American Friends of the New Aarschot Peace Carillon

This new instrument (Vredesbeiaard) will consist of 51 bells, symbolizing the number of countries that had troops in Flanders in WWI, including USA. Parts of artillery shells will be melted for the new bells, as a symbol for Peace and Reconciliation.

New Aarschot Peace Carillon (BE) A Project of N | KBFUS Funds



Project of the New Aarschot Peace Carillon (2018) Safe the date: inauguration 2018 november 11th! (new date!!)


AARSCHOT PEACE CARILLON

BELLS, WAR AND PEACE

The Aarschot Church of Our Lady and the city is going to have a New Peace Carillon. This instrument will consist of 51 new heavy-profile bronze bells, symbolizing the number of countries that had troops in Flanders during the First World War. Parts of old artillery shells from World War I will be melted in the 7 tons bronze bells, as an important symbol for peace and reconciliation. The bells of the new carillon will be installed on level 585.


Plan: Architect Bart Macken

The idea for a new carillon was proposed by mr. Huub Gerits, when he was appointed dean of the Aarschot Church of Our Lady. He was surprised that this beautiful church did not house a carillon, like any other Flemish city. As Percival Price wrote, "A church tower without bells is like a body without a soul", Huub had a similar expression: "A city without a carillon is like a small village".

Organising committee of the Aarschot Peace Carillon project: Members of the City councel and the Church responsibles in front of the Church of Our Lady.


WARS BELLS AND PEACE in AARSCHOT


The history of the Aarschot Church of Our Lady

Aarschot is located in the part of Flemish Brabant called Hageland, located to the east of Leuven.The Church of Our Lady (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk) definitely leaves its mark on the appearance of the city. Aarschot's main church was built out of local ferrous sandstone, alternating with white stone, a commonly known as "bacon"*. The church itself is gothic and was begun in the 14th century. The present renaissance spire was added after the original spire was struck by lightning. Aarschot is a very typical town with a long history, dating back to the era of the Roman emperors, according to myths.

The Church of Our Lady is surrounded by quiet gardens, green lawns and a nice Flemish Beguinage. This is the best location for a carillon.


1489: Church destroyed by German Army

On may 1st 1489, Albert III, Duke of Saxony and his German Army envaded Aarschot, at that moment occupied by the French army an he burned down most of the whole city of Aarschot. The church was completely destroyed. The tower survived. No information about the bells.


1572 : Lightning damage.

On October 29th 1572 the tower was struyck by lightning and the roof was completly destroyed by fire. The tower was restaured around 1574.


1578: Eighty Years' War : Destruction of the Aarschot Carillon by Spanish and Irish soldiers

Picture of what it looked like of what happened during the destrution of the Aarschot bells in 1578

The iconoclasm of 1566 did not harm Aarschot, but in 1578 Spanish soldiers assited by Irish regiment in the Spanish Army of Flanders in the Eighty Years' War in the 1580s and rebellion armies alike plundered the city and the church several times. Artworks were stolen, altars destroyed, statues burned and all 12 bells bells of the carillon were thrown from the tower.


For decades the church would remain in ruins. The old carillon of the Aarschot Church of Our Lady had 12 bells in 1578. (The first carillon ever was built in Flanders around the beginning of the 16th century.)

Aarschot 1578

Source: Rijksmuseum Amsterdam


1584 : New bell

On August 20th 1584 Aarschot Church of Our Lady got a first small bell (loan) .. The rest of the history of the bells of Aarschot will remain difficult to find out, because the information was distroyed by several wars during the next centuries.


1798 : French Revolutionary wars (The peasants War): Destuction of all Aarschot bells during the French occupation


Aarschot 1798: The French minister of national affairs gave order to destroy all the Church Bells in Aarschot (and many other cities). Two bells were thrown out of the tower. The remaining two bells were too heavy and were destroyed in the tower. The tower remained silent for 19 years!


1817, 1830 end 1873 : 3 New bells for Aarschot

Thanks to Rev. De Coen, a new bell (Our Lady) was cast by AL Van den Gheyn in 1817 and put in the tower of the Aarschot Church of Our Lady.

Bell of Our Lady, cast by AL Van den Gheyn, 1817

Thanks to Rev. Corten, local habitants and the city a second swinging bell (St. Rochus) was castby AL Van den Gheyn in 1830 and put in the tower.


Bell of Saint Rochus, AL Van den Gheyn, 1830


Thanks to Rev. Puttemans 2 new bells were cast by Severinus Van Aerschot in 1873, both around 300 kg. The first one named Saint-Joseph the second one named Saint-Michaël.

Saint-Joseph Bell, Severinus Van Aerschot, 1873

Source: Belgian Art Link and Tools


1914 : Aarschot and The Great War

Aarschot is one of the seven martyr cities that have suffered a great deal during the so called Invasion of Belgium at the beginning of the Great War, before that war became entrenched in Flanders Fields. The German troops arrived in Aarschot two weeks after they invaded Belgium and one week before they had set the city of Leuven on fire, including the University Library. The damage toll for Aarschot was 480 homes destroyed, 156 civilians killed and 300 taken prisoners and transported by train to Sennelagerkampf.


