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.
Explore more memories from the ribbon
Ewen George Sinclair-Maclagan was born on the 24th December 1868 in Edinburgh. He was educated at the United Services College, Westward Ho! North Devon and commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant in the Border Regiment in 1898. He served in India, including the expedition to Waziristan in 1894-5, and was promoted Captain in 1898. He saw action in the 2nd Boer War (1899-1902) as an Adjutant in the 1st Battalion Border Regiment. He was severely wounded at Spion Kop, mentioned in dispatches and received the Distinguished Service Order. In 1901 he was posted to Australia when their Army was being organised, being appointed Adjutant to the New South Wales Scottish Rifles. On the 29th January 1902 he married Edith Kathleen, daughter of Major General Sir George French, at St’ Andrew’s Anglican Cathedral in Sydney. They would have one daughter. In 1904 Maclagan resumed regimental duty in Britain. Promoted Major in 1908 he then transferred to the Yorkshire Regiment. In 1910 Major General Sir William Bridges, who had known Maclagan in Australia, was recruiting for staff for the Royal Military College in Duntroon, Canberra. He made Maclagan director of drill with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. When Bridges raised the 1st Division Australian Imperial Force (AIF) he chose Maclagan to command the 3rd Infantry Brigade. On the 25th April 1915 landed at Gallipoli. A ridge leading from Anzac Cove is named after him. He would stay on the peninsula until evacuated sick in August 1915. He did not return to his Brigade in Egypt…
William Lincoln Robinson was born in 1897, the son of a farmer. By the time of the 1911 census his mother had died and he was living with his father, and sister in Scorton, near Richmond. Robinson enlisted in 1915. At the time he was working at Kirkbank, Middleton Tyas as a gardener. He served with the 2nd and 6th Battalions of the Green Howards as a Lewis Gunner. He survived the war and was discharged from the army on the 15th February 1919. At the moment we don’t know what happened to Robinson after he left the Army. Can you help? Robinson died aged 77 in 1975.
Story submitted by Mrs Drury. Jack (John Adam) Bell was the son of a gamekeeper at Langdon Beck in Teesdale, County Durham. He grew up in the countryside a became a railway clerk. When he joined the army and went to experience life in the trenches he had the horror of standing next to a fellow soldier when his head was blown off. Jack also had to endure the news that his own brother had been killed. Jacks country knowledge became most useful in the mire of Flanders. He would cut trenches to make a sleeping place out of the mud, trap rabbits and stew them in a metal helmet. He would look after horses for officers who had never had to look after their own mounts before. He described how starved the horses were near the front line – the near stampedes when fodder was brought and how the horses gnawed each others’ manes and tails for food. He remembered how long the cavalry had to stand mounted and how weak horses collapsed. Remounts were needed constantly and Jack was sent in to break in and train them. He was stationed on the Thames, possibly at Tilbury, to receive horses, practically wild sent by ship from South America and often in a sorry state on arrival. He had six weeks to prepare each batch (size unknown) for dispatch abroad. During this training Jack rode these recovered and lively horses with a ladies side saddle as he said it was…