When Germany invaded Belgium on 4 August 1914, refugees began to arrive in Britain very quickly, 16,000 arriving in Folkestone on one day alone – 14 October 1914. In total, over 250,000 refugees arrived from Belgium in the United Kingdom, leaving no part of the country untouched. Agatha Christie’s most famous detective was Hercule Poirot – a Belgian refugee she met while working as a VAD in Torquay. This was the largest influx of people the UK has known and it is now almost totally forgotten.
At the end of the war, Belgians had their work contracts cancelled. The Government gave each person a free one-way ticket home and within 12 months of the end of the war 90% of refugees had returned home. As reported by the Border Counties Advertiser, Belgian refugees arrived in Oswestry on 1 October 1914. People of the town turned out to greet them and offer space in their homes for them to stay. The town rallied round these people and gave clothing knitted by the war guilds run by local women in both Oswestry and Llangollen.
Fundraising Concerts and entertainments were put on for the refugees. We have yet to find out exactly how many Belgians were homed in the town, but they stayed until the end of the war. Many of the men joined the army and fought after their arrival in Britain.