Gérard Leman - History of World War I - WW1 - The Great War

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Gérard Leman

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Gerard Mathieu Leman (8 January 1851 Lix¨ge - 17 October 1920 Lix¨ge) was a Belgian general. He was responsible for the military education of King Albert I of Belgium. During World War I he was the commander of the forts surrounding the Belgian city of Lix¨ge. The German Forces had to use heavy artillery to break through the defences and capture Leman as a prisoner of War. He was released at the end of the war and died a hero, in 1920.

Pre-World War I

Leman was the son of an artillery captain who was a professor at the x‰cole Militaire. He entered the x‰cole Militaire at Brussels, and when he left it in 1869 had acquired a reputation for brilliance. During the Franco-German War, he served in a Belgian observation corps. In 1882, he became a member of the teaching staff of the x‰cole Militaire, and both then and later, as head of the school, he exerted considerable influence on military matters, becoming famous as a mathematician. During this period he was responsible for the military education of King Albert I of Belgium.

Preparing Lix¨ge

In January 1914, he was appointed commander of the forts surrounding the Belgian city of Lix¨ge as well as the 3rd division of the Belgian army. Leman was determined to hinder the German advance as much as possible. Over 18,000 labourers were set to work building fortifications around Lix¨ge. During a visit by a Belgian minister, Leman was told that these projects would compromise the neutrality of Belgium. Leman was unimpressed and replied that Belgium would come to thank him if war would break out; if no war came “they could take away his general's stars.

Battle of Liege

In August 1914, German forces under the command of General Otto von Emmich appeared before Liége and summoned it to surrender. On Gen. Leman's refusal, the fortress was attacked, and the Battle of Lix¨ge began. Gen. von Emmich's forces were initially unable to break through his fortifications; only after they used very heavy artillery (Big Bertha and other heavy guns) against the forts did they succeed in knocking them out. Leman was knocked unconscious by the bombardment, and was rescued by the Germans from under the debris of Fort Loncin. He was held as a prisoner of war in Germany until the end of World War I. As a token of respect, he was allowed to retain his sword. Leman insisted that the report of his capture mention that he did not surrender but was captured unconscious.

After the war

After the war, he returned to a hero’s welcome in Belgium. He died in 1920.

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Source: WikiPedia

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