Roeselare, Beveren and Rumbeke were violently captured by the Germans on 19 October 1914. This day went down in local history as Schuwe Maandag ("Shy Monday”) and defined the collective war memories of the region’s inhabitants.
During the war, Roeselare, located close to the war front, was transformed into a major garrison town. All kinds of facilities were available in the city: an airfield in Rumbeke, a great number of hospitals, kitchens, warehouses, ammunition depots, stables… Many of the city’s buildings were claimed by the occupier to house German infrastructure. Because of its location, Roeselare was a logical place for the German army to quarter a great number of its soldiers.
Roeselare was also flooded with refugees, who were given accommodation in various public buildings and in people's homes.
In March 1915, preparations for the gas attacks and the Second Battle of Ypres caused the region to be bustling with activity. By April 1st, over 4000 soldiers were stationed in Roeselare. Furthermore, a great number of prisoners of war were transported to the city after the battle.
The entertainment options for soldiers were manifold. In April 1916, the cafes in the village of Beveren were divided into two categories: those that had permission to sell liquor to the Germans and those that did not. Some cafes for civilians were closed.
In 1917, aerial battles and bombardments in the region increased in frequency and intensity. On 21 April 1917, for instance, a large-scale airstrike caused substantial material damage and killed a number of people. From September 1917 onwards, the inhabitants of Roeselare and surrounding municipalities were allowed to flee the area. In late September 1918, all citizens of Roeselare were ordered to evacuate the city.
Roeselare was liberated on 14 October 1918; Beveren followed the next day. However, the violence of war continued for another couple of days, as Roeselare became the target of a new series of bombardments.
When the war was over, most towns and villages opted for a quick recovery through the reconstruction of existing buildings. In Roeselare, on the other hand, the reconstruction was seen as an opportunity to experiment with new architectural styles. The newly constructed garden suburb in the hamlet of Batavia, for instance, marked a milestone in the international reconstruction process. Advocating an affordable, yet durable type of reconstruction architecture, the Batavia suburb served as an example for similar projects in Belgium and abroad.
Photo: collection Johan Delbecke, Roeselare