In 1917, the Comité Officiel Belge pour l’Angleterre, overseeing more than 250,000 Belgian refugees in Britain, published a report on 3 years in exile during the First World War. The document is the only one which details the British factories employing Belgian workers and the Belgian factories owned and run by Belgians in Britain.
With a work force of about 60,000 men, it should come as no surprise that the Belgians in Britain contributed heavily to the war industry. Vickers in Barrow-in-Furness employed 5,800 Belgians, Jackson in Salisbury nearly 2,000 and Armstrong Whitworth in Gateshead and Glasgow together another 1,400.
The website ‘Médecins de la Grande Guerre’ covers a lot of ground about these Belgian labourers and Belgian labour colonies in Britain, including as well places such as the Pelabon factory in Richmond (what subsequently became the Ice Rink) and Kryn&Lahy in Letchworth.
The seminar will provide both a generic historical background to the story of the Belgian labourers in Britain, using documents of the time, and a more detailed look into how they related to which home front (British, Belgian, Belgian in Britain).