The Schippers family

The Schippers family from Mechelen spent the entire duration of the war in Leeds, Yorkshire.

The people of Leeds were wonderful to their 1,600 Belgians, housing them, feeding, clothing and finding work for them. The Belgians were so grateful that they presented the city with a silver tea and coffee set for the Town Hall before they were repatriated in 1919.

As a child I was told lots of stories of their stay, but the memories have faded and the people gone. I know that my family always held the English in high regard ever after.

Almost as a direct result, the life of Pauline Schippers was changed by her stay in Leeds. She used the English she was taught at St Augustine’s Elementary School, Leeds, to cheer up the British troops billeted in her village in 1944/5 at the end of the Second World War. She promised one of the soldiers, Driver Leslie White, RASC, that she would find the grave of his brother, lost in the Dunkirk evacuation of 1940 and buried somewhere in Belgium.

She did so, twice even for the brother was reburied after the war. This gave her the chance to visit England again, and later, her elder daughter Leonie married Leslie White. Pauline passed away in 1967.


Many thanks to Linda Williams, Carshalton, Surrey, granddaughter to Pauline Schippers.

‘Belgian refugees’, Family Tree Magazine, July 1992, p.22.