Joseph Op de Beeck

Framed WW1 picture. This picture shows my great-granduncle Petrus Josephus Op de Beeck who served with the 1st Grenadiers Regiment during WW1 and was Killed In Action on October 1, 1918. The frame also has his five decorations, Knight in the Order of Leopold II with silver palm, Cross of War 1914-1918 with bronze palm, Ysermedal 1914-1918, WW1 Victory medal and Remembrance Medal to the War 1914-1918.

The frame is a remembrance to the sacrifice Joseph Op de Beeck made on October 1, 1918 and has been within the family ever since. Today, it is my duty to keep the memory of Joseph Op de Beeck alive.

Knight in the Order of Leopold II with Silver Palm

The Order of Leopold II is an order of Belgium and is named in honor of King Leopold the second. The decoration was established in 1891 by Leopold II as king of the Congo Free State and was in 1908, upon Congo being handed over to Belgium, incorporated into the Belgian awards system. The order is awarded for meritorious service to the Sovereign of Belgium, and as a token of his personal goodwill. It can be awarded to both Belgians and foreigners. Silver or gold palms are added to the ribbon when awarded in wartime to military personnel.

Cross of War 1914 - 1918 with Bronze Palm

The Cross of War 1914-1918 was instituted by Royal Decree on October 25, 1915. The award honored the bravery of those that were fighting on land, sea and air. Exceptionally the Cross of War was also awarded to foreigners or entire units.
The Belgian Cross of War can be awarded posthumously, in this case the ribbon has a black enamel bar. Non Comissioned officers and soldiers who died of Wounds received by the enemy were awarded the Cross of War and also became Knights in the Order of Leopold II.
A bronze palm with letter A (King Alber I) were added to the ribbon and indicates a mention through army orders. 5 bronze palms were replaced by 1 silver, 5 silver by 1 gold.

Besides courage displayed on the battlefield, the Cross of War could be awarded under other circumstances. Servicemembers with 5 frontstripes (equals 3 years of service at the front) or with good conduct, volunteers older than 40 or jonger than 16 with a minimun of 18 months of service, escaped POW who reenlisted or service members that wer discharged from active duty because of wounds received in action were also awarded the Cross of War 1914-1918.

Yser Medal 1914 - 1918

Awarded to the members of the Army that fought valiantly at the IJzer river from October 17 through October 31, 1914.
The medal was instituted on October 18, 1914 and comes after the Cross of War in the Order of Precedence. Allied soldiers fighting at the IJzer during this period were also eligible for the medal.

During the battle at the IJzer in October 1914 the Belgian Army succesfully halted the advance of the German Armies commanded by General von Falkenhayn. However, they lost over 1/3 of the entire strength during the fightings, equalling aproximately 60 000 soldiers.

The bronze medal with green shine shows on the front a naked man with helmet and lance (symbolising the stopping of the German advance) accompanied by the words 17-31/OCT./1914. The backside shows a wounded lion in front of a battlefield with the word Yser. The top of the medal has an enamel medallion which says Yser on the front and has the Royal monogram A (King Albert I) on the back. The ribbon is red (symbolic for blood) and black (symbolic for mourning). Flemish recipients could have an unofficial black and yellow ribbon.

Note: This medal has three black enamel bars on the ribbon indicating a posthumuous award. Only one was allowed per medal and the bars should be with two other medals in this group. Most likely, the family made the mistake of placing all three bars on a single medal.

World War One Victory Medal

Awarded to all those that served in the Belgian Army between August 1, 1914 and November 11, 1918.

This bronze medal serves as an interallied medal and was intended so by French Field Marshal Foch. It was originally instituted on July 15, 1919 and later decrees made it possible to allow fishermen, Merchant Marines, soldiers of the African campaigns, etc. this medal.

The front shows the Goddess of Victory with spread wings, sword, wreath standing on a globe. The back shows written in a wreath: 'La grande guerre pour la civilisation. De Groote oorlog tot de beschaving'. Which is The Great War for civilisation in both French and Duthc. The ribbon is a rainbow type used by all allied countries that awarded the WW1 Victory Medal.

Commemorative Medal 1914 - 1918

Awarded to Belgian forces who served during the World War and under the same conditions as for the Victory Medal.

This bronze, somewhat triangular medal was instituted on 21 July 1919 and came with a number of possible ribbon emblems : a crown for volunteers, a silver bar per front stripe, a gilt bar replacing 5 silver ones, a red enamel cross for each wound stripe, black bars for POW's etc. Front stripes were awarded for frontline duty, the first stripe for one year's service, subsequent stripes for each additional 6 months. Navy personnel and fishermen could resp. affix crossed anchors or a single anchor to the ribbon (the latter only if they had also received a Maritime Decoration). Members of the Expeditionary Corps to Russia received a bar "1916-R-1917" or "1916-R-1918". .

The medal's obverse has a medaillon which depicts the helmeted head of a soldier, the helmet being covered with a laurel branch. In the lower corners of the medal are the dates "1914" and "1918" while the top of the medal shows a rampant lion surrounded by an oak leaf branch (left) and a laurel branch (right). The reverse has an inscription in both French and Flemish under a royal crown flanked by an oak leaf branch (left) and a laurel branch (right): "MEDAILLE COMMEMORATIVE / DE LA CAMPAGNE / 1914-1918 / HERDENKINGSMEDAILLE / VAN DEN VELDTOCHT" (translated to Commemorative medal for the 1914-1918 campaign).