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Remembered Today:

School kids in military uniform


Aurel Sercu
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This may be an unusual uniform question...

In our Boezinge archives I found half a dozen photos of children (very probably from Boezinge) taken during the Great War in "schoolkolonies" (school colonies, colonies scolaires) in France. (Places where the children were taken to, to safer places, whose parents were elsewhere having fled etc., and who were given education very often by Belgian / Flemish nuns.)

One photo struck me, as it showed severeal dozen little boys in what looks like a military uniform, even with puttees. And with the nuns. As nothing is written on the back of the photograph, I am not even sure these boys are Flemish, or from Boezinge. (But I seem to recognize some of the nuns from other pics.) Maybe one or more of the boys are from Boezinge, but I just don't know ...

My question : does such a photo and the uniforms look familiar to someone ?

Yesterday I met someone of the In Flanders fields Museum (Documentation centre), and she said that these boys maybe children of Belgian soldiers. There was a sort of school for them in the village Booitshoeke. (Which is near Veurne (Furnes), in the unoccupied part of Belgium.)

Aurel

post-92-0-11897800-1402221215_thumb.jpg

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The uniforms look more British than Belgian but this could be just because it was easier to find a company that could turn out British style uniforms

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Centurion,

Yes, they look un-Belgian to me, and "very British".

And maybe it was easier to find a company to turn out British style uniforms. Yet, a bit odd.

Also in combination with the nuns. I mean : the uniform ! Not that I have problems with British + nuns ! :-)

At first sight I thought : these look military. But maybe they are not ? But then : the puttees ...

I must say I had never heard about that Booitshoeke camp for children of Belgian soldiers. (And I find it a bit close to the frontlines : only 6 km - 4 miles !)

The person of the IFFM Documentation Centre has not seen the photo itself yet, but I'll show her on Monday..

Aurel

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The Belgian army converted to Khaki because they found only the British had enough cloth capacity to keep them supplied (see Molo) so perhaps there were uniform manufacturers in Britain already doing business with them. A firm that already supplied various cadets? Possibly the French had enough to do keeping their own army equipped and I doubt there were many if any Belgian manufacturers of uniforms in unoccupied Belgium.

One thought - could it be an orphanage?

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I seem to recall that the style of cap worn was very common in the low countries at that time, so it might not be quite so British as it first appears. Do we know for sure that the colour of the uniforms is khaki? That said the puttees do seem an unusual feature for a school uniform. The suggestion of an orphanage seems very feasible.

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If these are mock military uniforms then what the children are wearing is very much in line with Belgian uniforms. The cap looks very much like the visor'd cap the Belgian Army adopted, more so than a British style.

I think that the suggestions on soldiers kids/orphanage is quite in line as a likely possibility.

Joe Sweeney

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Joe, Frogsmile and Centurion,

At the beginning of the war the Belgian uniforms were rather folkloristic (more colourful and unpractical), and some time (but I don't know when exactly) they adopted a khaki uniform, and more practical (in warfare). I'll find out how exactly these new uniforms looked like.

An orphanage ? Yes, I know some children in "schoolkolonies" became orphans, or had already lost a parent when moved there. As far as I know those who (had) lost both parents, were taken to an orphanage.

Again : feasible indeed that it was easier to obtain such uniforms from Britain than from manufacturers in unoccupied Belgium. But I'll find out from a website I know if these look British or Belgian.

Aurel

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According to Andrew Mollo (who I met a few times when I ran a British Model Soldier Society Branch) after the introduction of Khaki the Belgian officers adopted a British style but the OR still retained a more French like style albeit in British tones.

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Centurion,

I am learning all the time ! Thanks !

Gareth,

No, it was not the one I meant, but that one is even better !

Now I know where the photo was taken ! (Nanterre, and where the children had been before.) As you may have seen, "my" photo is among them !

Thanks.

Aurel

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