100 years ago, 800.000 German soldiers crossed the border of a then independent Belgium and war was declared. It was the First World War.
Centenary of the Great War
When King Albert Irefused Germany passage through our country to attack France in 1914, Wallonia was on the front line of resistance. A ferocious resistance that would have heavy consequences for its population. Thousands of civilians were killed. Rape, pillaging and destruction pushed hundreds of thousands of Belgians into exile.
August saw battles erupt all over Wallonia: Liège, Namur, Charleroi, Mons and in the province of Luxembourg. French and British troops fought side by side with our soldiers. But the German army pushed them back as far as Antwerp and behind the Yser river.
Today, in 2014, Wallonia remembers and invites you to the sites of battles and the resistance. The Ploegsteert site takes you back in time to witness the living conditions of civilians between 1914 and 1918. The role played by the forts of the Meuse river, conceived by Brialmont, in Liège and Namur was paramount to the defence of our provinces. Learn or teach your young ones the origin of this fortified line and its defensive role in the Great War. The First World War also left its mark further away from the borders: the battle of Mons and of the Sambre, the martyr towns like Dinant, Tamines, Tintigny... There are numerous cemeteries to visit for those who wish to honour the memory of the soldiers who fought. The French military cemetery of Heuleu, Ploegsteert cemetery where several thousands of British soldiers rest, or even Saint-Symphorien cemetery.
2014-2015, Wallonia remembers
In 2014 and 2015, Wallonia will be commemorating two other major military events. Firstly the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge which took place in Bastogne, during the Second World War in the harsh winter of 1944.
Secondly, a battle that shaped Europe’s history took place on 18 June 1815, on the fields of Waterloo. 200 years ago already!