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Shell damage at Mechelen, 1914

Shell damage at Mechelen, 1914


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Shell damage at Mechelen, 1914

A wider view of shell damage at Mechelen in Belgium, after a German bombardment early in the fighting in 1914.


Architectural monuments of Belgium, 1915 – ‘Opulence in the worst distress’

/>In the book collections curated by the CRC is the work entitled La Belgique monumentale : 100 planches en phototypie by Karel Sluyterman (1863-1931), the Dutch architect, designer and illustrator, and Jules Jacques van Ysendyck (1836-1901) the Belgian architect and propagandist for the neo- Flemish Renaissance style .

Title-page, ‘La Belgique monumentale’, by the architects Karel Sluyterman and Jules Jacques van Ysendyck, published by Martinus Nijhoff, 1915.

The work published in 1915 in the neutral Netherlands by Martinus Nijhoff – a prestigious publishing house in The Hague ( La Haye) – contains dozens of collotype prints (a salts based photographic process) showing gems of Belgian architecture.

/>A foreword to the collection of prints states that: ‘As Belgium suffers the devastating horrors of war, it seemed appropriate to circulate images of some Belgian monuments already irreparably damaged and destroyed, and those which are threatened with destruction’.

The 15th century Church of Notre Dame in Anvers (Antwerpen), Belgium… its tower and spire.

It goes on in very high-flown style: ‘In a very small space, Belgium offers an unparalleled accumulation of ancient cities and monuments, all standing witness to past greatness, offering the evidence of, and paying tribute to, the hard work always known in the country, and showing opulence in the worst distress’.

Old buildings in Tournai (Doornik), Belgium. 12th century Romanesque houses (Maisons Romanes).

The plates listed include important buildings in the towns and cities of Aerschot (Aarschot), Anvers (Antwerpen), Courtrai (Kortrijk), Dinant, Dixmude (Diksmuide), Louvain (Leuven), Malines (Mechelen), Tournai (Doornik), and Ypres (Ieper).

15th century Town Hall, Louvain (Leuven), Belgium.

Some of these towns and cities escaped major damage but others suffered catastrophic destruction inflicted by massive bombardment by both sides in the Great War.

In 1914 the University in Louvain (Leuven) was destroyed. This was the 14th century University Library.

In Louvain, for example, on the 25 August 1914, the University Library was destroyed using petrol and incendiary devices. Some 230,000 volumes were lost in the destruction, including Gothic and Renaissance manuscripts, a collection of 750 medieval manuscripts, and more than 1,000 incunabula (books printed before 1501). The city lost one fifth of its buildings during the War.

In 1914 the University in Louvain (Leuven) was destroyed. This was the original 14th century Hall.

In Ypres too, massive destruction was suffered, with the 13th century Cloth Hall – Lakenhalle – being reduced to rubble.

The Cloth Hall (Lakenhalle) in Ypres (Ieper), Belgium, which during the course of the War was reduced to rubble. Reconstructed after the conflict, the original building was constructed between 1200 and 1304.

A label on the inside of the front cover of the portfolio of prints reads: ‘From the library of the late Sir Robert Lorimer. Presented by his Family February 1934’.

Lorimer was a prolific Scottish architect and furniture designer noted for his sensitive restorations of historic houses and castles, for new work in Scots Baronial and Gothic Revival styles, and for promotion of the Arts and Crafts movement.

This new addition to the Cloth Hall, called Nieuwerck, dated from the 17th century. This too was reconstructed during the 1920s.

La Belgique monumentale : 100 planches en phototypie can be accessed by contacting the CRC and quoting shelfmark: RECA.FF.116.

Merchants Houses in Ypres (Ieper), Belgium, originally dating from 16th-17th centuries.

