Guest blog post by Cyriel Boeynaems : The Boeynaems family during the First World War

It is a pity that we no longer have the complete correspondence to and from the Boeynaems family who fled to England during WW1, especially as the letters sent from the refugees’ addresses in England may contain important material. But that exchange of letters has not yet been found. Only seven letters and a dozen postcards, all sent to England, have been preserved. This was enough to make up a puzzle, one with many missing pieces. No full story, rather a list of events and locations.

At the outbreak of the First World War the family of Florent Boeynaems and his wife Marie Coosemans had 14 children. They lived in Antwerp at no 5 Prinsstraat. By profession father Florent Boeynaems was a notary.

Florent Boeynaems     X     Marie Coosemans

         1860-1915                            1866-1946

Their children Age in 1914
Ferdinand (Fernand)                   1889-1918 25
Paul                                                1891-1958 23
Hélène                                           1892-1944 22
Hubert                                           1893-1961 21
Marthe                                          1895-1940 19
Jean (Jan)                                      1897-1969 17
Suzanne                                        1898-1982 16
Yvonne                                          1900-1986 14
Florent (Flor)                                1901-1980 13
Pierre (Piet)                                  1903-1986 11
Joseph (Jos)                                  1906-1984 8
Marie Louise (Mimi)                   1908-2004 6
Jacques (Jaak)                              1909-1995 5
Ludovic                                          1910-1996 4

Mother Marie Coosemans was the half-sister of Florent Coosemans, chairman of the Club Albert in Tunbridge Wells during WW1. Florent Coosemans was married to Louise Martin. His father Ferdinand Coosemans married twice. His first wife passed away shortly after Marie Coosemans’s birth in 1866.

Ferdinand Coosemans 1°X  Maria Van Welde

    1828-1926                                1829-1866

Their children Married to
Constant Coosemans 1861-1923 Marie Van Goethem
Marie Coosemans 1866-1946 Florent Boeynaems

Ferdinand Coosemans 2°X  Anne Cornélie Van de Wiel

       1828-1926                                 1836 – 1906

Their children Married to
Caroline Coosemans 1871-1959 Charles Cnoops
Florent Coosemans 1872-1947 Louise Martin
HortenseCoosemans 1873-1935 Felix Goris
BertheCoosemans 1875-1950 Alfons Steyaert

1913 was a glorious year for the Boeynaems-Coosemans family. Two silver jubilees. Father Florent Boeynaems celebrated his 25th anniversary as a notary. And the couple also celebrated 25 years of marriage in November.This seemed the best moment to gather the children together for a family photo. A unique picture because the Boeynaems children looked as they did just before leaving for England.

Boeynaems photo 1

When the German troops were on the outskirts of the city of Antwerp on 7 October 1914, the Civil Guard of the city of Antwerp was dissolved. Paul Boeynaems had served in the Civil Guard since 1912 as an artilleryman. In the grip of fear and horrible stories, people fled to the Netherlands in panic and large numbers.This was also the case with the Boeynaems family.

The Boeynaems children left without their parents. According to a story recorded by Marie-Louise Boeynaems in 1999, the children gathered back in the parental house in the Prinsstraat and had to say good-bye one after the other to their father and mother. From the Netherlands they travelled to England. Some of their uncles and aunts also fled to England: Uncle Florent and Aunt Louise (Coosemans-Martin), Uncle Charles and Aunt Caroline (Cnoops-Coosemans) and Uncle Gustave and Aunt Marie (Simons-Boeynaems / Marie was the sister of Florent Boeynaems). It is not clear whether other family members followed and if everyone left together with the children. Even the exact date of departure remains unknown.

 

1914 The Boeynaems children were certainly all at a permanent address, either in the Netherlands or in England, by 13 October 1914. Other family members, including possibly their mother, Marie Coosemans, left the city when the first bomb hit Blindestraat in Antwerp. They stayed in Standdaarbuiten and Oudenbosch in the Netherlands. In a letter dated 13 October 1914 (from Standdaarbuiten), the children were informed about the confused situation in the Netherlands. Everyone was looking for family members there. The van Meerbeeck family of Wilrijk near Antwerp was also being sought by other relatives. Hélène Boeynaems was engaged to, and married in 1915, René van Meerbeeck, son of the family in question. Due to fear and on the advice of the local authorities, Ferdinand and Paul were advised not to return to Belgium. But before the end of February 1915, the parents and Ferdinand were already back at home in Antwerp. Son Ferdinand returned home to help his father Florent Boeynaems who was in ill health.

(Cfr. Letters dated  October 13, 1914 and March 2, 1915)

1915  To avoid censorship and loss of mail, the letters were sent to and from Belgium via intermediaries in the Netherlands. In the first months of the war, the Boeynaems family had two intermediaries Mr. Reinemund and Mr. Mattheezen in Bergen op Zoom. Paul and Jean Boeynaems left England and travelled to France to offer themselves as volunteers in the Belgian Army. Paul signed up in Rouen on 19 February 1915 and Jean did the same in Parigné-l’Evêque on 29 April 1915. Both brothers kept in touch with the rest of the family in England via their sister Marthe. She became the point of contact of the family in England. From the address on a card from Paul Boeynaems it becomes clear that Marthe and probably the other children were at 22 Alwine Mansions, Wimbledon, London on 14 March 1915. Was this the first refugee address in England? Meanwhile, the state of health of father  Florent Boeynaems deteriorated. He had already received the last rites. Hélène Boeynaems and her brother Hubert had to return urgently to help in the family. The letter asking for help was dated 26 March 1915 and was addressed to Hélène Boeynaems at 44 York Road,Tunbridge Wells via an intermediary, Mr. Van Nieuwenhuize. The trip was arranged in collaboration with Mr. Léon Van Nieuwenhuize who stayed at 8 College Road, Harrow, London.The brother of Alice Van Nieuwenhuize also had to return to Belgium and it is probable one of the small Boeynaems children travelled with them. The journey was via Vlissingen (Flushing) in the Netherlands.

