Last modified: 2006-01-14 by ivan sache
Keywords: bastogne | bastenaken |
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Municipal flag of Bastogne - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 28 May 2005
The municipality and town (Ville) of Bastogne (in Dutch, Bastenaken; 12,567 inhabitants; 17,210 ha) is located in the east of the province of Luxembourg, close to the border with the Great Duchy of Luxembourg. It is made since 1976 of the former municipalities of Bastogne, Longvilly, Noville, Villers-la-Bonne-Eau and Wardin. Bastogne is mostly known for the cyclist race Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the oldest of the "classic" races, and the terrible battle which took place there in 1944-1945.
The plateau of Bastogne has been settled since the Prehistoric times.
The Celts were present in the area in the IIIrd century BP, but they do
not seem to have founded the city; the name of Bastogne has an
Indo-European root, *bhas, meaning "clear water". In 57, Julius Caesar
defeated the Trevires, which were a mixed tribe of Celts and Germans.
Caesar romanized the Trevires by granting to them the title of "free
people" and maintaining their institutions.
In 634, Bastogne is listed among the possessions given by a Duke of Austrasia to the abbey of Trier; in 721, the domain was transfered to the abbey of Prüm. The city of Bastogne was divided among several feudal lords and religious foundations. Coins were minted in the IXth century and a document dated 887 mentions a market in Bastogne. Count of Luxembourg Henri VII (1288-1309) also minted coins in Bastogne, which was an important trade city on the road linking England, Flanders, Champagne and Italy. Lombard moneychangers set up in the city. On 12 June 1332, John the Blind, Count of Luxembourg and La Roche and King of Bohemia and Poland, granted a chart to Bastogne, which allowed the city to have ramparts, towers and two gates, the Porte Haute (Upper Gate), suppressed in 1825, and the Porte Basse (Lower Gate), aka Porte de Trèves. The inhbitants had to take care of the fortifications and set up a guard.
In the XVIth century, the grain and cattle fairs of Bastogne were so famous that the Italian traveler Guichardini nicknamed the city "Paris in Ardenne". In 1602, the Dutch troops besieged Bastogne, to no avail, but trashed the naighbouring villages. A significant part of the fortifications was destroyed by Louis XIV in 1688.
In September 1830, the Belgian nationalist movement spread to Bastogne. A municipal guard was set up and the colours of Brabant were hoisted in the city. On 4 October 1830, fifteen volunteers left Bastogne for Brussels, commanded by P.F. Toquinet. As a reward for their courage, Bastogne was granted a 1830 honour flag, shown today in the Council Room of the city hall. Bastogne and its region were then very wealthy: oak bark was exported to England, wood from the forests was shipped to the collieries. Special trains transported cattle to Flanders, whereas stallions were sold to Germany, Austria, Hungary and France. The industrial development was more limited, excepted the lead mine exploited in Longvilly and a few slate quarries in Benonchamps.
In the beginning of the XXth century, the cyclist race
Liège-Bastogne-Liège was set up. Baron Pierre de Crawhez created the
Circuit des Ardennes, a 600 km car race running five times the
triangle Bastogne-Martelange-Habay-la-Neuve-Longlier-Bastogne. Famous people came to Bastogne to encourage the competitors, including the
German Emperor William II. Short before the First World War, the
"Circuit" was transfered to Francorchamps.
On 4 August 1914, the Germans invaded Belgium. On 8 August, French dragons in reconnaissance were attacked near Bizory and lost two; the French withdrew and the Germans occupied Bastogne until 11 November 1918.
On 10 May 1940, the Germans invaded Belgium, France and the Grand Duchy
of Luxembourg. They occupied Bastogne in spite of the heroic defense by
the Chasseurs Ardennais. In September 1944, the German troops were
expelled from France and Belgium. Hitler decided to cut the western
front into two parts; as he did in 1940, he attacked the Ardenne,
hoping to rush later to Antwerp and defeat the English before moving
back against the Americans. There were only a few American units in
Ardenne because the forest was deemed insurmountable in winter. Foggy
weather prevented the Allied air forces to bomb the German positions.
On 16 December 1944, the Germans launched the so-called "Battle of the
Bulge" and the American had to withdraw. The units which attempted to
resist were completely destroyed. In order to block the German attack
and keep Bastogne, the Americans sent the 101st Airborne Division,
commanded by Brigadier General McAuliffe and the Combat Command Team B
from Patton's 3rd Army, which moved to Longvilly, Wardin and Noville.
Violent fightings took place on 19 December in Neffe, Wardin and
Noville. On 20 December, the city of Bastogne was surrounded. German
emissaries were sent on 22 December to require the American
capitulation; McAuliffe gave them his famous answer: "Nuts". The
weather improved on 23 December and the Allied Air Forces continuously
bombed the German troops; they also resupplied the besieged city with
food, arms and medicines. On 26 December, Patton's troops broke the
siege after a terrible fighting. Bastogne was liberated but the Battle
of Ardennes lasted until 18 January 1945.
