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Part II: Reverse of Volunteer Combatant's Plaque, Belgian WWI and War of Independence

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    Posted 10 years ago

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    Photos 2 - 4 above capture details of the reverse of the commemorative plaque for Belgian Volunteer Combatants of WWI and the War of Independence. I have posted this so that those working on the "Unsolved Mystery" can examine the reverse for possible clues as to foundry, manufacturing methods, and possible display devices. In comment field No. 1 below you will find a link to Part I of this Show and Tell. Thank you.

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    1. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 10 years ago
      Follows a link to Part I of this "Unsolved Mystery". Thank you!
    2. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 10 years ago
      Thanks so much Bellin! You are very kind, sir. I'm glad you like it. I am having a productive day, and I have a birthday present that I will post perhaps tomorrow. It is something Belgian. : D How was your day? Best wishes for a spendid Saturday eve and Sunday!!!
    3. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 10 years ago
      Thank you very much, Hedgwalker and petey!!!
    4. vetraio50 vetraio50, 10 years ago
      It looks like it has not been cast. It's been stamped like a coin. Imagine the force needed to do such a large piece in one go! The ridge at the bottom is interesting. Perhaps it could have been inserted there onto a base?
    5. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 10 years ago
      Hi, Vetraio. Yes, I too thought that there was a good possibility that it was designed to fit into a base. There is no other way to mount the plaque. (You will recall that Chrisnp said that British plaques also did not have a device by which one could mount it.) Thanks much for taking a look at it!
    6. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 10 years ago
      Thank you very much, ttomtucker!!!
    7. solver solver, 10 years ago
      Very interesting information, to say the least, but I am curious, miKKo. Bill's Belgian Website has photos of two other variations of the same PLAQUE. Since you initially enquired about the PLAQUE, I was wondering why you didn't point out the other two.

      N.B.: Hi, vetraio, and enjoyed looking at your terrific new photo avatar.
    8. vetraio50 vetraio50, 10 years ago
      Thanks solver. I missed that page at Bill's.
      MiKKo's looks like the first phot that ad been trimmed and screwed onto something.
      The name on the other one at Bill's is an interesting character too that relates to Aviation insurance. In 1935, on the initiative of Carlos Meerbergen, a broker in Antwerp, the “Compagnie Belge d’Assurances Aviation “, AVIABEL, was founded with the status of a limited company.

    9. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 10 years ago
      Good morning, solver and Vetraio! Thank you very much for your excellent research and comments!!!

      Solver, I am very surprised by the plaques on Sir William's "Medal of the Month" page. I did not see them. I did not look for any plaques on "Bill's Belgian Medals" because I was told that mine was the only one he had seen. Perhaps there is some difference among the plaques. Hmmm, I was told that mine was copper, and one of the plaques displayed at BBM is identified as brass. I don't understand. I will research this today. It might take me a couple of days to get back to you. Thank you very much for bringing this to my attention. I see that that page was last updated in Nov. of 2007.

      As for the medals themselves, yes I have now discerned that there are three variations on the medals. I had accessed a different BBM page! by way of a Google search:

      As I said, I had discerned three versions of the medal when some other scholars said that there were two versions. I had intended to ask Sir William about this today. I should like to point out something to Vetraio on this newly discovered "Medal of the Month" page at BBM. Namely, this statement: "A variation of this medal has Volontarus and not Voluntarus and another is a smaller version of the medal....that has nothing on the reverse". Now, about his statement that one of the variants has "Volontarus" and not "Voluntarus", I presume that he meant to indicate the nominative singular of the words "Volontarius" and "Voluntarius", from which are respectively declined
      the "Volontariis" and "Voluntariis" that do actually appear on the medals. Vetraio, have you any thoughts on "Volontarus" vs. "Volontarius"/””Voluntarus” vs. “Voluntarius”?

