893, Tournai, Belgium
Born into a working class family, Petit had a difficult childhood. She worked several jobs and had no permanent residence until she was taken in by a benefactor.
World War One:
When war broke out, Petit volunteered for the Belgian Red Cross. Later that year, she assisted her fiancé across the border into the Netherlands after he was wounded and recovered in hiding. The engagement later ended. She provided the British Secret Service with valuable information about the trip. Not long after, they hired her to serve as a spy.
During her service, she helped other soldiers cross the border and reported on German troop movements. She also helped with a resistance newspaper.
A German posing as a Dutchman betrayed her and Petit was arrested and tried. The prosecutor at the trial was the same one who prosecuted Edith Cavell. Petit refused to divulge the name of others involved in espionage despite the fact doing so would have spared her life.
April 1, 1916, by firing squad. Unlike Cavell, her death received little media attention.
After the war, Petit became a symbol of Belgian martyrdom and wartime resistance. She was memorialized in both public works and the arts as the nation’s heroine.
She was given a state funeral and a statue was erected in her honor. A square also was renamed after her.
Enjoyed reading this post? Join the mailing list and receive updates in your inbox whenever a new post is published. Simply enter your email address in the form on the bottom right of this page.