When the German troops entered Belgium in August 1914, they met with a Belgian army whose tactics lay in defence and delay rather than attack. They were a resistance army. The Germans feared this guerrilla warfare, pockets of resistance that would slow the progress of the German war machine and they were determined to stamp it out quickly and brutally. Any civilian opposition would be dealt with harshly.
When on the second day of the invasion, German troops attacked Liege, they suffered terrible losses. The garrison soldiers with four hundred retractable guns and a myriad of underground fortresses, mowed them down with machine gun fire. The Germans did, eventually, take Liege and surrounding fortresses, with the result that the Germans were even more determined to put down ‘little Belgium’ once and for all. The outcome was a brutal attack on the civilian population. Anyone considered to be aiding the resistance, faced being killed or taken hostage, including women and children. Homes, indeed entire villages were burnt to the ground. Many atrocities were carried out in the name of German self preservation.
The Belgians delayed the progress for only a few days but to the world, their resistance to invasion stood as a symbol, a small brave nation fighting for it’s survival, ‘Gallant Little Belgium’ became a propaganda treasure chest for the Allies whilst the Germans were branded as revolting oppressive tyrants.
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