 Boeynaems 3a  Boeynaems 3b

In Antwerp, the brothers Ferdinand and Hubert tried to save their father’s notarial practice. Ferdinand was training to be a notary and was a welcome help in the practice. Brother Hubert  mainly helped in the administration. As planned Hélène married René van Meerbeeck in the summer. Paul Boeynaems started officer training in Bayeux (F) in July 1915. As an ex-civil guard he was deployed as an instructor. Jean Boeynaems left for the Front.The brothers kept in touch and saw each other during a military leave in De Panne in Belgium. The Boeynaems children moved from York Road to Capilano, 154B Upper Grosvernor Road, Tunbridge Wells. They were there certainly in August 1915. Sometime later in the year they moved to 19 Beltring Road, Tunbridge Wells. Here they definitely were on 26 November 1915. At the end of August 1915, Marthe Boeynaems received a postcard from her sister Hélène in which she told her about her marriage with René van Meerbeeck. The postcard was sent via an intermediary in Moensel near Eindhoven in the Netherlands.

Ludovic /Marie-Louise/JacquesBoeynaems 4 The three youngest Boeynaems children posing in Spring /Summer in St. John’s Recreation Ground in the immediate vicinity of 19 Beltring Road in Tunbridge Wells

Jacques and Ludovic wore their sailor suits as in the picture from 1913.

The war year of 1915 ended on a sad note. Father Florent Boeynaems and the children in England never saw each other again. Florent Boeynaems died on Christmas Eve 1915. He was just 55 years old.

 

(cfr. Letters dated 2 March 1915 and 26 March 1915 –  postcards dated 14 March 1915, 20 April 1915, 1 August 1915,  16 August 1915, 26 November 1915 and17 December  1915)

1916  Paul Boeynaems requested his transfer to the Front and in February 1916 he joined the same regiment as his brother Jean. In a letter of 6 September 1916 we read that mother Marie Coosemans and her son Joseph Boeynaems were in Kerkom (Boutersem) in Belgium to visit Aunt Regina Van Welde. Regina was the sister of Maria Van Welde, the deceased mother of Marie Coosemans. They stayed for a few days. Joseph Boeynaems was no longer in England. Either he had always stayed at home, or he went to Antwerp with Hélène and Hubert in 1915. After the death of their father, the children in England received extra moral support from their uncle Gustave and Aunt Marie (Simons – Boeynaems). In Tunbridge Wells the Belgian refugees regularly paid tribute to the members of their reception committee. In July 1916 two special members of the Mayor’s Belgian Refugees Committee were honoured for their care, reception and committed engagement towards the refugees: the sisters Amelia and Louisa Scott. They received an album filled with all kinds of drawings, paintings, texts, poems and musical pieces, and the signatures and names of the Belgian refugees. In this album, “The Misses Scott Album”, were texts written by Florent Coosemans and his wife Louise Martin and also name cards with the names of the Boeynaems children, Marthe, Suzanne, Florent, Yvonne, Pierre, Jacques, Marie-Louise and Ludovic.In a letter to his sister Marthe, Ferdinand Boeynaems tried to make it clear that life in occupied Belgium was much worse than in England. There was a lot of hardship and scarcity. Forced by circumstances and in their own best interests, the children were encouraged by Ferdinand to stay in England. If necessary, they could move to another location and might also ask for advice from the rest of the family who were in situ or even from their brother Paul. Marthe was temporarily employed as a volunteer at the West Hall Hospital in Tunbridge Wells. It was one of the Red Cross’s Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) hospitals in Tunbridge Wells. Marthe was not a nurse but the hospital could use all available help; in the hospitals there were also Belgian wounded. She probably remained there for a while because her brother Paul sent her a postcard at that address in September 1917:  West Hall Hospital, Chilston Road, Tunbridge Wells.

(Cfr.Postcards of 16 February 1916, 2 March 1916, 7 September 1916 and a letter of 8 September 1916)

 1917  The children left Tunbridge Wells late in 1916 or early 1917. They moved to London and first settled in South Kensington: at 18 Onslow Gardens and 2 Gledhow Gardens. In that same year, they moved to  21 Russell Square in central London. This was their last address in England. They moved in above the offices of the newspaper “De Stem uit België” (trans: “The Voice of Belgium”) published by Canon Floris Prims, well known to the family Boeynaems. Suzanne and possibly Marthe and Yvonne Boeynaems were also employed there in the office. In January or February 1917, Jean and Paul Boeynaems were on leave in England and were photographed with their brothers and sisters for a family photo. The photo was taken by Sketches – 72 Oxford Street, London.

Boeynaems 6

 

 

 

-Yvonne/Florent/Suzanne/Paul-

 

-Jean/Marthe/Pierre/Marie-Louise-

 

-Jacques/Ludovic-

 

 

 

In May 1917 a first child was born to Hélène Boeynaems and René van Meerbeeck: Monique van Meerbeeck. In that same year, the Boeynaems children learned of the death of their great uncle and great aunt Jean Hagenaers and his wife Louise Boeynaems, their great aunt Régina Van Welde and their aunts Marguerite Boeynaems and Marie Boeynaems. At the end of 1917 Marie-Louise Boeynaems had fallen ill at St Leonards-on-Sea School and spent a week recuperating with her sisters in London. Son Florent who was on school holidays in London wrote a long letter to his brother Pierre with all the news from 21 Russell Square and his experiences at his new school in Norwood.

(Cfr. Postcard of 25 March  1917, letter of 10 December 1917)

1918  In January Marthe Boeynaems received news from Antwerp from her sister Hélène and her brother Joseph. The postcards were sent from the Netherlands through the intermediary of Mr. Van Herck, a stone merchant in Sluiskil Terneuzen. To mislead the German occupier and to make  the name of the final recipient clear in writing the address, Marthe’s first name was linked to the intermediary’s last name. Hubert sent a postcard to Eug. De Roeck in England for news about the death of Marie Boeynaems, the wife of Gustave Simons. This card also went through Terneuzen.

Boeynaems 7a boeynaems 7b

Hélène van Meerbeeck and little daughter Monique were visiting the family in Prinsstraat.

 boeynaems 8

Hubert – Ferdinand

Hélène – mother Marie Coosemans – Monique – Joseph

In the background, between Joseph and Ferdinand, is Paul Boeynaems’s picture in military uniform

Jean Boeynaems was wounded in the war and taken to a hospital in Le Havre (F) on 1 October. Paul Boeynaems was mentioned in dispatches on November 8 during the liberation of the Ertvelde canal during the final offensive. Yvonne Boeynaems returned to Antwerp in late 1918.

