Thursday, August 16, 2012

Reporting the Fall of Liége to the King

Today in history the battle for Liége ended when the last of the fortresses was smashed by the German super-heavy howitzers and General Gérard Leman was knocked out and captured, being found half buried in the rubble by the Germans. General Leman is regarded by all as the first hero of the Great War for his determined defense of his country and the Meuse fortresses. He was an old veteran of great courage and a true sense of duty to his King and the country. Because of that, he wanted it known especially that he had been found unconscious in the rubble and had not surrendered of his own will. Because of his duty he also knew, as they were taking him away to Germany as a prisoner of war, that he had to report to the King about what had happened. This was allowed because the Germans were very impressed by his courage and military skill, considering General Leman a gallant and worthy enemy. This was the letter the general wrote:

General Leman to King Albert I
After honourable engagements on August 4th, 5th, and 6th, I considered that the forts of Liege could only play the role of forts d'arret. I nevertheless maintained military government in order to coordinate the defence  as much as possible, and to exercise moral influence upon the garrison.
Your Majesty is not ignorant that I was at Fort Loncin on August 6th at noon. You will learn with grief that the fort was blown up yesterday at 5.20 p.m., the greater part of the garrison being buried under the ruins.
That I did not lose my life in that catastrophe is due to the fact that my escort, Commandant Collard, a sub-officer of infantry who unfortunately perished, the gendarme Thevenim and my two orderlies, Vanden Bossche and Jos Lecocq, drew me from a position of danger, where I was being asphyxiated by gas from the exploded powder.
I was carried into a trench, where a German captain named Guson gave me a drink, after which I was made a prisoner and taken to Liege in an ambulance. I am convinced that the honour of our arms has been sustained. I have not surrendered either the fortress or the forts.
Deign, Sire, to pardon my defects in this letter. I am physically shattered by the explosion of Loncin. In Germany, whither I am proceeding, my thoughts will be, as they have ever been, of Belgium and the King. I would willingly have given my life the better to serve them, but death was denied me.

That, my friends is the words of a true and great Belgian patriot and he should be an example to all of us. I am sure the King was very proud of his general and his old teacher when he was delivered this letter. This is the spirit of those old veterans of 1914 that I admire so much and makes me regard them as the greatest heroes our country ever has produced.

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