Two war correspondents happened to be in Aarschot in 1914, right after the Germans entered Aarschot. E. Alexander Powell (USA) and Louise Mack (Australia) were eye-witnesses.


Louise Mack (Australia) in Aarschot

1914 : A woman's experiences in the Great War by Louise Mack (Mrs. Creed) Author of "An Australian Gril in Londen"

  • ...
  • We had gone a long way when we were brought to a standstill at a little place called Heyst-op den Berg, where the sentinels leaned into our car and had a long friendly chat with us.
  • "You cannot go any further," they said. "The Germans are in the next town ahead; they are only a few kilometres away."
  • "What town is it?" I asked.
  • "Aerschot," they replied.
  • "That is on the way to Louvain, is it not?" I asked. "I have been trying for a long time to get to Louvain!"
  • "You can never get to Louvain, Madam," the sentinels told me smilingly. "Between here and Louvain lies the bulk of the German Army."
  • Just then, a chasseur, mounted on a beautiful fiery little brown Ardennes horse, came galloping along, shouting as he passed, "The Germans have been turned out of Aerschot; we have driven them out, les sales cochons!"
  • He jumped off his horse, gave the reins to a soldier and leapt into a train that was standing at the station.
  • A sudden inspiration flashed into my head. Without a word I jumped out of the motor car, ran through the station, and got into that train just as it was moving off, leaving my old Belgian to look after the car.
  • Next moment I found myself being carried along through unknown regions, and as I looked from the windows I soon discovered that I had entered now into the very heart of German ruin and pillage and destructiveness. Pangs of horror attacked me at the sight of those blackened roofless houses, standing lonely and deserted among green, thriving fields. I saw one little farm after another reduced to a heap of blackened ashes, with some lonely animals gazing terrifiedly into space. Sometimes just one wall would be standing of what was once a home, sometimes only the front of the house had been blown out by shells, and you could see right inside,—see the rooms spread out before you like a panorama, see the children's toys and frocks lying about, and the pots and pans, even the remains of dinner still on the table, and all the homely little things that made you feel so intensely the difference between this chill, deathly desolation and the happy domestic life that had gone on in such peaceful streams before the Huns set their faces Belgium-wards.

  • Mile after mile the train passed through these ravaged areas, and I stood at the window with misty eyes and quickened breath? looking up and down the lonely roads, and over the deserted fields where never a soul was to be seen, and in my mind's eye, I could follow those peasants, fleeing, fleeing, ever fleeing from one village to another, from one town to another, hunted and followed by the cruel menace of War which they, poor innocent ones, had done so little to deserve.
  • The only comfort was to think of them getting safely across to England, and as I looked at those little black and ruined homes, I could follow the refugees in their flight and see them streaming out of the trains at Victoria and Charing Cross, and being taken to warm, comfortable homes and clothed and fed by gentle-voiced English people. And then, waking perhaps in the depths of the night to find themselves in a strange land, how their thoughts would fly, with what awful yearning, back to those little blackened homes, back to the memories of the cow and the horse and the faithful dogs, and the corn in the meadows, and the purple cabbages uncut and the apples ungarnered! Yes, I could see it all, and my heart ached as it had never ached before.
  • When I roused myself from these sad thoughts, I looked about me and discovered that I was in a train full of nothing but soldiers and priests. I sat very still in my corner. I asked no questions, and spoke to no one. I knew by instinct that this train was going to take me to a place that I never should have arrived at otherwise, and I was right. The train took me to Aerschot, and I may say now that only one other War-Correspondent arrived there.
  • Alighting at the station at Aerschot, I looked about me, scarcely believing that what I saw was real.
  • The railway station appeared to have fallen victim to an earthquake.