On the day of the Armistice Ferdinand Boeynaems died, as a result of the Spanish flu. Joy quickly turned to sadness. Not long before, he was smiling in a family photo at home in Prinsstraat.

1919  Two letters of 9 and 10 January were the only letters from England to home in Belgium that have been preserved. In these we read that Suzanne Boeynaems was still in London. She wrote to her sister Yvonne that many refugees had already left. She also announced the departure of the René Dieltiens family,of the Denijn family and also of Mrs. Brusselmans. It is not known when all the Boeynaems children followed. After the Christmas holidays 1918/1919, Pierre and Florent Boeynaems went back to school in Upper Norwood. Jean Boeynaems left the army on 6 August 1919 and Paul on 15 August 1919. Not everyone returned to Antwerp. Marthe Boeynaems had become engaged in the meantime to a doctor from Kortrijk, Karel Depla. They married in London in 1920 and had six children. But fate struck again. The Second World War proved fatal for her. She died during a bombing raid in London in 1940. Her children and grandchildren remained in England.
(cfr Letters of  9 and 10 January 1919)

Education

As soon as it was possible the children were sent to boarding schools in England. The boys Florent, Pierre, Jacques and Ludovic Boeynaems first went to school in Stroud in Gloucestershire. Florent left the school in Stroud and moved to St Mary’s College in Upper Norwood in southeast London. Later Pierre, Jacques and Ludovic went to St Joseph’s College in Malvern Wells in Worcestershire. In 1919 Pierre and Florent Boeynaems were in St Mary’s College in Upper Norwood. Ludovic stayed for some time at St Paul’s Convent in Brighton. Marie-Louise went to Convent school in St Leonards-on-Sea, Hastings in the county of Sussex.

Who is who

Many letters and postcards mention names that to date remain unidentified. Some readers may be able to clarify some of these names. And some names may also belong in another story.  Comments are always welcome.

The unknown individuals mentioned:

* On the flight from Belgium in 1914: Nuchelmans, Sluyts, Scrivener?
* In a letter of March 26, 1915: Leo or Léon Van Nieuwenhuize, Alice Van Nieuwenhuize and her brother?
* On a postcard of November 1915 from Jean Boeynaems: René De Jongh and Etienne?
* On a postcard of 16 February 1916 from Jean Boeynaems: Adolphe, Emmanuel, Arnold Van Kerkhoven, Lahaye, Dupuis?
* On a postcard of March 25, 1917 from Jean Boeynaems: Miss Lombart (sent a package to him)?
* In a letter of 10 December 1917 from son Florent Boeynaems:
Mrs Maria Van Bavel (was employed by ” De Stem uit België”)?
Mme. Josephine (was employed by “De Stem uit België”)?
Bouveroux, Willemsen, Maes, teachers?
Arsène, Piesen, Cornelius, fellow students of Florent and Pierre Boeynaems?
Mr. Fernand Robert?


Cyriel Boeynaems                                                                                                         13 June 2017


I am so grateful to Cyriel for this moving and personal account of his family’s experiences.  If you can help with any of his queries, or can add to his family’s story, please contact him via this blog’s Contact page.  Thank you.

Guest blog post by Cyriel Boeynaems: De familie Boeynaems tijdens WO 1

Het is doodjammer dat men niet meer kan beschikken over de volledige briefwisseling van en naar de familie Boeynaems die tijdens WO 1 naar Engeland was gevlucht. Vooral de brieven verzonden vanuit de vluchtadressen in Engeland hadden waardevol materiaal kunnen bevatten. Maar die briefwisseling is tot op heden niet teruggevonden. Enkel een zestal brieven en een tiental postkaarten naar Engeland zijn bewaard gebleven. Toch genoeg om een puzzel te leggen. Het werd een puzzel met veel ontbrekende stukjes. Geen volledig verhaal, eerder een opsomming van gebeurtenissen, locaties….

Bij het uitbreken van de 1ste Wereldoorlog telde het gezin van Florent Boeynaems en zijn echtgenote Marie Coosemans 14 kinderen. Zij woonden in de Prinsstraat nr. 5 te Antwerpen. Vader Florent Boeynaems oefende er het ambt uit van notaris.

Florent Boeynaems     X     Marie Coosemans

 (1860-1915)                        (1866-1946)

Hun kinderen Leeftijd in 1914
Ferdinand (Fernand)                  1889-1918 25j
Paul                                                1891-1958 23j
Hélène                                        1892-1944 22j
Hubert                                           1893-1961 21j
Marthe                                          1895-1940 19j
Jean (Jan)                                      1897-1969 17j
Suzanne                                        1898-1982 16j
Yvonne                                          1900-1986 14j
Florent (Flor)                                1901-1980 13j
Pierre (Piet)                                  1903-1986 11j
Joseph (Jos)                                   1906-1984 8j
Marie Louise (Mimi)                   1908-2004 6j
Jacques (Jaak)                               1909-1995 5j
Ludovic                                          1910-1996 4j

Moeder Marie Coosemans was de halfzuster van Florent Coosemans, de voorzitter van de Albert Club in Tunbridge Wells tijdens WO1. Florent Coosemans was gehuwd met Louise Martin. Zijn vader Ferdinand Coosemans trad tweemaal in het huwelijk. Zijn eerste echtgenote overleed kort na de geboorte van Marie Coosemans in 1866.

Ferdinand Coosemans (1828-1926)   X  Maria Van Welde  (1829-1866)

Hun kinderen Gehuwd met
Constant Coosemans 1861-1923 Marie Van Goethem
Marie Coosemans  1866-1946 Florent Boeynaems
Ferdinand Coosemans (1828-1926)   X  Anne Cornélie Van de Wiel (1836-1906)
Hun kinderen Gehuwd met
Caroline Coosemans 1871-1959 Charles Cnoops
Florent Coosemans 1872-1947 Louise Martin
Hortense Coosemans 1873-1935 Felix Goris
Berthe Coosemans 1875-1950 Alfons Steyaert

In 1913  waren het nog hoogdagen bij de familie Boeynaems-Coosemans. Twee zilveren jubilea. Vader Florent Boeynaems vierde zijn 25- jarig ambtsjubileum als notaris. En het echtpaar was in november ook nog 25 jaar gehuwd. Dit leek het uitgelezen moment om de kinderen te verzamelen voor een groepsfoto. Een unieke foto want zo zagen de kinderen Boeynaems er uit vlak voor hun vertrek naar Engeland.

