Grimbergen, Verbrande Brug
The story of private Léon Trésignies which took place here on August 26, 1914, is the story of an act of bravery.
Léon Trésignies was a simple boy from Bièrges near Wavre. At his mobilization, he was assigned to the 2nd company of the third battalion of the 2nd regiment of hunters on foot.
His unit took part in the first counter-attack from Antwerp. The progression of his unit was stopped by the Willebroek canal in Grimbergen. The bridge was raised while the mechanism of the bridge, to make it descent, was operated from the other shore.
Léon volunteers to swim the canal and send down the bridge. He writes a short note with his name, three christian names, birth place and date. Furthermore his address, the name of his wife and the date of august 26, 1914. In no case he wanted to be buried as an unknown soldier.
Then he waited for what seemed like the right time for him to swim the canal. He reached the other side unscathed, but mistakenly he switched the handle in the wrong direction.
The bridge, rather than to descend, was going slightly higher. Immediately he corrected his mistake, but the Germans responded fiercely and he had to swim back in a real barrage of gunfire. It was impossible for Léon to reach the safety of the other shore. He dies the true hero's death.
Posthumously, he was appointed corporal and in the Belgian armee’s daily order of September 15, 1914 his action was quoted.
On the 60th anniversary of this heroic deed, in 1974, the Belgian postal services commemorated this hero with the emmission of a postal stamp.
“Verbrande Brug” (Burned Bridge), where these events took place, is a district and parish of the municipality of Grimbergen. Behind the church of Holy Mary the 20 fallen soldiers that died in the action described above are buried. Eight of them are known to God only.
They lie in two rows with no frills, hardly an honorary park. Moreover, the condition of the individual standard Belgian tombstones is below any standard.
They all succumbed on August 26th, 1914 or died days a few days later later from the effects of injuries sustained in this fight.
A monument is on the bank of the canal where Trésignies went into the water at the beginning of his action.