From 1913, compulsory military service replaced random name-drawing in Belgium, which significantly increased the contingent of men ready to defend the country's neutrality. As soon as hostilities broke out, many Belgians volunteered in a widespread wave of patriotism to participate in a war that it was believed would be of short duration.
The conflict was drawn out and became focused on several front lines, in trenches stretching from the North Sea to Switzerland. The soldiers from Brussels mostly ended up at the Yser, where nearly 1,300 men who were born or lived in the city of Brussels lost their lives.
A huge show of solidarity sprang up among the population, for all of the country's sons and children who had left to defend the nation. Letters from families or wartime penfriends, food parcels and books were sent to the Front as best they could be.