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Belmont Road

Refugees.

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Belmont Road

Can anyone advise please?

Did refugees migrate to the UK duiring the war? If so are there details or any books covering the subject?

Also did the UK encourage the migration of skilled labour from abroad to aid the war time economy?

Many thanks,

Jack

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centurion

Large numbers of Belgian railwaymen were employed on Britain's railways. There were significant numbers of Belgians in Britain, many evacuated from Antwerp and where appropriately skilled (and not joining the Belgian army in France) were employed in a variety of industries.

And of course their contribution to the ranks of fictional detectives is incalculable :whistle:

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Belmont Road

Large numbers of Belgian railwaymen were employed on Britain's railways. There were significant numbers of Belgians in Britain, many evacuated from Antwerp and where appropriately skilled (and not joining the Belgian army in France) were employed in a variety of industries.

And of course their contribution to the ranks of fictional detectives is incalculable :whistle:

Very interesting thanks.

Did these workers bring their families with them?

Jack

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centurion

Given that during WW1 there were over 240,000 Belgian refugees scattered across the towns and cities of Britain combined with the essential disorganised way in which people become refugees in time of foreign invasion it's difficult to generalise. Some will have been fortunate to have been able to bring their families others won't.

In September 1914 the British government offered "victims of war the hospitality of the British nation.". In many places they were received with kindness and hospitality (especially it seems in the North). In parts of Inner London there were complaints that they were stealing British jobs and jumping the queue for obtaining housing (this has a depressingly familiar ring to it) and there was an anti Belgian riot. Many Belgian refugees worked in munitions factories. There were many women who had fled whilst their husbands continued with the Belgian army and were still serving in France and un-occupied Belgium. There are no precise official figures but I've seen reports that about 20,000 settled in Britain after the war.

I don't know of a single source but many local history societies and the like have produced short accounts of the refugees in their area - a lot are available on the Internet with a little searching.

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Terry_Reeves

Jack

There was a large Belgian colony at Birtley in County Durham who were employed at the Birtley National Projectile Factory. A small town, named Elizabethville for the Belgian Queen, was built near the factory for the families of the men who worked there. It had its own shop, school and social club as well as its own Belgian police force. The National Archives holds records on the Birtley Belgians, including photographs and a file on the enquiry into the disturbances there in which a child was shot and killed by the Belgian police although this appears to have been through recklessness rather than any ill-intent. The information can be found in a number of files in MUN 4 and 5 series.

TR

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Belmont Road

Thank you Terry and centurion for your help in this.

This is for research into a book I am working on. I gather that the refugees would have been form all walks of life? Would some have been well off?

Also did the numbers increase in the spring of 1915 as a result of the intensity of fighting? And lastly, was Scotland also a destination?

Thanks again,

Jack

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Alan Tucker

There were also Serbian refugees...Birmingham example...

In May 1916 a hostel opened in Selly Oak for Serbian refugees in a house loaned by Mrs Alfred Wiggin of Bordesley Hall. 25 boys were looked after a hazardous journey. They were aged between 9 and 17 and were the sons of peasants. They had fled from the advancing Austrian army. One aged 11 had fallen in with a Serbian mountain battery who gave him a uniform and called him ‘The General’. The boys were sent to the Bournville Village Schools and Kings Norton Secondary School.

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Belmont Road

There were also Serbian refugees...Birmingham example...

In May 1916 a hostel opened in Selly Oak for Serbian refugees in a house loaned by Mrs Alfred Wiggin of Bordesley Hall. 25 boys were looked after a hazardous journey. They were aged between 9 and 17 and were the sons of peasants. They had fled from the advancing Austrian army. One aged 11 had fallen in with a Serbian mountain battery who gave him a uniform and called him ‘The General’. The boys were sent to the Bournville Village Schools and Kings Norton Secondary School.

That's extemely interesting Alan and might provide a possible explanation for the research I am undertaking. Do you know of any sources relating to child refugees from Europe?

Who might have taken them in etc.?

Thanks very much,

Jack

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centurion

Thank you Terry and centurion for your help in this.

This is for research into a book I am working on. I gather that the refugees would have been form all walks of life? Would some have been well off?

Also did the numbers increase in the spring of 1915 as a result of the intensity of fighting? And lastly, was Scotland also a destination?

Thanks again,

Jack

In terms of Belgians most would have had to get out in 1914. Some went direct from the ports (mainly Antwerp) and some indirectly across the border with the Netherlands and then by ship to Britain. By 1915 the Germans were in control of the ports and the border so getting out would be difficult (and risky) so numbers would be small, however it probably took time for those in the Netherlands to seep across to Britain (some went to the USA)

Refugees were from all classes of society and spread across the whole of Britain

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Alan Tucker

The Quakers/Friends were very active in refugee relief issues.

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Belmont Road

Thanks again both of you.

To explain the research and where I am coming from:

As may have noticed I am working on a new book on the Quintinshill Rail Disaster. You may be aware that there is a myth that suggests that four children from Maryhill, Glasgow stowed away on the troop train. I have spoken to Tom Gordon and the archivist at the Royal Scots Musuem and they - as I suspected - regard that as nonsense.

However four children and/or small adults were lost and I have found clear evidence that they were bound for Glasgow on the express train. Nobody claimed them so who were they? I now suspect refugees. Quite why no one came forward to report them missing is a mystery and may forever remain so, unless someone considers DNA from the remains.

