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Belgian Guests

Rushden Echo, 1st January 1915, transcribed by Kay Collins

More Belgian Refugees - Higham Ferrers and Chelveston Combine
Wounded Belgian Soldier’s Experiences - How the Germans Hate the British
English prisoners practically Starved

Twelve representatives of the gallant little nation of Belgium that so upset the plans of big “Willie” were accorded a right royal welcome at Higham Ferrers on Tuesday.

As we have previously reported, Higham Ferrers is joined by the neighbouring parish of Chelveston in giving hospitality to a number of Belgian refugees, and, with this object in view, the house on the Market-square at Higham Ferrers, formerly occupied by the late Ald. C Jolley, was obtained at a nominal rental and suitably furnished. The house, which is admirably appointed and eminently suited for the purpose, contains five bedrooms, a dining room, two sitting rooms, a kitchen, bathroom, and a further very large room which is to be used as a recreation room, or which can be utilised as a bedroom is necessary.

The guests were met at Wellingborough by the Mayor and Mayoress of Higham Ferrers (Ald. and Mrs Owen Parker). Mrs H K Fry, and Mdlle. Sanders (a guest of Mr and Mrs G H Groome, ‘Hazelwood,’ Rushden), who rendered incalculable service as interpreter.

Amongst those who assembled at Higham Ferrers station to welcome the visitors were Ald. T Patenall (Deputy Mayor) and Mrs Patenall, Rev H K Fry (Vicar), Mrs R H Higson, Rev W Peppercorn, Miss Simpson (Chelveston), and Mr T H A Beetenson, the energetic secretary of the Belgian Relief committee.

The names of the Belgian party., which comprises nine adults and three children, are as follows:- Robert Goffard (draughtsman’s mechanic), Alphonsine Goffard, and Robert Goffard, jun. (child), Nicholas Delvaux (plumber), Josephine Delvaux, and Robert Delvaux (child), Adrian Elias and Edouard Poffe (convalescent soldiers), Mdme. Danvers (widow), Joseph Wilmet, Henriette Wilmet, and Marguerite Wilmet (child).

It is interesting to not that M Adrien Elias was wounded at Liege and was taken prisoner by the Germans. After three weeks in their hands, during which time, we are informed, he was given very little food, he managed to obtain civilian clothes, and succeeded in escaping to England, where he was admitted into hospital at Folkestone, remaining there two months. His wound, under the arm, was of so serious a nature as to totally incapacitate him from further military service, and he holds official papers exempting him from such duties in the future. The treatment of French and Belgian by the Germans, he says, is by no means kind, as not sufficient food is given them, but the hatred of the Germans for the Englishman knows no bounds, and for British prisoners it is practically starvation, the Germans thus finding a vent for their venomous hatred of the English.

The visitors, upon arrival at Higham, were taken straight to their temporary abode, and two very pleasing incidents there took place. Mrs Fry had very thoughtfully purchased a photograph of the heroic King Albert, and this, surmounted by a couple of Belgian flags, being placed in a conspicuous position on the wall of the larger sitting room, at one became the centre of interest for the whole Belgian party, occasioning no little excitement. Both of the soldiers, on catching sight of the photograph of their monarch, at once came smartly to the salute, and being this infused by uncontrollable feelings of patriotism, they sought further means of giving expression to their enthusiasm. Seizing a couple of Belgian flags from the hall, they proceeded to the front of the house and waving their colours in the air they creid “Vive la Belgique!! Vive l’Anglais! Vive la France! Vive la Russie!” The crowd assembled outside, in response, gave three hearty cheers, and les soldat seemed greatly pleased at having elicited such response.

A most excellent meat tea was then provided, the Mayor and Mayoress, with the ladies of the Belgian Relief Committee attending to the needs of their Belgian guests.

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