Figures of the Great War’s landscape in Belgium

In his book « Restored Belgium » (Ed. M. Lamartin, 1926), Ernest Mahaim draws up the report for Belgium in the aftermath of World War 1.

  • 100.000 destroyed or severely damaged buildings

  • 1.300 public buildings to be rebuilt

  • 40.367 soldiers killed or deadly wounded from complications or diseases

  • Between 36.000 and 50.000 soldiers maimed or disabled

  • About 250.000 acres of land (100.000 hectares) devastated by shelling, cluttered with barbed wire or flooded

  • Cattle and horses livestock reduced to the half and two thirds of the pigs wiped out.

  • 26 of the land’s 57 blast furnaces wrecked

  • 685 miles (1.100 kilometres) of railroad destroyed

  • 1.419 bridges and roads destroyed


Cities like Visé, Dinant or Leuven suffered a lot from the war, but most of the devastation took place in Western Flanders, where the 60 km frontline remained in stalemate for four years. In his book “Reconstruction of the devastated areas”, Sven Carnel, a member of the Historic Society of Comines-Warneton and its Surroundings, quotes the 1921 report to the Minister of Agriculture written by inspector M. Miserez : “ A deathly silence hangs over the vast lowlands where 62 villages and 3 cities, once rich and prosperous, lay asleep. (…) Alone amidst this void, tree boles show here and there, raising their branches ravaged by gunfire towards the skies, like pathetic stumps. The whole polder is flooded and tidal waves come as far as 40 kilometres inside the land (…) This is an unequalled disaster (…) Everywhere, unexploded ordnance scattered over the ground (…) 300 000 inhabitants of this land are homeless and resource less. Damned war!”

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