For the next couple of weeks we will be indundated with news from the World Cup in South Africa. Men who’s only quality seems to be the ability to kick a rubber ball into a string net will be hailed as heroes, their deeds heralded around the world. This is something that irks a non-football fan like me. Footballers are not heroes, they’re just good atheletes, if that’s your sort of thing.
For this month’s post on the War Memorial Project I want to highlight a real hero. He is on a war memorial in a British church, and he isn’t even British. Edouard Nihoul was born in 1895 in Waremme in eastern Belgian, a short hop away from the area which, a little under fifty years later, would be the scene of some of the fiercest fighting during the Battle of the Bulge. He arrived in Cardiff with his parents following the German invasion of Belgium in August 1914 and moved to the quiet village of Llanishen. However, young Edouard evidently did not intend to remain a passive refugee. That November, having gone to London, he enlisted in the Belgian Army and began training to go to war.
Two years later, in June 1916, Edouard was an Adjutant in the 7th Regiment of the Line, 2nd Belgian Division. This Division was operating near Oostvleteren in Flanders, and was the scene of heavy fighting. On the 30th June, the 7th Regiment’s position came under heavy German bombardment. Edouard spotted a comarde lying grievously wounded, and rushed to his aid. As he struggled to help him, both men were caught in the bombardment and killed.
Initially, Edouard was buried in Oostvleteren, but once the war was over and Belgium was liberated, his body was reinterred in his hometown. Unlike the footballers who will recieve all the attention over the next few weeks, young Edouard was a true hero. Paid a pittance for a job he did not want, he went to fight despite the fact that he could have remained safely in Britain, and died trying to help a comrade and liberate his country. Never forget him, nor those like him.