Kid-Soldier, then King

Leopold, 14 years old

Leopold IIIOn April 5, 1915, the Belgian crownprince Leopold  13 years old at that time  joined the Belgian Twelfth Line Regiment.
King Albert introduced Leopold to his fellow-soldiers on the Northsea beach of De Panne. The king said he did not want any preferential treatment for his son. "Let hem work in the trenches. He has to know how it feels to have blisters on his hands."
Obviously the main reason for the king to send the crownprince into the army was to stir up the national sense of duty. The largest part of Belgium was occupied by German forces and many Belgians collaborated.
One month later, in May 1915, the crownprince already served in the frontline. Shells exploded in his trench, but he was not harmed.
Half a year later the king withdrew Leopold from the army and send him to Eton College in England.
When the war was over, the young Leopold marched with his father into the liberated cities of Brussels and Bruges, and with his old regiment into Louvain. The picture on the right was taken in 1918. On this picture Leopold is 16 years old, but he already looks much older  the war years show.
In 1934 Leopold succeeded his father as King of Belgium. When in 1940 Germany attacked Belgium again, Leopold surrendered quickly. Too quickly, according to many Belgians who accused him of collaboration. After continuing rows about his pro-German attitude, he was forced to resign in 1951. Leopold died in 1983.

 



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