Watford in the First World War - Aliens and Belgians
In a small town like Watford in 1914 most people knew each other. There were a few “foreigners” in the town – for example the Italian ice-cream making families – and being near London meant that there were more incomers here than in some parts.
“Aliens”, people who were not of British nationality, had to register with the police and their movements were limited during the war. People with German-sounding names may have lived in England for generations but immediately became suspected as possible spies and found themselves reported to the authorities. There was a lot of anti-German propaganda at the time.
The Belgians who came here were viewed differently. They were refugees who had fled from their country to escape the German invasion and they were made welcome by most people. They were offered homes and funds were raised to provide them with clothing and other necessaries. Wounded Belgian soldiers were also cared for.
And one of the more well-known refugees was Agatha Christie’s “Hercule Poirot”.