The toll of the Battle of Ardennes is impressive:
Hitler's strategy in the Ardennes is considered by modern historians, for instance the Australian Chester Wilmot, as a big mistake. By counter-attacking in Belgium, Hitler dramatically weakened his last troops and lost a lot of men and arms which would have been very useful for the defense of Germany, and indirectly "helped" Stalin, whose troops could carry on their progress.
The Battle of Ardennes is commemorated in Bastogne by several monuments, including:
Bastogne is the end of the Voie de la Liberté (Way of Freedom) created by Colonel Guy de la Vasselais, which links Sainte-Mère-Eglise, in Normandy, to Metz and Bastogne.
For the 50th anniversary of the battle (1994), new monuments were erected, including:
The Foy American Memorial was created in 2004. On 4 February 1945, the US Army buried in the military cemetary of Foy-Recogne 2,071 soldiers from the Allied forces. The area of the cemetary was 8.86 ha. In 1946, the US Army proposed to the families to repatriate the bodies or to bury them in other European cemetaries; the repatriation process ended on 22 August 1948, when the cemetary was officially closed. Sixty-nine percent of the the bodies were repatriated to the United States, another 20 percent buried in the American cemetary of Henri-Chapelle and the remaining bodies were buried in the American cemetaries of Margraten, Neuville and Hamm. The former cemetary of Foy was given back to agriculture. In 2002, Joël Robert, from Bastogne, proposed to erect a commemorative monument in the former cemetary. The municipality of Bastogne and the group Cobra supported Robert's proposal and the Foy American Memorial was inaugurated on 10 September 2004.
Longvilly (162 inhabitants on 1 January 2004) was mentioned in 893. Until 1976, the municipality of Longvilly (3,249 ha) incuded the villages of Longvilly, Moinet, Bourcy, Michamps, Oubourcy and Arloncourt. In 1821, a farmer watering his land found accidentally blocks of leads; one of the block weighted 700 kg. On 26 August 1826, a concession was granted to the Société de Longvilly. Exploitation started the next year, where 20 workers dug down to a depth of 20 m. In 1839, the border delimited between Longvilly and Oberwampach (Grand Duchy of Luxembourg) split the concession into two parts. Exploitation of the mine carried on only on the Belgian side. The activity of the mine peaked in 1882, with 300 workers and the exploitation of a 12 cm thick lode of pure galenite. The production started to decline in 1887; in 1901, water invaded the galleries, which could not be repaired because of the lack of money, and the mine was definitively closed.
Noville (200 inhabitants on 1 January 2004) was mentioned in 1304 as Nouville and in 1340 as Nova villa, "the new farm". The inhabitants of Noville are nicknamed les câsses d'boteye (the bottle breakers). Until 1976, the municipality of Noville (4.213 ha) included the villages of Cobru, Foy, Noville, Recogne, Vaux, Luzery, Hardiny, Neufmoulin, Rachamps and Wicourt.
Villers-la-Bonne-Eau (69 inhabitants on 1 January 2004) is named after an estate located near a source providing good water (bonne eau). The inhabitants of Villers are nicknamed les djenisses (the yellowhammers). The legend says that there was once a blaze about to destroy the village; the inhabitants invoked their patron saint St. Barbe, and a source gushed forth. Like all miraculous sources, it never dried out and has therapeutic virtues. Until 1976, the municipality of Villers-la-Bonne-Eau (2,345 ha) included the villages of Livarchamps, Lutrebois, Losange, Remoifosse and Lutremange; in the Middle Ages, Losange was an important lordship. During the Battle of Ardennes, there was a pocket of German resistance in Villers-la-Bonne-Eau and the neighbouring villages. Lutrebois was reseized several times by the Germans, who abandoned Lutremange only on 11 January 1945. More than 6,000 bombs were required to expel the Germans from the village of Villers-la-Bonne-Eau, which was completely rebuilt after the liberation.
Wardin (367 inhabitants on 1 January 2004) was a medieval lordship. Its name comes from the Germanic root *war, to protect, to defend. Wardin was a strategic place during the Battle of Ardennes; the ridge dominating the village was strongly disputed between 20 December 1944 and 2 January 1945. The village was completely liberated on 16 January 1945. The yearly Ward'in rock festival was created by young people from the village in 1997.
Source: Municipal website
Ivan Sache, 28 May 2005
The municipal flag of Bastogne is vertically divided red-blue. According to Armoiries communales en Belgique. Communes wallonnes, bruxelloises et germanophones, it follows the proposal made by the Heraldry and Vexillology Council of the French Community:
Divisé transversalement en deux, rouge à la hampe et bleu au large.
The colours of the flag are taken from the municipal arms of Bastogne:
Brochant sur un parti cousu de gueules et d'azur, la Sainte-Vierge avec l'Enfant-Jésus, de carnation, vêtus d'or et ceints d'une couronne à trois fleurons du même, la Vierge tenant de la senestre un sceptre fleurdelisé aussi d'or.
Arnaud Leroy, Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 28 May 2005