Dr. Graeme D. Eddie, Assistant Librarian Archives & Manuscripts, Centre for Research Collections


Battleship Texas Career

Namesake: The State of Texas
Ordered: 24 June 1910

USS Texas (BB-35). Underway off Norfolk, Virginia, 15 March 1943, with her main battery gun turrets trained to port.
Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives

Awarded: 17 December 1910
Builder: Newport News Shipbuilding Company
Cost: $5,830,000 ($144 million in today’s dollars) (excluding armor and armament)
Yard number: 31
Laid down: 17 April 1911
Launched: 18 May 1912
Sponsored by: Miss Claudia Lyon
Completed: 12 March 1914
Commissioned: 12 March 1914
Decommissioned: 21 April 1948
Struck: 30 April 1948
Honors and awards: 5 Battle Stars
Current Status: Museum ship


Gas Alarm Gong

German Army gas alarm gong used during the First World War. Gongs and bells were positioned along the front lines so that sentries could raise the alarm in the event of a gas attack.

The physical effects of gas were agonising and it remained a pervasive psychological weapon. Although only 3 per cent of gas casualties proved immediately fatal, hundreds of thousands of ex-soldiers continued to suffer for years after the war.


World Heritage Site

2014 marks 100 years since the start of the First World War. We have identified eight WHS that have been Damaged in WWI. I wondered what exactly happened to them between 1914 and 1918.

Belgium and France

In Dendermonde (one of the Flemish Béguinages), the entrance gate, several houses and the Beguine church were burned down by the Germans in 1914. All beguines had already left when the war broke out 1 .

Several of the Belfries of Belgium and France were located right in the middle of the battle front between the Allies and the Germans: - The clockwork of the Sint-Romboutstoren in Mechelen was damaged by a German canon in 1914. - The Belfry of Ypres was burned down early in 1914, the Cloth Hall was reduced to rubble during the 4 year siege of the town by the Germans. - The Belfry of Arras was destroyed in October 1915. - The Belfry of Amiens lasted until the Battle of Amiens in August 1918.

The nearby Nord-Pas de Calais Mining Basin had been cut in two by the Front, and the Germans flooded the eastern section. "The final blow arrived in 1918, when the Germans, facing defeat, decided to destroy the coalfield because it was economic tool vital to France, and all the pits of the Escarpelle, Aniche and Anzin companies were in turn methodically demolished in a few days." 2 .

The city of Reims was conquered and severely damaged by the Germans already in 1914. The ruined Reims Cathedral became one of the central images of anti-German propaganda produced in France during the war, which presented it, along with the ruins of the Cloth Hall at Ypres and the University Library in Louvain, as evidence that German aggression targeted cultural landmarks of European civilization 3 .

United Kingdom

Scottish St. Kilda saw some skirmishes at the island of Hirta, where the British Navy had erected a signal station at the beginning of the war. On 15 May 1918, a German submarine started shelling the island. Seventy-two shells in all were fired and the wireless station was destroyed. The manse, church and jetty storehouse were also damaged but there was no loss of life 4 .

Austria-Hungary

Various Polish Wooden Tserkvas were located near the Eastern Front where Austria-Hungary met Russia. The Bell Tower of the Tserkva in Chotyniec was destroyed during the retreat of the Russian Army. In Uzhok the tower bells were requisitioned by the Austrians. War memorials can be found next to the tserkvas in Uzhik (a stone pyramid) and Owczaryon (a cemetery where 74 Austro-Hungarian soldiers and 8 Russian soldiers are buried).

The Mehmed Pasa Sokolovic Bridge in Visegrad (now Bosnia Herzegovina) is closely connected with the conflict that set fire to WWI: the Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, after which Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. In 1914-1915, piers 3 and 4 of the bridge were blown up with dynamite by the withdrawing Austrian Army. In 1916, another pier was destroyed by the then retreating Serbian Army. Both incidents show the war-time strategic importance of the Bridge and the road across.

Persia

Probably the least likely victim on this list is Gonbad-e Qabus. This tower lies in the north-east of what is now Iran. Russian troops had occupied the region in the early 20th century, based on the security situation of Armenian and Assyrian Christians in Persia. Here they came to confront the Ottoman Empire in the Persian Campaign. Some 1500 bricks of the tower were broken or dislocated because of the bullets fired at the site. Also some of its inscriptions were damaged.