      Thank you very much, Vetraio, for information on Carlos Meerbergen, broker of Antwerp, and on the “Compagnie Belge d’Assurances Aviation“, AVIABEL. You know, I find the plaque legend curious - the "Meerbergen" sounds Flemish to me, yet the legend on the plaque is in French. Do either of you know what F.N.V.G. stands for? Is it associated with AVIABEL?

      Thanks for pointing out about the trimmed plaque, Vetraio. The holes atop and aside the plaque were obviously made post manufacture. The hole atop the Meerbergen plaque is much more neatly executed. I might assume it original if it didn't remove the finial from the royal crown.

      FYI, last night, I was working on amending my text to include the fact that the Volunteer Combatant's Medal could be awarded posthumously. I had intended to ask Sir William if the plaque is the form awarded posthumously. Any other observations or suggested changes would be greatly appreciated. Thanks very much!

      Solver, I’ve not encountered you before on CW. May I ask, are you interested in military medals, Latin, or Belgium? Nice to meet you! I collect Belgian souls. I know very little about the Belgian military medals. miKKo
    10. vetraio50 vetraio50, 10 years ago
      Hi miKKo! This comes from a mis-reading of volontariis/voluntariis. I saw it elsewhere in a Belgian site. The double 'II' was mis-read as a 'U'.

      The FNVG is an interesting point and I spent a little time earlier trying to get to the root of it all. It's an acronym. In this case it a French acronym, I believe. It stands for "Federation nationale des volontaires de guerre".
      If you look around the Belgian War medals you'll find a few more designs for later medals. On some they have 'FNVG' and at an opposing side 'NFOV'. The latter is in Dutch. The bi-lingual Belgians!
      "NFOV" is 'Nationale Federatie Oorlogs Vrijwilligers".
    11. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 10 years ago
      Thank you very much, Vetraio, for your superb scholarship!!! I had earlier, on another site, wondered the same thing about the possibility of the double "I"s being mistaken for a "U", but I thought it too unlikely to pursue. Since you mentioned your thoughts, I no longer consider it too unlikely to pursue.

      Thank you very much for the information on FNVG and FNOG, and the links all!!! miKKo
    12. Chrisnp Chrisnp, 10 years ago
      I'm retracting my earlier speculation that it may be a plaque for the families of volunteers who died in service to the nation. I'm thinking that if the government were to issue such a memorial, there would be a place for the name of the fallen.

      I look forward to the solution to this mystery!
    13. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 10 years ago
      Thank you for your studied judgment, Chrisnp! As soon as I am finished organizing all the data on variants observed in the medals - and various opinions on them - in a table, I will email Sir William. The table is taking much longer than I expected. Among other things, I will ask Sir William what purpose/use did my plaque serve?, and request a brief summary of his evidence on the various members of the set of WWI Volunteer Combatant Plaques. I will reference the 'Bill's Belgian Medals' page with plaques very similar to mine that was posted this morning by solver. Sir William Simpson is a man of great integrity and honor. I am confident that he will be able to provide or suggest a solution to some of our questions. Thank you again for your generosity, sir!
    14. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 10 years ago
      Thank you very much, scandi and pw-collector!!
    15. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 10 years ago
      Thank you very much, Hems303!! I will have some answers sometime soon - or a bit later.
    16. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 10 years ago
      Thank you very much, collector4evr!!
    17. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 10 years ago
      Thank you very much, trunkman!! : )
    18. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 10 years ago
      Hello, all. Just received a generous word from William Simpson that will clear up the question raised by "solver" in Part II (Reverse) of this Show and Tell item.

      Mr. Simpson confirms that he has never seen another plaque identical to mine in all his years of collecting Belgian medals, i.e., now 20 years. Mr. Simpson stated that "the discrepancy [between the description supplied with your plaque and "solver's" linked webpage] was due to my posting two different but vaguely similar items, one of which I had sold some months previous. However, I would maintain that both items were unique, and I have seen neither offered on eBay or sold in any militaria fairs, workshops, boot fairs, antique fairs etc., etc."