 

Boeynaems photo 1

Als op 7 oktober 1914 de vijandelijke Duitse troepen al aan de rand van de stad Antwerpen stonden werd de Burgerwacht ontbonden. Paul Boeynaems was sedert 1912 in dienst bij de Burgerwacht als kanonnier. Bevangen door angst en verward door vreselijke verhalen sloeg de bevolking massaal en paniekerig op de vlucht naar Nederland. Zo verging het ook met de familie Boeynaems.

De kinderen Boeynaems vertrokken zonder hun ouders. Volgens een verhaal van Marie-Louise Boeynaems, opgetekend in 1999, verzamelden de kinderen zich achteraan in het ouderlijk huis in de Prinsstraat en moesten één na één afscheid nemen van hun geliefde vader en moeder. Via Nederland reisden ze door naar Engeland. Ook sommige van hun ooms en tantes vluchtten naar Engeland: oom Florent en tante Louise (Coosemans-Martin), oom Charles en tante Caroline (Cnoops-Coosemans) en oom Gustave en tante Marie (Simons-Boeynaems / Marie was de zus van vader Florent Boeynaems). Het is niet duidelijk of nog andere familieleden volgden en of iedereen samen vertrok. Zelfs de exacte datum van vertrek blijft onbekend.

1914 De kinderen Boeynaems waren alleszins op een vast adres,in Nederland of in Engeland, vóór 13 oktober 1914. Andere familieleden waaronder misschien ook moeder Marie Coosemans verlieten de stad pas toen de eerste bom viel op de Blindestraat in Antwerpen. Ze hielden halt in Standdaarbuiten en Oudenbosch in Nederland. In een brief van 13 oktober 1914 werden de kinderen ingelicht over de verwarde toestand in Nederland. Iedereen was daar op zoek naar familieleden. Ook de familie van Meerbeeck uit Wilrijk werd door andere familieleden opgezocht. Hélène Boeynaems was verloofd en zou in 1915 huwen met René van Meerbeeck, zoon van de bedoelde familie. Ingegeven door angst en op aanraden van de plaatselijke autoriteiten werd er aan Ferdinand en Paul gevraagd om niet terug te keren naar België. Maar nog vóór het einde van februari 1915 waren de ouders en Ferdinand al opnieuw thuis in Antwerpen. Zoon Ferdinand keerde uiteindelijk terug naar huis om zijn vader Florent Boeynaems te helpen die gezondheidsproblemen had.

(cfr. Brieven van 13 oktober 1914 en 2 maart 1915)

 1915 Om censuur en verlies van post te vermijden werden de brieven vanuit en naar bezet België verzonden via tussenpersonen in Nederland. In de eerste maanden van de oorlog had de familie Boeynaems twee tussenpersonen Dhr. Reinemund en Dhr. Mattheezen die in Bergen op Zoom verbleven. Paul en Jean Boeynaems verlieten Engeland en reisden door naar Frankrijk om zich daar aan te melden als oorlogsvrijwilliger bij het Belgisch Leger. Paul ondertekende op 19 februari 1915 een verbintenis in Rouen (F) en Jean deed hetzelfde in Parigné-l’Evêque (F) op 29 april 1915. Beide broers hielden contact met de rest van de familie in Engeland via hun zuster Marthe. Zij werd het aanspreekpunt van de familie in Engeland. Met het adres op een kaartje van Paul Boeynaems aan zijn zus Marthe wordt het duidelijk dat Marthe en waarschijnlijk ook de andere kinderen op 14 maart 1915 in London Wimbledon, Alwine Mansion 22 verbleven. Was dit het eerste vluchtadres in Engeland? Ondertussen was de gezondheidstoestand van vader Florent Boeynaems zodanig verergerd dat men hem de laatste sacramenten had toegediend. Hélène Boeynaems en haar broer Hubert moesten dringend terugkeren naar huis om hulp te bieden. De brief om hulp dateerde van 26 maart 1915 en was via een tussenpersoon, Dhr Van Nieuwenhuize, geadresseerd aan Hélène Boeynaems in Tunbridge Wells, York Road 44. De reis werd geregeld in samenwerking met Dhr Léon Van Nieuwenhuize die in London Harrow, College Road nr. 8. verbleef. De broer van Alice Van Nieuwenhuize moest ook terugkeren naar België. Indien men het wou mocht ook één van de kleine kinderen Boeynaems meereizen. De reis ging langs Vlissingen.

Boeynaems 3a Boeynaems 3b

In Antwerpen deden de broers Ferdinand en Hubert er alles aan om het notariaat van hun vader te redden. Ferdinand was kandidaat-notaris en was een welkome hulp in het notariaat. Broer Hubert was voornamelijk behulpzaam in de administratie. Wat gepland was ging door en Hélène huwde in de zomer met René van Meerbeeck.  Paul Boeynaems begon in juli 1915 een officiersopleiding in Bayeux. Als ex-burgerwachter werd hij ingezet als instructeur. Jean Boeynaems vertrok naar het Front. De broers bleven met elkaar in contact en zagen elkaar tijdens een militaire verlofperiode in De Panne. De kinderen Boeynaems verhuisden van de York Road naar Tunbridge Wells, Capilano, Upper Grosvernor Road 154 B. Ze waren er alleszins in augustus 1915. Iets later in het jaar verhuisden ze naar Tunbridge Wells, Beltring Road 19. Hier waren ze zeker op 26 november 1915. Eind augustus 1915 ontving Marthe Boeynaems een postkaart van haar zus Hélène waarin ze het relaas deed over haar huwelijk met René van Meerbeeck. De briefkaart werd verstuurd via een tussenpersoon in Moensel bij Eindhoven in Nederland.

Ludovic,/ Marie-Louise / JacquesBoeynaems 4 De drie jongste kinderen Boeynaems poseerden in de lente/zomer in St. John’s Recreation Ground in de onmiddellijke omgeving van Beltring Road 19 in Tunbridge Wells

Jacques en Ludovic droegen hun matrozen kraagje zoals op de foto uit 1913.

