THOUGHT THEY WERE IN FRANCE
A number of German prisoners were taken by the Belgians during the fighting at Haelen-Diest. From these it was learned that the German soldiers really believed they were fighting in France. At Diest it is said that 400 surrendered the moment they lost their officers and were surprised to learn that they were in Belgium.
King Albert of Belgium was constantly in the field during the early engagements of the war, moving from point to point inside the Belgian lines by means of a high-powered automobile, in which he was slightly wounded by the explosion of a shell. He was thus enabled to keep in touch with the field forces, as well as with his general staff, and speedily endeared himself to the Belgian soldiery by his personal disregard of danger.
The Belgians by their gallant fight against the trained legions of Germany quickly won the admiration even of their foes. The army of Belgium was brought up to its full strength of 300,000 men and everywhere the soldiers of the little country battled to halt the invaders. Often their efforts proved effective. The losses on both sides were truly appalling, the Germans suffering most on account of their open methods of attack in close order. But their forces were like the sands of the sea and every gap in the ranks of the onrushing host was promptly filled by more Germans.
TIRLEMONT AKD LOUVAIN
The fighting at Tirlemont and Louvain was described by a citizen of Ostend, who says he witnessed it from a church tower at Tirlemont first and later proceeded to Louvain. He says:
“Until luncheon time Tuesday, August 18, Tirlemont was quiet and normal. Suddenly, about 1 o’clock, came the sound of the first German gun. The artillery had opened fire.
“From the church tower it was possible to see distinctly the position of the German guns and the bursting of their shells. The Belgians replied from their positions east of Louvain. It was a striking sight, to the accompaniment of the ceaseless thud-thud of bursting shells with their puffs of cottonlike smoke, tearing up the peaceful wheat fields not far away.
BELGIANS RETIRE AT LOUVAIN
“Gradually working nearer, the shells began to strike the houses in Tirlemont. This was a signal for the populace, which had been confident that the Belgian army would protect them, to flee. All they knew was that the Germans were coming. From the tower the scene was like the rushing of rats from a disturbed nest. The people fled in every direction except one.
“I moved down to Louvain, where everything seemed quiet and peaceful. The people sat in the cafes drinking their evening beer and smoking. Meanwhile the Belgian troops were retiring in good order toward Louvain.