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11.11.11: the Armistice

At the start of November 1918, an allied delegation and representatives of the new German government came together to prepare an armistice. The negotiations were conducted in a train carriage in the woods of Compiegne, on the allied side of the front. The Germans, however, did not have much room for negotiation. Their troops were demoralised, and ...

Reading historical newspapers critically

Newspapers are an accessible source for studying different aspects of The First World War. But just as with other historical sources, the information in newspapers has to be critically examined. This is true of both the texts and the photos and illustrations.   The critical examination of sources is known by historians as ...

American help for the Belgians

On the eve of the war, Belgium was dependent for a great part of its food supply on imports. Because of the British maritime blockade, imports came to a standstill. As a result, food supplies quickly became problematic, particularly in the cities. In order to feed the population, a gigantic aid programme was set in motion undertaken by two ...

Four years a refugee

The First World War created a gigantic stream of refugees. At least 500,000 Belgian citizens, more than 7% of the Belgian population, spent four long war years abroad.    Driven out by horror stories and the advancing German army, millions of Belgians fled their town or village. Many ultimately reached the borders with The ...

To the Yser: the front stabilises

In August 1914, the Germans advanced in a southerly and westerly direction through Belgium. They soon reached the French-Belgian border, but they were halted at the Marne by French and British troops.    The German military command would subsequently change plans and attempt to break through to Paris by tracing an arc west. The ...

The League of Nations

After 11 November 1918, the cry of 'No war ever again’ sounded out louder than ever before. The countries that negotiated the peace accord were in agreement that the text of the treaty should contain sufficient guarantees to prevent future wars. One of these guarantees was the foundation of a League of Nations that would devote itself to ...

The dog at the front

Dogs, like other animals, played a role in the warfare that should not be underestimated. They too were 'called to arms' in 1914, and helped the soldiers in a variety of ways. Behind the front, they were hitched to small carts, and in this way they transported machine guns, ammunition cases and food. After artillery fire, or in no ...

Flemish policy and activism

During The First World War, Germany believed in the divide-and-rule principle. By sowing division, the German position would be strengthened. Flamenpolitik, or Flemish Policy, formed an integral part of this strategy.   The German occupier wished to drive back the French influence. To this end, their activities included the founding of a ...

The Belgian press landscape during the Great War

On the eve of the war, the Belgian newspaper press was going through a heyday. Hundreds of national and local newspapers were being published, with a total print run of a million copies a day. It was an outspoken opinion press and many papers drew support from one of the political camps. In October 1914, the German advance brought an end to the ...

A deadly cloud: the first big gas attack in Belgium

On 22 April 1915, French and British troops were surprised by a yellow cloud drifting towards their lines between Steenstrate and Langemark. When the cloud reached the soldiers, they suffered violent and painful coughing fits and burning eyes. This first large-scale gas attack using deadly gas sent a wave of panic through the soldiers. On that ...

American shops

During The First World War, the Belgian population was dependent on foreign food aid. The Nationaal Hulp- en Voedingscomité played a crucial role in the distribution of the imported foodstuffs. To this end, the committee opened its own sales points, which the population could visit to buy sugar, corn, tinned meat, rice and other staple products. ...

The world at the front

The First World War was primarily fought in Europe, but soldiers and workers from all over the world came here to fight and work for the various armies.   Quite early in the war, the European great powers deployed their colonial troops to supplement their own armies. The British were able to call on Indian, Canadian, Australian and South ...

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