Shelled building, Namur, Belgium


Namur. Trou produit par un obus (à la Boulangerie du Bon Pain)
(Hole produced by a shell (at the Boulangerie du Bon Pain [bakery])
1910s

ATTACK ON NAMUR
LONDON, Aug. 20
The Official Press Bureau publishes as reliable an account of the attack, on Namur, given by Belgian Lieutenant Deppe. When Lieutenant Deppe left Namur on Sunday the Germans, with their 11in Howitzers, had knocked three north-eastern, forts to pieces. They advanced at intervals, and bombarded the town, which was defended by the fourth Belgian infantry.
Namur was completely evacuated on Sunday, the defenders being unable to withstand the heavy artillery fire.
The Germans attacked in three-rank formation–the front lying down, tho second rank kneeling, and the third rank standing. They afforded a splendid target. Machine guns and 30 batteries of Howitzers in sections were simultaneously concentrated on each of the forts, however, and smothered them.
Sydney Morning Herald, 1 September 1914

WW I trench & ruins, Diksmuide, Belgium

Google Street View (overview)=”https://432postcards.monissa.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Dixmude-3.jpg”>
Boyau de la mort à Dixmude | Le Cavalier avec ses postes de guetteurs
Doodengang te Dixmude | De Ruiter mel zijne posten en bespieders
(Dodengang/Trech of Death in Dixmude | The Cavalier post with lookout)
c.1920
Publisher: Nels (Ernest Thill)

Located in Dixmude the ‘Trenches of Death’ comprise preserved trenches featuring galleries, shelters, firesteps, chicanes, concrete duckboards and concrete sandbags. Together they give a fair impression of the makeup of trenches during the First World War – that is, notably leaving aside the quiet, serene nature of the trenches as they appear today. The Dixmude trenches were in fact held by the Belgians for over four years during the Battles of the Yser against determined German forces (often ranged just 100 yards away), hence their grim name.
firstworldwar.com

The Dodengang (Dutch, also called Trench of Death in English and Le Boyau de la mort in French) is a World War I memorial site located near Diksmuide, Belgium. . . . The Dodengang is a 300 yards (270 m) section of preserved trench where many men were killed in World War I. The trench was begun at the time of the Battle of the Yser which was manned by soldiers of the Belgian Army. As part of the Yser Front, it played a key role in preserving the front line in this area and stopping further German incursions across the Yser Canal. Belgian soldiers fought here under the most perilous conditions until the final offensive of 28 September 1918.
Wikipedia.


DIXMUDE. — Ruines. — Pant sur l’Yser et Entrée de la Ville
Ruins. — Bridge over the Yser and entrance of the town.
c.1920
Publisher: Nels (Ernest Thill)


Ruines de Dixmude | 1914-18 | Canal d’Handzaeme
The ruins at Dixmude | 1914-18 | Handzaeme canal.
c.1920
Publisher: Nels (Ernest Thill)

Belgian Army, WW I


Armée belge | Une section de mitrailleuses Maxim
(Belgian Army: a Maxim machine gun section)
c.1914
Publisher: Nels

At the beginning of the First World War the Belgian Army could field only 102 machine guns. However, many of these guns were transported by a very unusual method. They were pulled on small gun carriages by specially trained dog teams. The machine guns seen in the photographs above are Maxim guns, but the Belgian Army also had a number of French Hotchkiss guns. The dogs used to pull the machine guns were Belgian Mastiffs, this strong breed were more than capable of drawing the 60lbs weight of a Maxim gun. . . .The relatively cheap cost of pack dogs compared to horses, along with their relative lack of maintenance – with no need for horse shoes etc, made the dogs an excellent option. They also offered a much lower profile than that of a pack horse, allowing them to stay close to the guns ready to move under cover when in action, and were much easier to handle without the need for specially trained troops. The dog teams were attached to most Belgian line infantry regiments with each battalion with 6 guns, split into 2-gun sections – each battalion had 36 dogs for the 18 gun and ammunition carriages. The machine guns could be brought into action very quickly and it was said that the dogs were so well trained they would remain quiet and patient in their harnesses until it was time to move again.
Historical Firearms


Armée belge | Les Cyclistes
(Belgian Amry: The Cyclists)
c.1914
Publisher: Nels

Bicycle infantry are infantry soldiers who maneuver on (or, more often, between) battlefields using military bicycles. The term dates from the late 19th century, when the “safety bicycle” became popular in Europe, the United States, and Australia. Historically, bicycles lessened the need for horses, fuel and vehicle maintenance.
Wikipedia.