Het oorlogsjaar 1915 eindigde in mineur. Vader Florent Boeynaems en de kinderen in Engeland bleven voor altijd gescheiden. Florent Boeynaems overleed op de vooravond van Kerstmis 1915. Hij was amper 55 jaar.

(cfr. Brieven van 2 maart 1915 en 26 maart 1915, postkaarten van 14 maart 1915, 20 april 1915, 1 augustus 1915, 16 augustus 1915, 26 november 1915 en 17 december 1915)

1916 Paul Boeynaems vroeg zijn overplaatsing naar het Front en kwam in februari 1916 terecht in hetzelfde regiment van zijn broer Jean. In een brief van 6 september 1916 lezen we dat moeder Marie Coosemans en haar zoon Joseph Boeynaems in Kerkom (Boutersem) waren om tante Regina Van Welde te bezoeken. Regina Van Welde was de zus van Maria Van Welde, de overleden moeder van Marie Coosemans. Ze verbleven er enkele dagen. Joseph Boeynaems was dus niet in Engeland. Ofwel was hij altijd al thuis gebleven ofwel was hij in 1915 meegekomen naar Antwerpen met Hélène en Hubert. Na het overlijden van hun vader kregen de kinderen in Engeland extra morele steun van hun oom Gustave en tante Marie (Simons- Boeynaems) . In Tunbridge Wells brachten de Belgische vluchtelingen geregeld hulde aan de leden van hun opvangcomité.  Als blijk van dank voor de opvang, het onthaal en de onverdroten inzet werden in juli 1916 twee bijzondere leden van het Mayor’s Belgian Refugees Committee  gehuldigd: de gezusters Amelia en Louisa Scott. Zij ontvingen een album volledig versierd met allerlei tekeningen, schilderijtjes, teksten, gedichten, muziekstukken en handtekeningen en namen van de Belgische vluchtelingen. In dit album “The Misses Scott Album” werden teksten geschreven door Florent Coosemans en zijn echtgenote Louise Martin en ook naamkaartjes gekleefd met de namen van de kinderen Boeynaems Marthe, Suzanne, Florent, Yvonne, Pierre, Jacques, Marie-Louise en Ludovic.

In een brief aan zijn zus Marthe probeerde Ferdinand  Boeynaems duidelijk te maken dat het leven in bezet België er veel slechter aan toe was dan in Engeland. Er was veel ontbering en schaarste. Noodgedwongen door de omstandigheden en voor hun bestwil werden de kinderen door Ferdinand aangemaand om in Engeland te blijven. Desnoods mochten ze verhuizen naar een andere locatie en hierover eventueel raad vragen aan de rest van de familie die ter plaatse was of zelfs ook aan hun broer Paul. Marthe was tijdelijk tewerkgesteld als vrijwilliger in het West Hall Hospital in Tunbridge Wells. Het was één van Voluntary Aid Detachment hospitalen van het Rode Kruis in Tunbridge Wells. Marthe was geen verpleegster maar het hospitaal kon alle hulp gebruiken; in de hospitalen lagen ook Belgische slachtoffers. Ze bleef er waarschijnlijk een tijdlang overnachten want haar broer Paul zond in september 1917 een kaartje op dat adres: Tunbridge Wells, West Hall Hospital, Chilston Road.

(cfr. Postkaarten van 16 februari 1916, 2 maart 1916, 7 september1916 en een brief van 8 september 1916)

1917 De kinderen verlieten Tunbridge Wells eind 1916 of begin 1917. Ze verhuisden naar London en vestigden zich eerst in South Kensington:  London South Kensington, Onslow Gardens 18 en London South Kensington, Gledhow Gardens, 2. Nog in datzelfde jaar verhuisden ze naar London, Russell Square 21. Dit werd hun laatste adres in Engeland. Ze trokken in boven de kantoren van de krant “De Stem uit België” uitgegeven door kanunnik Floris Prims, goed gekend in de familie Boeynaems. Suzanne en wellicht ook Marthe en Yvonne Boeynaems werden er tewerkgesteld in de administratie. In januari of februari 1917 waren Jean en Paul Boeynaems met verlof in Engeland en lieten zich  samen met hun broers en zussen fotograferen voor een familiefoto. De foto werd genomen door Sketches – Oxford Street, 72 London.

Boeynaems 6

 

 

 

–Yvonne-Florent-Suzanne-Paul-

 

–Jean-Marthe-Pierre-Marie Louise-

 

–Jacques-Ludovic

 

 

 

 

In mei 1917 kregen Hélène Boeynaems en René van Meerbeeck hun eerste kindje, Monique van Meerbeeck. In datzelfde jaar betreurden de kinderen Boeynaems het overlijden van hun grootoom en groottante Jean Hagenaers en zijn echtgenote Louise Boeynaems, hun groottante Régina Van Welde en hun tantes Marguerite Boeynaems en Marie Boeynaems. Eind 1917 was Marie-Louise Boeynaems ziek geworden op school in St Leonards-on-Sea en kwam een week rusten bij haar zussen in Londen. Zoon Florent die met schoolverlof was in Londen vertelde in een lange brief aan zijn broer Pierre al het nieuws uit de Russel Square 21 en ook zijn belevenissen in de nieuwe school in Norwood.

(cfr. Postkaart van 25 maart 1917, brief van 10 december 1917)

1918 In januari ontving Marthe Boeynaems nieuws uit Antwerpen van haar zus Hélène en haar broer Joseph. De postkaarten werden verzonden via een tussenpersoon uit Nederland:

Dhr. Van Herck, een steenfabrikant in Sluiskil Terneuzen. Om de Duitse bezetter te misleiden en de naam van de uiteindelijke bestemmeling toch te verduidelijken werd in de adressering de voornaam van Marthe gekoppeld aan de familienaam van de tussenpersoon.

Hubert Boeynaems stuurde een postkaart naar Dhr. De Roeck in Engeland om nieuws te ontvangen omtrent het overlijden van Marie Boeynaems, echtgenote van Gustave Simons. Ook deze kaart ging via Terneuzen.

