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TCE in the Community: Belgium refugees buried during First World War finally given proper resting place

Two young Belgian refugees buried in an unmarked grave during in Northwich the First World War have finally be given a proper resting place, and Tata Chemicals Europe were there to see the unveiling.

Around 250 Belgian refugees were housed Northwich and Winsford during the war. One of the refugees, Frans Buyssens, believed to be aged ten, died of peritonitis in February 1915. He was buried in Northwich cemetery.

 

In June that year Henri Joseph Burghys, also aged 10, died during an operation at the Victoria Infirmary. He was buried in the same grave as the other Belgian boy.

They are the only two recorded deaths among refugees during their stay in Mid Cheshire.

Their burials were paid for by Sir John, of Brunner Mond, which is now known as Tata Chemicals Europe.

Much of the boys’ history was pieced together by Alan Lowe, from the Northwich and District Heritage Society.

More than a century later, thanks to a collaborative project, the boys have now been given permanent graves featuring details of their short lives.

Their new graves were unveiled on Monday at Northwich Town Cemetery, by Saint Helen Witton Church.

The blessing was attended by John Meeus, Honorary Consul for Belgium, Cllr Kevin Rimmer, mayor of Northwich, Dr Tim Grady from Chester University and representatives from Tata Chemicals.

A spokesman for Tata Chemicals said: “We are proud to have been a part of this project, and would like to commend Alan Lowe on his tireless research, hard work and dedication to ensuring that these two boys will be remembered for many, many years to come.

“Without Alan's perseverance, Henri and Frans would have been forgotten forever.

“It seemed only right for us to get involved, and to continue the legacy of our founder Sir John Brunner more than a century on.

“Hopefully this headstone, and the interest it is generating, will lead us to discovering long-lost descendants of the boys."

The project was also assisted by the Centre for Hidden Histories, one of the Arts and Humanities Research Council's First World War Engagement Centres.