Germany Occupies Brussels

Leaving a garrison of 3000 behind to guard Louvain, the German army swept forward toward Brussels.

The Belgians had thought to defend their capital, but now, fearing its destruction by bombardment, they wisely decided to evacuate the city. King Albert, on August 17, 1914, had transferred his government to the fortressed city of Antwerp. He was accompanied by all the diplomatic corps, excepting Brand Whitlock, the American Minister to Belgium, who remained at Brussels to render invaluable services to the cause of humanity.

On August 20, 1914, 50,000 German troops entered Brussels without a shot being fired, while on the nearby plain of Waterloo the main body of von Kluck's huge army was encamped. Aping the vulgar, brutal pomp of Asiatic conquerors, these Huns paraded through the streets of lovely Brussels, stopping now and then to tear down the national colors or to menace the populace with direful threats. Like another Pompey, an officer of the mounted Uhlans dragged two manacled Belgian officers by the stirrup leathers at the heels of his horse.

The Belgian populace groaned at this barbarous spectacle, whereupon a troop of Uhlans backed their horses into the ranks of the spectators, threatening them with raised sabers. That night,under cover of the darkness, many thousands of refugees left Brussels, filling the roads leading to Alost, Ghent, and Ostend.

As at Louvain, only a few thousand Huns were left behind to guard Brussels, the left wing of von Kluck's army having moved southward to attack the French on the Sambre front. The center army, after passing through Brussels, advanced south by east into the plains of Belgium. The right wing had already passed between Brussels and Antwerp to the capture of Bruges and Ghent. Governor General von Arnim imposed a fine of $40,000,000 on Brussels, which was raised after much difficulty.

The soldiers of occupation refrained from massacring the inhabitants, contenting themselves with excesses in wines and liquors in saloons, the hotels, cafes, and private homes.

After the occupation of Louvain and Brussels by the Germans, the main army of Gen. von Kluck had made a wide sweep through Western Belgium, preparatory to a descent across the French frontier. This movement has been compared to that of a farm gate swinging shut upon its hinges.

The advance guard of von Kluck's army consisted of four divisions of cavalry, supported by batteries of horse artillery, machine guns and motor transport mounting quick-fire guns, with the German Second Corps in rear.

With incredible speed, this German vanguard swept down on Tournai and Lille, capturing a French brigade and a British battery, and spreading panic through the countryside. The immediate object of this raid was to cut out the communications of the British army with its principal bases at Boulogne and Havre.

Further west, across the Lys, other bands of Uhlans raided the unprotected towns and villages, terrifying the inhabitants. Pushing southward, without serious interference, von Kluck's raiders crossed the frontier and seized Arras, which gave them control of the northern lines to Calais and Boulogne. Advancing toward Amiens, possession of which would imperil the chief line of supply of the British force, the Germans at Bapaume encountered a division of French Territorial troops, who fought gallantly until they were almost surrounded.

At this critical juncture, a British detachment came to the rescue of the French, enabling- them to escape from their perilous position. The evacuation of Amiens followed, but before abandoning the city the British and French were able to save most of their rolling stock.

The British supply base at Boulogne, being no longer tenable, a new base was established in the west of France at St. Nazaire, with an advanced base fifty miles inland at Le Maus. The sorely pressed Allies were now forming on the Mons-Charleroi line awaiting the attack which was to send them reeling back 150 miles to the Marne.

The German occupation of Luxembourg in World War I was the first of two military occupations of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg by Germany in the twentieth century. From August 1914 until the end of World War I in November 1918, Luxembourg was under full occupation by the German Empire. The German government justified the occupation by citing the need to support their armies in neighbouring France, although many Luxembourgers, contemporary and present, have interpreted German actions otherwise.