Repatriation of Belgian Refugees
During World War 1, it is estimated that Britain was home to almost 250,000 Belgian refugees, who had come to Britain seeking safety when the Germans invaded Belgium in 1914. Some were housed with British families across the country, while overs were sent to purpose-built villages where they had their own schools, shops, churches, hospitals and newspapers, as well as prisons and police force. These areas were considered Belgian territory and run by the Belgian government. They even used the Belgian currency.
However, when the war ended in 1918, the British government were keen to send them back home.
A letter was read from the War Refugees Committee in reference to the Repatriation of the Belgian people to their country at the end of the war, and asking if the Bromley committee would be prepared to undertake the administration of all cases arising in this district.
The General Purposes Committee resolved to recommend the Council to constitute a Belgian Refugee Committee in accordance with the scheme already approved for the administration of the Major’s Funds, and that such committee be requested to deal with matters arising in connection with the repatriation of the Belgian refugees.
The following article was taken from the Bromley & District Times, on 10th May 1918, page 3
They were well cared for in Bromley
Belgian refugees leaving Britain in 1918In 1914/15 many wounded Belgian soldiers and people, including families were fleeing their country as the Germans fought their way westwards. They came to Britain, looking for safety. They were well cared for in Bromley, many people finding homes in some of the big houses in the area. Some went on to find their own homes and work in the area; others stayed in the refuges.
The writing was on the wall; the German Spring Offensive had achieved great gains of land, but failed to bring a German victory. Both sides were exhausted, but the Americans were entering the war. This almost guaranteed victory to the allies. The question of repatriation presupposes that the end of the war was not far off, though the war would still continue for another six months.
The King of the Belgians was keen to have his people back in Belgium to rebuild their country (and the British were keen to say ‘good-bye.’)