Emiel Saelen was the son of the fruiterer and fishmonger in the Statiestraat in Lichtervelde. In March of 1918, he was arrested for smuggling letters, and accused of espionage. He was imprisoned in Roeselare, where he was physically abused by his interrogators. Luckily for him, Emiel managed to escape.
He had been wandering about aimlessly for days, when on March 16th, he joined up with 2 partners in misfortune and arrived at ’t Schaekske, a suburban neighbourhood in Torhout. There, the three of them were ambushed by German gendarmes. They escaped, but were separated in the process. Emiel stole a horse and managed to reach De Breskens, another quarter of Torhout, where he hid in the house of a local cobbler. A German patrol soon discovered his hiding place and surrounded the house. Emiel tried to get away via the back yard, but was shot by a member of the patrol, then viciously bayoneted. He died around 2 am, in the cobbler’s kitchen.
In the meantime, Emile’s family were suspected of complicity in Emile’s escape, and arrested on March 13th. The were transferred to Ghent, from where the were deported to a camp in Holzminden. Towards the end of the war, living conditions in the camp became abominable. In January 1918, a great number of new prisoners arrived. Among them were 600 women, who were placed in separate barracks. There was no elementary hygiene, and food was in short supply. Every day, the prisoners were gathered in the courtyard, where they were made to stand outside in the cold or pouring rain, sometimes for hours on end. The Saelen family remained imprisoned until the armistice. They were released on November 25th, 1918.