Boeynaems 7a boeynaems 7b

Hélène van Meerbeeck-Boeynaems en haar dochtertje Monique waren tijdens het Kerstverlof op bezoek in de Prinsstraat.

 boeynaems 8

Hubert – Ferdinand

Hélène – moeder Marie Coosemans – Monique – Joseph

Achteraan op een kastje, tussen Joseph en Ferdinand, prijkt de foto van Paul Boeynaems in militair tenue

Jean Boeynaems raakte gekwetst en werd op 1 oktober afgevoerd naar een hospitaal in Le Havre (F). Paul Boeynaems kreeg op 8 november een vermelding in de dagorde van zijn regiment voor zijn vastberaden houding bij de bevrijding van het kanaal in de streek van Ertvelde tijdens het eindoffensief. Yvonne Boeynaems keerde terug naar Antwerpen op het einde van 1918.

Uitgerekend op de dag dat de wapens zwegen overleed Ferdinand Boeynaems. Hij stierf ten gevolge van de Spaanse griep. Vreugde sloeg al vlug om in verdriet. Niet lang voordien stond hij nog lachend op een familiefoto thuis in de Prinsstraat..

1919 De brieven van 9 en 10 januari waren de enige brieven vanuit Engeland naar het thuisfront die werden teruggevonden. Hierin lezen we dat Suzanne Boeynaems nog in London was. Ze schreef aan haar zus Yvonne dat veel vluchtelingen al vertrokken waren. Ze kondigde ook het nakende vertrek aan van de familie René Dieltiens, de familie Denijn en ook van Mevr. Brusselmans. Het is niet geweten wanneer al de kinderen Boeynaems volgden. Na het Kerstverlof 1918/1919 vervoegden Pierre en Florent Boeynaems alleszins opnieuw de school in Upper Norwood. Jean Boeynaems werd op 6 augustus 1919 met onbepaald verlof geplaatst en Paul Boeynaems op 15 augustus 1919. Niet iedereen keerde terug naar Antwerpen. Marthe Boeynaems had zich intussen verloofd met een arts uit Kortrijk, Karel Depla. Ze huwden in Londen in 1920 en kregen zes kinderen. Maar het noodlot sloeg opnieuw toe. De tweede wereldoorlog werd haar fataal. Ze overleed tijdens een bombardement op Londen in 1940. Haar kinderen en kleinkinderen bleven in Engeland.

(cfr.Brieven van 9 en 10 januari 1919)

Het onderwijs

Zodra het mogelijk was werden de kinderen ondergebracht in kostscholen. De jongens Florent, Pierre, Jacques en Ludovic Boeynaems volgden eerst onderwijs in Stroud in het graafschap Gloucestershire. Florent verliet de school in Stroud  en verhuisde naar het St. Mary’s College in Upper Norwood  in zuidoost Londen. Later gingen Pierre, Jacques en Ludovic naar het St Joseph College in Malvern Wells in het graafschap Worcestershire. In 1919 waren Pierre en Florent Boeynaems in het St.Mary’s College in Upper Norwood. Ludovic verbleef ook enige tijd in het St Paul’s Convent in Brighton. Marie-Louise vervoegde de Convent school in St Leonards-on-Sea bij Hastings in het graafschap Sussex.

Wie is wie                                                                                            

In heel wat brieven en postkaarten werden namen vermeld die tot op heden onbekend zijn gebleven. Misschien kunnen sommige lezers en lezeressen meer verduidelijking brengen bij sommige namen. En horen die namen wellicht ook thuis in een ander verhaal. Reacties zijn altijd welkom.

* Bij de vlucht uit België in 1914: Nuchelmans, Sluyts, Scrivener ?

* In een brief van 26 maart 1915: Leo of Léon Van Nieuwenhuize, Alice Van Nieuwenhuize en haar broer ?

* Op een postkaart van november 1915 van Jean Boeynaems: René De Jongh en Etienne ?

* Op een postkaart van 16 februari 1916 van Jean Boeynaems: Adolphe, Emmanuel, Arnold Van Kerkhoven, Lahaye, Dupuis?

* Op een postkaart van 25 maart 1917 van Jean Boeynaems: Mej Lombart (heeft pakje naar hem gestuurd) ?

* In een brief van 10 december 1917 van zoon Florent Boeynaems:

Mevr Maria Van Bavel (was tewerkgesteld bij “De Stem uit België”) ?

Mevr Josephine (was tewerkgesteld bij “De Stem uit België”) ?

Bouveroux, Willemsen Maes, leraars ?

– Arsène, Piesen, Cornelius, medeleerlingen van Florent en Pierre Boeynaems ?

Dhr Fernand Robert ?


Cyriel Boeynaems   13 juni 2017


Ik ben zo dankbaar voor Cyriel voor deze bewegende en persoonlijke rekening van de ervaringen van zijn familie. Als u kunt helpen bij een van zijn vragen, of kan toevoegen aan het verhaal van zijn familie, neem dan contact met hem op via de contactpagina van deze blog. Dank je.     Alison MacKenzie

What are the chances?  The MATTHIEUWIS family from Mechelen

When I was transcribing the 1916 Scott Album a couple of years ago, some of the names were a struggle to decipher.  Such as this one which, after a year or two, and much Googling, I decided was MATTHIEUWIS :p25_matthieuwis

And it stuck in my mind. 

The full entry is :

Matthieuwis jB         J. Verschueren           Mad. Verschueren

Bailles de Fer 14, Malines

Mad.  Matthieuwis        Jos. Verschueren      Jose Devrory

Fast forward to today :

We’re discussing the creation of a database of those who signed the Scott album and what to include, and for reference I turned to one available online for the refugees who were in Glasgow – and got side-tracked. 

I started looking for familiar names, just in case.  I knew the refugees moved around. Not just within Tunbridge Wells, but also the UK.  We’d not yet found any who came to Tunbridge Wells from Glasgow, but that didn’t mean there weren’t any. 

As I scanned the (very long) list of names, one leapt out at me : MATTHIEUWIS, Jean and Barbara, both 66, c/o Little Sisters of the Poor, 180 Garngadhill [1], Glasgow, whence they departed on 16th October 1914 – no onward address given.

