“We shall never forget the English people”

The Laurent family from Belgian had been guests of the people of Burghfield for almost a year. Now they were moving on:


In the Magazine of November 1914 will be found an account of the arrival on 24th October of M and Mme Laurent, of 5 Rue de Diest, Louvain, and their two daughters, and last July they were joined by their young son (aged 16) who has been working in Wales. After almost exactly a year, they have now left us on 19th October, Mme Laurent being in very poor health and unable (in the opinion of Dr Lake of Brookfield, who has been very kind to her) to bear another winter in the Old Schools.

They have passed now under the care of the Mayor of Reading’s Belgian Relief Committee, who have found accommodation for them at 102 London Road, where we hope they will be comfortable until the happy times of peace, and return to their own land.

All of us who have know them are sorry to lose them, and it is pleasant to know that our warm feelings are reciprocated, as may be gathered from the following rather free translation of a farewell letter written on their departure:

The Old Schools

To the Committee of Burghfield

We, the Laurent family, wish to let readers (of the Magazine) know how much gratitude we feel is due from us to the Committee of Burghfield. It is a whole year since we took refuge in the parish, and from our arrival here down to the day of our departure, we cannot say how generous they have been to us. And at the last we cannot help expressing to all the members of the Committee our best thanks. And we shall never forget the English people, and we hope our compatriots will do the same.

La Famille Laurent, qui doit tant de reconnaissance au Comite de Burghfield.

Alphonse Laurent
Florence (nee Cazier) Laurent
Reine Laurent
Jeanne Eleanore Laurent
Arthur Laurent

Burghfield parish magazine, November 1915 (D/EX725/3)

The essential parts of a soldier

The Burghfield parish magazine for June was supporting a Belgian refugee’s attempts to earn a living. Meanwhile, political opponents were working together to raise money to help the wounded.

The daughters of Monsieur Laurent – our Belgian guests, who are still living at the Old school, Burghfield, are very anxious to give some lessons in French, chiefly conversational. They would be very glad to hear of any pupils: the terms would be very moderate. Applications to be made to Mademoiselle Laurent, at “The Old School”.

Arranged by the St John’s Ambulance and British Red Cross.

The collection amounted to &8. 15s.0d in Burghfield, and a letter was received from Mr Forster, expressing gratitude from the Central Committee to all who helped in so successful a result, adding that:

“While he was responsible for the organisation of the South Berks district, Mr Wright, the Liberal Agent, dealt with the Borough of Newbury, which fact ought to be mentioned to prevent any misapprehension, as there was no idea of making it a party matter in any sense.”

Mrs Willink takes this opportunity of thanking most heartily all those who helped so kindly and willingly in making the collection.


The following lines are by Philip Massinger, a dramatist of the 17th century. We shall agree that the qualities which merit “the noble name of Soldier” are the same in the 20th century as they were in the days of our forefathers – qualities which are conspicuous today in the conduct of thousands of our heroic officers and men at the Front.

If e’er my son
Follow the war, tell him it is a school,
Where all the principles tending to honour
Are taught, if truly follow’d: but for such
As repair thither, as a place in which
They do presume they may with licence practise
Their lusts and riots, they shall never merit
The noble name of soldiers. To dare boldly
In a fair cause, and, for their country’s safety,
To run upon the cannon’s mouth undaunted;
To obey their leaders, and shun mutinies;
To bear with patience the winter’s cold,
And summer’s scorching heat, and not to faint,
When plenty of provision fails, with hunger;
Are the essential parts make up a soldier,
Not swearing, dice, or drinking.

Philip Massinger

Burghfield parish magazine, June 1915 (D/EX725/3)

The cheerfulness and resignation of the Belgian refugees is beyond praise

The Burghfield parish magazine tells its readers a little more about the Belgian family they had welcomed to their midst:

It will interest Burghfield people to know that Madame Schram and her two daughters, who have been living at Barnhey, by the kind permission of the Miss Vyners, are going to a little house prepared for Belgian Refugees near Silchester. We are sorry to lose them from Burghfield, but they will like a little house by themselves. Madame Rasquin could hardly be left alone, and through the kindness of Dr Lake accommodation has been found for her in the Refugees’ Home at Blackheath. Monsieur et Madame Laurent and their daughters remain at the old School, and no doubt their Burghfield friends will continue to be kind to them with little gifts of luxuries and clothing, for both of which they will be most grateful. Their cheerfulness and resignation, after the loss of all their earthly possessions, are beyond praise.

Burghfield parish magazine, January 1915 (D/EX725/3)