The Parliamentary War Aims Committee in Britain, in its role of myth and rumor-mongering, saw to it that the British public was fed a diet of outrageous exaggerations. In 1915, a committee of lawyers and historians under Britain’s former ambassador to the USA Lord Bryce came out with the ‘Bryce Report’ into alleged German atrocities. ‘Murder, lust and pillage,’ said the report, ‘on a scale unparalleled in any war between civilised nations during the last three centuries’ Among other lurid tales, there were stories of how German officers had gang-raped 20 Belgian girls in a marketplace, how German soldiers had bayoneted babies and sliced off peasant girls’ breasts. The newspapers published gruesome illustrations of Germans beheading babies and eating their flesh when they published the report.

The Bryce Report was translated into 30 languages, and portrayed Britain as defending poor little Belgium against the barbaric Germans. In 1922, a Belgian commission of enquiry failed to corroborate a single major allegation in the Bryce Report.

In Sempst a similar condition of affairs existed. Houses were burning, and in some of them were the charred remains of civilians.

In a bicycle shop a witness saw the burned corpse of a man. Other witnesses speak to this incident.

Another civilian, unarmed, was shot as he was running away. As will be remembered all the arms had been given up some time before by order of the burgomaster.

The corpse of a man with his legs cut off, who was partly bound, was seen by another witness, who also saw a girl of seventeen dressed only in a chemise-and in great distress. She alleged that she herself and other girls had been dragged into a field, stripped naked and violated, and that some of them had been killed with the bayonet.

WEERDE.--At Weerde four corpses of civilians were lying in the road. It was said that these men had fired upon the German soldiers; but this is denied. The arms had been given up long before.

Two children were killed in a village, apparently Weerde, quite wantonly as they were standing in the road with their mother. They were three or four years old and were killed with the bayonet.

A small farm burning close by formed a convenient means of getting rid of the bodies. They were thrown into the flames from the bayonets. It is right to add that no commissioned officer was present at this time.

EPPEGHEM. – At Eppeghem, on the 25th of August, a pregnant woman who had been wounded with a bayonet was discovered in the convent. She was dying. On the road six dead bodies of labourers were seen.

ELEWYT.--At Elewyt a man’s naked body was tied up to a ring in the wall in the backyard of a house. He was dead, and his corpse was mutilated in a manner too horrible to record. A woman’s naked body was also found in a stable abutting on the same backyard.

VILVORDE.--At Vilvorde corpses of civilians were also found. These villages are all on the line from Malines to Brussels.

BOORT MEERBEEK.--At Boort Meerbeek a German soldier was seen to fire three times at a little girl of five years old. Having failed to hit her, he subsequently bayoneted her. He was killed with the butt end of a rifle by a Belgian soldier who had seen him commit this murder from a distance.

HERENT.--At Herent the charred body of a civilian was found in a butcher’s shop, and in a hand cart 20 yards away was the dead body of a labourer.

Two eye-witnesses relate that a German soldier shot a civilian and stabbed him with a bayonet as he lay. He then made one of these witnesses, a civilian prisoner, smell the blood on the bayonet.

HAECHT.--At Haecht the bodies of 10 civilians were seen lying in a row by a brewery wall.

In a labourer’s house, which had been broken up, the mutilated corpse of a woman of 30 to 35 was discovered.

A child of three with its stomach cut open by a bayonet was lying near a house.

WERCHTER.--At Werchter the corpses of a man and woman and four younger persons were found in one house. It is stated that they had been murdered because one of the latter, a girl, would not allow the Germans to outrage her.

This catalogue of crimes does not by any means represent the sum total of the depositions relating to this district laid before the Committee. The above are given merely as examples of acts which the evidence shows to have taken place in numbers that might have seemed scarcely credible.

In the rest of the district, that is to say, Aerschot and the other villages from which the Germans had not been driven, the effect of the battle was to cause a recrudescence of murder, arson, pillage, and cruelty, which had to some extent died down after the 20th or 21st August.

In Aerschot itself fresh prisoners seem to have been taken and added to those who were already in the church, since it would appear that prisoners were kept to some extent in the church during the whole of the German occupation of Aerschot. The second occasion on which large numbers of prisoners were put there was shortly after the battle of Malines, and it was then that the priest of Gelrode was brought to Aerschot church, treated abominably and finally murdered.

One witness describes the scene graphically: “The whole of the prisoners--men, women, and children--were placed-in the church. Nobody was allowed to go outside the church to obey the calls of nature. The church had to be used for that purpose. We were afterwards allowed to go outside the church for this purpose, and then I saw the clergyman of Gelrode standing by the wall of the church with his hands above his head, being guarded by soldiers.” The actual details of the murder of the priest are as follows: The priest was struck several times by the soldiers on the head. He was pushed up against the wall of the church. He asked in Flemish to be allowed to stand with his face to the wall, and tried to turn round. The Germans stopped him, and then turned him with his face to the wall, with his hands above his head. A hour later the same witness saw the priest still standing there. He was then led away by the Germans a distance of about 50 yards. There, with his face against the wall of a house, he was shot by five soldiers.

Other murders of which we have evidence appear in the Appendix.

Some of the prisoners in the church at Aerschot were actually kept there until the arrival of the Belgian army, on September 11th, when they were released. Others were marched to Louvain, and eventually merged with other prisoners, both from Louvain itself and the surrounding districts, and taken to Germany and elsewhere.

It is said by one witness that about 1,500 were marched to Louvain, and that the journey took six hours.

The journey to Louvain is thus described by a witness: We were all marched off to Louvain, walking. There were some very old people, amongst others a man 90 years of age. The very old people were drawn in carts and barrows by the younger men. There was an officer with a bicycle, who shouted, as people fell out by the side of the road, “Shoot them.” (End)