CHAPTER V

AERSCHOT

  • I think until that day I had always cherished a lurking hope that the Huns were not as black as they were painted.
  • I had been used to think of the German race, as tinged with a certain golden glamour, because to it belonged the man who wrote the Fifth Symphony; the man who wrote the divine first part of "Faust," and still more that other, whose mocking but sublime laughter would be a fitting accompaniment of the horrors at Aerschot.
  • Oh, Beethoven, Goethe, Heine! Not even out of respect for your undying genius can I hide the truth about the Germans any longer.
  • What I have seen, I must believe!
  • In the pouring rain, wearing a Belgian officer's great-coat, I trudged along through a city that might well have been Pompeii or Herculaneum; it was a city that existed no longer; it was absolutely the shell of a town. The long streets were full of hollow, blackened skeletons of what had once been houses—street upon street of them, and street upon street. The brain reeled before the spectacle. And each of those houses once a home. A place of thought, of rest, of happiness, of work, of love.
  • All the inhabitants have fled, leaving their lares and penates just as the people of Pompeii and Herculaneum sought to flee when the lava came down on them.
  • Here a wall stands, there a pillar and a few bricks.
  • But between the ruins, strange, touching, unbelievable, gleaming from the background, are the scarlet and white of dahlias and roses in the gardens behind, that have somehow miraculously escaped the ruin that has fallen on the solid walls and ceilings and floors so carefully constructed by the brain of man, and so easily ruined by man's brutality.
  • It is as though the flowers had some miraculous power of self-preservation, some secret unknown to bricks and mortar, some strange magic, that keeps the sweet blossoms laughing and defiant under the Hun's shell-fire. And the red and the pure white of them, and the green, intensify, with a tremendous potency, the black horrors of the town!
  • In every street I observed always the same thing; hundreds of empty bottles. "Toujours les bouteilles," one of my companions kept saying—a brilliant young Brussels lawyer who was now in this regiment. The other officer was also a Bruxellois, and I was told afterwards that these two had formerly been the "Nuts" of Brussels, the two smartest young men of the town. To see them that day gave little idea of their smartness; they both were black with grime and smoke, with beards that had no right to be there, creeping over their faces, boots caked with mud to the knees, and a general air of having seen activities at very close quarters.
  • They took me to the church, and there the little old brown-faced sacristan joined us, punctuating our way with groans and sobs of horror.
  • This is what I see.
  • Before me stretches a great dim interior lit with little bunches of yellow candles. It is in a way a church. But what has happened to it? What horror has seized upon it, turning it into the most hideous travesty of a church that the world has ever known?
  • On the high altar stand empty champagne bottles, empty rum bottles, a broken bottle of Bordeaux, and five bottles of beer.
  • In the confessionals stand empty champagne bottles, empty brandy bottles, empty beer bottles.
  • In the Holy Water fonts are empty brandy bottles.
  • Stacks of bottles are under the pews, or on the seats themselves.
  • Beer, brandy, rum, champagne, bordeaux, burgundy; and again beer, brandy, rum, champagne, bordeaux, burgundy.
  • Everywhere, everywhere, in whatever part of the church one looks, there are bottles—hundreds of them, thousands of them, perhaps—everywhere, bottles, bottles, bottles.
  • The sacred marble floors are covered everywhere with piles of straw, and bottles, and heaps of refuse and filth, and horse-dung.

  • "Mais Madame," cries the burning, trembling voice of the distracted sacristan, "look at this."
  • And he leads me to the white marble bas-relief of the Madonna.
  • The Madonna's head has been cut right off!
  • Then, even as I stand there trying to believe that I am really looking at such nightmares, I feel the little sacristan's fingers trembling on my arm, turning me towards a sight that makes me cold with horror.
  • They have set fire to the Christ, to the beautiful wood-carving of our Saviour, and burnt the sacred figure all up one side, and on the face and breast.
  • And as they finished the work I can imagine them, with a hiccup slitting up the priceless brocade on the altar with a bayonet, then turning and slashing at the great old oil paintings on the Cathedral walls, chopping them right out of their frames, but leaving the empty frames there, with a German's sense of humour that will presently make Germany laugh on the wrong side of its face.
  • A dead pig lies in the little chapel to the right, a dead white pig with a pink snout.
  • Very still and pathetic is that dead pig, and yet it seems to speak.
  • It seems to realise the sacrilege of its presence here in God's House.
  • It seems to say, "Let not the name of pig be given to the Germans. We pigs have done nothing to deserve it."
  • "And here, Madame, voyez vous! Here the floor is chipped and smashed where they stabled their horses, these barbarians!" says the young Lieutenant on my left.
  • And now we come to the Gate of Shame.
  • It is the door of a small praying-room.
  • Still pinned outside, on the door, is a piece of white paper, with this message in German, "This room is private. Keep away."
  • And inside?
  • Inside are women's garments, a pile of them tossed hastily on the floor, torn perhaps from the wearers....
  • A pile of women's garments!
  • In silence we stand there. In silence we go out. It is a long time before anyone can speak again, though the little sacristan keeps on moaning to himself.
  • As we step out of the horrors of that church some German prisoners that have just been brought in, are being marched by.
  • And then rage overcomes one of the young Lieutenants. White, trembling, beside himself, he rushes forward. He shouts. He raves. He is thinking of that room; they were of Belgium, those girls and women; he is of Belgium too; and he flings his scorn and hatred at the Uhlans marching past, he lashes and whips them with his agony of rage until the cowering prisoners are out of hearing.
  • The other Lieutenant at last succeeds in silencing him.
  • "What is the use, mon ami!" he says. "What is the use?"
  • Perhaps this outburst is reported to headquarters by somebody. For that night at the Officers' Mess, the Captain of the regiment has a few words to say against shewing anger towards prisoners, and very gently and tactfully he says them.
  • He is a Belgian, and all Belgians are careful to a point that is almost beyond human comprehension in their criticisms of their enemies.
  • "Let us be careful never to demean ourselves by humiliating prisoners," says the Captain, looking round the long roughly-set table. "You see, my friends, these poor German fellows that we take are not all typical of the crimes that the Germans commit; lots of them are only peasants, or men that would prefer to stay by their own fireside!"
  • "What about Aerschot and the church?" cry a score of irritated young voices.
  • The Captain draws his kindly lips together, and attacks his black bread and tinned mackerel.
  • "Ah," he says, "we must remember they were all drunk!"
  • And as he utters these words there flash across my mind those old, old words that will never die:
  • "Forgive them, for they know not what they do."
  • ....

source: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/35392/35392-h/3539...



