Identity Statement for Belgian Refugees’ Committee
- Reference code: IE UCDA P105
- Title: Minute Book of the Belgian Refugees’ Committee
- Dates: 1914–15
- Level of description: Item
- Extent: 136pp
The (Irish) Belgian Refugees Committee was established in October 1914 as part of the wider British response to the flow of civilian refugees flooding out of Belgium in the weeks after the country became the epicentre of the twentieth century’s first global conflict.
For Britain and Ireland alike, the case of ‘poor little’ or ‘Catholic’ Belgium was a strong mobilising factor in the early months of the war. Reports of atrocities being carried out against nuns and the destruction of the historic library at Louvain were especially powerful in motivating Irish people to support the war. Just as with the Battle of Waterloo almost a century beforehand, Belgium in 1914 became the stage for a European and eventually global conflict where rival imperial armies clashed. The battle lines in Belgium and Northern France moved so little during the four years of conflict that, for the duration of hostilities, many Belgians had nowhere to go back to as their cities and towns were transformed into a warzone. Ireland took in a modest overflow contingent of Belgian refugees, primarily from Antwerp, from October 1914 onwards. The initial effort was coordinated by this entirely voluntary committee before being taken over by the Local Government Board.
For more on the history of the Irish Belgian Refugee Committee click here.
Minute Book of the Belgian Refugees' Committee recording proceedings of meetings held at least weekly. Regular matters for consideration include arrangements for the reception and allocation of refugees; liaison with the Local Government Board for assistance in obtaining accommodation and defraying expenses; communication with local refugee committee; the circumstances of individual refugees; the general financial situation including fundraising; the payment of maintenance grants; the payment of regular accounts for accommodation, clothing, travel and food. More occasional considerations include the possibility of securing employment for refugees; specific problems encountered by refugee families; and sending undesirable refugees out of the country.
Further material relating to the Belgian Refugee Committee can be found in the Bodelian Library, University of Oxford.