During the First World War Belgium was over run by the Germans, and there were many refugees. Here we have a group of Deaf refugees. I have no idea where these people were, possibly the photo was in London but I cannot be certain. Modern Belgium seems extremely divided in its Deaf communities, Flemish and Walloon – see this Wikipedia article on Flemish Sign Language but I suppose that was less the case in the war.
I wonder if anyone recognises the people in this group. To me, the three ladies look very similar – perhaps they were sisters. I have not had time to look for information in the British Deaf Times, but I am sure there are some mentions of refugees. All the major Deaf Schools in Belgium and in north-east France would have been affected or perhaps closed. After the war a group of London Deaf went on a visit to areas affected by the conflict, particularly Lille. I hope to cover that in a future blog.
Gatrell, Peter, Zhvanko, Liubov (eds) Europe on the Move: Refugees in the Era of the Great War. MUP, 2017
Jenkinson, Jacqueline, Belgian Refugees in First World War Britain. Routledge, 2017