Schuwe Maandag marked a key event in the development of the First World War in the BIE-region. On 19 and 20 October, 1914, most of the towns and villages in the area were violently captured by the Germans. At the time, active German troops in the BIE-region consisted mostly of young volunteers, often students, who tended to view the war as a great adventure. For their fearlessness, they had but a short 8-week training period to fall back on and were far less experienced than the Allied soldiers they were about to face in combat.
During their training, the volunteers had heard many stories about Belgian civilians launching attacks on German troops to stop their advance. Those stories in mind, the Germans were surprised at the ease with which they were conquering parts of the BIE-region in the early days of their campaign. By mid October, for instance, they had taken Lichtervelde without opposition. Suspicious of the seeming lack of resistance on the part of the Belgian population, the young Germans kept their ears open and their eyes peeled.
On October 19th, the German troops were ambushed by a group of French snipers near Roeselare. For the first time since their arrival in the region, the young soldiers were confronted with the deadly horrors of war. Infuriated and completely thrown off balance by the surprise attack, the Germans remembered the stories they had heard during their training. Attributing the attack to Belgian civilians, the German troops set out on a vengeful spree. Moving through Roeselare and its neighbouring towns, they left a devastating trail of bloodshed and destruction. Countless bottles of wine were pillaged from people’s wine cellars; intoxicated soldiers set fire to the houses of the local population. Innocent citizens who were suspected of involvement in the attack were labeled “Franc-tireurs” and executed on the spot.
When word of the atrocities in Roeselare got out, the inhabitants of Moorslede, Oekene, Hooglede and Westrozebeke fled the area in droves. After Schuwe Maandag, the German occupation of the BIE-region in its entirety was a fact.
Photo: collection Stadsarchief Roeselare