E. Alexander Powell (USA) in Aarschot 1914

Fighting in Flanders

E.Alexander Powell, an American who was special correspondent of the New York World, wrote: (London, november 1, 1914)
  • ...
  • "Though we crept along as circumspectly as a motorist who knows that he is being trailed by a motor-cycle policeman, peering behind farmhouses and hedges and into the depths of thickets and expecting any moment to hear a gruff command, emphasized by the bang of a carbine, it was not until we were at the very outskirts of Aerschot that we encountered the Germans. There were a hundred of them, so cleverly ambushed behind a hedge that we would never have suspected their presence had we not caught the glint of sunlight on their rifle-barrels. We should not have gotten much nearer, in any event, for they had a wire neatly strung across the road at just the right height to take us under the chins. When we were within a hundred yards of the hedge an officer in a trailing grey cloak stepped into the middle of the road and held up his hand.
  • "Halt!"
  • I jammed on the brakes so suddenly that we nearly went through the windshield.
  • "Get out of the automobile and stand well away from it," the officer commanded in German. We got out very promptly.
  • "One of you advance alone, with his hands up."
  • I advanced alone, but not with my hands up. It is such an undignified position. I had that shivery feeling chasing up and down my spine which came from knowing that I was covered by a hundred rifles, and that if I made a move which seemed suspicious to the men behind those rifles, they would instantly transform me into a sieve.
  • "Are you English?" the officer demanded, none too pleasantly.
  • "No, American," said I.
  • "Oh, that's all right," said he, his manner instantly thawing. "I know America well," he continued, "Atlantic City and Asbury Park and Niagara Falls and Coney Island. I have seen all of your famous places."

Aarschot 1914-18

  • We were the first foreigners to see Aerschot, or rather what was left of Aerschot after it had been sacked and burned by the Germans. A few days before Aerschot had been a prosperous and happy town of ten thousand people. When we saw it it was but a heap of smoking ruins, garrisoned by a battalion of German soldiers, and with its population consisting of half a hundred white-faced women. In many parts of the world I have seen many terrible and revolting things, but nothing so ghastly, so horrifying as Aerschot. Quite two- thirds of the houses had been burned and showed unmistakable signs of having been sacked by a maddened soldiery before they were burned. Everywhere were the ghastly evidences. Doors had been smashed in with rifle-butts and boot-heels; windows had been broken; furniture had been wantonly destroyed; pictures had been torn from the walls; mattresses had been ripped open with bayonets in search of valuables; drawers had been emptied upon the floors; the outer walls of the houses were spattered with blood and pock- marked with bullets; the sidewalks were slippery with broken wine- bottles; the streets were strewn with women's clothing. It needed no one to tell us the details of that orgy of blood and lust. The story was so plainly written that anyone could read it.

  • For a mile we drove the car slowly between the blackened walls of fire-gutted buildings. This was no accidental conflagration, mind you, for scattered here and there were houses which stood undamaged and in every such case there was scrawled with chalk upon their doors "Gute Leute. Nicht zu plundern." (Good people. Do not plunder.)
  • The Germans went about the work of house-burning as systematically as they did everything else. They had various devices for starting conflagrations, all of them effective. At Aerschot and Louvain they broke the windows of the houses and threw in sticks which had been soaked in oil and dipped in sulphur. Elsewhere they used tiny, black tablets, about the size of cough lozenges, made of some highly inflammable composition, to which they touched a match. At Termonde, which they destroyed in spite of the fact that the inhabitants had evacuated the city before their arrival, they used a motor-car equipped with a large tank for petrol, a pump, a hose, and a spraying-nozzle. The car was run slowly through the streets, one soldier working the pump and another spraying the fronts of the houses. Then they set fire to them. Oh, yes, they were very methodical about it all, those Germans.
  • Despite the scowls of the soldiers, I attempted to talk with some of the women huddled in front of a bakery waiting for a distribution of bread, but the poor creatures were too terror-stricken to do more than stare at us with wide, beseeching eyes. Those eyes will always haunt me. I wonder if they do not sometimes haunt the Germans. But a little episode that occurred as we were leaving the city did more than anything else to bring home the horror of it all. We passed a little girl of nine or ten and I stopped the car to ask the way. Instantly she held both hands above her head and began to scream for mercy. When we had given her some chocolate and money, and had assured her that we were not Germans, but Americans and friends, she ran like a frightened deer. That little child, with her fright-wide eyes and her hands raised in supplication, was in herself a terrible indictment of the Germans.
  • (...)

