Britain was home to 250,000 Belgian refugees in WW1 so why is their story forgotten today?
When I set Lady Grace during World War I, there were two choices for her manor home. One was to take in wounded soldiers for recuperation like those in Downton Abbey, and the other was a lesser known occurrence during the war – the influx of 250,000 Belgian refugees integrated into society. In the end, I decided to take the second route, because I had read quite a bit about it during my own ancestral research in Manchester during the war years.
I discovered that Salford, where my grandparents were born, welcomed refugees. The city, at first, set up temporary housing using schools and other public buildings. However, as the wounded returned from the front and hospitals filled, the refugees needed to find other places to live. As the influx increased, many British households opened their doors to families and housed them until the war ended. A Belgian Relief Fund was established to aid in the expenses of their accommodations.
Linked to this post is an article that I discovered on BBC News, which is an excellent look into the refugees and how they were quickly forgotten after the war ended. The migration of refugees to foreign countries is not new by any means and often occurred during historical periods of world strife.
In my book, Lady Grace, her household takes in two families. They are the center of the story and the avenue upon which Grace discovers how easy it is to become a fallen woman during stressful times.
Lady Grace is set in 1914-1918. Here are the fashions of the decade.
Lavishly illustrated and concise history of women’s fashion, dress, and styles from the Edwardian era of the 1900’s to 1919.
I really wanted to put a man in uniform on the cover of Lady Grace. Days – I spent days hunting pictures on stock photo websites. Only a few decent ones came up after searching World War One soldiers, most of which could not be used because they were editorial. (In case you don’t know what that means, they cannot be used for commercial purposes like book covers because there is no model release. For example, taking photos of men in uniform during a public re-enactment exercise.) However, I did find one I really wanted but they wanted $300 for usage rights. (Gasp for a tiny image in the background behind Grace.) CLICK HERE TO SEE IT
After giving up there, I went to the public domain and did find a few that I downloaded. In fact, I had been ready to put the face of one particular gent on the cover and a horrible pang of guilt sliced through my heart. I had no idea who the man was or whether he survived the Great War. After going through a guilt trip of using another person’s image, who had no say in the matter because he was long dead, I came to the conclusion – NO PHOTOS OF SOLDIERS ON THE COVERS.
That doesn’t mean, however, that I cannot share them in this blog post of dashing British officers that served in the war. A few of these soldiers are breathtakingly handsome. Since Grace is married to a man in his forties, I thought the man in the center with the mustache and his hands behind his back would be a perfect representation of the middle-aged gent she wed. However, like I stated, no pictures on the cover.
Here they are – most with mustaches but a couple of clean-shaven British males – the men in uniform to make your heart swoon.
Officers of the 39th Garhwalis [Estaires La Bassée Road, France]. Photographer: H. D. Girdwood. Reference: Photo 24/(241) From the Girdwood Collection held by the British Library. This image is part of the Europeana Collections 1914-1918
Group of officers 2/3rd Gurkhas at their headquarters in a French farmhouse [Le Sart]. Photographer: H. D. Girdwood. Reference: Photo 24/(90) From the Girdwood Collection held by the British Library. This image is part of the Europeana Collections 1914-1918
In closing, if you are looking for public domain photography or illustrations, visit Flickr. The British Library has posted over 1,000,000 items that are free for use. All you need to do is give the credit as I have done above. Here is the HOME PAGE.