War Heritage Institute

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Hendrik Haesen, selfless dedication to the fallen

When the Germans attacked our country in 1914, the troops in and around Mechelen suffered heavy casualties. Soldiers barely had time to bury their fallen comrades. A hastily dug grave was the fate of many who were left behind. Time was of the essence and the City of Mechelen created an excavation service under the leadership of Hendrik Haesen during the first months of the occupation.

Hendrik and his team set out looking for these graves around Mechelen. Even calling upon the German occupier when met with uncooperative landlords. No less than 892 soldiers, of different nationalities were transferred to the municipal cemetery of Mechelen thanks to the commitment of Hendrik Haesen and his team. He himself would die on March 28, 1918. Dead from an illness he contracted during his work. He was given a final resting place amongst the men whose bodies he recovered in the last 4 years of his life.

Hendrik's grave can still be found today on the military court of honor of the cemetery in Mechelen.