The dateline is Belgium, September 26, 1914. The First World War is underway and the German Army has invaded the country. Belgian soldiers are still fighting back and one, Optatius Buyssens, is out on patrol. A shot rings out from a German rifle. Things don’t look good for the volunteer Belgian soldier.
But how had it come to this in Belgium? Why was a hostile German shooting at a Belgian in his own country? The answer, of course, lies in the fact that the First World War had broken out weeks before. And tiny Belgium, which was supposed to be an entirely neutral country, found itself in the firing line.
The great European powers of the period – Britain and France on one side and Germany and Austro-Hungary on the other – were at war. To the east, there were also hostilities between Russia and the Germans and Austro-Hungarians. This front of hostilities, however, isn’t quite relevant to our story about Belgium and the volunteer soldier, Optatius Buyssens.