They may have been a family or as stated just children, bound for a hostel perhaps? A mix up in the paperwork so they were not reported?

I do appreciate the help given on the forum, if you would like to pass your names for inclusion in the acknowledgments let me know via a PM.

Many thanks,

Jack

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centurion

I'm puzzled as the train was travelling to Glasgow why is it thought that the children were from Glasgow? Falkirk had a sizeable Belgian refugee population at the time (mainly Flemish) and the Falkirk Herald records £63,000 being raised locally for their assistance. If the train originated here this would be a logical place for them to have come from (assuming that they were indeed refugees).

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Belmont Road

The idea that they came from Glasgow has never been born out by any hard evidence. Indeed it is difficult to understand why the myth persists with so little in the way of hard facts to support it.

Two coffins containing victims from the wreck were sent to Leith, one marked "little girl unrecognisable" and the other "three trunks, probably children." No one at Leith had reported any children missing so they were sent to Glasgow, again no one came forward to claim them. So they were interred in the Western Necropolis.

Somehow, and I have yet to discover how, a myth developed that they came from Maryhill and had stowed away on the troop train and recently a local councillor worked to have a memorial dedicated to them at Maryhill.

I wrote to the councillor asking him to give me the evidence he had to support his theories. He didn't even bother to reply.

Whilst going through some papers in Carlisle I found press cutting of a report by the City's Chief Medical Officer. He went to the accident later in the day to assist in the rescue. Whilst helping amongst the debris he discovered a child's hand in the remains of one of the sleeping compartments of the express from London to Glasgow.

We know that another child, along with its mother, was killed on the local train and the bodies found underneath it. That child was identified as coming from Newcastle and is buried there with the mother.

The hand found by the medical officer was clearly then that of another person.

I discussed the theory that somehow four local children could have stowed away on the troop train with the archivists at the Royal Scots Museum and with an experienced railwayman.

The theory doesn't stand up to detailed analysis. Firstly, as it was carrying ammunition, it was guarded. It was stored away from the station in sidings all the doors locked. Nobody locally knew where it was going. When it came into to Larbert at around 3.30 am the station was thronged with soldiers and virtually nobody else except railway staff ( their relatives had said goodbye in Edinburgh). Any children on the platform would have instantly been noticed.

The train was completely packed, no spare passenger accomodation at all. The rear guard's van was occupied by the guard and the only possible place was the front gaurd's van. That apparently had been loaded with equipment and locked.

Quite frankly this is one of the Quintinshill myths, of which there are many. What I would like to do is to put the record straight here. There is hard evidence that a child was on the express bound for Scotland. No evidence at all for the stowaway theory.

Jack

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bts1970

Jack

Frommy own research regarding the small Wiltshire Parish of Purton;

BELGIAN REFUGEES IN PURTON.

At the start of the Great War large numbers of Belgian refugees found their way to the shores of England. Purton like many other towns and villages assisted in their temporary relocation. Ethel Richardson recorded in Remembrance wakes that a good sized dwelling house and a couple of cottages were initially provided to house families. Ethel also records that money, furniture, food and other items were given or promised as people were grateful for the Belgians stand that bought France 2 weeks at the start of the War. Ethel recorded in her diary for October 17th 1914 that she “had the whole nine cottage Belgian refugees for tea”, she names one of the family names as Beulens who had a Son in the Army but at this time early in the War she had not heard from him. Some of the refugees were “beautiful needle women” and were paid to take embroidery classes to provide them with a small amount of money that was earned rather than given in sympathy. At the end of the War most if not all refugees were swiftly returned to their homeland as their Government

provided free passes home.

ARNOLD-FORSTER, Mary.

Mentioned in Ethel Richardson’s book The Story of Purton. Ethel refers to her work, appointed to superintend

arrangements for Belgian refugee Colonies in the District.

BARNES, Francis and Sons.

Carpenters, Station Road (1915). He employed the eldest son of one of the Belgian refugee families that were housed in the Village.

RICHARDSON, Ethel Mary.

Purton House, wife of Captain Arthur Percy, mother to Edmund, Kenneth and Mervyn. Early in the War Ethel assisted in the distribution of Belgium refugees to homes that could accommodate them in Purton.

WALSH, Evelyn Mary.

Manor House (Recorded as Emmeline M on the 1914 voters list). Accepted Belgium refugees who were able to be accommodated early in the War (Ethel Richardson quotes that she offered to house 5 Belgian refugees but refused to accept that upto 1000 German POW`s to be kept in her field and barn). The Swindon Advertiser dated May 1915 reported that she traveled to Earls Court to select a suitable family to be housed in the village. It stated that a cottage off New Road called Hunts cottages was to be used. She selected an Ostend family called Derynek, 4 children with their parents; unfortunately one of the children contracted measles and could not return to Purton. A family from Wallerzeele was then chosen that included Madame de Wever and her 5 children. Her husband had been taken by the Germans during the early stages of the War as forced labour.

Bob

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Belmont Road

Thank you very much Bob for this interesting and highly detailed account.

I have found in my particular line of research that there is little written on this aspect of WW1.

Best wishes,

Jack

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hintonbelle

Hi Jack,

There were 30 homes designated as Belgian Homes for the 350 refugees who came to Swindon, and I have a lot of detail about the costs and fund-raising efforts to support one of these houses by the village of Bishopstone just outside Swindon - gleaned from the contemporary parish magazine. Happy to provide more info if that's helpful.

Best wishes,

Karin

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