This morning, Monday 11 November, there was a small but special ceremony honouring some long-lost heroes of World War I who are buried in Twickenham Cemetery.
The Mayor of Richmond, Cllr Meena Bond, and a small group of residents laid a wreath at the graves of four Belgian soldiers who died during the period when East Twickenham played host to over 6,000 refugees from Belgium. Tine Jacobs, Second Secretary at the Embassy of the Kingdom of Belgium, was also present (on the far left of the photo).
Val Coltman, found these graves in the cemetery while she was researching the lives of the refugees who settled in the area in 1915.
‘We knew that many of the refugees worked locally at the Pelabon munitions factory, on the site which later became the Richmond Ice Rink and is now the Richmond Bridge Estate development,’ Val explained. ‘But when we visited the Army Museum in Brussels, we discovered that some of the refugees were actually soldiers who had been wounded and couldn’t continue to serve at the front.’
They continued their war service at the munitions factory and sadly a small number of them died here.
Helen Baker, who is leading the project to commemorate this forgotten episode in East Twickenham’s history, hopes that the laying of wreaths to honour their sacrifice will be just the start of a new appreciation of the lives of the Belgians who had to flee their country as the German Army invaded.
‘Four Belgian soldiers – including two brothers from the van Wetering family - died while working in East Twickenham making munitions for the Belgian army. They may have been wounded but they continued to do their bit to help the war effort. Their stories deserve to be remembered as part of our commemoration of World War I.’
11 November 2013