|EXCERPT FROM THE BRYCE REPORT
|The Parliamentary War Aims Committee in Britain,in its role of myth and rumor mongering, saw to
it that the British public was fed a diet of outrageous exaggerations. In 1915, a committee of lawyers
and historians under Britain's former ambassador to the USA Lord Bryce came out with the 'Bryce
Report' into alleged German atrocities. 'Murder, lust and pillage', said the report, 'on a scale
unparalleled in any war between civilised nations during the last three centuries' Among other lurid
tales, there were stories of how German officers had gang-raped 20 Belgian girls in a marketplace,
how German soldiers had bayoneted babies and sliced off peasant girls' breasts. The newspapers
published gruesome illustrations of Germans beheading babies and eating their flesh when they
published the report.
|In Sempst a similar condition of affairs existed. Houses were burning, and in some of them were the
charred remains of civilians.
In a bicycle shop a witness saw the burned corpse of a man. Other witnesses speak to this incident.
Another civilian, unarmed, was shot as he was running away. As will be remembered all the arms
had been given up some time before by order of the burgomaster.
The corpse of a man with his legs cut off, who was partly bound, was seen by another witness, who
also saw a girl of seventeen dressed only in a chemise-and in great distress. She alleged that she
herself and other girls had been dragged into a field, stripped naked and violated, and that some of
them had been killed with the bayonet.
WEERDE.--At Weerde four corpses of civilians were lying in the road. It was said that these men
had fired upon the German soldiers; but this is denied. The arms had been given up long before.
Two children were killed in a village, apparently Weerde, quite wantonly as they were standing in the
road with their mother. They were three or four years old and were killed with the bayonet.
A small farm burning close by formed a convenient means of getting rid of the bodies. They were
thrown into the flames from the bayonets. It is right to add that no commissioned officer was present
at this time.
EPPEGHEM.-- At Eppeghem, on the 25th of August, a pregnant woman who had been wounded
with a bayonet was discovered in the convent. She was dying. On the road six dead bodies of
labourers were seen.
ELEWYT.--At Elewyt a man's naked body was tied up to a ring in the wall in the backyard of a
house. He was dead, and his corpse was mutilated in a manner too horrible to record. A woman's
naked body was also found in a stable abutting on the same backyard.
VILVORDE.--At Vilvorde corpses of civilians were also found. These villages are all on the line from
Malines to Brussels.
BOORT MEERBEEK.--At Boort Meerbeek a German soldier was seen to fire three times at a little
girl of five years old. Having failed to hit her, he subsequently bayoneted her. He was killed with the
butt end of a rifle by a Belgian soldier who had seen him commit this murder from a distance.
HERENT.--At Herent the charred body of a civilian was found in a butcher's shop, and in a hand
cart 20 yards away was the dead body of a labourer.
Two eye-witnesses relate that a German soldier shot a civilian and stabbed him with a bayonet as he
lay. He then made one of these witnesses, a civilian prisoner, smell the blood on the bayonet.
HAECHT.--At Haecht the bodies of 10 civilians were seen lying in a row by a brewery wall.
In a labourer's house, which had been broken up, the mutilated corpse of a woman of 30 to 35 was
A child of three with its stomach cut open by a bayonet was lying near a house.
WERCHTER.--At Werchter the corpses of a man and woman and four younger persons were found
in one house. It is stated that they had been murdered because one of the latter, a girl, would not
allow the Germans to outrage her.
This catalogue of crimes does not by any means represent the sum total of the depositions relating to
this district laid before the Committee. The above are given merely as examples of acts which the
evidence shows to have taken place in numbers that might have seemed scarcely credible.
In the rest of the district, that is to say, Aerschot and the other villages from which the Germans had
not been driven, the effect of the battle was to cause a recrudescence of murder, arson, pillage, and
cruelty, which had to some extent died down after the 20th or 21st August.
In Aerschot itself fresh prisoners seem to have been taken and added to those who were already in
the church, since it would appear that prisoners were kept to some extent in the church during the
whole of the German occupation of Aerschot. The second occasion on which large numbers of
prisoners were put there was shortly after the battle of Malines, and it was then that the priest of
Gelrode was brought to Aerschot church, treated abominably and finally murdered.
One witness describes the scene graphically: "The whole of the prisoners--men, women, and
children--were placed-in the church. Nobody was allowed to go outside the church to obey the calls
of nature. The church had to be used for that purpose. We were afterwards allowed to go outside the
church for this purpose, and then I saw the clergyman of Gelrode standing by the wall of the church
with his hands above his head, being guarded by soldiers." The actual details of the murder of the
priest are as follows: The priest was struck several times by the soldiers on the head. He was pushed
up against the wall of the church. He asked in Flemish to be allowed to stand with his face to the
wall, and tried to turn round. The Germans stopped him, and then turned him with his face to the
wall, with his hands above his head. A hour later the same witness saw the priest still standing there.
He was then led away by the Germans a distance of about 50 yards. There, with his face against the
wall of a house, he was shot by five soldiers.
Other murders of which we have evidence appear in the Appendix.
Some of the prisoners in the church at Aerschot were actually kept there until the arrival of the
Belgian army, on September 11th, when they were released. Others were marched to Louvain, and
eventually merged with other prisoners, both from Louvain itself and the surrounding districts, and
taken to Germany and elsewhere.
It is said by one witness that about 1,500 were marched to Louvain, and that the journey took six
The journey to Louvain is thus described by a witness: We were all marched off to Louvain,
walking. There were some very old people, amongst others a man 90 years of age. The very old
people were drawn in carts and barrows by the younger men. There was an officer with a bicycle,
who shouted, as people fell out by the side of the road, "Shoot them." (end)
|The Bryce Report was translated into 30 languages, and portrayed Britain as defending poor little
Belgium against the barbaric Germans. In 1922, a Belgian commission of enquiry failed to
corroborate a single major allegation in the Bryce Report.