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War-time Belgian Refugees, 1914-18

H Dominic W Stiles12 July 2019

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