Although King Albert I was the nephew of Kaiser Wilhelm II, who ruled an empire ten times greater than Belgium, he didn't garantuee him a save passage through Belgium in order to prenounce war to France. For this reason, Kaiser Wilhelm II invaded Belgium on the 4th of August 1914. A mighty army was unleashed against the poorest army of Europe during this time.
The governement abondend the fatherland, the army surprised by the invaders attack couldn't prevent the loss of the great fortresses at Liége and Namur. Even the great fortress city of Antwerp couldn't hold the massive attack. To spare the soldiers from a certain death and captivity King Albert ordered the retreat of the army behind the river yser. From here the Belgian army fought for days and nights and eventualy halted the German army, wich resulted in the potential aid of the French and English soldiers. King Albert never abondened his army for one minute, he flew many times over enemy territory from the royal villas in De Panne to visit the frontlines, even went into the trenches. He urned many respects from allied and even enemy soldiers.
I like to finish this introduction with a applicable qoute inspired from the tales of J.R.R. Tolkien:
"By writing this article, I truly see him know, abandend/thwarted by our former countries representatives, founding his inexhaustible motivation with those who fought and died for our freedom, who all lost comrades beyond the count of grieves and above all learning there enemy that our Belgian blood is not so easely be conquered, as proven in history. He rallied our forces combined with famous and motivational speeches have defeated our enemy, and now I think to myself, there is one, that I could follow, there is one I could call king !"
PRINCE ALBERT IN THE BELGIAN ARMY
In 1890, at the age of 15, prince Albert was sent to the Belgian Military academie and was incorporated into the '41e promotie IC', where studied for two years. From there he choice to enlist in the Grenadiers Regiment where he pledged the legions to the flag on 15 December 1892 as a Non Commissioned Officer. After his return from America in 1898 he rejoined his regiment and was appointed Lieutenant-General in 1907.
Prince Albert I during his time on the Military Academy in Brussels
Emperor Wilhelm II and King Albert I in a carriage in Brussels on 26 October 1910
THE DECLORATION OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR
In august the German Emperor, Wilhelm II asked his nephew, the current king of Belgium, Albert I for a save passage through to Belgium for mobilising the German Army to attack on France. King Albert and the Belgian Governement of Charles de Broqueville refused and stated that the Treaty of 1839, wich states the Belgian neutrality had to be respected. On the 4th of August 1914, King Albert I spoke the following words in parlement:
"Never since 1830 has a graver hour sounded for Belgium. The
strength of our right and the need of Europe for our autonomous
existence make us still hope that the dreaded events will not occur."
His hope that the events will not occur, was faded in the morning of 5 august 1914, when the German Army invaded Belgium. As established in the constitution, King Albert I was now the leading commander of ta Belgian army in wartime and put up his headquarter at the castle of Baron Dieudonné in Korbeek-Lo (just outside Leuven). The king stayed here from the 5th of August until the 19th of August 1914.
The Germans first objective was to conquer the fortresses around Liege and Namur. The resistance of the Belgian Army delayed the invation of France for 4 to 5 days. On the 12th of August a major German cavalry force was embushed on the outskirts of Haelen. The Belgian won the battle but had to retreat to Antwerp afterwards. The consequences where severe for the Belgian civilians, because the German headquarters where shure that the German Army was attacked by Belgian militia units, that where called 'franc-tirreurs'. The English expeditionary forced had arrived in France the same they as the battle of Haelen took place (12 August 1914). They immediatly took defence possions around the Belgian town of Mons. By this time the allies fought the Germans over a line that went from the North Sea until the French Alsace. The Belgian Army who fought with outstanding bravery, had to retrait to the West Flanders, where the General Staf put up headquartes at Furnes. By this time King Albert I had abandoned Brussel, and joined the General Staf at Furnes, while the governement had moved itself to Antwerp, but left on the 13th of Oktober to the French village of Le Havre.
King Albert, in his full military uniform ca. 1914
THE BATTLE OF THE YZER
On the 14th of October, after some well deserved rest of the Belgian Army, King Albert was forced to give up five infantry divisions to the French line at Eernegem-Kortemark. Later that day the king recieved a cancel of the order, until his great releaf, by the British General Rawlinson, because he had sent his forces to Ieper and moved away from Roeselare. King Albert remained at Nieuwpoort until he moved the army behind the river Ijser. In his diary he set:
"The Belgian Army is a greaf defender, but aren't great assault men".