Barnbow Lasses

It is often said that wars are either won at sea, in the air, or in the trenches however this story relates to a ‘war of production’ – a war that was fought in the factories of Leeds by a brave band of Yorkshire women known as the The Barnbow Lasses.

The story also records the worst tragedy in the history of the City of Leeds – in terms of people killed – a story however that never made the news headlines of the day. It recalls a dreadful explosion that killed 35 Yorkshire women and girls at the Barnbow Munitions factory at Crossgates during the First World War.

The declaration of war with Germany in August 1914 created an unprecedented and urgent need for large volumes of arms and munitions. And although Leeds did not have much of an arms industry at that time, the canny City Fathers, together with established manufacturing companies, decided to build one from scratch and quickly created the Leeds Munitions Committee. Shells produced by the Leeds Forge Company at Armley would also be filled and armed within the boundaries of the city.

A governing board of directors comprising six local Leeds men was established and tasked with overseeing the construction of the First National Shell Filling Factory. They met in August 1915 and selected a site at Barnbow, between the Crossgates and Garforth areas of Leeds, to construct a factory the size of which was described as ‘a city within a city’.

Back in 1915 things were made to happen at a slightly faster rate than would happen in the England of today, as by August shell production had started in the new Armley factory, and within months this was producing more than 10,000 shells per week.

At the Barnbow site, railway workers laid tracks directly into the factory complex to transport raw materials into and finished goods out of the factory. Platforms over 800 feet long were added to the nearby railway station in order to bring the workers directly to the factory gates. Massive factory buildings were quickly constructed enabling shell filling operations to start in December 1915.

The frantic but well organised construction in the autumn of 1915 included the erection of overhead power lines to bring electricity to the site. This, together with a boiler house, provided power for the heating and lighting of the whole factory. A water main laid in just four weeks, would deliver 200,000 gallons of water daily. Rapid progress was also made on the infrastructure buildings including changing rooms, canteens, administration blocks, etc.

The Barnbow site would eventually extend to cover some 200 acres. There was however, a complete press blackout of the area due to security concerns.


The main gates – Barnbow

In order to recruit the large work force required to operate such a facility, an employment bureau was opened at Wellesley Barracks in Leeds. With one third of the workforce eventually recruited from Leeds, other workers came from nearby Castleford, Wakefield, Harrogate and many from the outlying villages. A 24-hour three shift system was introduced that operated 6 days a week, and by October 1916 the work force numbered 16,000. As the war continued and the death rate on the front increased, so the gradual replacement of male with female labour increased, until the Barnbow workforce comprised almost 93% women or girls.

At that time a typical munitions worker’s earnings averaged £3.0s.0d, however when a bonus scheme was put into production, the output of shells trebled and the girls handling the explosives were often taking home between £10 – £12, very big money indeed.

All aspects of the operation appear to have been efficiently run with the latest electric payroll systems including calculating machines being introduced. Thirty-eight trains per day, known as Barnbow Specials, transported the workforce to and from the site and employees were provided with free permits for home-to-work journeys.

Working conditions on the other hand were barely tolerable. Workers employed in handling explosives had to strip to their underwear and wear buttonless smocks and caps. All had to wear rubber soled shoes, and hairpins, combs, cigarettes and matches were all strictly forbidden. Hours were long, conditions poor and holidays simply did not exist!

Food rationing was severe but because of the nature of their work the employees were allowed to drink as much milk and barley water as they wanted. Barnbow even had its own farm, complete with 120 cows producing 300 gallons of milk a day. Working with cordite, a propellant for the shells, for long periods caused the skin of the operatives to turn yellow, the cure for which was to drink plenty of milk.

It was just after 10pm on Tuesday 5th December 1916, when several hundred women and girls had just begun their night shift. Their tasks that fateful evening consisted as they normally did, of filling, fusing, finishing off and packing 4½ inch shells. Room 42 was mainly used for the filling, and between 150 and 170 girls worked there. Shells were brought to the room already loaded with high explosive and all that remained was the insertion of the fuse and the screwing down of the cap. A girl inserted the fuse by hand, screwed it down and then it was taken and placed into a machine that revolved the shell and screwed the fuse down tightly.