      In response to my question whether the named plaque on his website could have been a grave marker, Mr. Simpson replied: "It was unlikely that these were for graves; I have seen large bronze plaques for gravestone - of the Croix de Feu - very large and heavy and presumably taken from gravestones, so I don't collect them."

      About the rare, small WWI Belgian Volunteer Combatant's medal with the blank reverse, Mr. Simpson regrets that he cannot provide a better image for my chart project because he no longer has the medal.

      MiKKo adds that her laptop failed this weekend, and so the chart of all the variations in the medal, and parsings of 'authoritative' statements about the medals, was lost. I won't burden you with another chart, but I will just state for the record here that there are three versions of the WWI Belgian Volunteer Combatant's 1914-1918. In addition to the two regular sized-medals that bear either the "VOLONTARIIS..." or "VOLUNTARIIS..." inscription on the reverse, there is a rare small medal that has a French (only) inscription on its face, and a completely blank reverse. I cannot decipher the full inscription on the small medal, and I might never encounter another example. You can see all versions through links previously posted to this thread.

      As for the languages used on Belgian medal inscriptions, Mr. Simpson reported that: "Bi-lingual medals were issued after 1953 - so all medals in WWI had French or Latin". I think that that this doesn't exclude the possibility that a WWI medal could have had both a French and a Dutch inscription, as evidenced in the medal linked in my Comment No. 59. I will have to verify this. I think that the 1953 principle holds fast for the Order of the Knight of Leopold II Medal, for after 1953 they were issued with both French and Dutch inscriptions on each medal. FYI, last night, I saw a beautiful war medal issued by King Leopold II. It bore a Latin inscription only; there was no French inscription on it.

      I have more inquiries out, and I will post results as I get them. Many thanks to all for their kind patience and for their contagious enthusiasm and very helpful comments! miKKo
    19. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 10 years ago
      Thank you very much, inky!! Good to see you!
    20. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 10 years ago
      Hi, Bellin! How are you? I am doing well, and I thank you very much for your enthusiastic interest and your kind and helpful comments all!!! How is Kat? today? : )
    21. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 10 years ago
      Thank you very much, kerry10456!!
    22. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 10 years ago
      1.) RE Method of Production; please see below an excellent article (on the Benjamin Weiss Colletion) that describes the three main techniques used in medal production, i.e., REPOUSSÉ, STRIKING and CASTING.

      2.) Look at this massive steel die/hub used in medal production. Incredibly heavy.

      Update on inquiry: Still researching. So far, I've not uncovered anyone yet who has affirmed that he has seen a plaque like mine....A number of inquiries are still outstanding. Thank you.
    23. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 10 years ago
      Thank you very much, filmnet!! : )
    24. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 10 years ago
      Thank you very much, lundy!! : )
    25. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 10 years ago
      Thank you very much, PhilDavidAlexanderMorris!! : )
    26. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 10 years ago
      Hello, all! More information coming on this shortly! Have much to tell you.
    27. vetraio50 vetraio50, 10 years ago
      I'm tuned in!
    28. vetraio50 vetraio50, 10 years ago
      Now hold on. Is it happening here or on the 'other one'?
    29. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 10 years ago
      Hi, Vetraio! Thanks much for your enthusiasm! Thanks on other grounds will then be due t0 you, as you will find that one of your many fine musings and researches was dead on the mark. I will present the evidence ensemble, and don't yet have the full information needed to properly cite one of the sources. I hope to have that within the next week. See you then, sir! And, thanks again!
    30. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 10 years ago
      Thank you very much, Alpha1!! : )
    31. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 10 years ago
      A blessed Armistice Day/Veterans Day to all!

      Hi, Vetraio! I just sent you an email with some information on this plaque. I also just sent you two PDF files that the Belgian Embassy in Washington sent me. (The Embassy has been wonderful!) Also, the National President of the "Fédération Royale Nationale des Volontaires de Guerre 1914-1918 et 1940-1945" just sent me a very gracious and generous inquiry.....To be continued....miKKo
    32. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 10 years ago
      Hello, all! A progress report that is perhaps my penultimate posting.

