World War I Belgium: Unoccupied Zone (1914-18)

Belgian unoccupied zone
Figure 1.--Belgium had only a small army, but it played an important role in the War. The Germans decidedd to avoid the French border defenses and attack France through Belgium. Unexpectly, The Belgans put up a sporited defense , slowing the Germans fown so the British and French could marshall the resources to stop the Germans before Paris. And as a result, the Belgians were able to hold onto a small sliver of their country in the southwest along the Channel coast. Here we see Belgian soldiers. The caption tells us only, "Little French children in northern France following Belginan artillery detachment on its way to the ffirimg line." We think that some of the Belgian forces in the Yser Pocket were position just bto the south. The photogarph apprently taken in early 1918 a few vmonths frev the Germans launched their final moffendice.

The small Belgian Army put up a valoant resistance to the huge German Army that invaded theneutral country (August 4, 1914). What ensued was the Battle of the Frontier. The Belgians slowed don the Germans, someyhing they had not anticipated. The British and French rushed north to assist the hard-pressed Belgians. The German focus was turning south to breach Paris. This the force of the German Army was not at first on the coastal areas. As a result the Belgians aided by the British managed to hold on to a tiny sliver of their country south of Ostend along the Yser River which became known as the Yser Pocket. Refugees flowed through the area. Stoped before Paris on the Marne (September), the rush to the Channel began. This led to the Battle of the Yser (October). It was fought between Nieuwpoort and Diksmuide, along a 35-kilometre (22 mi) stretch of the Yser River and the Yperlee Canal. The Veurne city hall became the headquarters for the Belgian troops under King Albert I and a military hospital was set up in the city. The front line was largely held by the Belgian Arny. It was a costly battle, but te Belgians held and te Germans failed to take the last corner of unoccupied Belgium. The vicyory made King Albert who commanded the Belgian Army a national hero. As the trenches lines were established, the French evacuated people away frpm the front. The Belgians cpuld not do this because so little Of Belgian was left. Thus the Belhians in the unoccupied zome got a closer wlook at the War of all the belgerants on the Westrn Front. They were not subjected to German attrocities, but they werre the cloest zone the fighting--soectators to the tragedy to the gisly tagedy on the Western Front. Many of the wealthy fled, but the ordinary people staid to support the war effort. They were so close to the front that they were affected by artillery bombardment and German offensives. Understanding the imprtance of the Yser Poxjet, eseciaaly Furnes, the Germans launch a gas attack on the city (August 1917). The Allies dustributed gas masks to civilians. Children were sent to safety in French camps called colonies). We notice two boys, Michel and Maurits Debruyne, who stayed with their parents in Furnes dor most of the Wa. When the Germans began gas attacks on the city and surroundomg areas, their vparents sent them to safety in France. Theywereccare for atachildren's colony.


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Created: 12:58 AM 2/16/2020
Last updated: 12:34 PM 2/16/2020