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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 ...

The electrified frontier: the border fence between Belgium and the...

The border region between occupied Belgium and the neutral Netherlands soon became a smuggling paradise. Traffic in letters, military information and foodstuffs was rife. Young men who wanted to join the Belgian army also crossed the border. From the spring of 1915, the German troops decided to call a halt to this. They constructed a barbed wire ...

Bronzed heroines

Although many spies from The First World War remained anonymous for good, some achieved heroic status. In this way, Edith Cavell was turned into a model of resistance immediately after her execution. This British citizen had been the head of the first Belgian nursing school since 1907. Following the German invasion, she became the central figure ...

Overstepping the mark: the border with the Netherlands

From the beginning of the war, the border with the neutral Netherlands had bustled with activity. Almost immediately after the occupation, the German authorities sealed off the border to the Netherlands with barbed wire. The Germans wanted to prevent Belgian war volunteers from reaching the front via the Netherlands, and at the same time to call a ...

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 ...

Play during the occupation

Wartime was sometimes a difficult period for children but this did not discourage them from continuing to play. The war had a great appeal and offered them a great deal of inspiration for fantasy play. They marched along with passing troops, sang satirical songs and tore German ordinances from the walls. They collected souvenirs and began a trade ...

A tangle of regulations? – German ordinances in occupied territory

The German occupier ruled in occupied territory by means of countless Verordnungen and Bekanntmachungen. Public life was regulated by thousands of big and small regulations that changed continually. Many of these regulations were felt to be harassment by the population, but from the standpoint of German, military logic they were mostly very ...

Antwerp: from National Redoubt to occupied city

An impregnable city   From the middle of the 19th century, Antwerp had occupied an exceptional position in the military defensive plans. The government and the army command had decided to transform the port into a National Redoubt; a fortified stronghold into which the army, the king and the government could withdraw when threatened by ...

A new role for women?

In Great Britain, the army swallowed up an important part of the male workforce during The First World War. Women often took over their work in the factories, or in the fields, temporarily. However, the efforts of women had little impact on their post-war role. In Belgium, the scope of the employment of women in the war industry, and in the ...

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