When the Belgian line was attacked on the morning of 15 October 1914, King Albert wrote the following words to his troops:
"In the positions I placed you in, your countenance must always be in
front of the enemy; you will be stand as a traiter of the fatherland, if
you dare to speak the word "retreat", without consent of a higher
General Gallet testied the follow words on his experience with King Albert I as his commander:
"I have not seen His majesty animated by a colder energy. The tone of the
communication that he made to each divisional commander, in the presence of the chief
of staff who took note, did not allow the slightest doubt on the ruthless resolution that
animated him. - GENERAL GALLET
The great German offensive was launched on the 18th of October 1914 of a frontline of approxematly 100km. Most of the Allied lines where overrun, just as the Belgian Army in n Schore, Keiem en Mannekensvere, but at Beerse they stood there ground. It was in this moment that the Belgian forced a counter attack at Lombardsijde and regained there positions. The next day German infantry launched many counter attacks on Lombardsijde but the Belgians fought them off everytime. It was only till the next day that the German broke the Belgian lines at Lombardsijde and the Belgian 2nd Division retreated some 600 meters.
On the 24th of October 1914, General Foch of the French army visited King Albert with the message he wanted to flooded the areas around Lombardsijde, Veurne and Lo. This plan was previuous rejected by the prime minister Charles de Broqueville, because it will split the Belgian Army off from the French forces. King Albert also rejected the plan, because he wasn't going to destroy the last free Belgian country with salt water. The Belgian General Staf came with an alternative solution the day after. The plan was to flooded certain parts of the region, by using the locks on the Ijzer river. The action took many engeneering of digging ditches, so the water would not flood into the Belgian trenches. The first attempt in the night 26 and 27 October failed and the situation became critical for the Belgian Army. This is way King Albert went to the British General Staf of Field-Marchal French at Sint-Omaars for aide. French could not deliver any reserve troops, because his forces where fighting to the end at Ieper. The Belgian forces, exhausted and heavely outnumbered remained there ground until the 30th of October when a second attempt for flooding sections of the area was succesfull and the Germans had to abbandon there trenches. This ended the battle for the Yser.
King Albert visiting the frontlines
KING ALBERT I TAKES UP HEADQUARTERS AND RESIDENCE WITH HIS FAMILY IN THE ROYAL VILLAS IN DE PANNE
In October 1914, King Albert I and his familly took up residence in the so called 'Royal Villas' in De Panne. These villas where the Bortier, de Terschueren, Maskens and Saint-Joseph. The Royal familly took the villa 'Maskens'. The villa 'de Terschueren' was incorporated with high ranking officers and served as a study for the education of Queen Elisabeth and her three childeren. Villa Saint Joseph was held by nuns who requested Queen Elisabeth to held a orphanage.
King Albert writing on the the dinning table in villa Paul Maskens.
King Alberts oldest son, prince leopold joined voluntarely the 12th infantry regiment at the each of 13 in April 1915. The king spoke to the supperiors of his son on the beach of De Panne the following words:
" I want no special treatement for my son, let him work in the trenches he has to know how it feels to have blisters on his hands"
Prince Leopold stayed as his father requisted in the trenches and was even under enemy shell fire, but came out unharmed. Six months later the king sent Prince Leopold to Elton College in England. Prince Leopold will return to Belgium after the war ended and marched with his old unit into Brussels and Leuven on the liberation days.
PRINCE LEOPOLD, KING ALBERTS OLDEST SON JOINS VOLUNTARELY THE BELGIAN ARMY AT THE AGE OF 13.
THE POLITICAL AND MORAL BATTLE WITH THE FRENCH HIGH COMMAND AND THE BELGIAN GOVERNEMENT
When prime minister Charles de Broqueville moved the entire Belgian governement to Le Havre after the battle of Antwerp was decided, he placed themselves in a distance of 300 km from King Albert. This ment that the cooporation between the king and the governement wasn't going to be easy. It even forced de Broqueville to take up residence in Dunkirk and had to pendle between the King and the governement for three years. The relationship between the prime minister and King Albert I was mostly business and sometime intence because of there different opinions. Eventualy there conflict will result in the dismission (when the time is justified) of de Broqueville.
King Albert I (right) and General Joffre, commander of the French army
THE BATTLE ON THE 'REIGERSVLIET'
6 MARCH 1918
The battle at the Riegersvliet was an German offensive that was needed to plan an attack on Merkem in April 1918. The Reigersvliet was a stream of one and half till 2 meters wide wich had a bridgehead off 1,6 kilometer in total. This possition was situeted between the 'Twee Appelaars' farm (North) and the 'Drie Gevels' farm in the south.
