In last week’s Reformer we reported on the Syrian refugees. As we stand on the brink of accepting people fleeing terror, we look atthe forgotten asylum seekers ofWorld War One
In 1914, Britain held out its hand to the people of a small country, less than 100 years old, who were faced with one of the greatest military onslaughts of all time.
On August 4 that year, the German army attacked the neutral state of Belgium as they tried to make a quick breakthrough to France and the English Channel ports. The assault was the final spark in bringing the UK into the conflict which became known as the Great War. The breach of Belgian neutrality was viewed by many as the most heinous crime the German’s could commit. Around 250,000 refugees from ‘plucky little Belgium’ made their way to the UK in those early days of WWI, a figure dwarfed the millions seeking to flee Syria.
Around 100 of them, although probably more, made it to Rutherglen and Cambuslang.
And they were met with an outpouring of humanity.
Ruglonians welcomed whole families into their homes. Fifty-two were invited to stay at Springhall House and Farm. The Belgians were officially called “guests of the Rutherglen Corporation”.
The Reformer ran articles about events to raise funds, including a grand concert at the Town Hall. The piece reads: “The programme is sustained by local favourites and by patronising this concert not only will the Belgians in our midst be relieved, but a musical treat is assured to all.”
The concert was promoted by Mr Crawford, the Parish Church organist who was “anxious to hand over a handsome sum to this very laudable fund”.
People were very generous, they seemed to open up their homes, offered food and clothes