      FYI, still much information to be sorted out before my final posting! Vetraio, many thanks for your most generous and splendid email!!! I have had an urgent business matter to wrap up, and am now back in saddle and ruminating upon the strange mutability of Latin inscriptions. I will respond to your email shortly, sir.

      There are three inquiries still outstanding, and I will also be asking another Latin scholar to weigh in when all responses have been received and discussed. When I post my final comment, Vetraio’s scholarship and contributions will become more apparent. Our brilliant confrere has solved much of this puzzle. Indeed, he has been the very soul of this posting!

      I am going to make a few comments now about the Volunteer Combatant's Medal 1914–1918 designed by Eugène J. de Bremaecker, from which the plaque’s central image has been taken. Then I am going to ask some questions of scott vez and Chrisnp, both fine scholars. I will then make a simple statement about the plaque.

      RE the Volunteer Combatant's Medal 1914–1918

      By the great courtesy of the Belgian Embassy in Washington, D.C., and her associates, we are pleased to present you with the Latin inscription given in Article 2 of the Royal Decree of 17 June 1930 that created the ‘Volunteer Combatant's Medal 1914–1918’. King Albert I, the Warrior King of the Battle of Yser, therein set forth the following inscription:

      “Voluntariis 1914-1918. Patria Memor.”

      You will observe that this inscription is given in two sentences. I should have sought the original inscription as soon as I witnessed the paucity of English translations and the disparity in the set of variant translations I encountered. I must own that I am not quite settled with the Latin in the Royal Decree. Vetraio and I are presently discussing this via email. When we’re finished, I am going to ask another Latinist to take a look. King Albert I was a scholar, and he prayed regularly in Latin. I expect good Latin from this scholarly and pious King.


      Gentlemen, have you ever seen an inscription given in two sentences in a document instituting a medal? If so, do you think that it is a common occurrence?

      Please examine the reverse of the medal in the link below and indicate whether or not you think that the inscription might have been rendered in two sentences in the Royal Decree as an instruction to the agent creating the medal mold, and indicating that the date range should follow “Voluntariis” and ‘punctuate’ the medal. Personally, I think that such a supposition is quite implausible! I think that such instruction would be given later, and that it would perhaps be best to issue detailed placement instructions with an illustration. Without an illustration, there would be too much room for error. Any comments appreciated!


      We are indebted to the Belgian Embassy for the knowledge that this plaque was not an official honorable decoration awarded by the Belgian Government. According to the Embassy, the F.N.V.G. (Fédération National des Volontaires de Guerre /’War Volunteer National Federation’) issued a plaque like this. You can see a photo of an F.N.V.G. plaque in the following link, which we have seen before. According to the Embassy, this plaque was created by the F.N.V.G. and given to its members. I do not yet know if any other organization(s) issued a similar plaque. Interestingly, I discovered at the Koninklijk Museum van het Leger - KLM / Musée Royal de l’Armée- MRA, a .22 rifle once presented to Prince Albert of Liège (later King Albert II) that bears an image incorporating combatants of both World Wars I and II. This image incorporates the de Bremaecker volunteer combatant image we have been discussing. This de Bremaecker image had resonance, and I think it is possible that someone else might have used this image on a plaque, too. I have sought an opinion on whether any other organizations might have issued a plaque with our de Bremaecker image. This would be a very difficult question to answer in the negative, and perhaps I should have posed it only of an omniscient being. If I get an answer to this query, I will pass it on.