With the advent of WWI, the thickly-roaded districts of France and Flanders meant that military cyclists would find the ground better suited for their wheels than combatants found in the South African veldt. The flat landscape of the low countries meant that Belgium in particular was an ideal environment for military cyclists and they were well used in the initial stages before the static stalemate of the trenches set in. Four Carabinier battalions of the Belgian army had attached companies of cyclists. They wore a distinctive uniform with a somewhat old-fashioned peaked hat similar to a kepi. Their cycles were the “Belgica” which was a foldable cycle. This allowed the bicycle to be slung across the shoulder when encountering difficult terrain. A dedicated military cycling school in Belgium provided troops with specific training in reading maps, reconnaissance and communication techniques, as well as the mechanical skills needed to maintain the bicycles.
Suburban Militarism: Belgium’s Carabinier Bicyclists


Armée belge | Escadron de cavalerie
(Belgian Amry: cavalry squadron)
c.1914
Publisher: Nels

The use of horses in World War I marked a transitional period in the evolution of armed conflict. Cavalry units were initially considered essential offensive elements of a military force, but over the course of the war, the vulnerability of horses to modern machine gun, mortar, and artillery fire reduced their utility on the battlefield. This paralleled the development of tanks, which ultimately replaces cavalry in shock tactics. While the perceived value of the horse in war changed dramatically, horses still played a significant role throughout the war.
Wikipedia.

Water tower, Zeebrugge, Belgium


Zeebrugge – Château d’Eau
(Zeebrugge – Water tower)
c.1910

Built 1907, destroyed during World War I.

The harbour was the site of the Zeebrugge Raid on 23 April 1918, when the British Royal Navy temporarily put the German inland naval base at Bruges out of action. Admiral Roger Keyes planned and led the raid that stormed the German batteries and sank three old warships at the entrance to the canal leading to the inland port.
Wikipedia.


Ruines de Zeebrugge | 1914-18 | Château d’Eau et Abri
The ruins of Zeebrugge | 1914-18 | Water works and shelter
c.1919
Publisher: Nels (J. Revyn)

A book of postcards with a view of the replacement water tower (image 38) and a map showing the location (no. 19 on map).

Destroyed Tank, Belgium

Ruines d’Ypres-Hooge  | 1914-18 | Tank détruit
Ruines des Halles et Grand  Place | 1914-18 | A destroyed tank
c.1920
Publisher: Nels (Ernest Thill)

The red text (repeated on the back) is promoting a magarine factory in Belgium (link is in Dutch).

Wikipedia: Tanks in World War I

Wikipedia: British heavy tanks of World War I

Nobody was prepared for the bloody stalemate which prevailed during the First World War. Officers from all countries had in mind brash pictures of daring offensives with waving flags and blaring trumpets, epic cavalry charges and massive infantry squares marching under fire, bright uniforms, tactical genius and glory. This was quite a romantic view which was familiar to the commoners, the very same ones who then embarked with happiness and chants onto the trains. But, quickly, the grim reality of an attrition war became apparent, with death on an industrial scale. The early French offensives sank before the whirling staccato of the German Mauser machine-guns.

After a full retreat, the German offensive was miraculously stopped on the Marne, a few dozen miles north-east of Paris. From Belgium to Switzerland, all the opponents entrenched themselves. Artillery, barbed wire and machine guns took their toll on every offensive. On the German side, some attempts to break the stalemate included assault squads equipped with portable machine guns and grenades, as well as gas and flamethrowers. . . The idea of the “tank”, in the modern meaning of the word, appeared simultaneously in France and in Great Britain. In the latter, it was due to Lt. Col. Ernest Swinton, and in the former due to Col. Jean Baptiste Estienne. Both advocated the use of the Holt Tractor, which was then largely in use with the Allies as a gun tractor. This led to further developments and, despite many setbacks, culminated in 1916 when the first operational tanks were put to the test.
The Online Tank Museum

Fire, Brussels International Exposition


Bruxelles-Exposition
L’Incendie des 14-15 Août 1910
L’Avenue des Nations

c.1910

The Brussels International Exposition of 1910 was a World’s fair held in Brussels, Belgium, from 23 April to 1 November 1910. This was just thirteen years after Brussels’ previous World’s fair. It received 13 million visitors, covered 88 hectares (220 acres) and lost 100,000 Belgian Francs. . . . There was a big fire on 14 and 15 August which gutted several pavilions in the Solbosch part of the exhibition. Part of the Belgian and French sections were destroyed, but the worst hit was the English section. After the fire, some destroyed parts were rebuilt at a rapid pace. This event attracted the attention of the public and the organisers were able to successfully use it for the promotion of the exhibition.
Wikipedia.