King Albert (left) in a trench on the Belgian frontline
THE LIBARATION OFFENSIVE
28 September - 11 November 1918
The Libaration offensive was a combined offensive of Belgian, French and British soldiers that started on the 28 of September 1918. The objective was the concquer major Belgian cities as Passchendale, Stadenberg, Diksmuide and others stratigic positions on the line. The follow day General Jacques division fought hard at the outskirts of Zandbeke and captured 30 canons and thousands of prisoners. General Michel conquers Dixmuide in the afternoon with the 18th Infantry.
Two weeks later the battle of Torhout-Tielt was launched. This was the last major trenchline of the German stronghold from Zarren till Ledegem. The first day the Belgian Army captures the towns of Handzame, Hooglede en Roeselare and many smaller villages. This succes let to the following order by the Belgian High command:
" "proceed with the offensive without interruption, day and night"
On the second day (15 October) the Belgian 3th infantry division conquered St Katelijne Kapelle and managed to go beyond Lendelede. The British Army had conquered Wervik and Meenen in the meantime.
Because of the major progress by the Belgian army, King Albert recieved the command of the 11th and 12th French divisions and the 7th and 91th American divisions. On the 26th of October, orderd King Albert a combined attack to drove the enemy back over the river 'Schelde'. On the first of November the French army made a massive progress when they reached the Schelde from Oudenaarde till Nazareth. The next day the Belgian Army crossed the river Leie and conquers Eekloo. On the 3th of November Evergem and Drongen where conquered after intense fighting. At this point the Belgian Army is not far from Gent and the channel of Terneuzen.
On the 11th of November 1911, the 2nd division conquered Gent, while the British take Ath and Lessen and Mons is taken by the Canadians.
That morning the following message was sent to all high command posts:
"All enemy activicties will end on the 11th of November, by 11 a clock, until further orders, the allied forces will not cross the line wich they have reached by this time."
THE VISIT OF EMPORER WILHELM II DURING THE 1910 EXHIBITION
During the Universal Exhibition in the spring of 1910 held in Brussels, Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany visited the Belgian Royal Family in October 1910. By this time prince Albert, was appointed to succeed his father, Leopold II, who died in 1909, and was appointed King in december 1910. It was not surprisingly that Emperor Wilhelm II visited Belgium just a year later, because both Royals where nephew to each other. This is clearly noted in the next letter King Albert sent to Wilhelm II on the 1st of August 1914:
Bruxelles, 1st of August 1914
Sire and best cousin,
The war that threatens to break out between the two neighboring powers, gives me, as you will easily understand, serious preoccupations.
For more than eighty years Belgium has been independent, our country has conscientiously obeyed its international obligations, many times under the most difficult circumstances, and the Chancellor of the Empire has mademade a daring justice correct and impartial attitude in 1870.
Your majesty and his government have on a number of occasions given us precious proofs of friendship and sympathy, and highly authorized persons have given us the assurance that, in case of a new conflict, the neutrality of Belgium will be respected.
We have fully understood the political objections to the publication of this declaration, but we have no doubt that the sentiments and intentions of the mighty Empire, of which your Majesty directs the destiny, have not modified us in any way. The relations of kinship and friendship which unite our two families closely, have determined me to write to you and to Teprier, at this hour so grave, to wish to renew to me the expression of these sentiments towards my country. will be very grateful to you for such kindness. With this confidence I remain
Your faithful and devoted cousin,
The German ultimatum of 2 August 1914.
The battle of Antwerp started on the 28th of September 1914 with German long rang artilleryfire on the fortress around Antwerp and the actual assault came on the 1st of October. The Belgian Governement immedialty sent a telegram to England, that the Belgian Army could not hold the German offensive and will retreat from Antwerp within three days. This resulted that the English army, sent British reinforcements to the city to help the Belgian Army to kept the strategic city into allies hands. All hope was lost on the 7th of October 1914 and a major retreat to the west was ordered. King Albert joined the Belgian retreat in person, because there was no doubt in his mind that the Belgian Army would surrender that day. Neither was a fight to the death and the annihilation of the Belgian Army a solution to him. The only decent solution was the major retreat of the Belgian and British forces to the towns of Lokeren and Sint Niklaas. From here, Albert I tought to bring the Belgian Army to the Belgian coastline and coordinate the war from Ostend. Albert I wouldn't accept his army to be incorporated into the French army and wanted the Belgian Army to opperate as an independent force. This is way he joiced to settle the Belgian Army in the area Nieuwpoort, Veurne and Diksmuide.
THE BATTLE OF ANTWERP
King Albert, Chief-Commander of the Belgian army, surrounded with refugees and his military staff officers, during the battle of the Yzer - October 1914.
