On this Day 1918 Ostend, Lille, and Douai occupied by Allied Forces.

On this Day Oct 17th 1918 Ostend, Lille, and Douai occupied by allied forces.

Women and children of Lille greet British troops - October 17th 1918
Women and children of Lille greet British troops - October 17th 1918

The following extract from a letter written by a Belgian officer who entered Hulste affords a good example of the scenes which took place at the time in almost every town and village of West Flanders:

On the Lys, October 17th, 1918

Yesterday I passed one of the most thrilling days of my existence. Early in the morning, having spent the day and night before in the second line, I went with my battalion to the first line so as to continue our advance towards the Lys. And so it happened that I was one of the first to enter the village of Hulste, one of the first places of any importance anything like intact that we have found in reconquered Belgium.

I can only give you a feeble idea of the spectacle. My companies advanced with caution south, and were fighting step by step to the north with group of enemy machine-gunners who tried to check us, pushing them back, killing them, and taking them prisoner: then in the centre the advance with the Staff took place, and our entry into the main road of the village.

Windows and doors opened one after another, heads appeared and looked at us “Are you English?” (This was because of our Khaki uniforms and stories by the Germans, who had announced an attack by “Tommies” because the Belgium’s were incapable of one!)

Then a regular delirium. Cries all around : “T Zijn Belgen! T Zijn Belgen!” (They are Belgians!). Hundreds of persons rushed out of cellars and filled up the streets. Women, old men, children shrieked and shouted, laughed, wept, and embraced the soldiers : never stopped shaking hands with all who passed, their eyes shining with joys.

Little girls, boys of four or five, ran by our sides shouting “Welkom ! Welkom !” Women called to us, their eyes full of tears : “We have been waiting for you for four years.”

When I had got over my first excitement, I asked “Well, aren’t you going to hang out the Belgian flag?”

Immediately, as if I had fired a train of powder, the cry ran through the crowd: “Flags, flags!” And by some extraordinary phenomenon they appeared from all corners. My adjutant saw an old woman go into her garden and dig up a little box of which she took an enormous Belgian flag, which a few minutes later fluttered joyously from the front of her house.

Then came our entry into the main square in front of the church, where we received by the old priest in tears, supported by the local policeman in a brand-new uniform. Accompanied by violent bell ringing the good man read out a proclamation announcing to the civil population the victorious entry of the Belgian Army on October 16th, 1918, into the village of Hulste, which the Germans had seized on October 17th, 1914.

 

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