At 10.27pm a violent explosion rocked the very foundations of Room 42 killing 35 women outright, maiming and injuring dozens more. In some cases identification was only possible by the identity disks worn around the necks of the workers. The machine where the explosion had occurred was completely destroyed. Steam pipes had burst open and covered the floor with a cocktail of blood and water.


After the explosion

Despite the danger from further explosions other workers hurried into room 42 in order to help to bring the injured to safety. William Parkin, a mechanic at the factory, was one particular hero of the hour and he was later presented with an inscribed silver watch for his bravery in bringing out about a dozen girls.

Within a few hours of the explosion, bodies having been taken out, other girls were volunteering to work in room 42. Production was stopped only briefly. Many of the injured girls were later taken for a period of convalescence to Weetwood Grange, which had been leased by Barnbow from the works Comfort Fund.

Due to the censorship of that time, no account of the accident was made public however in a special order of the day issued from the British HQ in France, Field Marshall Sir Douglas Haigh paid tribute to the devotion and sacrifice of the munitions workers. The only clue to a tragedy having happened was in the many death notices in the Yorkshire Evening Post that stated, “killed by accident”.

It was not until six years after the war that the public were told the facts for the first time.

There were two further explosions at Barnbow, one in March 1917, killing two girl workers and another in May 1918, killing three men. A Roll of Honour of war dead, in the Colton Methodist Church, includes the name of the only Colton girl who died in the accident, a certain Ethel Jackson.

Barnbow was Britain’s premier shell factory between 1914 and 1918 and at the end of hostilities on 11 November 1918, production stopped for the first time. By that time a total of 566,000 tons of finished ammunition had been dispatched overseas.

All photographs courtesy of Leeds Library and Information Services

The above article was originally compiled by Historic UK researchers in 2004. However in 2014 we were contacted by a lady who is the granddaughter of one of the ‘Barnbow Lasses’ who sadly lost her life in the factory.

Pauline Taylor’s grandmother Mary Elizabeth Wortley was one of the women killed at Barmbow in 1916. Whilst helping to provide her with further details concerning the event, our researchers uncovered some relatively new information. Following a link to a Yorkshire Evening Post article we were able to report back to Pauline that the good folk of Leeds had indeed remembered the sacrifices made by the ‘Barnbow Lasses’. Indeed, in 2012 they named a number of parks, buildings and streets in their memory. In particular, Pauline’s grandmother will be remembered forever by all who visit and enjoy Elizabeth Wortley Park.

Being presented with this news, Pauline’s final remarks bear testament to the sacrifices made by just one Yorkshire family… “What an honour, little would she or my father have thought that this would ever happen. Pity that it is necessary!! She left 10 children, my father was only 7 at the time and the youngest child was 4.”


Architectural monuments of Belgium, 1915 – ‘Opulence in the worst distress’

A LOST BUT RECONSTRUCTED HERITAGE… FROM THE LIBRARY OF SIR ROBERT STODART LORIMER (1864-1929), ARCHITECT

/>In the book collections curated by the CRC is the work entitled La Belgique monumentale : 100 planches en phototypie by Karel Sluyterman (1863-1931), the Dutch architect, designer and illustrator, and Jules Jacques van Ysendyck (1836-1901) the Belgian architect and propagandist for the neo- Flemish Renaissance style .

Title-page, ‘La Belgique monumentale’, by the architects Karel Sluyterman and Jules Jacques van Ysendyck, published by Martinus Nijhoff, 1915.

The work published in 1915 in the neutral Netherlands by Martinus Nijhoff – a prestigious publishing house in The Hague ( La Haye) – contains dozens of collotype prints (a salts based photographic process) showing gems of Belgian architecture.

/>A foreword to the collection of prints states that: ‘As Belgium suffers the devastating horrors of war, it seemed appropriate to circulate images of some Belgian monuments already irreparably damaged and destroyed, and those which are threatened with destruction’.

