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Facing East

Now Available Facing EastEngland’s Eastern Counties Welcome Belgian Refugees1914 – 1919ISBN:-10: 1985409844ISBN-13: 978 1985409842Available from amazon.co.uk and amazon.comA brief introduction to the bookFor centuries the threat of enemy invasion to Great Britain had been from France or Spain to the South Coast. In the early twentieth century this changed. Britain’s long east-facing coastline made it vulnerable to attack by Germany and to the presence of enemy agents. Belgium was a neutral country. It had declared its independence when it broke from the Netherlands in 1831 and Britain had guaranteed Belgian independence in the 1839 Treaty of London. The signatories included the World War I belligerent powers. In 1905, Germany’s Schlieffen Plan envisaged a German attack through Belgium and Holland into Northern France as the best route for them to encircle Paris. On 31 July 1914 Britain asked both France and Germany if they would respect Belgian neutrality. France replied 'yes’; Germany, having already declared war against Russia, did not reply, but the next day invaded Luxembourg and on 3rd August declared war on France. That day Belgium denied Germany permission for its forces to pass through to the French border to outflank the French army so on 4th August, having protested against this violation of Belgian neutrality, Britain declared war on Germany and people’s lives changed. Britain’s space - interior and exterior, private and public - was given over to, or procured for the war effort. People’s identity shifted into clearly defined military categories such as ‘neutrals,’ ‘allies,’ or ‘aliens’. 'Fugitives' were not people fleeing from justice. The words ‘Refugees’ or ‘fugitives’ included anyone trying to get from an area of perceived danger back to their country of origin as well as those fleeing from their homes to places of safety. These groups included British people who began to make their way across Europe towards the Channel.