Who's Who - King Albert I

King Albert of Belgium Albert I (1875-1934) was King of the Belgians throughout the war, organising resistance to German occupation of much of Belgium.

He came to the throne in 1909, succeeding his uncle, Leopold II.

Belgium occupied the only open tract of land between France and Germany, thus its stance as a neutral power was key to the balance of power in pre-war Europe.

Belgium's neutrality not withstanding, Germany issued an ultimatum on 2 August 1914, demanding that Belgium allow German forces access to its territory so that Germany could gain ready access to French borders.  Albert I resisted the demand and took personal charge of his forces.

Germany therefore invaded Belgium on 4 August 1914, quickly overrunning the country's small army (consisting of 43,000 men in 1914, with 115,000 reserve troops) and forcing Albert I to move the Belgian government to Le Havre from where he continued to govern his nation (although he himself continued to live in Belgium, firstly in De Panne and then in Kasteel De Moeren).

On 22 November 1918, Albert I triumphantly re-entered Brussels having successfully commanded the Belgian army in the autumn 1918 Courtrai offensive.

Albert I was killed in a climbing accident in 1934, and was succeeded by his son, Leopold III.

"Plugstreet" was British slang to describe the Belgian village of Ploegsteert.

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Who's Who