King Albert inspecting the troops
THE DEFENCE ON THE YZER
After the flooding of the Yser, the Belgian army began on the so called 'Holly watch'. This ment that the Belgians should secure the left wing of the allied army. There was also the symbolic and patriotic aspect, that the Belgians should defend the only free Belgian peace of country that was left. The line of defense began at Nieuwpoort and ended on the old fort of Knokke in the North. This means that the Belgian frontline was 40 kilometers in diameter, and situated soldiers sometimes just 20 meter from the enemy lines. Because it was impossible to dig into the ground in the area around the Yser, the Belgian engineers needed to build trenches above the ground. It was set that the Belgians shuffled there motherland into bags during the next 4 years of the war.
The royal villas at De Panne, from left to right; Villa Paul Maskens, Villa de Terschueren and Paviljoen Bortier
THE BATTLE OF THE 'STEENSTRAAT'
On the 22th of April 1915 the first Poison gas assault accured just around 5.00 PM. At least 5.000 German Poison gas cyllinders where opened and the poison cloud flew around the entire frontline, making the most casualties in the two French divisions. The Belgian 6th Division and the Canadian division fought the Germans of the 45th Reserve Division off, but couldn't prevent that they crossed the channel of the Yzer. The next day the German conquered Lizerne, but it was at this moment, the Belgian grenadiers orderd a bayonet charge, wich resulted in the retreat of the Germans. After there actions they where releaved by the 3th infantry regiment and sent to Oostvleteren and Elsendame. It took more than a month until the allies had restored the old lines. King Albert I decorated some of the Grenadiers in person at Bray-Dunes on the 14th of Juli 1915.
An other difficult diplomatic and moral conflict of Albert I was the constant arguing with the French supreme command, mostly with General Foch, who tried to incorporated divisions of the Belgian army in the reinforcement French army. Knowing that the Belgian soldiers will be used in massive meaningless offensives he rejected every idea and reminded that the Belgian army was an independent force. King Albert would only participate in a major offensive when the chance of victory is actualy there. He would not risks the lives of the Belgian army for an offensive that can not be won. It was only until the spring of 1918 when such a 'liberation offensive' was up hand.
King Albert I (right) in British uniform and in the presence of King Georges V of Great-Britain. (left)
King Albert in visiting the Belgian frontlins
SPEECH KING ALBERT I 27/09/1918
you will deliver a powerful assault on the enemy positions. Side by side by the comrades of the British and French forces. It is up to you to repress the German invader. Show yourself worthy of the sacred cause of our independence, worthy of our traditions and our race.Be shure of the Victory. for the Right, for freedom, for glorious and immortal Belgium!
NOTE BY KINGALBERT IN THE DISPATCH OF THE ARMY
Officers, Nco's And Soldiers
You have made yourself meritorious to your fatherland. Your heroic resistance at Luik, Antwerp and Namen has delayed the enemy, wich had to be fatal for them.
For more than four years, you have defended the last piece of the fatherland in the muddy front of the Yzer.
Finaly, you compelled the general admirring and have laid a bloody defeat upon the enemy.
The tyrant, who ruled with a reign of terror against our people, who betrayed our establishment, who the best of our people enchained, who admitted randomness and oppression, is permanently defeated. The dawn of justice has rized, you will nbe reunited with your cities and villages, your parents and all you love.
Belgium, conquered by your bravery waits to cheer for you.
Honor to our wounded ! Honor to our deaths !
Honor to you, Officers, Nco's and Soldiers.
I am proud of you. Much I have asked from you: everytime you showed me you unconditionally cooporation.
