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How Belgian do you think you are?
The First & The Last Family Portrait Project.
The centenary of the First World War reminds us how much history is close to our daily lives, both in time and in space, but also in a more intimate sense. There is not a single family in the UK whose life was not touched by the First World War.
Belgium was the first country to be attacked by Germany in 1914. In Wallonia, the Province of Liège heroically resisted this aggressive violation of Belgian neutrality. The bravery of all the people throughout the province, especially the soldiers in the ring of forts around Liège, is legendary, so much so that Liège was the first foreign city to be awarded the French Légion d’honneur.
The Liégeois delayed the German advance for around 11 days and forced them to mobilise their “secret” weapon that they had only planned to use when they had besieged Paris: their huge cannon, nicknamed “Big Bertha”. The resistance of Liège also gained time for the Allied troops, allowing them to deploy in Belgium in the best possible conditions in the circumstances. After the initial German assault came reprisals against the civilian population, which led to more than 200,000 Belgian refugees fleeing to the UK in 1914. Almost 140,000 of them were still in the UK in 1918, and many decided to stay in the country that had welcomed there, to marry and to have children.
In the other direction, hundreds of thousands of men and women of all ages and all social classes and occupations, often very young, from all over the UK and the British Empire, came to Belgium to fight for King and Country and to drive back the Germans.
Were your ancestors war refugees from Liège, Mons, Tournai, Brussels or another part of Belgium?
Did your ancestors fight at the Battle of Mons in 1914, the first battle between the UK and Germany in history? In the Allied or the German army?
Did your ancestors serve in the French or the German army at the “Battle of the Frontiers” in the Belgian Ardennes? Or did your ancestors flee from Belgium to the UK or part of the British Empire?
Was your grandfather in the trenches at “Plugstreet”? And did he take part in the famous Christmas Truce Football Match there in 1914?
Or perhaps your ancestor was in the medical corps who looked after wounded and sick soldiers and perhaps he or she told you stories about that hell on earth?
Come on! Dust off your family photo albums, rummage through your attics and cellars and family heirlooms, check those boxes full of old photos and get your children and grandchildren involved in this very special family history treasure hunt!
Several generations later, we are interested in your family history. Come and join us in our family history research and find out with us if you have a little bit of Belgium in you!
CLICK HERE to take part in this most poignant commemoration of the Great War.