194 The Great W z r INHABITANTS OF BRUSSELS AWAITING LIRE El'. Men and women of Brussels ingathered the hall of one of the large banks patiently waiting their turn at a distribution of food in 1915. But for the daily pint of soup and loaf of bread served out to them by those who organised the system of relief these people would have starved. news is German or German censored consequently disbelieved. When information from friendly quarters reaches Brussels through the forbidden Press or some French or English newspaper it comes about a month too late. The direct result of such a situation is a state of restlessness easily explained if we remember that in a country like England for instance where the public is not nearly so excitable the most extraordinary rumours have found credence since the beginning of the war in spite of the fullest information being given in the Press. The only difference is that in free countries such rumours are very often alarming while in Belgium they are always inspired by the wildest and most reckless optimism. Since the siege of Antwerp the Belgians have lived in this state of suspense and though they have been disappointed again and again they have not lost after years of German oppression the extraordinary faculty of creating good tidings and the most extraordinary readiness to believe in them But whatever they may have imagined the distant roar of the guns has remained the supreme argument. Every hope every anxiety has been associated with it. Those who had sons husbands or friends in the Belgian Army shivered at the sound for they knew that any offensive, even if successful must be costly. T o them nevertheless the distant voice of battle— the long drawn battle which must decide their fate and that of their country— is the inarticulate message of the outside world brought into their prison on the wings of the western breeze. And the pang of anxiety for the soldier on theY ser hardly subdues the irrepressible feeling of yearning and secret triumph which this sound stirs in their hearts. They hardly ever think of the danger which an allied advance may mean to themselves of the fresh destruction implied of the misery of leaving their homes and being turned out once more on the roads like helpless refugees. Should one of them ask “What will happen if ‘they are obliged to retreat?” a hundred voices would answer “It would mean victory and victory is worth any price." For the Belgians may have given up their weapons they maybe invaded they may even in certain parts of the country be driven like slaves to work for the enemy but they do not consider themselves out of the war. There is something at once pathetic and wonderful in the value they attach to their patriotic resistance. They sincerely believe that they are the vanguard of the allied armies, and that in refusing to work for the enemy in counteracting their propaganda in disobeying their regulations in rendering whatever service they are able to render to the good cause they have a considerable share in the success of the allied armies. Even the deportee who has been compelled to work in some German Kom m ando preserves this extraordinary pride. One Patriotism in man who had been obliged to leave the passive resistance country in a hurry being under suspicion, assured me that the work accomplished in Belgium was worth an army corps to the Allies. This may well be exaggerated though it seems evident that the resistance of Belgian civilians must considerably hamper German inactivity this sector of their front. It maybe almost impossible to estimate its importance in terms of men but it is easy to realise that if Germany DISTRIBUTING FOOD CARDS IN BELGIUM. The only lady member of the American Commission of Relief which succoured the Belgians before the United States became one of the belligerent Powers said that the endless procession of men and women waiting for their small daily dole of food was something unforgettable.
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