The 15th century Church of Notre Dame in Anvers (Antwerpen), Belgium… its tower and spire.

It goes on in very high-flown style: ‘In a very small space, Belgium offers an unparalleled accumulation of ancient cities and monuments, all standing witness to past greatness, offering the evidence of, and paying tribute to, the hard work always known in the country, and showing opulence in the worst distress’.

Old buildings in Tournai (Doornik), Belgium. 12th century Romanesque houses (Maisons Romanes).

The plates listed include important buildings in the towns and cities of Aerschot (Aarschot), Anvers (Antwerpen), Courtrai (Kortrijk), Dinant, Dixmude (Diksmuide), Louvain (Leuven), Malines (Mechelen), Tournai (Doornik), and Ypres (Ieper).

15th century Town Hall, Louvain (Leuven), Belgium.

Some of these towns and cities escaped major damage but others suffered catastrophic destruction inflicted by massive bombardment by both sides in the Great War.

In 1914 the University in Louvain (Leuven) was destroyed. This was the 14th century University Library.

In Louvain, for example, on the 25 August 1914, the University Library was destroyed using petrol and incendiary devices. Some 230,000 volumes were lost in the destruction, including Gothic and Renaissance manuscripts, a collection of 750 medieval manuscripts, and more than 1,000 incunabula (books printed before 1501). The city lost one fifth of its buildings during the War.

In 1914 the University in Louvain (Leuven) was destroyed. This was the original 14th century Hall.

In Ypres too, massive destruction was suffered, with the 13th century Cloth Hall – Lakenhalle – being reduced to rubble.

The Cloth Hall (Lakenhalle) in Ypres (Ieper), Belgium, which during the course of the War was reduced to rubble. Reconstructed after the conflict, the original building was constructed between 1200 and 1304.

A label on the inside of the front cover of the portfolio of prints reads: ‘From the library of the late Sir Robert Lorimer. Presented by his Family February 1934’.

Lorimer was a prolific Scottish architect and furniture designer noted for his sensitive restorations of historic houses and castles, for new work in Scots Baronial and Gothic Revival styles, and for promotion of the Arts and Crafts movement.

This new addition to the Cloth Hall, called Nieuwerck, dated from the 17th century. This too was reconstructed during the 1920s.

La Belgique monumentale : 100 planches en phototypie can be accessed by contacting the CRC and quoting shelfmark: RECA.FF.116.

Merchants Houses in Ypres (Ieper), Belgium, originally dating from 16th-17th centuries.

Dr. Graeme D. Eddie, Assistant Librarian Archives & Manuscripts, Centre for Research Collections


What if the Austro-Hungarians did a competent, Serbian-focused offensive deployment in 1914?

In the real world, Conrad fumbled the Austro-Hungarian deployment plans in 1914 and sent Austro-Hungarian armies strewn across the country shuttling between Serbia and the Russian front, and had both the Galician and Serbian offensives happened with insufficient troops in either place, with the Russian counter-attack subsequently annihilating the Austro-Hungarians in Galicia. What if Conrad had not come up with his complicated deployment plan and stuck to the initial operation of 2 armies rather than 1 against Serbia, giving decisive numerical superiority, while the troops in Galicia remain on the defensive in all of those forts that the Austrians spent so much money on.

Would the results be a great short-term success?

Serbia knocked out of the war in 1914, Austro-Hungarian troops avoid the catastrophe of the Galician campaign, Przemysl, and the horrifying Carpatian counter-attacks in the winter of 1914/1915 in such utterly barbaric conditions.

With this lead to longer term strategic victory for the CP coalition for the following reasons?

The route to the Ottoman Empire is opened a year early, Italy never joins the Allies, the Russian Empire collapses early, the Austro-Hungarian army isn't reduced to a shell of itself, and the war ends with a decisive Central Powers victory by probably circa 1917.

Or is this too optimistic about two Austro-Hungarian armies being deployed being sufficient to crush Serbia before 1914 is over? (presumably Bulgaria would always enter before Serbia is about to go down).

