(Updated on Thursday 5th October 2017 06:58pm)

The story of my father, by Jef Van Beeck

jvb2 My father's family consisted of Petrus Van Beeck (my grandfather), his wife Julia Baum and their children Karel Van Beeck (called John) 1903-2001 and Maria Van Beeck1901-1997. When the Germans invaded Belgium in 1914 my father's family fled to Holland,where they took the ferry to Hull, England towards safety. They were there alone,couldn't speak the language - but a very wealthy family named Wils, who owned a large tobacco factory in Antwerp (their home town) came to their rescue. They hired my father's family to work for them on their estate in Beckford. When they arrived in Beckford, after a long and complicated train journey, they had to sleep in a hay loft, next to the village shop. After a few days,they were given a cottage "up the hill" where they stayed for the rest of their time in Beckford. My grandfather worked as a gardener for a Mr Howland, also for a Captain Case, who lived in Beckford Hall. Mr Howland was married to a daughter of the Wils family.
My father recalls the names of two other families - the Bennet family and the Whittle family (photo). Mr Whittle was a game keeper and looked after my family.

My father was only 11 years old and attended the school (photo). He is the one,in his best clothes, very proudly holding the slate. My father had also a very good school friend, Bertrand Carter (Bert), who went into the navy but sadly died of the spanish flu.They were both ''bell ringers'' in Beckford Church. After school when he was 12years old he had to work also as a gardener for Mr:Howland and to do chores at the Manor. He always spoke with much admiration of the cook, probably with good reason as it was hard for an growing boy during wartime, food wise.
My aunt however became a nanny for the children of Mr and Mrs Howland, probably because she could speak French. My aunt became involved in social work and in giving aid to the soldiers (photo of nurses).
After 5 years, when the war was over, they returned to Belgium. I always had the impression that my aunt would have liked to stay in England, but in those days girls still did what their fathers told them. My father always told me stories about good old England. He had a very happy childhood there and nice memories of the people of Beckford. My wife and I spent several short holidays in England, and in1992 we visited Beckford. We stayed in Evesham for a few days and of course we came to your village, we took with us some old photos and postcards and showed them to the people in the shop and to several elderly people - one of them recognised himself in the school photograph. We had a chat with a Mr Clark from Cross house. I could even show him a very old picture of his house, which was in those days was the bakery for the village, when a Mrs Ninth was then living there. She is the one standing in the photo with the nurses.
I have written these few words from my memory of what my father has told me as he didn't leave any written notes about his time in Beckford - I just have the photos and my memories, which I would like to share with the people of Beckford.

Jef Van Beeck

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