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Fundraising and friendship – Belgian refugees in Sevenoaks

Discussion in 'Sevenoaks History' started by Sevenoaks Memorial, Feb 23, 2016. Replies: 0 | Views: 621

  1. Sevenoaks Memorial

    Sevenoaks Memorial New Member

    How we respond to a refugee crisis is one of the biggest questions of our own time and so I have been curious as to how Sevenoaks responded the last time the country saw a significant influx of refugees – how did the town cope, what did the refugees do, how was life altered?

    The presence of significant numbers of Belgian refugees from 1914 onwards is a lesser known fact of the war in the public consciousness but there is plenty of evidence available to help answer these questions.

    In 1914, the Sevenoaks Chronicle reported, in its Friday 16 October edition that

    Since the fall on Antwerp, the Belgian refugee has really begun to make himself felt as part and parcel of London’s population; we may fairly add, of Sevenoaks population too.

    Over the next few weeks and months, the paper highlighted how local people were engaged in raising money and collecting clothes for the refugees already in their midst. On 23 October, the Chronicle reported a whist drive being held in the Weald for the destitute Belgians Fund, while Mr Frank Robinson let it be known that the cinema was admitting Belgian refugees and soldiers in to the mid-week and Saturday matinee for free, to see such films as A Sporting Chance and the patriotic Your County Needs You.

    The same edition of the paper carried names of some of the first refugees to arrive as well as those Sevenoaks residents who had opened up their homes to receive them. Madame de Chauvaux-Marlier, together with her four children and two other adults were staying at Bulimba, the grand residence of the Hemmant family, Mdme Chainage-Rooms of Liege was staying at Ashgrove with her children, and Mrs Hawkes, an English refugee from Insterburg, was staying at 10, Eardley Road, her husband being interned at Spandau fortress.

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    List of refugees published 23 October 1914

    J S Richardson, Secretary of the Working Committee of the Sevenoaks War Relief Fund (who was later to be killed on active service and is remembered on the town war memorial) wrote to the paper asking for those hosting or otherwise responsible for any refugees in the town, to register them by completing a form to aid in the compilation of a national register.

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