Our speaker on Tuesday 30 October is one of our own members, Ian MacDonald. He will be talking about Belgian Refugees in Ayrshire during World War 1.
Almost one quarter of a million Belgians fled to Britain after the
German invasion of Belgium in 1914. The largest contingent of refugees
ever to come here and their absorption into the host society was
bound to be a complex process.
The Belgians were mostly assimilated
smoothly into the local communities and they benefited at first from
overwhelming public sympathy. Trade unionist fears that they would
provide a pool of cheap labour soon dissipated as the war economy created
conditions of full employment.
Much has been written about the conflict in Flanders and the numerous military battles, as the front line ebbed to and fro throughout the war. Much has also been written about the terrible conditions in which the troops on either side had to live and fight; but very little is documented about the impact of the fighting on the local civilians. Hopefully Ian will fill in some of the gaps in our knowledge as, appropriately, Armistice Day approaches.