  • It was with a feeling of repulsion amounting almost to nausea that we left what had once been Aerschot behind us. The road leading to Louvain was alive with soldiery, and we were halted every few minutes by German patrols. Had not the commanding officer in Aerschot detailed two bicyclists to accompany us I doubt if we should have gotten through. Whedbee had had the happy idea of bringing along a thousand packets of cigarettes--the tonneau of the car was literally filled with them--and we tossed a packet to every German soldier that we saw. You could have followed our trail for thirty miles by the cigarettes we left behind us. As it turned out, they were the means of saving us from being detained within the German lines.
  • Thanks to our American flags, to the nature of our mission, and to our wholesale distribution of cigarettes, we were passed from outpost to outpost and from regimental headquarters to regimental headquarters until we reached Louvain. Here we came upon another scene of destruction and desolation. Nearly half the city was in ashes. Most of the principal streets were impassable from fallen masonry. The splendid avenues and boulevards were lined on either side by the charred skeletons of what had once been handsome buildings. The fronts of many of the houses were smeared with crimson stains. In comparison to its size, the Germans had wrought more widespread destruction in Louvain than did the earthquake and fire combined in San Francisco. The looting had evidently been unrestrained. The roads for miles in either direction were littered with furniture and bedding and clothing. Such articles as the soldiers could not carry away they wantonly destroyed. Hangings had been torn down, pictures on the walls had been smashed, the contents of drawers and trunks had been emptied into the streets, literally everything breakable had been broken. This is not from hearsay, remember; I saw it with my own eyes. And the amazing feature of it all was that among the Germans there seemed to be no feeling of regret, no sense of shame. Officers in immaculate uniforms strolled about among the ruins, chatting and laughing and smoking. At one place a magnificent mahogany dining-table had been dragged into the middle of the road and about it, sprawled in carved and tapestry-covered chairs, a dozen German infantrymen were drinking beer.."

source: www.gutenberg.net E.Alexander Powell Release Date: March 1, 2004 [eBook #11394]


Belgian Boy Tells Story of Aerschot

[From The New York Times, Nov. 18, 1914.]

The following letter from an American civil engineer, lately in business in Belgium, whose reliability is vouched for by the person named in his letter as having been associated with him in business in Pittsburgh, has been received by The Times:

B——, ——shire, England,
Oct. 3, 1914.

To the Editor of The New York Times:

I HAVE just read an article in your issue of Sept. 16 on the German killings at Aerschot, Belgium. You suggest an investigation into this crime. I happen to have a first-hand contribution, which I herewith inclose.

The writer is an American citizen, civil engineer, late partner of —— —— of Pittsburgh, Penn., to whom you can refer. When war was declared I had an engineering office in Belgium. As the use of telegraph and telephone was suddenly stopped there remained nothing but to close the office. I therefore paid off my employes, among whom was a young office boy, a Belgian, about 16 years old, frail stature, small build, almost childlike appearance, but well educated and intelligent.

The inclosed narrative is a strict translation of a letter received from the boy. This is, therefore, first-hand information, and my knowledge of the character of the boy, as well as the ring in what he has to tell, justifies me in vouching for the correctness of his narrative.

In reading these pages, you will note a weak point in our administration of charity, which has been repeatedly brought to my attention. England has every intention to act generously and warm-heartedly with the Belgian people, who you may say have been sacrificed for the Allies. They tender homes for refugees and transportation from Belgian shores to England. They give out money liberally, but when this boy, utterly without means, friends or papers arrived in Antwerp, there is no help for him. If he had been smaller, somebody would have treated him as a child and brought him along. If his father had not been dragged off into slavery in Germany he might with an old aunt have represented a family. Had he been able to preserve his legitimatization papers the Belgian authorities would have given him some support. Had he been older, he would have been enlisted in the defense of his country.

Here, therefore, is an individual, not small enough, not large enough, not having relations enough and not having any documents. He was worthy of help, but did not fit in anywhere. I am now doing my best to get money over to him through the Belgian National Bank, also to get him some sort of a paper, through the Belgian Legation in London, which will enable him at least to cross the frontier to Holland, whence he might be able to pay for his way to England.

I hope you will publish the boy's letter, but it is necessary that you suppress both his and the writer's name. Should either be given and the boy remain in Belgium, it may cost him his life. The mention of my own may later on cause me difficulties with our German friends of liberty. Yours truly,

—— ——.

[Inclosure.]

Translation of letter received from one of my employes, a young Belgian boy of about 16 years of age. Received in England Sept. 28, 1914.

ANTWERP, Sept. 23, 1914.

Dear Sir: As you correctly said in my testimonial when you were closing the office, the war has isolated Belgium. Really I can well say that I have been painfully struck by this scourge, and I permit myself, dear Sir, to give you a little description of my Calvary.

Your offices were closed in the beginning of August. As I did not know what to do and as the fatherland had not enough men to defend its territory I tried to get myself accepted as a volunteer.

On Aug. 10 I went to Aerschot, my native town, to get my certificate of good conduct. Then I went to Louvain to have same signed by the commander of the place. This gentleman sent me to St. Nicholas and thence to Hemixem, where I was rejected as too young. I then decided to return to Brussels, passing through Aerschot. Here my aunt asked me to stay with her, saying that she was afraid of the Germans.

