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How you can donate to our WWI campaign

Richard Hodgkinson of Amber Valley Borough Council, Stuart Joynes the vice-chairman of the Ripley branch of the RBL, Coun. Peter Makin and Ripley RBL chairman Dean Fowler who are backing a campaign to plant commemorative trees in Crossley Park.

Richard Hodgkinson of Amber Valley Borough Council, Stuart Joynes the vice-chairman of the Ripley branch of the RBL, Coun. Peter Makin and Ripley RBL chairman Dean Fowler who are backing a campaign to plant commemorative trees in Crossley Park.

Our archives have yielded the heart-warming story of how Belgian refugees from World War I were welcomed in Heanor - despite a false start.

It comes as we continue our Pennies for Our Heroes Appeal where we are asking readers to donate their loose change so we can raise enough to plant a tree in out three towns of Ripley, Heanor and Alfreton to honour heroes from the area who fought during World War 1.

The October 30 1914 edition of the paper tells of how “great excitement prevailed when it became known that a party of Belgian refugees was to arrive from Derby...By six o’clock a large crowd had assembled at the Midland station in order to give the Belgian guests a hearty welcome.”

In fact the Belgians arrived on a later train, but “when the visitors alighted they met with a hearty reception”.

The paper noted that with the new arrivals “some of the inward meaning of the war was brought to the notice of the people of Heanor.’

“Heanor folk gave an exceptionally warm welcome to the displaced people: a recently erected house in Allendale Road was completely furnished by Monday”, and everything from furniture to firewood and kitchen utensils was donated.

The report noted that “many and long are the laughs they enjoy as the local people try to make them understand ‘Les Anglais’.’’

A French conversation class was set up. Some of the exiled Belgians lived in the vicintiy of Namur, and told the paper of how their town was bombarded by the Germans.

They said: “Over 500 of their townspeople were killed and then the invaders set fire to the town.”

The January 1, 1915, edition reported on a Christmas Day party at Ormonde Fields, hosted by Mr and Mrs Mitton for the refugees.

“Tea was served in the hall and... full justice was done to the good things provided.”

Santa Claus made an appearance and songs were sung by two of the Belgian children in French and Belgian.

See below for how you can donate your pennies.

 

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