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Belgian Refugees

When Germany invaded Belgium during its advance on Paris, it occupied almost all of the country except a small area near Ypres. The Belgians suffered some dreadful treatment and many fled the fighting in the first few weeks and were given refugee status in other countries.

Over 200,000 Belgians came to England. Many were given places in hostels or homes around the country. People generally felt that the Belgian people had suffered and that if British forces weren’t able to keep up the fight, then Britain might suffer the same fate. These stories are from Shropshire newspaper reports, and record the arrival and care of refugees.

Wellington Journal 19 Sept 1914 [p4] Column 6
Shrewsbury and Belgian Refugees -Arriving next Thursday, committee decided to place about 50 in the Armoury which is to be fitted up as hostel. Appeal for loan of 50 beds, bedding, curtains, tables, toilet ware, kitchen utensils, crockery, strips of carpet and food.

The Armoury HostleYou can see from this photograph how much care people had taken with decorating the hostel at the Armoury, Shrewsbury.

The Armoury Hostle 1914, sa-img15808.

 

Many families helped, some provided accomodation and others helped in providing everyday essentials to allow families to live together and try to lead fairly normal lives.

Wellington Journal 31 Oct 1914 [p6]
The first large party of Belgium refugees received from London under the auspices of the Atcham War Assistance Committee arrived in Shrewsbury on Saturday. They were met at the station by a large group of the committee. The refugees were taken to a hotel, where a substantial meal was prepared. The refugees were afterwards conveyed to their new homes in motor- cars. As the cars were about to start a British soldier came forward and presented packets of cigarettes to the men. The majority of the refugees consisted of a party from Ostend. Everything had been thought of for their comfort, even to the provision of Belgium cooking utensils. The refugees were too fatigued to do much talking, but it appeared to have taken them 12 days to get from Ostend to London.

Wellington Journal 24/10/1914 pg8

Wellington Journal 6 Feb 1915 [p12] Column 1
ATCHAM BELGIAN RELIEF COMMITTEE.
The committee received 30 more Belgian refugees on Monday, in response to offers received from various parishes in the district. The refugees were met at the station by Mrs. Wm. Bridgeman, Mr. Mrs. E. P. Everest, Mlle. Van Brocekhoven, and M. and Mlle. Robinon. During the afternoon the refugees were conveyed to their new homes, the transport arrangements being under the personal direction of Rev. G .H. Bainbridge (Hon. transport officer). The parish of Cressage has taken a second family, relatives of those already living in Cressage. Loughden has taken a large family and handed over the two Belgians who have been there for some time to Hinton, where the accommodation was not sufficient for a large family. The little parishes of Church Preen and Highley have found accommodation for a family, and they will be assisted in the matter of maintenance by Preston Gubbalds. Another family has gone to Smethcote, where they will be maintained by Wroxeter parish. Westbury has given hospitality to a family and to an old man, whose wife he lost in Belgium. Bicton has placed a family in a nice house at Montford Bridge. The parish if Fitz has no accommodation, but will have the pleasure of supporting the wife and family of a Belgium soldier, who is at present fighting in the trenches. There are now 200 refugees in the Atcham district, and others will be selected next week to supply refugees in response to further offers which have been received.

This excerpt about placing the refugees shows again what a community effort it was. How do you think this might have affected the general support of local people for the war effort?

Wellington Journal 3 Oct 1914 [p12 C 4] SA-IMG343927 BELGIUM REFUGEES
A party of eleven refugees arrived at Baschurch on Wednesday. They have been placed in a large cottage at Eyton, kindly lent by Miss Wild. The cottage has been furnished entirely through the kindness of the ladies of the parish, presided over by Mrs. Rowland Hunt. Twenty-four ladies and gentlemen have made themselves responsible for feeding and clothing the party. Mrs. Dawson is the Treasurer. Eight of the party are children.

A very poignant story

During the invasion and occupation of Belgium from 1914 – 1918, over 6,000 people lost their lives, but this story at least has a happy ending

Wellington Journal 13th Feb 1915 Column 3
ATCHAM BELGIAN RELIEF COMMITTEE
Among the first batch of refugees to be received by the committee was a Belgian soldier, who after fighting through the sieges of Liege and Louvain was discharged from the Army as unfit for further military service. He arrive in this district in October last, and was one of four mem taken in by Habberly parish. There he lived happily except for one thing- he could get no news of his wife and little boy, who, when he went with the Army, were in small town in Belgium. The Atcham Committee have been trying ever since to get news of the wife and child, and their efforts have at last been crowned with success. Last week the wife and child were found in London, and the committee immediately took steps to re-unite the family, and husband, wife, and child met on Shrewsbury Station on Friday last week.

Having read examples of the experiences of the refugees, write a short report for the local paper about the typical experience of having foreign refugees living in your street.