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Memories of Belgian Refugees Sought by First World War Project

Local people are being asked to provide recollections of Belgian refugees who came to Devon during the First World War. Families in the county welcomed hundreds of people fleeing the conflict in Belgium, many of whom stayed in touch for years afterwards. Now a new initiative is hoping to tell their story.

The Devon Remembers Heritage Project

The Devon Remembers Heritage Project, run by the South West Heritage Trust, is gathering photographs, documents and memories to paint a picture of the experiences of refugees and their hosts 100 years ago. Recent contributions to the project, which is based at the Devon Heritage Centre in Exeter, include a collection of photographs that records 50 years of friendship between the Andrews family of South Brent and the Bellinckz family who stayed with them during the war.  The Devon Heritage Centre also holds digitised copies of the Exeter Refugee Committee’s record books, given by the grandson of the committee’s leading light, Mrs Alice Clapp. It is hoped that many more people in the county will want to contribute their family or community stories.

Photographs, letters and diaries welcome

Project officer Katherine Findlay said: “We know that people in Devon were generous in helping Belgian refugees, and we’re very keen to hear from anyone who can tell us more. Photographs, letters and diaries are all extremely valuable in bringing the subject to life. We’re also interested in any stories about Belgian refugees that people may have heard when growing up. Every contribution will help.”

With grateful thanks

The culmination of the research will be an exhibition and activities to help new generations understand Devon’s role as a safe haven for refugees. This work is just one strand of the Devon Remembers Heritage Project which is telling the county’s First World War story through research, community work, arts and events. The project has received a grant of £267,400 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) with additional support from the South West Heritage Trust, Devon County Council, Torbay Council and the University of Exeter.  The South West Heritage Trust is an independent charity committed to protecting and celebrating Somerset and Devon’s rich heritage.


You can read more about The Devon Remembers Heritage Project on the website.

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