Thousands of French and Belgian civilians still lived along the Western Front, trying to maintain farms and families. Not all of them had the privilege of choosing their benefactors. On August 30th, a Tommy named Edmund Herd reported that he and his section had found a group of Belgian civilians using their windmill to send signals to German reconnaissance planes. “Court-martialed and shot. Rained in the evening.”
Many civilians, both men and women, worked as spies for the Entente or the Central Powers. Many of them had no other choice, but Herd remembered being shocked to find how far some Belgians were willing to fraternize with the Germans. In a captured trench Herd’s squad found Belgian civilians, including women, hobnobbing with the Germans, and the enemy trenches to be full of cigars, wine, and fresh food, all of which had to have been provided to them by locals. Even the German prisoners, Herd concluded, looking in rather fine form. As has always been the case in war, the unfortunates on whose land it is fought had to become inured to it.