The mystery flag of the General Leman Battalion

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The Belgian Lignard Lange seized the flag and its harness among the German corpses. It was the very first flag conquered in combat on all the fronts of the Great War.

In August 1914, General Leman charged the 2nd Battalion of the 12th Line, commanded by Major BEM Collyns, with a double mission. The mission’s objectives were to prevent the enemy from using the Wandre Bridge and block all the access roads coming from the north of Herstal. The battalion had already taken part in the defense of the Visé Bridge on August 4th. Consisting of only 450 men, the mission was accepted and set up on all the points where it was possible to beat the ground.

But during the night of August 5th to 6th, at about 1 a.m., the Belgians were overwhelmed by a substantial column of enemy soldiers. The Germans broke through the gap between Fort Pontisse and Fort Liers and ran down the slopes of Hermée. Major Collyns allowed the column to penetrate deep into the town before opening a devastating fire towards it. On several occasions, the attempted German frontal attacks were repulsed with very heavy losses. Major von Arnim, numerous officers, and Sergeant Möller, flag bearer, were among the dead of this offensive.

The epic of the enemy flag

The Belgian Lingard Lange, seized the flag and its harness among the German corpses. It was the very first flag conquered in combat on all the fronts of the Great War. This precious trophy was immediately sent to General Leman’s headquarters. On the morning of August 6th, Leman moved to Fort Loncin, taking the enemy flag with him. He presented it to the garrison and installed it in his office. After the explosion of the fort on August 15th, the flag was, according to the German version, found intact in the rubble. On August 20th, the flag was returned to the 89th Grenadiers during a ceremony presided over by the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. But it would seem that it was, in fact, only a replica since, in June 1940, the Germans came to the Army Museum to recover their flag.

As for the harness, it had been hidden during the occupation in the municipal administration of Herstal. In 1931, the commune offered it to the 12th Line for the centenary of the regiment’s creation. It is currently kept in the Royal Museum of the Army.

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