At the outbreak of the Great War, the Belgian city of Louven was the subject of mass destruction by the German army over a period of five days from the 25th August 1914. The city was burnt and looted. Its library of ancient manuscripts was burnt and destroyed, as was its university along with many other public buildings. The citizenry of Louvain were subject to mass shootings regardless of age or gender. Local artist Candida Wright’s grandmother, Marie Sidonie De Meyer, at the time lived there with her family.

215FLK - Marie Sidonie De Meyer - A Belgian Refugee

Marie escaped with her life and never saw her father and mother again. At the age of 20 it is likely that she was among some 100,000 or more Belgian refugees who shortly after managed to escape across the Channel to Folkestone. Subsequently she secured employment at Orchard Deane in Henley on the Fairmile, Henley on Thames. She then met and in 1924 married Thomas Henry Chaplin of Henley who had served with the British Army for the duration of the Great War. They had six children, their youngest daughter being Candida’s mother Elizabeth. Strangely, years later, in 2006 Candida moved to Folkestone unaware of the connection the town had with the arrival of the Belgian refugees and probably her grandmother until she saw the Franzoni painting in the local library.

Image courtesy of Elizabeth Wright and information courtesy of Geoff Wright.


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