Or, does a defensive deployment in 1914 in Galicia instead of an offensive deployment leave the Russians too free to act offensively in East Prussia, Posen, Silesia, or Galicia, forcing the Germans to move more forces east in 1914 than they did historically, making the Germans finish 1914 holding less territory on the western front?


HISTORY

An Irish missionary called Rumbold (Rumoldus) left his country to spread Christianity. His destination was the settlement of Mechelen. You will meet him in St Rumbold&rsquos Cathedral, where 25 paintings tell the life of Rumbold in an early comic strip. He died between 580 and 655 and was venerated as St Rumbold. Pilgrims visited his tomb. And monks founded St Rumbold&rsquos Abbey. A flourishing community grew up on the right bank of the River Dyle, near the site of what is today St Rumbold&rsquos Cathedral.

We know from archaeological research on the Lamot site that there was a trading port on the left bank of the River Dyle, possibly belonging to a local ruler or to St Rumbold&rsquos Abbey. By the end of the twelfth century there are no more references to it.

There are already references to the Schepenhuis or Aldermen&rsquos Building House, which means it is one of the oldest stone town halls in Flanders. Until the second half of the fifteenth century it was the town hall and meeting place of the city tribunal later the seat of the Great Council. It is now a municipal museum housing a sizeable collection of work by the artist Rik Wouters.

Duke Jan II of Brabant and Jan Berthout granted Mechelen a charter, prescribing the structure and organization of the city. For example, a twelveman bench of Burgomaster and Aldermen was set up. The charter determined the way the city was administered until 1795. But more happened in 1301: Mechelen was given the exclusive staple rights for grain, salt and fish, which was very good for the economy! Boats tied up here and offered their goods for sale. Only after three days could merchants offer their unsold wares elsewhere. Other towns felt considerably disadvantaged by Mechelen&rsquos staple rights and were not happy about the situation.

The first stone of the present-day St Rumbold&rsquos Tower was laid. The plan was to build a tower some 167 meters high but in the mid-sixteenth century when it had reached a height of just 97 meters, building work came to a standstill for various reasons.

The Burgundian duke Charles the Bold centralized power and founded the Parliament of Mechelen: a court of law which represented all the other courts of law in the Burgundian territories. Mechelen was a logical choice because of its central location and special status. Mechelen, along with the region, formed a seigniory, which enjoyed autonomy from the large principalities nearby like the Duchy of Brabant and the Princebishopric of Liège. By choosing Mechelen the duke avoided conflict. Mechelen retained its autonomous status until the end of the eighteenth century. Under Charles V it became one of the Seventeen Provinces of the Netherlands.

Margaret of Austria, Charles the Bold&rsquos granddaughter, was appointed regent of the Netherlands. Mechelen was the juridical and administrative centre. Margaret of Austria&rsquos palace in Keizerstraat was a hive of activity: the most progressive artists of her day visited the court and the renaissance and humanism flourished. The city became a magnet for rich families who settled in the city and demonstrated their power by building impressive residences. The Hof van Busleyden is a beautifully preserved example. Five centuries later Margaret of Austria&rsquos palace served as a court of law.

Mary of Hungary succeeded Margaret of Austria as regent of the Netherlands. Under her rule the court moved definitively to Brussels, which meant that Mechelen was no longer the political centre of the Netherlands.

Rembert Dodoens, who was from Mechelen, published his &lsquoCruydeboeck&rsquo, a herbal that was revolutionary because of the way it classified the plant kingdom. The book was translated into most European languages. There is even a Japanese version. Did you know that Rembert Dodoens was the city surgeon, but also Emperor Maximilian II &rsquos personal physician?

King Philip II of Spain made Mechelen the seat of an archbishopric and thus the ecclesiastical capital of the Southern Netherlands. This was a politically shrewd move: by having state and church borders converge, he increased his control. The first archbishop of Mechelen was Antonius Perrenot de Granvelle. Later well-known archbishops included Matthias Hovius, Thomas-Philippus d&rsquoAlsace et du Boussu, Désiré-Joseph Mercier and Jozef Ernest Van Roey. Since 1961 it has been the archbishopric of Mechelen-Brussels. The current archbishop &ndash who succeeded Godfried Danneels in 2010 &ndash is André-Joseph Léonard.