You have won the thankfullness and admirring of the country,
GRAND MASTER IN THE ORDER OF LEOPOLD
GRAND MASTER IN THE ORDER OF THE AFRICAN STAR
GRAND MASTER IN THE ORDER OF THE LION
GRAND MASTER IN THE ORDER OF THE CROWN
GRAND MASTER IN THE ORDER OF LEOPOLD II
WAR CROSS 1914-18
(CROIX DE GUERRE)
COMMEMORATIVE MEDAL 1914-18
GRAND CROSS OF THE ORDER OF SAINT STEPHEN OF HUNGARY
awarded 1910 (AUS-HUNG)
GRAND CROSS OF THE ORDER OF THE WHITE LION ( CZECH)
KNIGHT IN THE ORDER OF THE ELEPHANT awarded 1910 ( DEN)
KNIGHT OF THE ORDER OF THE GOLDEN FLEECE N° 1152 awarded 1907 (AUS-HUNG)
GRAND CROSS OF THE LEGION D'HONNEUR (FR)
GRAND CROSS OF THE CROWN (IT)
KNIGHT IN THE ORDER OF THE BLACK EAGLE (PRUSSIA)
GRAND CROSS OF THE MILITARY ORDER OF SAVOY (IT)
KNIGHT IN THE ORDER OF SAINT HUBERT
AWARDED 1900 (BAVARIA)
GRAND CROSS OF THE ORDER OF SEPULCHRE (VAT)
KNIGHT IN THE ORDER OF THE RUE CROWN
AWARDED 1910 (SAXONY)
SOVEREIGN MILITARY ORDER OF MALTA
KNIGHT 1ST CLASS IN THE ORDER OF THE THREE STARS (LAT)
GRAND CROSS OF THE ORDER OF THE NETHERLANDS LION (NL)
SACH OF THE THREE ORDERS (PORTUGAL)
GRAND CROSS OF THE ORDER OF THE ROMANIAN STAR
GRAND CROSS OF THE ORDER OF THE CROSS OF VYTIS (LIT)
GRAND CROSS OF THE ORDER OF ST OLAF (NORWAY)
GRAND CROSS OF THE ORDER OF THE TOWER AND SWORD (PORTUGAL)
ORDER OF THE AERONAUTICAL VIRTUE (ROMANIA)
GRAND CROSS OF THE ORDER OF THE GOLDEN LION OF THE HOUSE OF NASSAU (LUX)
GRAND CROSS OF THE ORDER WHITE EAGLE (PL)
ORDER OF CAROL I
KNIGHT OF THE ORDER OF ST. ANDREW THE APOSTLE THE FIRST
GRAND CROSS OF THE ORDER OF CHARLES (MONACO)
GRAND CROSS OF THE ORDER VIRTUTI MILITARI (PL)
ORDER OF MICHAEL THE BRAVE
GRAND CROSS OF THE ORDER OF STANISLAUS (RUSSIA)
GRAND CROSS OF THE ORDER OF ORDER OF SAINT ALEXANDER NEVSKY (RUSSIA)
GRAND CROSS OF THE ORDER OF THE SERAPHIM (SWEDEN)
ORDER OF SAINT ANNE FIRST CLASS (RUSSIA)
KNIGHT IN THE ORDER OF THE GARTER awarded 1914 (UK)
GRAND CROSS OF THE ORDER OF KARA GEORGE
GRAND CROSS IN THE ORDER OF THE BATH military (UK)
GRAND CROSS OF THE ORDER OF CHARLES III
GRAND CROSS OF THE VENERABLE ORDER OF ST. JOHN (UK)
DISTINGUISHED FLYING CROSS (UK)
CROSS OF LIBERTY FIRST CLASS (ESTONIA)
MILITARY MEDAL / MEDAILLE MILITAIRE (FR)
WAR MERIT CROSS (ITALY)
MEDAL OF SAINT GEORGE (RUSSIA)
GOLD MEDAL OF BRAVERY (SERBIA)
DISTINGUISHED SERVICE MEDAL (USA)
WAR CROSS 1918 (CZECH)
WAR CROSS / CROIX DE GUERRE 1918 (FR)
KING EDWARD VII CORONATION MEDAL - MILITARY (UK)
GRAND CROSS OF THE ORDER OF THE CONDOR OF THE ANDES (BOLIVIA)
GRAND CROSS OF THE ORDER OF MERIT (CHILE)
GRAND CROSS OF THE ORDER OF BOCAYA (COLOMBIA)
GRAND CROSS OF THE ORDER OF MERIT "CARLOS MANUEL DE CESPEDES" (CUBA)
COLLAR OF THE ORDER OF ISHTAR (AFGHANISTAN)
COLLAR OF THE ORDER OF THE NATIONAL ORDER OF MERIT (ECUADOR)
ORDER OF OUISSAM ALAOUITE (MOROCCO)
GRAND CROSS OF THE ORDER OF THE LIBERATOR (VENEZUALA)
COLLAR OF THE ORDER OF MUHAMMAD ALI (EGYPT)
SHARIFIAN ORDER OF MILITARY MERIT (MOROCCO)
GRAND CROSS OF THE ORDER OF THE SEAL OF SOLOMON (ETHIOPIA)
GRAND CROSS OF THE ORDER OF THE SUN (PERU)
GRAND CROSS OF THE ROYAL ORDER OF KAMEHAMEHA I - HAWAI awared 1886
COLLOR OF THE ORDER OF THE CROWN OF PERSIA (IRAN)
COLLAR OF THE ORDER OF THE CHRYSANTHEMUM (JAPAN)
ORDER OF THE DOUBLE DRAGON 1ST CLASS GRADE II (CHINA)