      Thank you! miKKo
    33. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 10 years ago
      Greetings, all! By the great courtesy of a friend who shall be known as "Amica Linguae Latinae", we are pleased to present you with an excellent translation of the inscription given in the Royal Decree: “Voluntariis 1914-1918. Patria Memor.” (Please note that my other two friends were given the “Voluntariis Patria Memor” inscription, which was the only Latin inscription I had found on the internet. As they were given but a figment to translate, their translations will be different from that proposed by ‘Amica’. Thank you.)


      voluntarius -a -um [voluntary, acting or done voluntarily]; m. pl. as subst. [volunteers].

      I believe I would see this as a dative plural with the adjective used as a second declension noun - to the volunteers of 1914-1918. I do not see this as a singular form.

      memor -oris [mindful, remembering; with a good memory; grateful, thoughtful, prudent; reminiscent, reminding] - third declension adjective

      I would translate this as grateful.

      patria -ae f. [fatherland]; see patrius. Of course a first declension feminine noun.

      So here is the way I would translate it:

      A grateful country to the volunteers of 1914-1918.

      I threw in the "of" because that is what one expects when one translates from the Latin. It is assumed. See if this works for you.

      The reason I would juxtapose this in translation is because it is my unscholarly belief that when they were designing this medal, they wanted to emphasize the volunteers first and foremost. One could translate it in the original form - to the volunteers of 1914-1918 - a grateful country - but my translation just seems to fit better. They definitely wanted to attribute the years to the volunteers. Anyone would be an idiot to leave out that historical piece. I am not a scholar in this area...believe me, but this is how I would translate it.

      I believe this might be a dative of purpose sans the "verb to be" but who knows. It seems more than straightforward. Here are the various references for the Dative of Purpose. They are taken from the “old” Allen and Greenough.

      Dative of the Purpose or End.


      The Dative is used to denote the Purpose or End, often with another Dative of the person or thing affected.

      This use of the dative, once apparently general, remains in only a few constructions, as follows: -

      1. The dative of an abstract noun is used to show that for which a thing serves or which is accomplishes, often with another dative of the person or thing affected: -

      • reí públicae cládi sunt (Iug. 85. 43), they are ruin to the state (they are for a disaster to the state).
      • mágnó úsuí nostrís fuit (B. G. iv. 25), it was of great service to our men (to our men for great use).
      • tertiam aciem nóstrís subsidió mísit (id. i. 52), he sent the third line as a relief to our men.
      • suís salútí fuit (id. vii. 50), he was the salvation of his men.
      • événit facile quod dís cordí esset (Liv. i. 39), that came to pass easily which was desired by the gods (was for a pleasure [lit. heart] to the gods).

      NOTE 1: This construction is often called the Dative of Service, or the Double Dative construction. The verb is usually sum. The noun expressing the end for which is regularly abstract in singular in number and is never modified by an adjective, except one of degree (mágnus, minor, etc.), or by a genitive.

      NOTE 2: The word frúgí used as an adjective is a dative of this kind: -

      • cógis mé dícere inimícum Frúgí (Font. 39), you compel me to call my enemy Honest.
      • hominés satis fortés et pláné frúgí (Verr. iii. 67), men brave enough and thoroughly honest. Cf. eró frúgí bonae (Plaut. Pseud. 468), I will be good for something. [See § 122. b.]

      2. The Dative of Purpose of concrete nouns is used in prose in a few military expressions, and with freedom in poetry: -

      • locum castrís déligit (B. G. vii. 16), he selects a site for a camp.
      • receptuí canere, to sound a retreat (for a retreat).
      • receptuí sígnum (Phil. xiii. 15), the signal for retreat.
      • optávit locum régnó (Aen. iii. 109), he chose a place for a kingdom.
      • locum ínsidiís circumspectáre (Liv. xxi. 53), to look about for a place for an ambush. [Cf. locum séditiónis quaerere (id. iii. 46).]

      You could also see the voluntariis as a natural indirect object with the Donum missing...After all, these were medals that were gifts, but not simply gifts - more than simply recognition of going above and beyond. No big deal however.


