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.


Men in Uniform (WWI)

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.

No Known Copyright

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

No Known Copyright

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.



The Great War

I purchased one of the ceramic poppies placed at the Tower of London in 2014 to remember the fallen in the First World War memorial.

Researching this story timeline is an interesting and somewhat sobering journey.

I am aware of some things during that time period because my ancestors lived in the Manchester area during the war years of 1914-1918. I have a few reference books with newspaper articles that give insight into the times and struggles at home while the men were away fighting.

My ancestors lost sons and husbands to the war, which are my second cousins two times removed on the generational chart. (This means we share the same third great-grandfather. Their fathers were my second great uncles, Robert Holland and Henry Holland.) Since I’m an avid ancestry nut, I have been able to trace military records and references to their losses.  Below is a sampling of the information I have discovered.

The story of Lady Grace will include two men in the military – Grace’s husband Benedict and Arabella, her friend, whose husband Thomas has left for war. What happens to them while they are away, of course, you’ll find out when you read the story. However, the main focus will be the women left behind during turbulent times.

In honor of my relatives who lost their lives during World War I, which I hope you don’t mind me sharing with you, are noted below. When I think about them, it saddens me that they perished at so young an age never able to live out their days. May we never forget the sacrifice of the millions who died during this world conflict and others. You will note that their bodies never returned home and are buried where they died in France, Belgium, Turkey, and India.

In Memory

Name: Thomas Douglas Holland
Death Date: June 5, 1915
Death Place: Gallipoli

Buried: Helles Memorial Cemetery in Gallipoli, Canakkale, Turkey
Rank Private – Regiment Manchester Regiment – Battalion 1st 6th Battalion
Type of Casualty Killed in Action – Theatre of War Balkan Theatre

The National Roll of the Great War (Entry)

“Holland, T. D. Pte. 6th Manchester Regiment. He volunteered in August 1914, and sailed for Egypt in the same month. From Egypt he proceeded to Gallipoli in April 1915, and took part in the famous landing at Cape Helles, ever memorable for the magnificent bravery displayed. In the second Krithia Battle in June 1915, he fell fighting gallantly and was entitled to the 1914-15 Star, and the General Service and Victory medals. “Great deeds cannot die.”

Frederick John Holland
Died May 8, 1918
Killed in Action France
Place of Burial: Perth Cemetery (China Wall), Leper, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium
Regimental Number: New Zealand Expeditionary Force, 2nd, Service #57847, New Zealand Entrenching Battalion, 2nd


Major George Henry Holland
Died May 15, 1918
Killed in Action France
Buried Euston Road Cemetary, Colincamps, Departement de la Somme, Picardie, France
New Zealand Army


Corporal John Holland Sapsford
Died November 4, 1918
Killed just one week before the end of WW1 in India.
Buried C W G cemetery in Rawalpindi (now in Pakistan).
Royal Field Artillery
Name noted on St. James War Memorial along with Thomas Holland, both grandsons of Robert Holland.

Private Harry Walton
Died February 6, 1917
Killed in Action France
Lancashire Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion

Private Gilbert Hough
Died October 9, 1917
Killed in Action Belgium
Lancashire Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion
Buried Tyne Cot Memorial – Zonnebeke, Arrondissement Ieper, West Flanders (West-Vlaanderen), Belgium