In 1940, the Germans invaded Belgium and quickly occupied much of the country. When the German garrison commander, Major Krupp, took office, he received an order from General von Bock, the chief of Army Group B, to kill a bull named Knight.
Major Krupp was puzzled. Why did the general hate a bull so much? It turned out that during the First World War, the general was an army captain. In the Battle of the Frontiers, the Belgians broke through a German minefield at one location and organized 60 bulls to lead the way. One bull at the front struck Captain von Bock’s right side. The captain was so full of hate toward the bull that he tried to shoot the injured animal but staggered from his own wound before he could pull the trigger of his pistol.
Later, the bull became the only surviving bull in the battle and was sent back to Belgium after the war, which housed 400 Belgian honorary soldiers and wounded convalescent warriors. Soon, a black old bull was brought in; his posture was peaceful and his right hind leg was paralyzed. It was the old bull called Knight that had gone through the baptism of war and the vicissitude of people. When Krupp pulled out his pistol and pointed it at Knight to shoot the bull following the orders of General von Bock, the captured Belgian soldiers roared in protest.
A skinny soldier said: “Major, I am Belgian army Sergeant Jonak, who is also the caretaker of this bull. According to the Geneva Convention, you cannot kill this bull; you must treat it as a prisoner of war. Krupp questioned: “A bull is a prisoner of war? Are you being serious?” Jonak solemnly took out a piece of paper and handed it to him: “King Leopold III raised Knight to the rank of Colonel of the Belgian Kingdom, and awarded him the second-class Medal of Honor on December 1st, 1917.” Krupp said awkwardly: “This is a bull with military status and the military rank is higher than my own! According to the Geneva Conventions, the general has no right to shoot the bull and can only send it to the prison camp.” He contacted the general to report the incident.
The general told him: “The bull will be legally executed in the prison camp! I don’t believe it will be a mistake there!” According to the German prisoner of war camp regulations, prisoners of war could be killed on the spot if they seriously disobeyed or ran away. Krupp had the idea to let the bull pull the cart with a pile of wood in it. If the bull showed the slightest resistance, the soldiers would whip him. When the bull resisted, he could be shot according to the rules. Surprisingly, the bull did not resist, but pulled the heavy cart and walked silently. When he pulled the 50th cart, the prisoners of war could not stand it anymore. Jonak protested: “This bull is 26 years old. According to the lifespan of a bull, he is very old. Do you have the heart to let an old soldier work? He will die from exhaustion and you will be guilty of killing him!” Krupp agreed to let the bull rest for the time being, but he came up with a plan to deal with the bull.
The next day, they brought Knight to a wide meadow, but the road to the grass was covered with mines. Sure enough, the bull was attracted by the grass outside the camp and went toward the grass verges. However, when the bull came to the white line with the enamel sign outside the camp, it stopped and turned around and returned to the camp. The bull knew what the warning line was! Krupp was surprised and tried to find out Knight’s history from Jonak. He learned that after the Battle of the Frontiers, Knight was captured by the Germans and was held for three months.
After Germany was defeated, Knight was returned to Belgium where the bull was crowned by the King. King Leopold III was deeply impressed by the old bull and decided to give it a normal prisoner of war status, so from then on, the bull could not be murdered.
Translated by Yi Ming and edited by Helen