      A thunderous round of applause to Amica Linguae Latinae! Thank you for this magnificent gesture!, this inspired translation!, Amica! : ) Regards, miKKo
    34. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 10 years ago
      Hello, Bellin! : ) Miss you, too! I had a very fine Thanksgiving, thank you very much. How about you, sir? Did you spend it with family? Hopefully, your new job didn't schedule you for work on Thanksgiving. : )
    35. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 10 years ago
      Greetings, all! Just received word from the friend whom I refer to here as the Boston Latin Scholar. I had forwarded the translation proposed by Amica Linguae Latinae to him late last night, along with the authentic Latin inscription, which he saw for the first time last night! He will be crazy busy with students and family, but ever the gentleman, he took time to send me the following response this morning.


      It is good to have the precise form of the inscription (with the years), although it does not cause me to alter my translation, which is very like your friend's.


      To those who have volunteered [in 1914-1918] the fatherland is grateful.

      Amica Linguae Latinae:

      A grateful country to the volunteers of 1914-1918.

      The key question is the case of the noun to which "memor" is directed (which ‘Amica’ does not specifically address). Our Former Professor maintains that it must be genitive, in accordance with strict classical usage, while I am content to allow the dative (which "voluntariis" indeed must be), in accordance with modern vernacular syntactical usage after the notion "grateful", rendered here in this bit of Neo-Latin in the dative.


      A thunderous round of applause to the Boston Latin Scholar and to Our Former Professor for their most excellent translations and analyses!!! Bravo!

      Follow below two links on Neo-Latin.

      Later today, I will work more on Vetraio’s superb analyses and hypotheses, and hopefully soon I will have something intelligent to say to our learned colleague, whose contributions have been of immense value, and whose input has been the very soul of this posting.

      I will also this afternoon post a link to two plaques that are somewhat similar to mine in general form. One link shows how this type of plaque might have once have been displayed. Thanks to all! miKKo
    36. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 10 years ago
      Hi, all. Follow some musings on one of vetraio’s early remarks on possible models/inspirations for the 1830 volunteer combatant depicted in my plaque. In Comment No. 29 of Plaque Part I, vetraio speculated that he could represent (Hyppolyte) Louis Alexandre Dechet, Charles Niellon, or an “imaginary character from the revolution that began in a theatre”. As always, inspired musings from vetraio!

      Dechet, pseudonym “Jenneval”, was a French-born actor who volunteered for service in the Belgian revolutionary army. He joined the corps of Frenchman Charles Niellon, who also fought in the Revolution. Dechet is credited with composting the lyrics of the Brabançonne during the initial Revolutionary ferment in 1830 Brussels. The Brabançonne became the Belgian national anthem (1860), and Dechet became a Belgian. Factors favoring his candidacy. Dechet was a celebrated volunteer combatant of the 1830 Revolution, and his image in the first and second links below seems consistent with the plaque’s image. Second link contains an image of the monument to Jenneval/Dechet that was inaugurated in 1897, and which is situated in Place des Martyrs, Brussels. This important monument clearly indicates that his image had resonance. Third link is a snippet biography of Dechet. The fourth and fifth links are superb. They are rich in the history and commemorations of the Revolution. In link four, you can find the Brabançonne lyrics and view the 1930 inauguration of the Monument of the Brabançonne, which features an image of François Van Campehout, who composed the music for the anthem in 1830. This monument was erected ”to the glory of the couplets of Jenneval and François Van Campehout”, and it is situated in Place Surlet de Chokier, Brussels. In fifth link, you can view yet more Patriots who might have inspired Eugène de Bremaecker to capture his image on the medal/plaque. You can also view here the “Complete listing of the Combatants of 1830 as they are registered on the tables of the galleries and resting in the Cemetery and the Crypt of the Martyrs [in Brussels]”. I have taken this last statement directly from the fifth link. I don’t quite understand its sense. Further, I note that the name of my candidate, Joseph Philippe Demoulin, does not appear on this list. A 'mere' mistake perhaps? Or could this indicate that the lists of names on the markers in the Cemetery and the Crypt of the Martyrs in Brussels capture only the veterans buried there? I haven’t yet found an image of Niellon, but he seems a less likely candidate to me. (FYI, if you don’t read French, you can translate these links with Google. The translations are not reliable, but they are better than nothing.)

