How Chesterfield helped Belgian’s WW1 refugees


The biggest ‘invasion’ of Britain by foreigners was in World War One, when 250,000 Belgians came here as Germany laid waste to their country. Roger Jennens reports on how Chesterfield gave nearly a hundred of them a home.

EARLY in the First World War, many UK towns and cities offered sanctuary to Belgians fleeing the German invasion of their country. In fact, it was the biggest ‘invasion’ of foreigners in the country’s history, with around 250,000 Belgians fleeing their homeland for sanctuary here. The plight of the refugees and news of the brutality of the invasion generated an immense voluntary relief effort.
In locations across the UK, official relief committees were quickly formed. In Chesterfield, by mid-September 1914, a relief committee was actively preparing to receive refugees. Immediate offers of vacant premises were made, allowing the committee to establish refugee houses in four locations…