A one-minute newsreel from the BFI National Archive: Ostend in War-Time (1914). For more, see the ‘Refugee Week Collection’ on BFI Player. In most cases, these BFI titles will be available to book and screen for no cost. Please get in touch via Britain-On-Film@bfi.org.uk with details of your screening.
Belgium suffered a refugee crisis when German forces invaded in August 1914, as troops and civilians fleeing Antwerp and other occupied towns poured into West Flanders. This newsreel item, shot in the coastal city of Ostend, captures something of the chaos as soldiers, civilians, horses, wagons and weaponry flood in, alongside hundreds of refugees hoping to board boats for England.
Ostend was a popular seaside resort until WWI broke. From Antwerp to Ostend, a travelogue filmed in the same year, points out the beach bathing machines – which became makeshift housing during the refugee crisis – and shows fashionable holidaymakers strolling on the promenade. Many of the opulent buildings seen in both films would be destroyed in the years of fighting.