World War I Belgium: Ostend

Belgian Refugees World War I
Figure 1.--These Belgian refugees in Osten are fleeing the Germans (October 1914). British Royal Navy is preparing to transport them to Britain. We are not sure just which Belgians decidd to flee and if the Royal Navy had any selection process for who was allowed on the ships. Nor do we know what happened to the refugees after reching Britain.

Belgium has only 70 km of coast on the North Sea and Ostend is set in the middle of it. Ostend or East end is Belgium's only important coastal city. It was before the War a popular seaside resort frequentely by royalty and high society. All this changed with the War. The inland port of Bruges could accomodate ocean-going vessels, although Antwerp located inland was the principal Belgian port because of Rhine River connections. As the Germans swept through Belgium (August 1914), they occupied almost the entire county, except for the coast. After the defeat on the Marne, the Germans and Allies conducted the Race to the Sea. It is at this time that Bruges and Ostend were taken by the Germans. The major fortification in Ostend was Fort Napoleon, built by Napoleon (1811) to defend Ostend from British attacks. Must more elaborate emplacements would be built by Hitler during World War II as part of the Atlantic Wall. The Germans used it as a headquarters facility. The BEF and the Belgian Army made a stand south of Ostend, thus holding a tiny corner of the country out of German hands. The British Royal Navy managed to evacuate some people from the city. We are not entirely sure just whodecided to flee rather than stay in the port as the Germans approached. Nor do we know if there was any selection proicess s tto who was let on the ships. Ostend was a valuable prize for the Germans because of its port. And its location (just a little north of Dunkirk) close to the mouth of the Channel meant that they could base ships and U-boats in Bruse to attacks British troop and supply ships crossing to France. To end these attacks, the British launched two attacks known as the Ostend Raids designed to close the shipping chnnels to Bruse (1918). They were only marginally effective. Bruges remained an active raiding base for the German Navy until liberated by the Allies a few days bfore the end of the War (October 1918). [Tarrant]

Sources

Tarrant, V.E. The U-Boat Offensive 19141945 (1989).








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Created: 1:05 AM 3/10/2015
Last updated: 1:09 AM 3/10/2015