Today I was asked why we in Tunbridge Wells were having a Festival for Belgian refugees? Surely we should be celebrating all refugees? What’s so special about Tunbridge Wells and Belgium?
The above photo from 1911 is a reminder of well-to-do Royal Tunbridge Wells. We weren’t the only place in Britain to accept Belgian refugees during World War One, but we did encourage respectable ones.
In 1914 the German army invaded Belgium, and many people fled to Holland, France and Britain. They were greeted in Britain by a voluntary group – The War Refugees Committee. Welcomed at centres, they were housed around the country, often in groups, or colonies. Belgian refugees were arriving in Tunbridge Wells from September 1914.
This British Library article mentions other refugees from World War One.
The research work in Tunbridge Wells concentrates on an album signed by the Belgians and presented to sisters Amelia and Louisa Scott.
At the end of the war, the majority of Belgians in Britain returned home, and over time their stories have been forgotten (generally) around the country. As part of 100 years since World War One this is a chance to recall this part of history. Should there be anyone in Tunbridge Wells who would like to explore any other refugees we welcomed from 1914 -1919 – please go ahead….
More details of the Festival in July to follow.