Earls Court, London: Belgian Refugee Centre

Of the 250,000 Belgian refugees fleeing their homes following Germany’s invasion of Belgium in August 1914, tens of thousands came through the make-shift refugee centre at Earls Court.

Many came through ports such as Folkestone and Tilbury before moving to other parts of the British Isles. In London, they were processed in huge encampments – including Earls Court and Alexandra Palace – or they were housed with families across London.

At the start of the war public sympathy lay with the fleeing refugees. However, as more British men were sent to the front to free Belgium, the British Government reacted to increasing anti-Belgian sentiments and decided male Belgian refugees should in some way contribute to the war effort at home.

More than 60,000 Belgians worked in Britain during World War One and around 500 Belgian companies were established. The largest was the Pelabon Works, a hand-grenade factory, in Richmond.

Location: Earls Court Exhibition Buildings and Empress Hall, London SW5 9TA
Image shows the beds laid out in Earls Court

Release date: 03 Feb 2014

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