The results of the fire were horrifying in the rapidity with which they followed upon a trifling cause. A chance spark from a watchman’s pipe or the hot glow from a fused electric wire. Some such trifle as this originated the trouble. Then, at about a quarter to 9 on Sunday evening, an attendant saw a curtain smouldering in the Needle work hall. He called a gendarme to help him and tried to pull the burning curtain down. But, within a few seconds the roof was ablaze and, five minutes later the Exhibition was itself illuminated by the fiery glow.

The British Commissioner-General, who was in the midst of it all describes the scene thus:-
“Portions of the roof fell quickly, and flames ran along the facade with extraordinary rapidity, as they were sure to do in a building made of lath and plaster and stocked with light inflammable materials. Near the heart of the fire–if not in it–there were wax mannequins of Brussels dressmakers and these aided the furnace, but on breaking into the British section at the other end, where the offices are, it looked for the moment as if the flames were not coming our way, but might pass along the facade, and leave us time to save at least the more valuable contents. Beyond the great arch at the end of the section, however, there was an unbroken sheet of flame and in the absence of firemen a quarter of an hour decided the fate of everything.

“A dozen members the staff either attracted by the fierce light or already in the grounds the grounds worked hard and without confusion to save the moneys and all valuable papers particularly the plans of the Turin Exhibition. Mr Balaam, the treasurer, Mr Harries, representing the Board of Agriculture, who were exhibítors and other members of the staff lent willing hands and nothing of value was left behind. But the work was hardly done when men were crying ‘Sauve qui peut’. Entering the hall one saw a great body of flame leap along above the Bradford and Huddersfield tableaux and the priceless loan collection of furniture, flash through the light velarium, and scattering brands upon the show-cases. A great gust of wind came through the falling roof, and all was over. One had to leave the masterpieces of Bernard Moore and Howson Taylor exposed to a greater fire than that of the potter’s furnace.”

The fire was not sated. Like a torrent it rushed on, catching the velarium, and making the roof appear like “one tongue of fire”. An  onlooker states:- “The flames now reached the bridge which spans the Avenue Solbosch, between the French and British sections. With the sound of broken glass, tho roaring of the flames, the fall of girders, the bridge broke own into the avenue, and for a time it seemed as if the French section might be saved. There was, indeed, a kind of lull. Hero it may be said that the seeming incompetence of the Belgian firemen, the absence of any official with adequate common-sense, the multiplying of little jacks-in-office to bar the way were almost entirely to blame for the subsequent loss of the French Alimentation section, the Ville do Paris, and six houses on the Avenue Solbosch. Mr. Hotchkiss, the representative of the Underfeed Stoker Company, actually offered to lead a gang of men with axes and sledge-hammers to cut down the bridge three-quarters of an hour before the flames became too strong. To his offer the following reply was made: ‘We have no axes, no men, and no hammers.’ It was then proposed to blow up the bridge. ‘Dus aliter visum.’

“The bridge fell at about 10, but the French section had already caught. The fire ran along the Restaurant Duval incredibly fast. The French wines, the French chocolates, and other stalls for edible or potable wares disappeared like magic. The roof fell in, the walls collapsed, and the heat was so great that those who were on guard in the gardens below with articles rescued from the flames were forced to hide their faces behind the rose and apple trees. Taking, as it were, a second wind, the fire seemed to cross over and seize upon the brick houses of the Avenue Solbosch, and six were speedily tending heavenwards columns of smoke. In the French Industrial Hall, too, the flames began to make their way. The cases of jewellery were smashed and the valuable jewels conveyed across to a restaurant on the other side of the gardens. In the hurry and bustle amidst the red glow of the fires, the showers of sparks, and the clouds of smoke there was one found who endeavoured to steal from a showcase His fate was pitiable. Running at full speed, he was bought up by a cowboy with ‘punch’ on the jaw, and was seized by his infuriated pursuers. The police saved him with difficulty.”

