Friday, 11 July 2014

A City with a Medal

As can be seen from the postcard, France awarded the Belgian city of Liege the Legion d'honneur. The order is France's highest and Liege was the first non-French city to receive it.

Liege was in the way of the German army in 1914, and its stand against them bought precious time to allow the French to prepare for the coming blow.

Following the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, twelve modern fortresses had been built around the municipality and were defended in August, 1914, by General Leman and 35,000 Belgian troops. Unfortunately for him, concrete fortifications built in the 1880's were not steel-reinforced, and so were unable to match subsequent improvements in artillery fire-power.

The battle of Liege saw the debut of Germany's new wonder weapon, the so-called "Big Bertha", a giant mortar which fired 1,800-pound shells, and could batter just about anything to bits. One such shell penetrated Fort Loncin and set off its magazine. The explosion killed more than 300 defenders. It also knocked General Leman unconscious. He was captured and hauled off to Germany to spend the rest of the war as a guest of the Kaiser. He died in 1920.

General Leman's heroic defence was not in vain. The twelve days that Liege withstood the German advance helped to bring about the Anglo-French victory on the Marne which prevented the capture of Paris. Hence the medal.

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1 comment:

  1. Do you know if there were any French forces in Liege? I know they fought in Charleroi in Aug. of that year. Or was Liege strictly Belgian forces?