It is with great sadness that we were informed of the passing away of Roger Coekelbergs (Mons, 20 February 1921 – Woluwé-Saint-Lambert, 3 March 2021), PhD in Sciences, Professor, resistance fighter and political prisoner. The War Heritage Institute offers its most sincere condolences to his wife, Mrs Roger Coekelbergs, and to his family.
Roger Coekelbergs studied at the Royal Military Academy, was made prisoner of war in 1940 and returned to Belgium on 20 December 1940. In January 1941 he enrolled at the Catholic University of Louvain. His “student” status was to serve him well throughout the war. As early as 1941 he maintained contacts with the “Luc” intelligence service, later renamed “Marc”.
According to Emile Housiau, President of the political prisoners in Mons, he was the instigator of the protest march on 8 August 1941. After having been locked up in Breendonk Roger Coekelbergs became part of the “Marc” network and even became one of its leaders. In 1942, assisted by Georges Schnoll, he created a particularly efficient network in the province of Hainaut. In 1944, when Belgium was liberated, he joined the American army and took part in the campaign in Germany. Just before the end of the war he joined the Belgian 4th Brigade. He was awarded the title of ARA Captain (Agent de Renseignement et d’Actions) for his activity within the intelligence services.
In 1945 he returned to the Royal Military Academy to resume his studies. His career with that institution was to span 40 years and he successively was tutor, lecturer and professor. He also obtained a PhD in Sciences in 1951 (group Chemical Sciences) and was distinguished by the Academy for Sciences (Prize Frédéric Swarts for 1950-1952).
During his academic career he performed intensive scientific research, both in Belgium and abroad. He also was scientific advisor in the chemical industry, more specifically with UCB.
In late 1999, with some friends and with the help of the Minister of Defence, Mr André Flahaut, he realized the renovation of Fort Breendonk that had become a National Memorial in 1947. In 2000 he was named President of the Breendonk Memorial and eventually became its honorary President.
Roger Coekelbergs recently celebrated his 100th birthday. He was one of the last “Breendonk survivors” RIP.