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Reflect and Remember

And so, the last entry in the transcription has been reached, the original pen has stopped and the writer falls into silence.

We do not know the identity and fate of the writer, so we have to leave the rest shrouded in mystery, but have one final message to share with the people who see this.

Those of you who have been following this blog will hopefully have been touched by the experiences that it relates.  War is not something to be forgotten.  This diary records some of the names of the non-combatants who fell, and talks of the many other deaths and the destruction that war brings.

This blog is not intended to cause upset, or to forward any particular agenda.  It is here to remind us all that humans both now and in the past have experiences that should be remembered.  The tears as well as the smiles are important as only by having both can we be fully human. The records we hold tell those stories for those who come later.

The writer of this diary felt a great deal of personal animosity to those she saw as being unjust, it is wise to remember how injustice can drive even supposedly forgiving people into a lack of compassion. We do not judge but hope that such pain is a rare thing.

So now at the end of the diary, and of the active blog, I ask each of you to take a moment to reflect on all those who have been affected by war, the living and the dead. Remember the words of this woman and hope for a more peaceful future.

A sad end

A young Priest, Pere Eugene Dupérienx, was today seized by the hated Germans and instantly shot without a trial because they found in his note book, a few lines reproaching them with the wanton destruction of the Louvain Library.

Terrible battles are being fought in Flanders, we constantly hear the distant roll of the guns and trains full of wounded Germans pass via Herent-Louvain. We do not expect any more fighting in this direction. The people who fled are coming back gradually. It is a pleasure to see even a few and to hear the village and Convent bells ring once more.

The bodies of sixteen of our peaceful villagers brutally murdered without the slightest provocation have been dug up, coffined, and buried in the cemetery. German plunder still continues on a large scale. Trains pass with cattle, sheep, pigs, wines, furniture pianos, in fact everything of use. The German marauding organization is unrivalled. No nation can compete.

Invasion of England?

 Much to our satisfaction the whole staff of the Etat-Major departed yesterday for some unknown destination. Their special mission had been to direct the taking of Antwerp. There were three Generals and 80 Officers each of whom had an orderly. Also a large staff of cooks and butchers who killed and cooked stolen cattle, pigs etc.  Large cases of stolen wines used to be brought in daily and much to our amusement the orderlies were great at stealing from their masters. 

A staff of printers made numerous maps and charts of the surrounding country. The accuracy with which they reproduced every little hamlet was amazing. A map for the taking of Antwerp began at Thildonk and marked every road, village, town, river, railway, canal and fort between here and that city. They also printed bills to be thrown from aircraft, in Flemish imploring the people in Antwerp to listen no longer to perfidious Albion ‘which was betraying the country’. But I do not think there are many Flemish who will understand the term ‘Albion’.

Saturday afternoon Prince Waldemar came in a car bringing with him from the Kaiser a decoration for General Von Beseler who had been particularly charged with the taking of Antwerp. This was bestowed in the Refectory amidst speech-making cheering Hoch! Hoch! Hoch! And champagne drinking that lasted till midnight.

In spite of all this they are greatly cut up at not capturing any troops in Antwerp. Some of the Officers told us that it was a sore disappointment for the ‘tip-tops’. (This English expression is used frequently by the Germans to indicate the ‘chiefs’.) Before leaving on Sunday Von Beselaer called on Reverend Mother General whom he greatly respected, and on being asked by her if all was now over, he replied slowly, “Well we have taken neither King Albert nor his Army, and we know nothing of their whereabouts.” “But” he added grimly “they shall not escape us long.” Evidently they feel very uneasy about the Belgian army which has frequently dodged them and will do so again I hope.

The Germans now speak of attacking England directly; they tell us that from Calais they can bombard Dover, and destroy the ships in the Channel. We console ourselves by believing that they will not reach Ostend nor Calais as easily as they imagine. They boast that England will soon become a German colony. Some of the Officers said they would send us postcards from London.

Parades

We heard today that after leaving here yesterday the Germans paraded General Maes through every street in Louvain and Brussels. But the people cheered and many were punished.

Antwerp Bombarded

At 9am our Belgian captives left, well provided for their journey. We all feel more depressed than ever. Antwerp being surrounded by five circles of forts we thought it was impregnable. The Germans are boasting that with their wonderful Austrian guns they can bombard the city without going any nearer. This is only too true, the shells were directed on the Petroleum and Benzine tanks which burst into flames and alarmed the inhabitants so much that capitulation became a necessity. The Army had however evacuated the forts and the city at which the Germans are very much disappointed, they hoped to make a great haul and they have only got an empty town.

Antwerp Surrenders

A day of sad events for poor Belgium. To our great consternation a motor car arrived at the Convent at 11-15am bringing the Mayor of Antwerp, a Senator, and the Spanish Consul.

They came to surrender Antwerp. ‘La salle de la seconde section’ was the scene of the sad event. Here they conferred with three German Generals. After a little time two Austrian generals who were sitting on a bench in the garden were also called in.

The envoys from Antwerp wanted to make conditions but the Germans insisted on unconditional surrender. One of the German Generals coming into the corridor, muttered “They come to surrender an empty town”.  Here and there we gleaned the following details. 

The envoys declared that they had come solely on behalf of the part of the town from which the Army had withdrawn. They had not been commissioned either by the King or the Army of whose whereabouts they were completely in ignorance. They were sent by the people of Antwerp as a part of the town was already in flames.   

After a short conference the envoys went in to the girl’s refectory to lunch. In passing they shook hands with us. They were very very sad. Tears rolled down their cheeks as they asked us to pray for our suffering country. They afterwards drove away. Shortly after their departure the German Generals drove off to Antwerp returning about 8pm and bringing with them General Maes and Commandant Hennebert of Antwerp as prisoners of war.

They bore up bravely and with much dignity. The German orderlies who were waiting to serve the officers dinner crowded round them like hounds round a fox. The Rittmeister von Surmster was called on to assign them a room for the night and much to our indignation he led them to the ‘petit refectoire des anciennes’ where there were two mattresses on the floor. A guard with drawn swords was already placed before this little room. Reverend Mother General and Mère Ambroisine who speaks German fluently pleaded that they might be allowed to take the Belgian officers to a room where they would be more comfortable at which an old Colonel snorted “A cellar is good enough for a Belgian general”.  Mère Ambroisine flew at him with such a volley of abuse as he had never heard before from an Irish tongue, told him it was “gemein” and not worthy of an educated man, that the English whom they called “perfidious” knew how to respect their prisoners according to their rank and that the Germans had many lessons to learn from them etc, etc. Leave it to an Irishwoman to gain the day with her tongue. The Belgians were led triumphantly to two rooms where they got comfortable beds, a Champagne supper, cigars and what they needed most, the sympathy of all around.

Antwerp’s refusal

The Etat-Major dined and drank Champagne till a late hour last night in the girl’s refectory awaiting the Spanish Ambassador but he did not come. Antwerp refused to surrender and the bombardment continued all night. The Belgian answer was “Viele Grusse, nous savons ce que nous avons à faire”.

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