But their address in Belgium is given as “Balde Fer 14, Malines” – surely a mis-spelling/transcription of “Bailles de Fer”.  Has to be the same family if not the same people… doesn’t it?


[1] Now Roystonhill

King’s Day, 15th November 1914

Sunday 15th November was an important date in the calendar for the Belgian Community : it was (and still is) King’s Day – la Fete du RoiKoningsdag – the King’s feast day [1] – and the day was celebrated in style in 1914 by the refugees and their hosts.

- The World's Work, 1919:Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30736306 https://archive.org/stream/worldswork38gard#page/634/mode/2up,
King Albert I by Richard Neville Speaight

The Belgian flag was flown over most of the town’s public buildings, the Belgians themselves sported ribbons in their national colours of black, gold and red, and a full account of the proceedings was given in the local press the following Friday [2].

The day began with a Mass and the singing of patriotic hymns (though no mention on this occasion of a Te Deum) at St Augustine’s Catholic Church at which the huge congregation spilled out into Hanover Road.  A special choir of Belgian refugees, including the Sisters of Mercy from Malines, was conducted by M. Denyn, and Canon Keatinge preached at length on the debt owed to the Belgian people by English Catholics whose forebears had taken refuge across the Channel during the reign of Elizabeth I.

After the service, the Belgians marched from the church to their temporary homes on Upper Grosvenor Road (at this early stage probably numbers 32 (Cintra House) and 47 (“the Belgian Hostel”), waving Belgian flags and singing their National Anthem, cheered on by crowds of local people who lined their way.

In the afternoon, the Belgian community gathered in the room lent to them for that purpose at the Constitutional Club on Calverley Road, to celebrate “their courageous King Albert”.  M. Ernest KUMPS, provisional President of the newly-formed Belgian Club Albert, expressed their thanks for the “many kind attentions” they were receiving in Tunbridge Wells, and to the Mayor and the Corporation for the telegram they had sent King Albert to mark the occasion.

The next day a grand concert was held in the Pump Room [3] on The Pantiles, organised by Mr Frank HIRD [4] in the presence of the Mayor and Mayoress. Nearly 600 people, mostly Belgians, from all parts of the district, attended, according to the Kent & Sussex Courier, which described it as “a gathering unique in the history of the town”. The entire programme was in French with performances by local artistes who kindly gave their services – there was a short play in French [5], a ballet solo (which was so enjoyed it had to be repeated), recitations, piano solos – and an imitation of farmyard animals by a Miss Parbury.

2016-08-25-11-05-32

Mr Hird received the ultimate accolade for the celebration when one of those attending shook him warmly by the hand and delared that it was “just like being at home”.

The occasion ended with the Allies’ National Anthems and was followed by refreshments : coffee, not tea – of course.


[1] King’s Day – 15th November is the feast day of both St Leopold and St Albert, and has been celebrated as King’s Day since 1866, during the reign of Leopold II.  It is not a national public holiday, but is traditionally marked with a Te Deum at the Cathedral in Brussels, and a secular ceremony at the Belgian Federal Parliament.

[2] K & S Courier, Friday 20th November 1914

[3] The Pump Room was demolished in 1964 and replaced by the lovely Union House

[4] Journalist and author Frank (Francis) HIRD was the adopted son and companion of sculptor Sir Ronald Gower of Mayo House on Mount Ephraim.  Frank Hird was well known in the town for “organising amateur entertainments in aid of good works” (Kent & Sussex Courier, July 1915).  In November 1914 he was helping out at West Hall VAD Hospital, and in October 1915 he became Secretary to the newly-opened Kingswood Park VAD Hospital.  From 1917-1918 he was a Church Army Commissioner at the Front.  Sir Ronald died in 1916 and Frank Hird in 1937.  They are buried together at St Paul’s Rusthall.

[5]”Doctoresse et Couturier” by Julien Berr de Turique, a one-act play about a female doctor and a male dressmaker, who, after a series of misunderstandings, end up married – of course.  The part of the dresssmaker was played by the Hon. Stephen Powys.

 

The refugees who never went home

I have just returned from giving a talk about the First World War “Belgian Colony” of Tunbridge Wells in the Victorian Chapel at Tunbridge Wells Cemetery.

The cemetery is the final resting place of seven of the Belgian exiles who took refuge in our town, and earlier today I visited their graves with local expert Anne Bates who had prepared Belgian flags to mark them, ready for visitors in the afternoon.

We took the opportunity to place flowers on each one and wondered how many years it has been since their memory was honoured.

Four of the graves have headstones but three are unmarked.

The flags, we have left there – they are in Sections B6 and C5, Roman Catholic Sections, not far from the lower entrance on Bayham Road, should anyone care to pass by.


An impressive headstone near to the path is that of 58 year-old Rosalie GEBRUERS-DE PAUW, wife of telephone fitter Sebastien GEBRUERS, who died in the Workhouse Infirmary at Pembury on 26 February 1916.tunbridge-wells-cemetery-004

A la pieuse mémoire de Dame Rosalie Marie DE PAUW épouse de Sébastien GEBRUERS née a Oostmalle (Prov. a’Anvers) Belgique le 26 janvier 1857 décédée a Tunbridge Wells le 26 février 1916.  Priez pour elle

C5/204


A few yards away are four more graves, three with monuments, one unmarked.

Two are the graves of Madame Hélène DENYN and her 12 year-old daughter, Emma, the the first wife and youngest daughter of Josef DENYN, the ‘carilloneur’ of Malines Cathedral.

Emma Carolina Maria DENYN died on 28th September 1916, just over 100 years ago, and two days after her 12th birthday, at 3 Eastcliff Road – the family’s temporary home, provided by the Refugees Committee.  Her mother followed just under a year later on 23rd September 1917.  Their graves are one in front of the other, so that standing in front of Madame Denyn’s cross, her daughter is just behind her.

tunbridge-wells-cemetery-015

Ici repose Dame Hélène SCHUERMANS-DENYN

sadly the rest is difficult to read

tunbridge-wells-cemetery-008

B6/96

A notre regrettée Emma Caroline Marie DENYN née à  Malines (Belgique) le 26 septembre 1904

B6/33


Next to Emma DENYN is 2 year old Joseph VAN NULAND who died on 1st September 1916 at 154b Upper Grosvenor Road.  His parents were stockbroker Paul Francois VAN NULAND and his wife Marie HANOCQ from chaussée de Turnhout, Antwerp.  Joseph had an older sister Rose-Marie who was born in Tunbridge Wells on 17th October 1915, at which time the family were living at 7 Calverley Park Crescent.

tunbridge-wells-cemetery-007

A la douce memoire de Joseph Louis Marie VAN NULAND [illegible] mars 1914

B6/32

On 4th July 1917 another son was born to M. and Mme VAN NULAND.  They named him Joseph Marie Odilon.

tunbridge-wells-cemetery-012


And in an unmarked plot nearby ( B6/90) lies Wilhelmina Florentina VANHERCKE, the unmarried daughter of cabinet-maker Jean VANHERCKE, who died on 1st May 1916 of pneumonia, aged 66 years.

