Belgian Refugees · Lady Grace · World War I

Belgian Soldiers | International Encyclopedia of the First World War (WW1)

Stefan Reyer, a French-speaking Belgian lieutenant from Luxembourg is one of my main characters in Lady Grace. You will read about his service, wounds, and return to the front. This article is a good reference regarding the Belgian soldiers of World War I.

This article briefly describes the 320,000 Belgian soldiers of the Great War. Who were they and what was special about the way they experienced the war compared to other belligerents?

Source: Belgian Soldiers | International Encyclopedia of the First World War (WW1)

Belgian Refugees · World War I

World War I Posters

The call to war is evident by the myriad of propaganda posters encouraging the general public to enlist, serve as civilians, donate money, or to take in the downtrodden.

One of the scenes in Lady Grace touches on the heroine’s thoughts of a poster she sees at the train station depicted below, “Women of Britain Say GO!” Rather than inciting empathy for the cause, she questions the ability of any rational woman to encourage their husbands to join and face the probability of certain death.  Writing about this era in England has been a challenging exercise in examining the struggles of those left behind and the fears they may have endured.  Of course, there is often passionate love based on the uncertainty of survival.

As you can see from the examples of posters below, each carries their own theme that is meant for the very purpose of moving individuals to action. These posters are termed propaganda, which for me has a negative connotation.  We think of it as brainwashing or the evil side spreading untruths.

However, propaganda, in the sense of these posters, is a general message designed to persuade the citizens of England to think and behave in a manner that supports the cause of war.  They stir emotions in the hopes of action.

Here are only very few I’ve chosen that are relevant to Lady Grace. If you Google the subject matter, more will come up from not only the United Kingdom but the United States, who entered the Great War in 1917.

   

Belgian Refugees · Blog Post · Lady Grace · World War I

World War One: How 250,000 Belgian Refugees Didn’t Leave a Trace – BBC News

Britain was home to 250,000 Belgian refugees in WW1 so why is their story forgotten today?

Source: World War One: How 250,000 Belgian Refugees Didn’t Leave a Trace – BBC News

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.