Birtley Belgians are found across north-east England and Belgium. They have a common origin among Great War refugees at the National Projectile Factory built at Elisabethville, Birtley in 1916. The NPL was a response to “The Great Shell Shock” which found the army so short of ammunition guns at the front were being limited to less than 10 shots a day.
Nearly 7,000 Belgian wounded soldiers, engineering workers and their exiled families came to a new village.They made more than 2 million shells - one of the most productive arms works in Britain – and were famed as heroes helping to end the war. Many of the Belgians met and married Britons – today across Belgium their descendants tell the family: “Vergeet nooit dat je een Birtley Belgian bent” “N’obliez jamais que vous etes un Birtley Belgian.” “Never forget you’re a Birtley Belgian.”
There is a growing network of families from Elisabethville wanting to know more of this unique settlement. Researchers in Britain and Belgium are sharing the new stories they find. We hope all the Birtley Belgians will find in this place: “Het Nieuws van Birtley” “Les Nouvelles de Birtley” “The News from Birtley”