Germans Seize Belgian City Deemed “Virtually Impregnable.”
A Threat to Kill Belgian Hostages.
Special to The Great War Project.
(10-11 October) On the Western Front, after days of ceaseless fire from German super artillery guns, the Belgians capitulate at Antwerp, their port city near the English Channel.
The King of the Belgians is reported to have fired the last shot.
Earlier a French newspaper calls Antwerp “virtually impregnable.”
Much criticism falls on the head of Winston Churchill, the British First Lord of the Admiralty, who brought some 8,000 British naval marine troops to fight in Antwerp. Churchill orders them into a battle on land, a task they are never trained for. They are to be the planned spearhead of a much larger British force, but those troops are held up on the channel coast and are not sent to Antwerp.
“never acknowledged Antwerp for the fiasco it was”
…writes historian Max Hastings. “What took place represented shocking folly by a minister who abused his powers and betrayed his responsibilities.”
Despite the Belgian surrender, though, there is some benefit for the allies from the Battle of Antwerp. Antwerp holds out several days and that gives the British time to move their troops into positions in Flanders, the Dutch-speaking northern region of Belgium.
Inside Antwerp, the Germans hold a victory parade, involving 60,000 troops and lasting five hours, according to historian Martin Gilbert.
The Belgians have been the object of German atrocities since the beginning of the war just two-and-a-half months earlier. The Germans extend their relentless occupation to nearly all of Belgium.
Now the German military occupation threatens even more brutal treatment for the Belgians. The German military governor of occupied Belgium issues a chilling edict. “In future,” it reads, “villages in the vicinity of places where railway and telegraph lines are destroyed will be punished without pity, (whether they are guilty or not of the acts in question). With this in view hostages have been taken in all villages near the railway lines which are threatened by such attacks.
“Upon the first attempt to destroy lines of railway, telegraph or telephone, they will be immediately shot.”
Elsewhere on the Western Front, the Germans turn their guns on the northern French city of Lille.
This October 10th a century ago, German cavalry troops enter Lille on horseback. Soon the artillery bombardment of Lille begins. More than 5,000 shells fall on Lille during the course of two days, reports historian Gilbert, destroying some 800 buildings.
And in Constantinople, secret plotting to bring Turkey into the war, on the German side. More on that in coming reports.