Some of the most terrible scenes were witnessed in “Old Brussels,” where Bostock’s well-known wild-beast show was an attraction. The poor beasts were maddened with fear as the flames invaded the section. Someone fearing that they might escape and cause a panic in the now frightened crowd suggested shooting the creatures. Eight gendarmes were hurriedly sent for, and took their places with loaded rifles. Then it was remembered that the bullets would go beyond the open cages. A colony of monkeys were giv6n their liberty, but the rest were left to their fate. The charred remains of lions, bears, panthers, crocodiles, and the rest were found among the ruins next day.

“Old Brussels” itself was one of the most picturesque corners m the Exhibition. There were the narrow streets
twisting and turning with their courtyards and wooden bridges, which one instinctively associates with, old Flanders. The old wooden houses, with painted shutters, carved doorpost, and overhanging gables were fine fare for the fire fiends. Over the doorways of some were little niches with painted statue of the Virgin. These perished too. Within the leaded mullions and green panes one could see the benches set with tankards of Flemish beer. It was a picture such as the Brothers Grimm have made familiar to us all from childhood but all so substantial. When the flames came, they reduced everything to white cinders and black debris within a few minutes. The most dangerous moment from the human standpoint was when the fire reached Old Brussels and the crowds in the narrow streets were panic-stricken. Fortunately, beyond some serious cases of crushing all escaped.
The Mercury, 29 September 1910

War Damage, Ypres, Belgium


La Grande Guerre 1914-16 – Ypres (Belgique) – Rue d’Elwerdinghe
Postmarked 1916


Ruines d’Ypres
The ruins of Ypres
Ruines des Halles et Grand  Place
Ruins of the Hlls and Market Place
c.1920
Publisher: Nels (Ernest Thill)

Google Street View (approximate).
Prior to war


Ruines d’Ypres Place du Musée et Conciergerie
The ruins of Ypres Museum Place and Conciergerie

c.1920
Publisher: Nels (Ernest Thill)

Lange Max, Koekelare, Belgium


Pièce du Leugenboom à Moere
Chariot pour transport de munitions de l’abri à la pièce
(Cart for transporting ammunition from storage to the gun.)
On back:
Service des Sites de la Guerre 1914-18
Vendu au profit des Œuvres des Invalides et Orphelins de la Guerre
c.1920
Publisher: Nels (Ernest Thill)

Google Street View.

Lange Max Museum
Memories of the Great War: Leugenboom’s Lange Max (in French)

Batterie Pommern, also known as Lange Max, was the world’s biggest gun in 1917, during World War I. The German gun was of type 38 cm SK L/45 “Max” and had a modified design by Krupp compared to earlier German 38 cm gun types. The modification allowed the gun to shoot from Koekelare to Dunkirk, which is about 50 km away.

Batterie Pommern is located in Koekelare in the neighborhood called Leugenboom. It is part of Site Lange Max, next to the Lange Max Museum. Today, the immense artillery platform can still be visited.

The 15inch (38 cm) long range gun, protected by armour, was mounted on a steel bridge having a pivot in front. The rear part of the gun travelled along a circular rail-track in a concrete pit of about 70 feet in diameter. The gun was manoeuvred by means of electric motors. On either side were large shelters in reinforced concrete. In front of and below the platform there was an electric generator group. A large shelter of reinforced concrete on the right was probably the Post of Commandment. There was a dummy gun emplacement further on.
Wikipedia.

St Aubin’s Cathedral, Namur, Belgium


Namur l’Eglise

Google Street View.

The cathedral was founded as a collegiate church in 1047 by Albert II of Namur. The first dean, Frederick of Lorraine, brother-in-law of Albert II, about 1050 secured from Mainz Cathedral a portion of the head of Saint Albinus, to whose patronage the collegiate church was dedicated. In 1057 Frederick became pope under the name of Stephen IX. In 1209, Pope Innocent III formally took the church of St Aubin under his protection. The church became a cathedral by virtue of the papal bull of 12 May 1559 establishing the new bishoprics in the Low Countries, with the Diocese of Namur created as a suffragan see of the Archdiocese of Cambrai. . . . Between 1751 and 1767 the cathedral was almost entirely rebuilt to Italianate designs of the Ticinese architect Gaetano Matteo Pisoni. A 13th-century tower at the west end of the church is the main remnant from before the rebuilding.
Wikipedia.