The Belgium town keen to remember the sacrifice of the Leeds Pals

It's the Belgium town that will never forget the brave Leeds soldiers who helped restore the country’s freedom and national sovereignty.

Monday, 28th December 2020, 6:00 am
A Ronse family with English soldiers. It was taken by Theo Van Coppenolle of his family with English soldiers, probably at his home. PIC: Ronse History Society
A Ronse family with English soldiers. It was taken by Theo Van Coppenolle of his family with English soldiers, probably at his home. PIC: Ronse History Society

Ronse, whose French name Renaix, is a Flemish town with a booming textile industry in all its pillars since the Middle Ages.

It's geographical sheltered position surrounded on three sides by rolling hills and the relatively short distance from the Western Front, made Ronse a key strategic stronghold for the Germans during World War 1.

They occupied the town for four years with the inhabitants living in constant terror and starvation. German officers stayed at the confiscated manors of the factory owners

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Three English soldiers of the medical corps, taken in Ronse. PIC: Ronse 14-18 Committee

while other buildings of considerable size, such as schools, became hospitals for the injured soldiers.

But that all changed on Sunday, November 10, 1918, at 3pm when the town was liberated by the brave Leeds Pals of the amalgamated 15/17th Battalion of the West Yorkshire

Regiment. It ended horrendous living conditions in which the slightest infringement simply to survive could mean death, sparing no one.

The town's local history society is keen to keep the memory of the brave soldiers alive and plan to put together an article for its yearbook in 2021.

Nadine Dezaeytijd, board member of the Ronse History Society, said: "I would like to find relatives of the Leeds Pals of the 15/17th Battalion who survived the war and most likely were among those who entered Ronse on that memorable day in November 1918, in order to obtain more personal information by means of photos, letters, etc.

"The Leeds Pals of the 15/17th Battalion deserve their story to be told, so that no one ever forgets what they did for us."

* Anyone who can help is asked to email Nadine Dezaeytijd at: [email protected] or Jonathan D’Hooghe, European Trustee for The Western Front Association and chairman of the Lincoln branch of the WFA, at: [email protected]

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