I remained at Aerschot. This was Aug. 15. Suddenly, on the 19th, at 9 o'clock in the morning, after a terrible bombardment, the Germans made their entry into Aerschot. In the first street which they passed through they broke into the houses. They brought out six men whom I knew very well and immediately shot them. Learning of this, I fled to Louvain, where I arrived on Aug. 19 at 1 o'clock.

At 1:30 P.M. the Germans entered Louvain. They did not do anything to the people in the beginning. On the following Saturday, Aug. 22, I started to return to Aerschot, as I had no money. (All my money was still in Brussels.) The whole distance from Louvain to Aerschot I saw nothing but German armies, always Germans. They did not say a word to me until I suddenly found myself alone with three of the "Todeshusaren," (Death's Head Hussars,) the vanguard of their regiment. They arrested me at the point of the revolver, demanded where I was going, and why I had run away from Aerschot. They said that the whole of Aerschot was now on fire, because the son of the Burgomaster had killed a General. Finally they searched me from head to foot, and I heard them discuss the question of my fate.

Finally the non-commissioned officer told me that I could continue on my way; that they would certainly take care of me in Aerschot, as I had been firing at Germans, and they would shoot me when I arrived. I would have liked better to return to Louvain, but with an imperious gesture he pointed out my road to Aerschot, and I continued. On arriving within a few hundred meters of the town I was arrested once more.

I forgot to tell you that of all the houses which I passed between Louvain and Aerschot, there were only a few left intact. Upon these the Germans had written in chalk in the German language: "Please spare. Good people. Do not burn." Lying along the road I saw many dead horses putrefying. There were also to be seen pigs, goats, and cows which had nothing to eat, and which were howling like wild beasts. Not a soul was to be seen in the houses or in the streets. Everything was empty.

I was then arrested when a short distance from Aerschot. There were with me two or three families from Sichem, a village between Diest and Aerschot. We remained in the fields alongside the road, while the Prussian regiments with their artillery continued to pass by. When the artillery had passed we were marched at the point of the bayonet to the church in Aerschot. On arrival at the church the families of Sichem (there were at least twenty small children) were permitted to continue on their way, and the non-commissioned officer, delighted that I could speak German, permitted me to go to my aunt's house.

The aspect of the town was terrible. Not more than half the houses were standing. In the first three streets which the Germans traversed there was not a single house left. There was not a house in the town but had been pillaged. All doors had been burst open. There was nothing, nothing left. The stench in the streets was insupportable.

I then went home, or, rather, I should say, I went to the house where my father had always been boarding. You know, perhaps, that my mother died twelve years ago. I did not find my father, but according to what the people told me he had been arrested, and, with five other Aerschot men, taken to Germany—I do not know for what purpose.

I got into this house without any difficulty, because the door was smashed in. I stayed there from Saturday, Aug. 22, up to Wednesday, the 26th, a little more comfortable. There was nothing to eat left in the house. I lived on what a few women who remained in Aerschot could give me. I was forced to go with the soldiers into the cellars of M.X., director of a large factory, to hunt for wine. As recompense I got a loaf. It was not much, but at this moment it meant very much for me.

On Wednesday, Aug. 26, we were all once more locked up in the church. It was then half-past four in the afternoon. We could not get out, even for our necessities. On Thursday, about 9 o'clock, each of us was given a piece of bread and a glass of water. This was to last the whole day. At 10 o'clock a Lieutenant came in, accompanied by fifteen soldiers. He placed all the men who were left in a square, selected seventy of us and ordered us out to bury the corpses of Germans and Belgians around the town, which had been lying there since the battle of the 19th. That was a week that these bodies had remained there, and it is no use to ask if there was a stench. Afterward we had to clean the streets, and then it was evening.

They just got ready to shoot us. There were then ten of us. The guns had already been leveled at us, when suddenly a German soldier ran out shouting that we had not fired on them. A few minutes before we had heard rifle firing and the Germans said it was the Aerschot people who were shooting, though all these had been locked up in the church and we were the only inhabitants then in the streets, cleaning them, under surveillance of Germans. It was this German who saved our lives.

Picture to yourself what we have suffered! It is impossible to describe. On Aug. 28 we were brought to Louvain, always guarded by German soldiers. There were with us about twenty old men, over eighty years of age. These were placed in two carts, tied to one another in pairs. I and about twenty of my unfortunate compatriots had then to pull the carts all the way to Louvain. It was hard, but that could be supported all the same.

On arriving at Louvain I saw with my own eyes a German who shot at us. The Germans who were at the station shouted "The civilians have been shooting," and commenced a fusillade against us. Many of us fell dead, others wounded, but I had the chance to run away.

I now took the road to Tirlemont, marching all the time among German camps. Once I was arrested. Again they wanted to shoot me, insisting that I was a student of the University of Louvain. The Germans pretend it was the student who had caused the population in Louvain to shoot at them. However, my youth saved me, and I was set at liberty.

I arrived in this way, making small marches, sleeping under the stars, at a small village, St. Pierre Rhode, six miles from Aerschot. This village had not been occupied by the Germans. A benevolent farmer took me in, and I lived there peacefully until Wednesday, Sept. 9. On that day the Germans arrived. They took us all with them and we had to march in front of them to prevent the Belgians from shooting. After one hour they gave us our liberty.

