Thursday, 9 August 2018

Preceding Cavell: refugee becomes secret agent

Jozef Baekelmans was born in 1881, he was the son of the architect Fran├žois Baeckelmans and cousing to Louis Baeckelmans, also an architect. Jozef was a pupil of Onze-Lieve-Vrouw Antwerpen, the Jesuit school along one of the central boulevards.

A promising young architect himself, he fled to Britain end of 1914. There he came into contact with a group of patriotic Belgians who sought to exchange information between occupied Belgium and Belgian authorities in exile.

He travelled to Belgium on two occasions, but during his last visit his cover was blown - by a friend - to the German occupying forces. Together with another man from Antwerp, Alexander Franck, who had joined Jozef in the resistance movement, Jozef Baeckelmans was tried and executed in Schaerbeek, Brussels, on 23 September 1915. They were the first ones to be shot at the Tir National.

Nearly three weeks later Edith Cavell was tried and shot in a very similar fashion and at the same site.

More information about former pupils of the Antwerp Jesuit school can be found via

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