Refugees Flee to and From Antwerp

News Weekly and Book Excerpts Giving More Detailed Information :

'The War Illustrated 2'

'At the Front with Three Armies'


Two artists' renderings of a dramatic night-time crossing of the bridge of boats under artillery bombardment.


Before the fight for Antwerp started in late September 1914, many Belgians had already fled their homes and sought safety in the entrenched camp. Several hundred thousand refugees entered the city, hoping to find protection from the invading German army.


The newly arrived refugees needed food, shelter and medical attention in an already overcrowded city.


2 photos by Donald Thompson (see excerpts from 'Fighting in Flanders')


When the news spread that the Belgian government and army were going to abandon the city,
panic broke out and all who could trie to flee Antwerp :
they went on foot, by cart, by railroad and by boat


An illustration showing refugees crowding through the city en route to the pontoon bridge across the river.
On the way they pass a shrine.
This is a meticulously correctly rendered illustration of an actual street in Antwerp,
though the scene taken as a whole is somewhat dramatic in scope.


A mass of people trying to cross the river on the bridge of boats (upper left background)


A photo and an illustration of refugees on the quayside. The illustration, though architecturally more or less correct is once again over-dramatised, as no houses on the quays were shelled during the fighting for Antwerp. It is estimated that up 500 000 people fled the city in 2 days times, flooding the roads and railroads. Of this number, about half fled by boat downstream into neutral Dutch territory.


People used any means at hand to flee the German army : those who could, boarded any kind of ship or boat they could find and sailed downstream into Dutch territory. From there, many continued their flight to Ostend or England.

(see the account in 'At the Front with Three Armies')


Many people fled northwards on foot or by cart to Holland.

(see the account in 'The War Illustrated 2')

A photo of Belgian refugees in a Dutch camp.
Note that in 1914, the term 'concentration camp' did not yet have the sinsiter connotation that it acquired in the following World War.

*(see also the following link to Belgian Refugees in the Netherlands)


Returning back to Antwerp under German occupation. Arrival of refugees in the Antwerp Central Station.


Many other refugees fled to Great Britain.
Here is a newspaper appeal for contributions towards a Belgian Children Refugee's Fund.



A Poem from 'The Camp Magazine'

published by interned soldiers of the Royal Naval Brigade in Groningen Holland
from Issue no. 1 - April 1915


As weary once thro' Belgium I strode
Along the ancient cobbled road,
With tall dark trees on either side,
Suddenly a house there I espied.
Outside there stood an old, old, man,
His clothes were bare, his features wan,
Still he stood with concious pride,
With no sign of fear, no wish to hide,
While ever before him there passed along
The refugees - a silent throng.
I too, passed on my way,
But he stood firm, come what may.
Deep in thought I wondered why
He preferred to stay, perhaps to die.
Home - memories - and all those
That make the lives of peasants and Kings,
Better the bricks in a mould'ring cot,
Than to go away from this sacred spot.
Old man! Old man! A moral you taught,
Be firm in trouble: have strength in thought.