1914 Defiance, Belgian Style

It’s amazing how completely The Guns of August can suck you in spite of knowing how World War 1 ends.

A letter that demands Belgium not oppose Germany’s armies as they march through her territories is read aloud, setting the scene in Brussels.

An “unequivocal answer” was demanded within twelve hours.

“A long, tragic silence of several minutes” followed the reading, Bassompierre recalled, as each man in the room thought of the choice that faced his country. Small in size and young in independence, Belgium clung more fiercely to independence for that reason. But no one in the room needed to be told what the consequences of a decision to defend it would be. Their country would be subjected to attack, their homes to destruction, their people to reprisals by a force ten times their size with no doubt of the outcome to themselves, who were in the immediate pathway of the Germans, whatever the ultimate outcome of the war. If, on the contrary, they were to yield to the German demand, they would be making Belgium an accessory to the attack on France as well as a violator of her own neutrality, besides opening her to German occupation with small likelihood that a victorious Germany would remember to withdraw.They would be occupied either way; to yield would be to lose honor too.

“If we are to be crushed,” Bassompierre recorded their sentiment, “let us be crushed gloriously.”

Later that night, the German ambassador visits his Belgian counterpart, in hopes of convincing the Belgians to let the Germans pass on through.

He informed van der Elst who received him that French dirigibles had dropped bombs and that French patrols had crossed the border.

“Where did these events take place?” van der Elst asked.

” In Germany” was the reply.

“In that case I fail to see the relevance of the information.”

On the eve of war, many of the belligerents are seen maneuvering for advantage. Germany seeks to avoid a two-front war, France seeks to do everything in her power to bring in Great Britain on her side, while in Great Britain the PM tries to hold his government together for a united front. In Belgium, with their backs to the wall, the defiance rings out loud and clear.


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