On this day in 1922, five coffins were lined up in the first class waiting room at Bruges station. They contained the remains of five unknown Belgian soldiers dug up from five different war cemeteries.
A former soldier who had been blinded in the war was brought in to pick one of the coffins. It was put on the train to Brussels.
The following day, November 11, the coffin was carried along Rue Royale in Brussels by eight wounded soldiers. Four had lost a left arm in the First World War. Four had lost a right arm. The coffin was laid in the ground between the two bronze lions at 11 AM at the Congress Column and an eternal flame was lit behind the tomb.
Two plaques were put up on the street instructing people who pass the tomb to raise their hats to this Belgian soldier whose identity will probably never be known.
For many years, no one knew where the four other unknown soldiers had been buried. The unknown unknowns, you might call them. But a Belgian journalist recently tracked them down to a cemetery outside Bruges where they had been forgotten for more than a century.
Derek Blyth is the author of the bestselling “The 500 Hidden Secrets of Brussels”