A Belgian soldier is transported on a stretcher toward a Brussels hospital on 15 August 1914. For a week, wounded soldiers had been flocking to the capital. Since 5 August, while the battles were raging around the forts of Liège, all the wounded who could be evacuated were transferred towards Leuven and Brussels. The idea was to relieve overcrowded local hospitals, but also to protect the men from captivity, since the Germans were about to enter Liège. These first wounded arrived by ambulance train to the capital. Their case-management proved chaotic.
Rushing to the stations, the Brussels population hoped to have news from the front or to acclaim its heroes. But there, facing the ravages of modern war, they were overcome with stupefaction. “The men were stunned, and the women wept,” recollects Louis Bertrand, the socialist from Schaerbeek. One way or another, the wounded were distributed across the hospital network of the capital. After a while it appeared that the 20,000 available beds largely exceeded demand. Certain advanced positions never saw the slightest wounded soldier arrive and closed their doors.