Edouard Gérard managed to reach Britain after the German invasion of his home country of Belgium. He joined the Belgian army in Britain and took part in the invasion of Normandy where he died at the age of 20. He was the first Belgian soldier to die in the Battle of Normandy.
Edouard Gérard, born in 1924 in Dinant, Belgium, escaped his country in August 1941 with the intention to join the Allied troops in England. At the Spanish border he was arrested and interned in the camp of Miranda de Ebro. Pretending to be Canadian, Edouard was released at the end of the year. This was the beginning of a long journey, from Madrid to Gibraltar, to Scotland and then London, where he wanted to join the Belgian section of the Royal Air Force. Unfortunately for Gérard he was told to join the ground forces and he ended up with the First Belgian Infantry Brigade, also known as the Piron Brigade.
In the Piron Brigade he met with hundreds of other Belgian soldiers who had escaped to Britain. After a training, the Brigade, under the command of the 6th British Airborne Division, was ready for the fight on the continent. On 7 August Edouard and his 2,200 fellow-soldiers of the Piron Brigade landed at Courseulles, Normandy. Soon after Edouard and his platoon covered a raid on a group of German soldiers who were in a farm near Sallenelles.
Edouard was lying in a trench when a German mortar bomb blasted the farm. Shards of steel shrapnel were blown around. At 3:55 on 16 August 1944 Edouard was killed, being hit in the back. Edouard Gérard, age 20, was the youngest Belgian volunteer in the Piron Brigade who died in action. He was buried in the British military cemetery of Ranville.
The Belgian 1st Infantry Brigade led by Colonel Piron landed in Arromanches on 8 August 1944. Operating under the command of the 6th British Airborne Division and later under the 49th Infantry Division. The Brigade was engaged in the Sallenelles area on 16 August and freed the towns of Cabourg, Trouville, Deauville and Honfleur. It entered Brussels on 4 September 1944.
Jean-Baptiste Piron, born in Belgium in 1896, was a military officer who fled to England during the Second World War. He returned to Belgium as commander of the 1st Belgian Infantry Brigade, also known as Piron Brigade. At the end of the war he participated in the liberation of Belgium and the Netherlands.
On Sunday 3 September 1944, shortly before 20:00, the British Second Army entered Brussels by the Avenue de Tervuren. On the Boulevard de Waterloo, the liberators were welcomed by jubilant crowds of Belgians, celebrating the liberation of the capital city from the German occupation.
One of its kind in France, the Mémorial de Caen Museum gives the public the keys to understanding the Second World War, from its origins after the First World War to its latest consequences in 1989. It prompts the visitor to ask himself questions about this rapidly fading episode that changed the face of Europe and the world.