After the Germans invaded Belgium on 4 August 1914, refugees fled before the advancing armies and many sought safety across the Channel. Around quarter of a million Belgians were harboured by Britain during the war. Voluntary relief work was coordinated by the War Refugees Committee (WRC) in London. An appeal for accommodation for the refugees resulted in 100,000 offers within the first fortnight. Across the country hundreds of local committees were set up to provide relief, housing, entertainment and employment. Later a Central Belgian Committee provided financial support to local committees.
Surrey took in two to three thousand refugees and across the county local war distress committees set up Belgian relief committees to provide for them. Local residents provided hospitality and empty houses were also used as accommodation. Appeals went out for clothes, furniture and donations. Men who could work generally found employment, children went to local schools and amusements were provided. For example, in Guildford entertainments were staged on St Nicholas Day at Wycliffe Hall and a new year party at Borough Hall on 1 January 1915.Read More