From Ostend, she was living at 11 Linden Park, Frant Hill  with, I think,  her widowed sister Maria TANGHE, Maria’s daughter Germaine, Germaine’s husband Oscar GROVEN, and their baby daughter Gladys.  A married brother lived in Dover where he worked on the railways.  They had stayed near him and his family when they first arrived in England – at that time Germaine TANGHE and Oscar GROVEN were only ‘fiancés’ – they married in Dover on 23rd Feburary 1915.


There are two more unmarked graves – C5/115 and C5/172 tunbridge-wells-cemetery-005-cropped-becker-beneden

7 month old Helene BECKER, youngest daughter of basket-maker Victor BECKER, died on 23rd March 1915 at the General Hospital on Grosvenor Road – she must have been so tiny when the family fled their home at Pont-de-Loup near Charleroi.


And Theodore VAN BENEDEN, a labourer employed at the Church Army Home on Upper Grosvenor Rd, who died of pneumonia on 1st February 1917 at 63 Grosvenor Park.

funeral-theodore-van-beneden


May they rest in peace.

tunbridge-wells-cemetery-009-cropped


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100 years ago today – à Mesdemoiselles SCOTT

Updated 21 August 2016

On 22nd July 1916, the Belgian Colony of Tunbridge Wells celebrated their National Day (21st July) by honouring the ladies of the Mayor’s Refugee Committee – Mrs BURTON, Mrs GUTHRIE, Miss POWER, Mrs Le LACHEUR, Mme Le JEUNE, Miss McCLEAN, Mrs WILSON and the Misses SCOTT – and the local Doctors – WILSON, C. SMITH and GUTHRIE – who ministered to the refugees free of charge.

A ceremony and celebration was held in the Town Hall on Calverley Road to which townspeople and Belgian refugees were invited. On the evening in question the hall was packed.

At 7.30pm precisely the Mayor, Councillor Charles Whitbourn EMSON with his wife, Margaret, and Miss EMSON (presumably their elder daughter, Marjorie), arrived in the hall and were welcomed by Monsieur Florent COOSEMANS, Mrs EMSON then being presented with a floral arrangement of orchids and roses by one of the Belgian children.  Monsieur Albert LE JEUNE, Honorary President of the ‘Club Albert’ spoke patriotically of his country’s history and its links with Britain, and Monsieur COOSEMANS then spoke of the two years they had spent in exile and of the kindness afforded to them by the people of Tunbridge Wells, and by the ladies and doctors of the Committee in particular.

The reception received in this lovely county, rightly named the Garden of England, was above what the Belgian people could have expected… It took all the dexterity and amiability of the British, whose noble and chivalrous character was proverbial, to sweeten their troubles and suffering. (Kent & Sussex Courier, 28 July 1916)

While the Kent and Sussex Courier reported that a commemorative album, to which all the Belgians in the area had contributed, was then presented to Mrs EMSON as the representative of the ladies of the Committee, the Belgian press-in-exile reported that albums were given to each of the ladies of the Committee – including Belgian refugee Mme LE JEUNE – , along with bouquets of flowers.

What we know for certain is that an album was presented to the Misses SCOTT -Amelia and Louisa.  Because it still exists – in the Papers of Amelia Scott which are held in the Women’s Library @ LSE [1]

SCOTT Cover
The Album

It is an amazing resource, providing as it does a list of names of possibly all, maybe most, certainly some, of those in the area at the time.  Some entries take up a whole page – there are patriotic poems, poems of gratitude, drawings and paintings. I will never forget my excitement when I first held it in my hands back in December 2013!

I have transcribed this wonderful album, and to mark its Centenary I am today posting a new page with the names and addresses of all the signatories (see tabs above).

SCOTT3
‘Club Albert’ Committee 1916

And some fascinating discoveries as I research the names.  Among them is Josef DENYN, the famous ‘carilloneur’ of Malines, who was a close friend of local musician and composer, William Wooding STARMER, and spent the whole period of the war in Tunbridge Wells with his family;

p10_DENYN Music
Carillon Music by ‘Mechlin Bellmaster’ Josef DENYN

members of the family of painter James ENSOR of Ostend were here, and possibly his companion and muse, Augusta BOOGAERTS;

p18_Ensor_Boogaerts2
Augusta BOOGAERTS and Madame ENSOR

Albert LE JEUNE, Hon. President of the Club Albert of Tunbridge Wells, went on to be a Belgian Senator for the Antwerp region – my photo of his family’s entry is very blurred, so here instead is Madame Florent COOSEMANS’ painting of Bruges and a poem of homage to Great Britain which I presume she wrote herself since she doesn’t credit anyone else…

p4_Coosemans_Mme - Bruges cropped
Contribution from Madame Florent COOSEMANS

Mayor EMSON and Doctor WILSON thanked the gathering on behalf of the Committee and the doctors, and the evening concluded with a concert and the National Anthems of Belgium and Britain.

concert 1916
Concert programme, Belgian National Day 1916
Concert performers :
Mons. J. DENYN, Mr. O. GROVEN, Madame O. GROVEN, Mlle & Mme DENYN, Mons. DELATTRE, Mons. R. DAVELUY, Mons. R. CLAEYS, Mr WHITBURN, Miss Sylvia WRIGHT, Miss Suzy SWAN.

SCOTT invitation 2 cropped
Invitation to the Misses SCOTT for the event on 22 July 1916

Notes:

[1] Photos taken on my mobile phone

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