      Now for the person whom I propose as another good candidate for consideration, Joseph Philippe Demoulin.

      The image on the plaque bears a resemblance to Joseph Philippe Demoulin, who in 1930 - the 100th anniversary of the Belgian Revolution, was acclaimed as the last living ‘Combatant’ of the Revolution. Demoulin, a native of Belgium, was the son of farmers. Yet, he was presented to three Belgian Kings in his lifetime, and was visited by the Warrior King Albert I before the Volunteer Combatant Medal 1914-1918 was instituted.

      (You may recall that Albert’s grandfather was Belgian’s first king, Léopold I, and that he had served as a Lt. General in the Imperial Russian Army, and had campaigned against Napoleon before he became King of the Belgians. During the reign of Léopold II there were complaints that the veteran had been forgotten. Léopold II took measures to improve the situation. At the time of the institution of the WWI Volunteer Combatant 1914-1918 Medal (17 June 1930), Belgians held the veteran in high esteem.)

      You will recall that the Belgian Revolution began with a riot in Brussels in August 1830. Now, Demoulin entered the military in 1828 – when Belgium was part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, yet he fought against the Dutch in the Parc de Bruxelles in 1830. The battle was instrumental in expelling the Dutch from the capital. (1)

      In 1828, Demoulin served with the 2nd Infantry Division. We observe Demoulin fighting against the Dutch in 1830, and we find record of him serving in the Belgian Army on 1 October 1830. In 1836, he moved to the 12th Reserve Regiment, where he served until he was discharged in 1838. I think that Demoulin might perhaps be considered a ‘volunteer combatant’ for Belgium since he appears to have been enlisted in the service of the Netherlands at the time the Revolution began. If you look closely at his photo, you can see a medal that looks to me like it might well be the La Croix commémorative des Volontaires de 1830 (Commemorative Cross of the Volunteers of 1830), which was instituted 20 April 1878 by King Léopold II. This medal was issued to veterans of the 1830 war whom had not been issued a Croix de Fer/Iron Cross. Link one below provides Demoulin’s photo, links two (scroll to bottom) and three provide some history on Demoulin. Links four and five show the Commemorative Cross of the Volunteers of 1830.

      In 1915, Demoulin was acclaimed as the last living combatant of the Belgian Revolution. Demoulin, who died at the age of 102 on 14 February 1912, was visited by King Albert I on 15 January 1912. King Albert made a special point of visiting the veteran’s home in person. The King was accompanied by François Deladrière, Mayor of Arquennes, the Priest Abbé Delhaye, and Alderman Rousseau. Demoulin’s children and the distinguished visitors shared champagne inside Demoulin’s home. The significance of M. Demoulin to the people can perhaps be best appreciated by details of his funeral observances and a memorial celebration that took place 18 years later, on 15 June 1930. The latter was held on the 100th anniversary of the Belgian Revolution, and two days before the Voluntary Combatant Medal 1914-1918 was instituted by King Albert’s Royal Decree of 17 June 1930.

      When M. Demoulin died, King Albert sent his condolences. The national flag was lowered to half-mast at the town hall, and the body was placed in the Great Hall instead of the chapel. I think that perhaps such arrangement was made because the hall was larger than the chapel and could accommodate more people; however, this is a presumption on my part. The funeral was described as “grand” (2), and was attended by many. Colonel Moor and Captain Lattoir represented King Albert. Among the officials and personages who attended were Ministers Levie and Renkin. Mr. Gueltan of the Department of the Interior spoke on behalf of the government, Mayor Deladrière for Arquennes, and Mr. Gonne, president of the Société centrale des enfants des combattants de 1830 (Central Society for Children of the Combatants of 1830), delivered a speech as well. Attendance was remarkable, and it was opined that the assembled mourners constituted the largest crowd that Arquennes had ever seen – or perhaps had seen in living memory?

