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Belgium Relief

In the novel, one of the key storylines is the Ottawa Belgian Relief Committee, where the main characters Katherine MacNutt and Count Jaggi meet.

The Ottawa Belgian Relief Committee was formed as the result of a direct appeal by the Belgian Relief Committee, in London, England, to provide food for starving Belgians.

The German invasion of Belgium in 1914 resulted in a food shortage. At the time Belgium was very reliant on imports. It only grew only about 25% of its food supply, and adding to the problem was the German Army’s need to feed its soldiers.

Attempts to import food were stymied because of the economic blockage imposed by England. If food was imported to Belgium, Britain feared the supplies would be confiscated by the German Army.

In London, Herbert Hoover, an American mining engineer, businessman and later president of the United States, discovered that there were thousands of American tourists trying to get home. Few had hard currency, and since the banks would not accept their traveller’s cheques, they were suffering hardships.

Also, they were trapped in England since most passenger ship voyages were being cancelled. To help, he set up a committee to get his fellow countrymen home. By 1918, about 120,000 Americans had made the ocean crossing.

Hoover was then approached to see if his committee, as a neutral third party, could help raise funds to buy food supplies and ship them to the starving Belgians. The Commission for Relief in Belgian was established and an appeal for funds was made.

Throughout out the world, millions of dollars was raised to buy food and charter ships to transport the food supplies to Belgian ports.

In Ottawa, numerous fundraising events were held such as:

Thousands of dollars were raised for Belgian Relief by Ottawans during the war.

Sources and further reading


Herbert Hoover and Belgian Relief in World War I

Committee for Relief in Belgium - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Herbert Hoover - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Gay & Fisher. The Commission for Relief in Belgium. 1929. Preface & Table of Contents.