11 July 1917 - The Front Movement Appeals to the King

11 July 1917 - The Front Movement Appeals to the King

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In 1915, Catholic intellectuals at the frontline launched initiatives to protect soldiers from slipping moral standards and temptation, sexual and otherwise. They offered 'appropriate', organised forms of recreation through study and prayer groups, and football clubs. The initiators grasped the opportunity to push a political agenda as well, using the groups to address all kinds of Flemish issues, such as language inequality in the army, on a large scale. in December 1916, an umbrella organisation was set up to coordinate these Flemish activities - the Front Movement was born.

The army command kept a very close eye on the Front Movement, which had become a political movement whose programme was capable of undermining the motivation of Flemish soldiers. By introducing strong censorship and finally, in February 1917, prohibiting study groups and similar gatherings altogether, the army leaders hoped to crush the movement. It was to have the opposite effect, as the Front Movement went underground and radicalised.

‘Open brief’ van de Frontbeweging aan Koning Albert I (11 juli 1917), Ons Erfdeel

‘Open Letter' to King Albert I of Belgium(11 July 1917), Ons Erfdeel

On 11 July 1917, the Front Movement wrote an open letter to King Albert I of Belgium. the letter was intended as an urgent warning and had the aim of spurring the king into protecting his Flemish subjects, who, as the movement believed, were being oppressed by the French-speaking establishment. In the letter, its author Adiel Debeuckelaere asserts that the Front Movement has lost all its trust in army officers, the Belgian press and the Belgian government. The Front movement made their grievances knows directly to the king in the hope that he would force government to promise more rights to Flemish-speaking citizens after the war, safeguarding the country's unity. The king responded by appointing a new minister of war: Armand de Ceuninck, who poured fuel on the fire by going on a crusade against everyone and everything in the army that was – or appeared to be – pro-Flemish. From that moment on, any further overtures seemed impossible.