Text & Pictures: Serge Van Heertum © sbap 2014

In 1914 and since her independence in 1830, Belgium was, what we call, an impartial country, what meant that she could not support one country more than another one. In case of war, Belgium could not participate in the conflict, but the neighbouring countries could not attack her as well. However from August 04, 1914, a few days after the beginning of World War I, Belgium already was drawn into the conflict.

The trigger was the murder in Sarajaveo on June 28, 1914 of François-Ferdinand of Habsburg by the young Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip.

The following anguishing period started on July 23 when Austria-Hungary sent an ultimatum to Serbia ; the Belgian public opinion accustomed slowly to the eventuality of a world conflict. She refused to believe in the possibility of a big war. Of course the government took some mobilization measures, but to most of the people these measures were only cautionary matters. Moreover, the German State Secretary for Foreign Affairs said at the Reichstag : "The neutrality of Belgium is governed by international conventions and Germany has decided to respect these conventions".

On August 02, 1914 at 07 PM, Julien Davignon, Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs, received a confidential note from the German staff headquarters giving Belgium an ultimatum with a twelve hour delay, but King Albert I fiercely opposed to it. So on August 02, 1914, the German army invaded Luxemburg and asked Belgium passage for its troops to move on to and attack France. Belgium refused this, invoking its neutrality, and German soldiers penetrated by force our territory. The Belgian army tried to resist the best they could during several days, getting into battle on numerous places like Liège, Namur, Mons, Antwerp... When Belgium's neutrality was flouted, the British government declared war to Germany and sent its troops to the continent in support of the French and Belgian force.

But very rapidly the whole country was in German hands which lasted for four years. They said Germany occupied Belgium, but to this however was a little exception. The western side of the country, near de Yser and the city of Ieper, resisted the invasion of the enemy. In 1915, this war became a position's war, where each party tried to regain parts of territory at the cost of countless life's. This conflict got bogged and became a war of trenches.

Some battles still resound in our minds like the battle of the Somme, the battle of Verdun, the battle of the Yser, the battle of Passendaele...

It was a world conflict involving Eastern and African countries as well. Even the United States entered this conflict in support of Europe.

This conflict was terrestrial of course, but also naval and aerial. Throughout these years, the military technologies evolved rapidly and military aviation took a certain rise in Belgium putting some great names forward such as Willy Coppens, Jan Olieslagers, Fernand Jacquet, André de Meulemeester and Edmond Thieffry.

After four years of blood and terror a wind of change occurred definitively. In Germany; Guillaume II refused to abdicate which led to protest demonstrations in favour of peace. On November 03, 1918, mutinies broke out at Kiel, seamen refusing to fight a supplementary battle "for the honour". The revolutionary wave reached whole of Germany and on November 09, Guillaume II is forced to abdicate and the staff headquarters asking to sign the armistice. The government of the new German Republic signed it on November 11, 1918 in the woods of Compiègne in the train of Marechal Foch when the Canadian troops launched their last war offensive attacking Mons in Belgium.

This is just a brief summary of this dark page of our contemporary history and much more articles can be found detailing the various aspects of this war.

For all the ones that suffered during the World War I

2014 is the starting point of the celebration of the centenary of this war and the world, Europe and Belgium in particular organized numerous commemorations, events and exhibits. An incredible number of publications were edited those last months, allowing us to have a better insight in the ins and outs of this great war.

And of course the Belgian Ministry of Defence is also involved in these commemorations and the Air Force in particular. A part of the fleet of the Air Force sports the logo representing the poppy. The poppy is a wild growing flower and its red colour stands for the bloodshed of the soldier who gave his life for our freedom.
These airplanes we can qualify as ambassadors, our F-16 solo-display, the Red devils, the fleet of the 15th Transport Wing, C-130H included, all do wear this logo and in traveling around the world the can shout out loud we never will forget the sacrifice of our fathers during those dark hours of the contemporary history.


Historical view...(By Alexander Vandenbohede)

The Flowers of Flanders Field

The poppy Papaver rhoea, or red-flowered corn poppy, is a common weed in Europe and is found in many locations, so also in Flanders. The flower was immortalized in the famous poem "in Flanders Field" by Canadian surgeon and soldier John McCrae. In Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand, artificial poppies are worn to commemorate those who died in war. Wearing of poppies has also been a custom since 1924 in the United States.
Whereas the poppy became a symbol for British and Commonwealth soldiers, the daisy became important for the Belgian soldiers. Like the poppy, it was one of the few flowers that could occur in the devastated soils of no man's land. The white color symbolized peace and many soldiers added a daisy to the letters for their beloved.
"Geplukt aan de boorden van de IJzer" - "Ceuillies au bord de l'Yser" (from the border of the River Yser), werd er dan vermeld. The daisy, unfortunately, did not stand the test of time and the poppy is now also used in Flanders and Belgium as a symbol to commemorate the Great War.

Lockheed-Martin F-16AM solo display performed by Cdt Renaud "Grat" Thys in 2014
Drawing by Alexander Vandenbohede

Siai Marchetti SF.260M of the Red Devils aerobatic team

Lockheed-Martin C-130H Hercules of the 20 Squadron, humanitary ambassador for Belgium
Airbus A321 of the 21 Squadron

Avion Marcel Dassault Falcon 20, 21 Squadron

The VIP flight, Embraer ERJ 135 & ERJ 145 of the 21 Squadron

Avion Marcel Dassault Falcon 900D, 21 Squadron
Click on logo for more informations about the different events

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