Victor Grauwels, an almost forgotten grave
When the war breaks out Victor is billeted in one of the forts around Antwerp but when the Belgian army retreats behind the Yser he switches to the 5th Army Division and its trench artillery. Contrary to the colleagues with the field artillery who fight quite some distance away from the frontline the trench artillerists are in close contact with enemy positions and therefore exposed to great danger. They are rapidly located by the Germans. On 29 June 1915 Victor is hit by German fire. He dies at the Alveringem first aid post and is laid to rest in a temporary grave. On 27 August 1922 Victor’s coffin is transferred to the local cemetery in Turnhout.
The family dwindles as years go by; the tombstone becomes overgrown. In 2018 volunteers Rob Cornelissen and Marc Van Hout clean the premises: cemetery visitors can now again see that a soldier who gave his life for the country is buried in this very spot.
Let’s hope that the grave is now permanently saved and remains a perpetual testimonial of a war that recedes in history.
The Battle of Namur – Champion, Belgian military cemetery
The Battle of Namur: a quite intense name for the five days of combat in August 1914. When attacking Liège the Germans were very surprised by the Belgian resistance. They needed a few “Grosse Bertha” guns to turn the tide in their favour. The Germans would not make the same mistake twice.
In Namur, they used heavy artillery and by 20 August 1914 the forts were reduced to silence. Light artillery was deployed against the forts in between the fortified positions and after a few days of heavy bombing the assault was launched. The Belgian troops only had one option: abandon the positions and retreat in the direction of the French border.
Countless casualties were left behind on the battlefield and only received a decent burial after the Armistice, in the military cemetery of Champion.
Defence recently cleaned up the premises. Trees whose roots threatened to damage the graves were felled; borders, fences and paths were repaired or reinstated.
The cemetery is now once again in good reparative order. Be sure to come and visit this somewhat forgotten battlefield.
The Paelinck brothers, the Belgian version of “Saving Private Ryan”
When the First World War breaks out Maria Lammens sees her four sons leave for the front. Unfortunately, the four brothers from Laarne will meet with cruel fates. Camiel dies on 21 October 1914 during the Yser battle, Pierre-Albert loses his life on 10 December 1914 in Calais, Jan-Baptiste dies on 15 May 1916 and Emile… Emile is removed from the front through a telegram by Charles de Broqueville, the Belgian Minister of War. He is put to work in the artillery training centre at Eu. After the armistice he re-joins his original unit and is demobilized on 4 September 1919. If you wish to honour the Paelinck brothers you can do so at the Adinkerke military cemetery (tombs 1353 and 1354) and at the Belgian honours field in Calais (tomb 169).
Fallen even before the war: Lieutenant Menschaert
Everybody can be involved in a dispute at one time or another. The parties then often agree to compromise. In November 1939 Lieutenant Maurice Menschaert and Private Porton unfortunately pushed the limits of their disagreement. Punished by the Lieutenant, Private Porton was out on revenge and he shot the lieutenant even before the outbreak of war. The latter was buried in his native town of Burst a few days later. However, his grave disappeared when the local cemetery was reorganized.
In 2019 the FNC/NSB learned about Lieutenant Menschaert’s unfortunate fate. In collaboration with local authorities the FNC/NSB gave Lieutenant Menschaert a new grave and had his name engraved on the Burst war memorial. Maurice Menschaert had indeed been prepared to defend his country against an attack, but never got the opportunity to fight the enemy because of a sad twist of fate.