Queen Matilda pays homage to resistance heroine Gabrielle Petit
Monday, 04 April 2016
Gabrielle Petit was shot on 1 April 1916 for espionage. A ceremony was held on Sunday (3 April) near her statue at Place Saint-Jean in Brussels. The queen laid a wreath and attended a musical performance depicting the last moments of her life. Flowers were also laid by the federal government and various patriotic associations.
Gabrielle Petit was 21 years old when World War I broke out and engaged to a man serving in the Belgian army. She enlisted as a volunteer with the Red Cross and helped her wounded fiancé to escape to the Netherlands where he was able to join the Belgian army in England.
She came into contact with British intelligence services who asked her to participate in a spy network in occupied Belgium. After a brief training she started her cooperation. She collected information about German troop movements by railway and transmitted the information to the allies.
Under disguise she travelled around the country as “Legrand”. Her reports were written on tissue papers or cigarettes hidden in her clothes. In the beginning of 1916 she was denounced, arrested and sentenced to death.
During her trial, Gabrielle Petit refused to reveal the identities of her fellow agents, despite offers of amnesty.
She spent her last days in a cell in Saint-Gilles prison in Brussels and was executed by a firing squad in Schaerbeek on 1 April 1916.