May 17, 1899|
|Died||September 8, 2001
Paul Ooghe (May 17, 1899 – September 8, 2001) was a war veteran, and at the time of his death, incorrectly believed to be the last surviving Belgian soldier to have seen combat in World War I (that was Cyrillus-Camillus Barbary).
World War I service
In 1916, he left occupied Belgium and traveled to the Netherlands, England, and finally France to join the Belgian Army, who were holding the Yser lines after the Battle of the Yser. At the age of 16, Ooghe lied about his age in order to enlist. He first joined the cavalry (5e régiment des Lanciers), then the grenadiers (1er régiment des Grenadiers).
As he was in charge of the maintenance of the telephone and telegraph lines, Ooghe was often in the front line, also involved in action. At the end of March 1917, he participated in an attack against a German bunker in Rekkem and was very nearly killed. On November 11, 1918, while on duty and eager to celebrate the armistice, the Germans bombarded the positions where Ooghe was stationed and ten of his companions perished before the bugle sounded the end of the conflict. This was a traumatic experience that Ooghe would not forget.
Post War activities
Paul Ooghe was a recipient of numerous honors and awards and was until his death often regarded as the last living Belgian survivor of World War I. He was a regular participant in the annual commemorations of WWI and was often willing to speak at length about his experience in the war and the futility of conflict. His aim was to infuse a civic sense in young people, as well as the importance of keeping the memory of the WWI tragedy alive.
Ooghe died on 8 September 2001 due to weakness after having suffered from bronchitis for several months. He was 102 years old. Up until a short time before his death, he was widely announced as being the last surviving Belgian World War I veteran.
- La mémoire de l'Yser s'est éteinte à 102 ans, La Libre Belgique, September 10, 2001
- Paul Ooghe, le dernier ancien combattant bruxellois de 14-18, La Libre Belgique, May 30, 2007
- Le dernier poilu s'est éteint, La Denière Heure, September 10, 2001
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