27th August 1914, Aarschot.
The reprisals had begun almost immediately on the death of the brigade commander Colonel Jenrich, he had replaced Colonel Stenger who had died in the siege of Liege. He had been shot on the balcony of the Mayor’s house by Belgian Francs-Tireurs. Many houses had been burnt, civilians of all ages shot or bayoneted.
The mayor, his son aged 15 and his brother had been shot along with other hostages, the total death toll in the town stood at 350. The son of the mayor was accused of shooting at the Germans from the cellar of the house, he was not the only child to be shot that day.
The Brigade had come through the assault on Liege with significant casualties, they had lost the original commander and over 300 men killed with a further 850 wounded. This was a significant fraction of the brigade’s strength, they had had that made up with men from the reserves transferred in, but the heavy Belgian resistance had frustrated the brigade, Their training was drawn from the experience of the Prussian Army in the Franco Prussian war, which stressed the harm done by civilian resistance and standing orders allowed for reprisals, hostage taking and shooting Franc-Tireurs out of hand. The men who had been shot had been gathered in the square and shot in batches, their bodies left as a warning. The village priest, deacon and two sub-deacons had joined the hostages in exchange for other men.
The escalating resistance was proving problematic, the Belgian Army was largely withdrawn from the fray, retiring back on Namur and Antwerp, but Belgian Cavalry and Garde Civique units were still contesting the German advance. Worse and in an unplanned and unsanctioned manner it seems that many Belgian patriots had been emboldened by the defence of Liege, unofficially they had joined the fighting, seldom taking on the advancing infantry units but taking every chance to strike a blow against the supporting units. The German commanders from Army down knew that they had to engage with the main enemy France, before they got completely bogged down.
The damage caused by the destruction of Liege was severely delaying railway transport, already over 10,000 men had been impressed to repair the tracks, bridges and other infrastructure, temporary lines were being planned to bypass the damaged sections, but it was not known how long that would take. Spare rail track was being sourced from all over the German Empire, the foundries and rolling mills were working as quickly as they could to produce more. But the real damage was the loss of the specialised parts of the railway network such as the turntables those items could not be fabricated quickly and the Belgians had ensured their total destruction prior to the fall of the city.