Hubert Goffin was the first labourer to be awarded the Legion of Honour?


We find ourselves in Liège, at the dawn of the 19th century, where the territories of present-day Belgium have been annexed by France and integrated into its Empire. At 10.30 a.m. on Friday 28 February 1812, foreman Hubert Goffin and his 12-year-old son are at the bottom of Ans's Beaujonc mine. Suddenly, they and the other 127 miners are faced with water flooding the marshy ground they are standing on.

Thirty-five miners manage to climb up using the coal basket, while the remaining 92 find themselves blocked by a 70m waterfall at the bottom of the shaft. Twenty-two perish trying to scale it. For five days and nights, the 70 survivors worked tirelessly, under the heroic and courageous leadership of Goffin, to dig the passage that would eventually bring them back to the surface. On 4 March, after all their exhausting work, the survivors are reunited with their families. The foreman and his son, who, at their request, had both given up their place in the coal basket, were the last to emerge.

For these acts of bravery, Hubert Goffin was made a Knight of the Legion of Honour by Napoleon, much to cheers from the crowd.  He became the first labourer to be awarded this distinction, which, in this case, also came with a lifetime pension. To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 1912 disaster, the municipality of Ans unveiled a statue of the Goffins, both father and son, in the town square.