Wounded Belgian Heroes in Tonbridge, 1914: by Pam Mills

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Following the Siege of Antwerp, many Belgians fled for their lives coming to the UK. On 16th October 1914, a ‘special’ Ambulance train arrived at Tonbridge Station in the early hours of the morning carrying several wounded Belgian soldiers & one French soldier. Tonbridge was one of only 200 stops in the country for this special service. A large number of volunteers met the arrival of this train with cars, stretchers and an ambulance and transported the men as comfortably as they were able to Tonbridge School sanatorium, located in Rowan Mews, Dernier Road.

The sanitorium had been generously been offered for use until the Red Cross hospital at Quarry Hill House had been furnished.

According to the Tonbridge Free Press, on arrival the men were treated to a beef tea prepared by the ladies of the detachment, while a Belgian newspaper published a full list of the wounded accommodated in Tonbridge.

 

 

A selection of photographs taken at the school sanatorium. Source- private collection

After a week the Red Cross hospital (VAD 44, shown below) was ready to accommodate the wounded, and all but one was transferred.  Due to his deterioration, one soldier called Louis Marx was kept at the sanatorium but after a few weeks he asked to be moved to be near his friends.

On 20th November 1914 Marx sadly died aged 24. There was a very impressive Military funeral in his honour (see photo below) with a procession behind the hearse, three volleys fired over the grave by Tonbridge Officer Cadets and the last post being played. The coffin was covered with the Belgian flag and the Rev Walsh from Corpus Christi Church officiated.

The grave (pictured below) is in Tonbridge cemetery.

Photo by Pam Mills

Every effort has been made to trace this soldier’s family to no avail, but although there is no family to tend his grave, every year on Remembrance Sunday a poppy is placed upon his grave, along with all the other heroes that lost their lives in WW1.

Sources

Belgian archives, Brussels.

L’Independence Belge, 20th November 1914.

Kent and Sussex Courier, 27th November 1914.

Tonbridgian [Tonbridge School magazine] December 1914.

Tonbridge Free Press, October and November 1914.

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