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.
Hendrik Haesen, selfless dedication to the fallen
When the Germans attacked our country in 1914, the troops in and around Mechelen suffered heavy casualties. Soldiers barely had time to bury their fallen comrades. A hastily dug grave was the fate of many who were left behind. Time was of the essence and the City of Mechelen created an excavation service under the leadership of Hendrik Haesen during the first months of the occupation. Hendrik and his team set out looking for these graves around Mechelen. Even calling upon the German occupier when met with uncooperative landlords. No less than 892 soldiers, of different nationalities were transferred to the municipal cemetery of Mechelen thanks to the commitment of Hendrik Haesen and his team. He himself would die on March 28, 1918. Dead from an illness he contracted during his work. He was given a final resting place amongst the men whose bodies he recovered in the last 4 years of his life. Hendrik's grave can still be found today on the military court of honor of the cemetery in Mechelen.
Behind the scenes
The main goal of the WDR is to provide public access to data about Belgian military casualties.
Few people however know that the database is the result of countless hours of work by devoted volunteers. To thank them you will find below an overview of the tasks they performed in 2020:
- Registration of the Zivilarbeiters mainly buried on French memorial lawns, and of First World War seamen;
- Revision of all military victims buried in France;
- Adaptation of unit markings for the 18-Day Campaign;
- Replies to 4,000 requests for information; more than 100,000 data have been completed or adapted;
- Creation of a weekly newsletter and a WDR flyer;
- 3,200 unknown soldiers buried in military cemeteries and memorial lawns were registered based on the information in our possession;
- More than 3,000 birth certificates were checked