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Sue Light

Belgian refugees

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Sue Light

In another thread recently, there was some question of how Belgian refugees travelled to the UK. While researching something completely different, I've just come across an unpublished paper written in 1915.

The Belgian Government had asked us to take 50,000 refugees, but initially it was agreed that the limit would be 20,000. The Local Government Board and the Great Eastern Railway agreed to provide a service of steamers and trains for the transport, and initially this was from Antwerp to Tilbury and then onwards to Victoria by train - following the fall of Antwerp, Ostend was used instead.

From Victoria, the Belgians were sent to a refuge or clearing house in London before being dispersed around the country. All Jews went initially to the Poland Street refuge, Oxford Circus, and anyone who was ill, or in late pregnancy was sent to the Edmonton workhouse infirmary. The other places used for initial assessment of the refugees were:

Hackney Wick Refuge

St. Gile's Home

Milford House

St. Anne's Home, Streatham Hill

with larger 'refugee camps' at Earl's Court and Alexandra Palace.

They were 'distributed' [that's the word used in the article] where possible, to coastal towns, [but no mention of why this seemed preferable], with 40,000 staying in London. As Holland was getting more refugees than it could handle another 25,000 came from Rotterdam and Flushing via Tilbury or Harwich. At the time of writing, it was estimated that there were 15,000 Belgian men among the refugees, not counting the 18-20,000 wounded Belgian soldiers already in the UK, and many of the men were found work in industrial centres.

Eventually, when the total number of Belgian refugees in the UK reached 200,000, it was decided that no more would be taken and the transport was stopped.

Sue

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Desmond7

There are several references in 'my' old newspapers to Belgian civilians staying in this area ... Ballymena, Co. Antrim ... plus lots of fund-raising efforts etc. Interestingly, a large number of 'Gib' evacuees stayed in this vicinity during WW2 and a number still make regular visits to the area.

I think there is a 'Ballymena House' in Gibraltar.

I'll dig back and see if I can key in a few snippets on the Belgians.

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Bob Coulson

Sixty Belgians were housed in Middlesbrough during the war, the first arriving in the town in October 1914.

Bob.

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Roger Gozin
On 04/04/2004 at 12:23, Sue Light said:

In another thread recently, there was some question of how Belgian refugees travelled to the UK. While researching something completely different, I've just come across an unpublished paper written in 1915.

The Belgian Government had asked us to take 50,000 refugees, but initially it was agreed that the limit would be 20,000. The Local Government Board and the Great Eastern Railway agreed to provide a service of steamers and trains for the transport, and initially this was from Antwerp to Tilbury and then onwards to Victoria by train - following the fall of Antwerp, Ostend was used instead.

From Victoria, the Belgians were sent to a refuge or clearing house in London before being dispersed around the country. All Jews went initially to the Poland Street refuge, Oxford Circus, and anyone who was ill, or in late pregnancy was sent to the Edmonton workhouse infirmary. The other places used for initial assessment of the refugees were:

Hackney Wick Refuge

St. Gile's Home

Milford House

St. Anne's Home, Streatham Hill

with larger 'refugee camps' at Earl's Court and Alexandra Palace.

They were 'distributed' [that's the word used in the article] where possible, to coastal towns, [but no mention of why this seemed preferable], with 40,000 staying in London. As Holland was getting more refugees than it could handle another 25,000 came from Rotterdam and Flushing via Tilbury or Harwich. At the time of writing, it was estimated that there were 15,000 Belgian men among the refugees, not counting the 18-20,000 wounded Belgian soldiers already in the UK, and many of the men were found work in industrial centres.

Eventually, when the total number of Belgian refugees in the UK reached 200,000, it was decided that no more would be taken and the transport was stopped.

Sue

 

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Roger Gozin

My grandfather Louis Van Vlasselaer fled Antwerp on one of those refugee steamers. I have British documents stating he arrived in London on 26 september 1914 and he registered at Alexandra Palace on 2 November. By then he already had a London address (5 West Hill Road in Wandsworth) as he was working as a gardener for a well-off family of other Belgian refugees. Very soon he found work as a shell turner in a munition factory (J.L.Morisons General Stores and Munition Co. on Goldhawk Road). He kept that occupation for 4 years. My mother was born in Wandsworth on Amerland Road in december 1916. My grandparents came back to Belgium with their 5 children somewhere in the beginning of 1919. What I try to find out is WHEN my grandparents arrived in Tilbury:  I read somewhere the first evacuees from Antwerp arrived in Tilbury on 11 september and all passengers were checked on possible diseases. Surely incoming refugee steamers were registered day by day: where could those archives be, if they still exist ? The Medical Officer of Health for the port of London writes in his 1914 report that all passengers went through medical checks, either prior to embarkment or once arrived in Tilbury. So possibly archives or listings also exist linking refugee names with incoming steamers. Where should I start searching ?

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seaJane

These are the documents called up by searching the National Archives catalogue with Belgian + Tilbury: if they have not been digitised for download you would have to get copies some other way.

http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/results/r?_q=Belgian+Tilbury

I was in Tiptree, Essex in May (location of Wilkin & Son Jams) and the factory museum included a display about some Belgian refugees who were settled there. I'll see if I can find the pictures I took.

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seaJane

I'm not sure how clear the writing is going to be on these, but for what it's worth:

IMG_20181028_012010.jpg

IMG_20181028_011950.jpg

IMG_20181028_011917.jpg

IMG_20181028_012026.jpg

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NigelS

Some while back while looking through patents on bridge designs taken out by Charles Edward Inglis (designer/inventor of the WW1 'Inglis' military bridging system), I came across some taken out post war jointly with the company of Kryn & Lahy.  A search on this company resulted in  following links to articles giving information on  Belgian refugee communities in 'Little Belgium' & 'Little Antwerp' in Letchworth (Herts) and  the setting up of  a steel foundry there during WW1 by a Belgian diamond merchant Jaques Kryn, his brother George & a colleague Raoul Lahy (it seems likely that this company might have been producing some of the components for the Inglis bridges during the war) as well as details of other communities & companies established  in Richmond (London), and  'Elisabethville' in  Birtley (County Durham).  One of the articles states 'The Belgian refugees, who totalled over a quarter of a million people, were the largest refugee movement in British history'

 

Belgian Refugees  http://www.hertsatwar.co.uk/belgian-refugees

Belgians in Letchworth http://www.glias.org.uk/news/159news.html

Help sought for commemorative Belgian plaque in Letchworth park http://www.thecomet.net/news/help_sought_for_commemorative_belgian_plaque_in_letchworth_park_1_775323

Richmond Ice Rink http://www.glias.org.uk/news/150news.html#B

Richmond Ice Rink http://www.glias.org.uk/news/153news.html#C

Belgians in Britain during the First World War http://www.glias.org.uk/news/156news.html#B

 

NigelS

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Roger Gozin

Quite a lot of Belgians actually lived with english families or even well-off Belgian refugees. My grandfather Louis Van Vlasselaer , his wife and five children lived for a while with the della Faille family (Antwerp nobility)  on West Hill Road, Wandsworth before moving to another private address on St Anna Hill (22 Marcus Street) in january 1916. Other Belgians  started shops and munition works: one J.L.Morisons from Antwerp (a former entrepreneur in the manufacturing of sewing machines) was manager of the General Stores and Munitions Company, 192 Goldhawk Road, London, where my grandfather was employed. At the end of 1918, apparently M. Morisons became O.B.E.  for his war contribution. The artist Edgar Seligman painted pictures of men and women at work in his factory (Google Seligman - Belgian Steel Factory).

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