      On June 15, 1930 – 18 years after Mr. Demoulin’s funeral, a celebration was held in Arquennes. The Mayor “inaugurated the Centennial Tree”, an oak. Afterwards the Te Deum and a High Mass were celebrated. A gymnastics festival and a concert followed. Particular tribute was paid to Veterans that day, and especially to M. Demoulin.

      Of course, the best place to look for clues to the identity of/inspiration for the volunteer of 1830 that appears in Eugène de Bremaecker plaque would perhaps be the artist’s notes on the design of the WWI commemorative medal. I have not found these yet, or any discussion of his models/inspirations. I am not here championing the opinion that the de Bremaecker image was of Demoulin, or was inspired by him. However, I do think Demoulin a plausible candidate, a subject suitable for further investigations. By this afternoon, I will be laughing loudly at my own folly in writing this piece.

      The information on M. Demoulin presented here was derived from the following article, “Le dernier combattant de 1830” (published by, and from a posting on (website of Mark Poelmans) that contained an abstract of this article. My debt to the authors of these two pieces cannot be exaggerated. In fact, I might well later decide that I am 75% parrot here. First link is to the ‘Dernier Combattant’ article; the second link to the blog posting (scroll to bottom) that provided an abstract of the ‘Dernier Combattant’ article and a link to that article.

      1.) The 1830 war of independence resulted in the establishment of an independent and neutral country that respected the Catholic population.


      3.) The Combatants of the 1830 Revolution have the same resonance in Belgium as the Patriots of 1776 have in America. The design and issue of coins is a perhaps a good witness to resonance. We have our patriotic coins, and Belgium has hers. In 2005 Belgium issued a €100 coin in honor of the 175th Anniversary of Belgium Independence. The obverse depicts the painting, "Scene of the September days in 1830"; the reverse depicts King Albert II amidst 12 stars representing the European Union.
    37. vetraio50 vetraio50, 10 years ago
      Joseph Philippe Demoulin is an inspired suggestion, Mikko.
      Thanks for your research and unerring attention to detail.
      At any rate, this posting has given life to some long forgotten names.
      Voluntariis Patria Memor.
      Lest we forget!
    38. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 10 years ago
      Thank you very much, vetraio, ttomtucker, and packrat!! : )

      Vetraio, I have been living a full week off of your splendid compliment! Thank you, thank you!!! : ) I apologize, sir! I meant to have something worthy to add in response to your great kindness, but although I have made some significant advances this week, I have been in outer space much of the week due to illness, and as a result have not yet refined my thoughts enough to be able to post tonight. FYI, I have discovered a reference to an unpublished doctoral thesis on Eugène Jean de Bremaecker qua médailleur (University of Louvain, 2000), and wrote to the university today. Tonight I finished a long email to the successors to the Fonson 'empire'. I asked them a few questions about the medal and forms of inscriptions - including whether it is uncommon to encounter periods in an inscription, and many questions on the plaque. I have not forgotten, sir, that long ago you found a two-sentence Dutch 'incarnation' of the Latin inscription/or version of the Latin inscription. I have not forgotten your 'toast' comments, and have a new appreciation for their significance. Once again, vetraio, thank you very much!!! You are a fine scholar, and you praise is most valued indeed.
    39. Roycroftbooksfromme1, 10 years ago
      very cool ..... is all i can say...smiling
    40. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 10 years ago
      Thanks very much for your kind appreciation, ttomtucker!! : )

      Thanks very much for your very kind comment and appreciation, Roycroftbooksfromme1!! : )
    41. miKKoChristmas11 miKKoChristmas11, 10 years ago
      Thank you very much, Vestibule1965, for your kind appreciation!!! : )

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