Late in the evening, on January 27th and 28th 1687, St Rumbold&rsquos Tower was shrouded in a wintry mist. A none too sober tippler stumbled out of an inn on the Grote Markt into the cold night. He suddenly noticed that the tower was ablaze and immediately raised the alarm. The whole city was thrown into a state of confusion. The city council led by the burgomaster lost no time in organizing the fire-fighting campaign. Buckets of water were passed from hand to hand up the tower stairway, but even before they reached the top, the moon slipped through the haze and the glow disappeared &hellip The courageous citizens realized that the reddish misty glow they were trying to extinguish was the moon! &ldquoDon&rsquot tell a soul,&rdquo they said. But the news soon spread abroad, earning the people of Mechelen the nickname &lsquoManeblussers&rsquo or &lsquoMoon Extinguishers&rsquo &ndash a nickname they bear to this day.

On May 5th the first train on the European mainland chugged its way along the Brussels-Mechelen line. A law dated May 1st 1834 made Mechelen the midpoint of Belgium&rsquos future railway network. A milestone in front of the station commemorates this. The arrival of the train changed the city and a new district grew up around the station. In 1839 the Central Railway Engineering Works &ndash known locally as &lsquohet Arsenaal&rsquo &ndash brought employment and a significant increase in the population.

The bombing raids at the beginning of the First World War certainly did not leave Mechelen unscathed. St Rumbold&rsquos gigantic clock was badly damaged and many of the historic buildings along the IJzerenleen were destroyed.

The Second World War was a sad chapter in the history of Mechelen. More than 25,000 Jews and gypsies were deported to Auschwitz from the Dossin barracks by the Nazis. In April 1944 the Allies carried out bombing raids on the Arsenaal, the station and the railway. Many people died and there was considerable material damage. Fortunately, on September 4th 1944 Mechelen was liberated by the British.

Belgiumrecruited workers for its coal mines. Many Berbers from the north of Morocco came to Mechelen. These &lsquotemporary&rsquo workers were needed for longer than anticipated and stayed on. Three generations have now lived in Mechelen. Assyrian Turks from the Christian village of Hassana in the far south-east of Turkey also came to Mechelen. When their village was set on fire and destroyed, Belgium recognized its inhabitants as political refugees and they soon integrated.

As the European newcomer, KV Mechelen won the European Cup Winners&rsquo Cup by beating the Dutch champions Ajaz 1-0 in Strasbourg on May 11th. Football-mad Europe was stunned. Not a single Belgian team has since won a European football trophy.

Mechelen has rediscovered its heritage. The public space is being carefully modernized, guided by respect for history and heritage. Monuments have been sympathetically restored. Highlights include uncovering former brooks, installing the Skywalk on St Rumbold&rsquos Tower and the newlydiscovered medieval wall paintings in St John&rsquos Church.


History Shows the True Damage Done By Imperial Japan's Type 3 Machine Gun

Only the end of World War II, and Japan’s defeat, would bring an end to Hotchkiss-style machine guns in Japanese service.

Here’s What You Need to Remember: One of the most infantry-heavy armies of World War II was the Imperial Japanese Army. Although the country itself is today synonymous with innovation, the infantry weapons used by the Imperial Army and Navy were generally copies of European weapons ill-suited for notoriously small-statured Japanese soldiers. Such weapons often remained in service much longer than prudent. An example of this was the Type 3 machine gun, which at the time of its introduction weighed as much as a Japanese soldier.

In the late 1890s, the Austrian arms inventor Captain Baron Adolf Odkolek von Ujezda designed a new machine gun. The concept of the machine gun was fairly new but von Ujezda’s design differed from others in being gas-operated, rather than recoil-operated. Unlike other machine guns, which relied on bulky water jackets to cool a hot barrel, the new gun used ambient air to reduce barrel heat. The design for the machine gun was finalized in France, where it was known as the Hotchkiss, serving as the front-line machine gun during World War I.

