Sometimes people contact York Photographic Society asking for help with a specific photographic project. A few weeks ago a historian living in Belgium, René Van der Straeten, asked for help in locating and photographing a missing Belgian soldier who was buried in Fulford Cemetery.
I immediately volunteered and in the process of performing this simple task I discovered an amazing history of York in the Great War. Over 4000 Belgian soldiers with serious ailments and illnesses were send to the U.K hospitals for recovery during WW1. Sometime that recovery wasn't successful and they died and slightly more than 10 % never returned to Belgium but there was an incredible 90% recovery record. Quite a few of these soldiers were subsequently based in York at one of the five Red Cross auxiliary hospitals.
Many Belgian refugees were housed in New Earswick, Rowntree's model village. 9 houses were donated rent free by the directors and the workers of the chocolate factory gave money to help support the families. I don't know where George Pieters was based or if he was recuperating from war injuries but there must be an interesting story in how he came to die in York.
I also learnt that York suffered from Zeppelin raids on May 2, 1916. The German airship was spotted over the city at about 10.30pm and for the next ten minutes it dropped 18 bombs, destroying houses, killing nine people and injuring 40 more. There was a tented encampment on York Knavesmire housing the growing number of military personnel and many of the locals were employed in the military support structure and hospitals in the city.
Reading all this history brought home that not all the war took place across the channel. There was a vast organisation and deployment of people across the UK and in York who were supporting those soldiers braving the front line.