The Belgians had now retaken Aerschot. I returned there as quickly as I could. Only a few houses were still burning. It was Sept. 10. I left again in the afternoon at 4 o'clock, taking a train, together with the railway officials, and arrived at 6 P.M. in Antwerp, where I now stay without any resources.

All my money, the 20 francs which you presented me and my salary for five weeks, as well as my little savings, are lying in Brussels, and I cannot get at them. I cannot work, because there is no work to be got. I cannot cross over to England, as, to do this, it is necessary that there should be a whole family. In these horrible circumstances, I respectfully take the liberty of addressing you, and I hope you will aid me as best you can. I swear to you that I shall pay you back all that you give me. I have here in Antwerp no place, no family. The town will not give me any aid, because I have no papers to prove my identity. I threw all my papers away for fear of the Germans. I count then on you with a firm hope to pay yo back later.

Please accept, dear Sir, my respectful greetings.



1914 december : Christmas truce

The Landsturm-Battalion Coesfeld (VII / 45) was deployed in the Brussels-Antwerp-Liège triangle in the areas of Loewen-Aerschot and Thienen / Tirlemont in the railway and patrol service. After proclamation of the truce on 11.11.1918 the battalion marched through Luxemburg and Eifel over Fulda and Lengerich back to Coesfeld, where it arrived Christmas 1918.

text written on december 26th 1914 by a German Soldier from Solingen Wald, published in Bergische Arbeiterstimme january 8th 1915

From the trench a Walder writes (German text translated by translator)
1914 December 26th:

  • "Peace on earth!" That's the word after its fulfillment the longing here is great! We did it yesterday (on the first anniversary). In the afternoon, after all, we were brought so far that we were here with the enemy trench could make a truce. Yesterday morning, the English left us with mines and We threw our hands in the afternoon.
  • The 88s, who are on our right and wanted to bury dead people yesterday, When the opponents started firing, they could wave and wave Inform the characters as far as possible that the seace fire was asked. It spoke quickly through our company, and soon there was no shooting here either. It got so far that we approached our opponents and shook hands with them. Our Corporal, me, and one of Velbert went upstairs The cover, waved his cap and came so to the opponents approach. Even though they were full of equipment, they seemed to be At first to be afraid, but finally came closer to us. We told them about our cigars, our bread and ours Sausage, whereupon they pleased us with a good cognac.
  • The People, all fat, well-fed Turkos with their beautiful brown They shivered terribly with cold, though they wore thick coats carried. In contrast, ours ran without headgear and in Under jackets. As we also with friendly faces to these people they went and showed them gifts of love they took with them great joy and squeezed our hands like brothers. The poor devils usually had only unsalted kakes as food. They seemed to be afraid of our bullets. They admitted understand, we should shoot in the air, they would do the same. We did not come to shoot later. The Turkos shot, but in the air. The Turkos were only a few English Officers who gave the order to shoot. Later we are with The Turkos still walked up and down between the trenches and have made Christmas music with the accordion.
  • The people would have liked to keep us in their joy - right there. The Officers asked me about the meaning of my badge (Iron Cross), and when I said that was an honor to rescue a wounded officer from the battle because they wanted the cross right away - as a souvenir to keep!

  • We told the French that the Germans were in Warsaw and 80000 Russians were caught. They wanted that at first did not believe and wonder when we showed them the newspaper. Today we have been told that England is going to war on Holland have explained. Otherwise, everything is still the same here. The weather is Good. Goodbye!
  • greetings many times .......


source : Stadtarchiv Solingen, Bergische Arbeiterstimme 8. Januar 1915

Weihnachten 1914: Ein Walder Soldat schildert die „Verbrüderung mit dem Feind" im Schützengraben an der Westfront



1937 : Carillon concert in Aarschot performed by Arthur Bigelow!

In the 1930's plans were made to install a carillon in the Aarschot Church of Our Lady. Maybe the concert of Arthur Bigelow on a travelling carillon had something to do with these plans. Fact is that during the festivities of the celebration of the 600th anniversary of the Chruch of Our Lady, on Tuesday August 24th 1937, Arthur played on a travelling carillon. When war broke out, these plans were cancelled. We look for more information and pitures...


1940-45: World War II

The Battle of Belgium or Belgian Campaign (from may 10th through may 28th)

May 12th 1940 German airplaines bombing Aarschot


Aarschot on May 1940 after German bombing

Source: https://18daagseveldtocht.wikispaces.com/22ste+Bat....


1943 : 3 swinging bells of the Aarschot Church of Our Lady removed to Germany.

Between October 16th and 22st 1943 the Germans removed 3 swinging bells from the Aarschot Church of Our Lady. On October 14th the population of Aarschot went to the Church ang rang the bells as sign of protest.The bells never returned from Germany. Only the little bell Saint-Michael was left in the tower.

"Sammellager" in Hamburg


1944 : 40 tons of allied bombs on Aarschot

On may 1944 the Church of Our Lady was nearly destroyed when alied forced dropped 40 tons of bombs on Aarschot. The Church itself was not hit, but was severely damaged by the vibrations.