The Imperial Japanese Army came into being during the Meiji Restoration, a period of breakneck modernization, and Tokyo imported French advisors in the late nineteenth century to help build the first real national Japanese Army. This gave France a considerable amount of military prestige in Japan and it’s probably no accident that the country adopted the Hotchkiss Modéle 1900 machine gun. Hotchkiss guns served the Imperial Army during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905, where trench warfare and massed infantry tactics gave the world a glimpse of the future of warfare.

In 1914, the Imperial Army adopted a modified version of the Hotchkiss heavy machine gun. The gun was designated the Type 3, so-called because it was adopted during the third year of the reign of Emperor Taisho (1912-1926). Japan’s Hotchkiss guns were chambered for the Japanese 6.5-millimeter (.30 caliber) rifle cartridge, the same caliber powering the Arisaka rifle. This was a major plus for an infantry unit, allowing Japan’s army to streamline its logistics and by carrying just one rifle and machine-gun round. The downside was that the 6.5mm round did not have the range and power of other heavy machine guns.

The Type 3 machine gun was developed by General Kijiro Nambu, a famous Japanese arms expert with a mediocre design record that included the infamous Nambu handgun. The Type 3, like many Hotchkiss variants, included a built-in gravity-fed oil reservoir that oiled bullets as they were fed into the chamber. The bullets twere loaded into flat 30 round trays that passed through the machine gun action as the weapon was fired.

The Type 3’s Hotchkiss lineage was clear to all but the gun still retained Japanese touches. Nambu added larger, more pronounced ribbing on the barrel sleeve to increase surface area and bleed off heat. This gave the Type 3 a drill-like appearance. The Type III also had a different shell casing ejection system, borrowing from the British-designed Lewis machine gun.

The Type 3 in 6.5-millimeter was essentially a light machine gun, though there was nothing light about it in the physical sense. The machine gun weighed a staggering 122 pounds with a tripod, or 62 pounds without, though there was no way to operate the gun without the tripod. One interesting, but not altogether necessary innovation introduced by the Type 3 were sockets in the tripod’s feet. Japanese soldiers could pass poles through the sockets, enabling the weight of the 122-pound machine gun to be split more or less evenly by a team of four men.

The machine gun was 47 inches long with a 29-inch barrel, and the barrel length would have given the weapon a very minor improvement in range and velocity over a Type 38 Arisaka rifle firing the same cartridge. The machine gun retained the same rate of fire as the original Hotchkiss, or approximately 450 to 500 rounds per minute. Ironically, the 6.5-millimeter round fired from the Type 3 had a greater muzzle velocity than the original 8-millimeter Lebed round had fired from the Hotchkiss.

By the 1930s, Imperial Japanese forces in China concluded that the 6.5-millimeter round was underpowered, and a new version of Type III—the Type 92—was fielded in the larger, heavier 7.7x58 millimeter round. The Type 92 served on through World War II, though it was clearly obsolete at this point and were superseded by much lighter guns such as the Type 96 and Type 99. The Japanese military, however, would not discard a perfectly good gun in wartime, and the Type 92 served through the Chinese and Pacific theaters of World War II. The gun also served with the North Korean People’s Army in the opening stages of the Korean War.

The Type 3 was an excellent example of a good infantry weapon that served far too long, ultimately to the detriment to the troops it was supposed to arm. Even when a smaller, lighter gun that weighed a mere fifth of the Type 3 was invented, the Japanese military would not retire the older, heavier, clunkier gun. Only the end of World War II, and Japan’s defeat, would bring an end to Hotchkiss-style machine guns in Japanese service.

Kyle Mizokami is a defense and national security writer based in San Francisco who has appeared in the Diplomat, Foreign Policy, War is Boring and the Daily Beast. In 2009 he cofounded the defense and security blog Japan Security Watch. You can follow him on Twitter: @KyleMizokami. This article first appeared in 2019.


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