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Mata Hari

A century after her death, Mata Hari is still a household name. She is mainly remembered as a femme fatale, a dangerous double agent who used her sensuality to extract military secrets. Starting 14 October, the Museum of Friesland looks at the woman behind the stereotype. It is no coincidence that a big exhibition on her life is about to open in ...

War and the Environment

In her diary, Virgine Loveling describes the disappearance of green spaces from the occupied city of Ghent during the war. Due to local government measures to combat the food shortage, flowers, shrubs and lawns in city parks were dug up to make space for 'more useful plants' such as potatoes, cabbages and beans.   Virginie ...

St. Nicholas in wartime

In many Western European countries, Sinterklaas (or St. Nicholas) is celebrated around 5 - 6 December. In Belgium and the Netherlands, Sinterklaas is the ultimate children’s festive holiday, much more so than Christmas. St. Nicholas brings tasty treats and presents. This was also true on the eve of The First World War. At the time, it was ...

Pointless carnage at the Somme?

In late June 1916, the British artillery opened fire on the German lines at the Somme. The shelling continued without interruption for seven days. It was the beginning of a massive infantry offensive. On 1 July, British soldiers climbed out of their trenches and advanced towards the German lines along a front of 30 kilometres. In order to ...

Wait at the Yser or major offensives?

In contrast to the British and French armies, the Belgian army suffered much fewer losses. While approximately 3,75% of the mobilised soldiers in the Belgian army were killed, this was around 10,3% and 16,8% in the British and French armies. On the one hand, this was caused by the strategic choices of the high command, and on the other, by the ...

Four years a refugee

The First World War created a gigantic stream of refugees. At least 500,000 Belgian citizens, more than 7% of the Belgian population, spent four long war years abroad.    Driven out by horror stories and the advancing German army, millions of Belgians fled their town or village. Many ultimately reached the borders with The ...

The dog at the front

Dogs, like other animals, played a role in the warfare that should not be underestimated. They too were 'called to arms' in 1914, and helped the soldiers in a variety of ways. Behind the front, they were hitched to small carts, and in this way they transported machine guns, ammunition cases and food. After artillery fire, or in no ...

American shops

During The First World War, the Belgian population was dependent on foreign food aid. The Nationaal Hulp- en Voedingscomité played a crucial role in the distribution of the imported foodstuffs. To this end, the committee opened its own sales points, which the population could visit to buy sugar, corn, tinned meat, rice and other staple products. ...

A Christmas spirit with a dark side

The first Christmas at the front, in 1914, passed in a remarkable atmosphere. At the start of hostilities, the soldiers had hoped for a short war. They had expected to be home long before Christmas and were surprised to find themselves still in the trenches. This is why there was little will to fight amongst many of the soldiers. This attitude was ...

American help for the Belgians

On the eve of the war, Belgium was dependent for a great part of its food supply on imports. Because of the British maritime blockade, imports came to a standstill. As a result, food supplies quickly became problematic, particularly in the cities. In order to feed the population, a gigantic aid programme was set in motion undertaken by two ...

The League of Nations

After 11 November 1918, the cry of 'No war ever again’ sounded out louder than ever before. The countries that negotiated the peace accord were in agreement that the text of the treaty should contain sufficient guarantees to prevent future wars. One of these guarantees was the foundation of a League of Nations that would devote itself to ...

To the Yser: the front stabilises

In August 1914, the Germans advanced in a southerly and westerly direction through Belgium. They soon reached the French-Belgian border, but they were halted at the Marne by French and British troops.    The German military command would subsequently change plans and attempt to break through to Paris by tracing an arc west. The ...

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