Belgian families fleeing the German invasion of their country began arriving in Britain very early in the war.  Communities around Shropshire met to make plans to help these refugees. On 11th September 1914 at a meeting of the Relief Fund in Much Wenlock, the gentry from Wenlock Abbey offered one of their houses in the town as accommodation. The vicar said he would organise a collection of money in the town and an appeal went out for the loan of furniture. Various competitions were held to raise funds. Two hundred tickets, sold for an air gun shooting competition with the prize a pig (valued at 30 shillings), raised £4.18.6 for the refugees.

Through their magazine, the Ludlow Deanery appealed for money and clothing for the thousands who have lost absolutely everything. Collection boxes would be left by church doors and clothing was to be forwarded to the London Office for Belgian Refugees. A warning note was also sounded in the magazine. It is not intended that people should dismiss their English servants and then offer their places to Belgians. One is ashamed to have to say that this has been tried in some places, to the disgrace of those who have suggested it. Hospitality is asked for and not at the expense of English servants.

Evidently George de Troetsel and his family did receive such hospitality because he sent this photograph to his hosts, the Milner family, farmers at Callaughton near Much Wenlock. On the back he wrote: With fondest love and much gratitude for all your kindness during our exile 1914-1918. The Belgian Family, George de Troetsel, Antwerp. 8 August 1920.

By Ina Taylor