Germans capture Brussels
The Belgian city of Brussels is now occupied by the German army Photo: Irish Life, 28 August 1914. Full collection of Irish Life available from the National Library of Ireland.

Germans capture Brussels

Belgians flee from city as German army take control

Published: 21 August 1914

After ten days of defiance, the Belgian army yesterday surrendered the city of Brussels without a shot being fired.

Brussels is now occupied by the German army.

With the German army already successful in earlier battles against the Belgians, the city authorities determined that Brussels could not be held and would have been destroyed had there been resistance.

The Civic Guards and soldiers had been manning trenches around the city but at 4pm yesterday they were ordered to disarm. There are reports that some of those defenders wept in frustration but the order was accepted and the men withdrew to take the train and rejoin their army elsewhere.

Throughout the evening there was a general exodus of men from the city who feared they would be taken prisoner by the Germans. The last train from Brussels left shortly before midnight and was uncomfortably crowded.

Prof John Horne, TCD, considers the controversies over German behaviour in Belgium in summer, 1914. Holding image shows Belgians fleeing their home in the Mouland region. (Image: Illustrated London News [London, England], 22 August 1914]

The city remains flooded with refugees. Thousands of half-clad, homeless Belgians have been fleeing from the German army and have sought refuge in their capital city. Many have been camping in the main square and it is not clear where they will go next.

Some of the refugees have claimed that villages, farms and crops have been destroyed by the advancing Germans, and that horses and cattle have been commandeered and driven off.

An official statement from the Belgian government said that the abandonment of Brussels was tactical: ‘The bulk of the Belgian Field Army, confronted by superior numbers, has fallen back. Communication with Brussels has become difficult since early this morning. The Belgian troops have admirably performed their duty of delaying the hostile advance and enabling their allies to complete their concentration without interference.’

The statement concluded: ‘Their retirement, which has been anticipated for some days, has been dictated by the strategical situation.'

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