Sidonie van Eepoel died just a few months before the end of the First World War at the age of 40. Her family story is shared with a quarter of a million other Belgians, who fled to England to escape the invading German Army in 1914. Around 10,500 of these refugees ended up in Yorkshire, the biggest intake of any area outside London. For those who stepped off the train after up to a month of travelling there was both relief and exhaustion. It was after mid-September 1914 that were the first Belgian migrants started to arrive in Yorkshire. Sidonie’s family arrived in Richmond in November 1914, establishing their home at 10 Frenchgate. A total of 17 Belgians appear to have been made welcome in Richmond, with some also living at 10 Park Wynd.
While Sidonie and her mother died during the war and were buried in Richmond in the town cemetery on Reeth Road, 15 of their friends and family returned to their native land when hostilities ceased. They were fit, safe and well thanks to the generosity and hospitality of the people of Richmond in their time of need. Photo submitted by Sara Cox.
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Edith Purkiss wanted to tell us about her father’s war service. George Johnson Junior was a Richmond lad whose father, also called George had seen active service in Egypt with the West Yorkshire Regiment. The 1911 census shows George Jnr was working as a groom and living in Richmond at 20 Bargate along with his parents and siblings. George Jnr enlisted into the Yorkshire Regiment on 3rd September 1914. Having survived the First Battle of the Somme unscathed he was later injured at the Second Battle of the Somme in 1918. He lay in no man’s land for a considerable amount of time, wounded, until he was carried to safety by Mr Buchanan who later became manager of Timothy Whites & Taylors chemist shop (now Boots). George was severely wounded in his right leg and left arm, and was sent to a convalescent hospital in Sheffield to recover. His wounds were so severe that he was discharged, aged 24 years on 26th June 1918. Although he survived, George suffered from ill health due as a result of his wounds all his life. Ironically, he was finally granted a war pension of the day he died, 15th June 1959.
Kevin Robinson of Dalton on Tees visited the Green Howards museum to tell us about his great great grandfather, Sergeant Henry Robinson MM. Henry joined the Yorkshire Regiment (the Green Howards) as a very young man and soon left the UK to serve in the Boer War. Henry had several service numbers during his career with the earliest (and therefore a low number) being 421. On returning from the Boer war he then went to serve in the First World War both in France and Belgium, Henry and his division engaged in 2nd & 3rd Battle of Ypres, 1st & 2nd Battle of the Somme and the Battle of Arras to name a few. He is believed to have been a very accomplished horseman. His army career spanned some 4 decades as a Territorial reservist. During this time he picked up a proud chest-full of medals including the Military Medal awarded 10th October 1916. Adding a Bar to his MM in October 1918, other medals believed to be Queens South Africa Medal, 1914 Star, British War Medal, and Victory Medal with Oak Leaf (Mentioned in Despatches). Henry was also a Hero when not serving his country he was serving children with fun, Henry and his wife Elvira lived in a motor home at Derby Street / Cooper Street / Canon Street Common in Middlesbrough. They operated several fun fair rides which included swing boats and a roundabout. They continued to run the fun fair rides for several decades into the…
Phyllis was born in Dowlais, Glamorganshire, Wales in 1892, the daughter of Margaret Jane and David Thomas Jenkins. She joined the British Red Cross on the 21st of January 1918. Subsequently, she was stationed as a Voluntary Aid Detachment Nurse in the Other Empire Force, British Red Cross, Catterick Camp. Surviving photographs imply that Phyllis was part of the dental team stationed at Catterick. Phyllis volunteered at Catterick Camp until the 14th February 1919.