Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Belgium's Unknown Soldier

Belgium's impressive  tomb for its Unknown Soldier lies at the base of another national monument, the Congress Column in Brussels. The 47-meter column, which is modeled on Trajan's Column in Rome, commemorates the creation of the Belgian Constitution by the national congress of 1830–31.

The Column at Place du Congress

The bi-lingual plaque reads:

Here lies an unknown soldier who died for the Motherland (French)
Here lies an unknown soldier who died for the Fatherland (Dutch)

At the top of the column is a statue of Belgium's first monarch, King Leopold I, and the pedestal is surrounded by statues personifying the four freedoms guaranteed under the Constitution.

1922 Interment

On 11 November 1922, exactly four years after the Armistice, King Albert inaugurated the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Blind former soldier, Raymond Haesebrouck, chose the body between five unidentifiable remains. After World War II, a second memorial plaque was added to the monument to honor the Belgian victims.

Photos from Steve Miller and Belgian History

PS:  As we were going to press, our translator Tony Langley informed me that France and Belgium also honored one another's Unknowns.  There is a French Unknown in Brussels, and a Belgian Unknown honored in Paris.  We will post an article on these sites in the future.

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