A refugee story
In August 1914, as the German army advanced, and the Belgian army prepared a defensive line, 20 year old Marie Van Eylen escaped her small village near Louvain in Belgium. With her mother and stepfather, with only the belongings they could carry, she travelled to Antwerp, and from there to London. After a few weeks they were moved to Shropshire, arriving in early October.
They were taken to Cound Hall near Shrewsbury, the home of the McCorquodale family, and lived there for a few months. Most of the refugees later went to France for the rest of the war but the young Marie Van Eylen decided to stay in England and obtained work as an embroidress at Maddox in Shrewsbury, having trained in Brussels before the War at the Establishment of the Court Dressmaker.
Marie made many friends, apparently integrating rapidly with the locals. Her mother and stepfather left England at some time during the war. Marie decided to stay.
In 1919 she met CSM John Brown, who had served with the KSLI in Egypt, Palestine and France. In 1920, he was posted to India with the 1st Battalion. Marie followed a year later and was married in Bombay on the 26th December 1921, the rule being that Army brides had to marry within 24 hours of disembarking. She had 3 children in India; the first, Yvonne, like so many army children in India, died young in 1924 having contracted diphtheria. Marjorie, born in Poona and John in Darjeeling, survived. The family returned to Shrewsbury, in a snowstorm, on December 31st 1927 and lived at the Copthorne Barracks until 1935 when QMS Brown retired from the Army to take up the post of Sergeant Major to the Officer’s Training Corps (later, the CCF) at Wrekin College.
Shortly before his retirement from the College in 1958, Mr. and Mrs. Brown settled in Roseway, Wellington. She was widowed in 1968 and remained in Roseway. Although she lived more than 70 years in England, she never lost her strong Flemish accent and became a familiar figure in Wellington, shopping in the town and looking after her garden until she was around 93 years old. Her strength failing at last, she went to live with her son and daughter-in-law in Shifnal. For the last 3 years she was cared for at Netherwood Home, Shifnal.