The early days

In the dark days of August 1914, the population of Brighton and Hove was taking to its heart the plight of Belgian refugees who had been bombed and bayoneted out of their homes in Antwerp, Namur and Liege. Many of these refugees spoke only Flemish. Some spoke only French. It was this latter group which drew the attention of the Francophiles in our city

By 1915, concerts were being given in halls and hotels to aid the refugees. Hostel accommodation was provided at 13 Chesham Place in Kemp Town and 22 St Aubyns, Hove. There were clubs for Belgian working men (5 Manchester Street) as well as one for “ladies” (7 Chesham Place). On 2 October 1915 a Belgian Flag day raised over £832/ 9s/ 5d – enough to keep the community of some 300 refugees fed and housed for nearly 10 weeks.
The main organiser of all this activity was the Belgian Local Relief and Refugee Committee. The stalwarts of this organisation were the indomitable Mrs Bertha Richardson of 4 Adelaide Crescent (who also gave a large part of her home to be a depot for the collection of clothes for the refugees) and Miss Z Ethel Grimwood of 60 Wilbury Crescent.
The plight of French soldiers was not forgotten. A French Flag Day on 14 July 1915 raised over £1,000.
The French Red Cross was active in both Brighton and Hove in the form of a contingent of French Red Cross nurses. Co-operation between the Brighton and Hove Red Cross and the French Red Cross continued for many years, latterly through the good offices of French Circle member, the late Geoffrey Spence

The first members

But many, many more local people had the best interests of the Belgian refugees and the French wounded at heart. For example, Emilie Markwick and her husband Herbert. Mrs Markwick had been born into the Dorlencourt family. The Dorlencourt family had members based in Boulogne (an easy target for the invading forces in 1914), Hastings and Brighton.

Emilie Dorlencourt / Marcwicj in 1915 with her husband and children (Emily aged 7 and Alfred aged 11)