Aarschot 1944

Source: Geschiedenis van Aarschot in woord en beeld, Wagdi

416th Bombardment Group (L)

  • "The Aerschot Marshalling Yards, that had the day previous, the 8th, escaped because of bad weather, suffered vital damage when 41 planes dropped almost 40 tons of bombs on it. Split into three boxes, they were led by Major Campbell, with Lt Palin B-N, Captain Battersby, with Lt Lytle, B-N; Captain Hulse, with Lt Conte, B-N. The engine turn-table was severely damaged. A 3-bay workshop and an 8-bay building were partially destroyed. Forty-five cars were destroyed and all the tracks opposite the turn-table were blocked by a large crater. Two of our planes suffered battle damage."
  • "The Aerschot marshalling yards and the Bois D'Enfer Noball site were attacked on May 9, with a total of twenty crews flying. "

Aarschot Railway station 1944

  • "May 11th brought another attack on the Aerschot marshalling yards and an attack on the Monchy Breton airdrome. On these two missions, eighteen 670th crews were used. Lt Gruetzemacher suffered minor flak wounds while over the Monchy Breton target, for which he was awarded the Purple Heart."

Source: History of 670th BOMBARDMENT SQUADRON (L) 416th BOMBARDMENT GROUP (L) Transcription form USAF Archives (Declassified IAW EO 12958 and 13526)

The bombing was ment to destroy the marshalling yard, but many bombs hit the houses up to 200 m from the railway station, just in front of the main entrance of the church (left on following picture). The Church of Our Lady was severly damaged caused by the vibrations of the explosions.

Source: Geschiedenis van Aarschot in woord en beeld, Wagdi.


1950 New bells for the Aarschot Church of Our Lady.

On october 23, 1950, Rev. Verpoylt and carilloneur Staf Nees went to Leuven to visit François Sergeys who casted the new bells for Aerschot. The bells were installed and ready to ring on december 23rd 1950.


American Friends of the New Peace Carillon

There is a long history of Americans assisting the carillon art in Belgium. Let's continue that history.

Americans do appreciate the value of a carillon in a city or on a University campuses. More than 180 important carillons has been installed in USA. Some examples: Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Carillon New York city New York, Roosevelt Family Carillon Dallas Texas, Hoover Institute Carillon Stanford California, Burton Memorial tower Ann Arbor Michigan and the Yale Memorial Carillon in the Harkness tower Yale University Connecticut . The American Engeneers Memorial Carillon in Leuven, Belgium (63 bells) was restaured by Margo Halsted, Associate Adjunct Professor of Music and carillonist at UCSB.



2018 : Preparing, Constructing and Financing the New Aarschot Peace Carillon

With the centennial of the end of the Great War 2018, Aarschot Church of Our Lady is planning to construct a Peace Carillon consisting of 51 new bells.

The total budget needed for the Aarschot Peace carillon will be € 750.000. By the end of 2017 private sponsors will have donated € 220.000. The city of Aarschot will add € 500.000. In january 2018 the project will be started and inauguration is now sceduled on november 11th, 2018.

Aarschot 2017

The new Peace carillon will be built according the Mechelen Quality-Carillon-Standard 2001 (QCS), including the VEMA system which has been already installed for the first time in Oudenaarde (Belgium). This standard was made by Marc Van Eyck, carillonneur of the Sint-Geertrui Chruch of Leuven. This QCS-standard guarantees that the new Aarschot Peace Carillon will become a top-quality instrument. The amazing features built in this instrument will allow the carillonneur to adjust the carillon in perfect shape without using any tools at all.

The New Aarschot Peace Carillon will be realized through the generous support of the national and international community. We are glad to announce that also H.E. Ambassador Masafumi Ishii, Ambassador of Japan to the Kingdom of Belgium and a number of German companies already supported the Peace Carillon project.


Overseas bell

We propose to reserve a small bell of € 2000 for the overseas sponsors, representing around € 10 per overseas carillon. We hope this will be a realistic goal and we are confident this small bell will grow when more donors will appear and support the new Aarschot Peace Carillon. If you do wish to donate a seprate bell of any size, please be welcome to do so. Donations coming from one country or a larger part of the world will be joined together for a separate bell.

The King Baudouin Foundation United States (https://kbfus.networkforgood.com/), a 501(c)(3) accepts tax deductible donations from US residents. Non US residents can use credit card processing offered by the KBFUS or transfer donation direct to the King Baudouin Foundation Belgium IBAN BE 10 0000 0000 0404 SWIFT BPOTBEB1 with structured reference +++128/2329/00058+++.


On behalf of the Church of Our Lady, City Councel, the Honorary Committee and the population of Aarschot, thank you very much for your gift!


2018 : Inauguration of the New Aarschot Peace Carillon : November 11th

The inauguration concert will be played by Jo Haazen, former Director of the Jef Denyn Carillon School and professor at the Faculty of Arts, Saint-Petersburg State University. Everyone who contributed to the carillon will be invited to this concert.

$530 Raised
26% towards $2,000 Goal