Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Belgium Refugees - First Hayes Immigrants - Workers Union

Hayes Belgium Relief Fund
The first immigrants

Hayes Belgium Relief Fund was established at a public meeting 23rd October 1914, after the Emergency Committee had received a letter from Local Government Board asking Hayes to offer hospitality to Belgium refugees.
At the outset of World War One and the German invasion , Belgium refugees had flocked to Britain (an estimated 500,000 in total).

Many Belgium refugees seem to have been progressed initially through the Earls Court Camp in London.
The Hayes Committee looked after 100 families, many of the women and children, but also wounded Belgium soldiers. (Some refugees we know were from the Louvain region of Belgium)
Initially, the committee tried to secure accommodation for the refugees at White Hall, Hayes End, but Hearne House and Lodge were secured, later The Gables at Wood End and Mr Drenon (Labour Councillor) took refugees into his home at Barra Hall.

Some of the younger Belgium men secured work in the Hayes factories, but work at the Army Motor Works was said to be "irregular".
Despite a national shortage of Labour, pay and conditions for the Belgium workers seem to have been bad, local employers taking the opportunity to cut pay rates. Belgium workers who protested at poor conditions were threatened with being conscripted into the Belgium Army.

A number of local Belgium workers in the factories joined the Workers Union, who had appointed a national Belgium full time officer, Jan Chapelle (a well know Belgium trade union leader) to look after their interests.
The committee raised money by local collections and Belgium flag days

Hayes Belgium Relief Fund Committee:

Dr W. D. Hopkins, Cllr Juan Drenon JP, Mrs Gunton, Mrs Hudson, Mrs Ellis, Mrs Ritchings, Rev Mr E.R Hudson, Mr I. Ellis, Mr J. Hibbert, Mr H.W. Hunt, Mr E. Tucker, Mr E. J. Nyblom, Mr E. Window
Hayes Belgium Relief

Committee Secretaries:
Mr Montague Rose, The Bryan, Keith Road, Mr W. Herbert Rhodes 17, Cranmer Road

Rhodes was a Labour Councillor as was Juan Drenon
LOcal branch Secretary of the Workers Union was Douglas Page

Picture Top
Belgium monument on the embankment in tribute of the Belgium refugees, unveiled 1920