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Paul Quinet, a former Belgian refugee

Paul Gustave Désiré Quinet (surname pronounced key-nay) was born in 1899 in Koekelberg, Brussels. At the age of four and a half, he moved with his parents to Persia but returned to Brussels in 1906 to go to boarding school, where he remained until 1914.

His mother died in childbirth in Persia in 1908 and his father remained working there until returning to Brussels in 1913.

In 1914, after Paul proudly told his father that he had seen German troops in nearby woods, the family quickly gathered together belongings and left Brussels for the Belgian coast, taking the last train to leave before the entry of the German troops into the city.

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Belgian refugees

The Solihull Parish Magazine of October 1914 contains an appeal for people to loan furniture or “articles for domestic comfort, or to give food of any kind” to help the Belgian refugees now housed within the district. Gifts or promises of money were also sought and “suitable books in French for men, women and children” would also be acceptable.

The magazine refers to the “honour and privilege of welcoming in our midst some of the sorrowful Belgians who have not only lost their ‘all’ but have been ruthlessly driven out of the land they love.” It promised that the community would do “all we can to cheer them in their exile”.

By October 1919, the parish magazine reported that during the four and a half years of war, Solihull had the privilege of providing refuge for 45 Belgian men, women and children who had been compelled to leave their country and their homes.

If you have any information about Belgian refugees in Solihull, please let us know (email heritage@solihull.gov.uk or phone 0121 704 6934).

Tracey
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian

 

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