Jan Baptiste (Jean) Hinnekint was born in Rhyl to a family of Refugees from Belgium on June 3rd, 1915.
His father was Alphonsius Guillelmus (known to his family as Guillaume) Hinnekint (born 6/2/1875) and his mother was Maria Ludovica Henrica Ledoux (born 29/12/1883). Guillaume was a master tailor – as was his brother Oscar (Omer) Hinnekint and their father. In later years Jean, the baby born in Rhyl, would also become a tailor.
The Hinnekint family lived in Passendale (Passchendaele).
In 1915 the family left their home in Passendale as army units of the opposing nations were advancing and a heavy battle was expected. They headed to Moorslede, just a few kilometres away. The nuns at Moorslede ran a school in Westouter which was beyond enemy lines. The Reverend Sister Germana (Margareta Maria Hinnekint) was Guillaume’s sister, and so the family were allowed to stay in the old school house there. Their brother Gustave and his family joined them. (When Guillaume’s family left, Gustave stayed behind in Westouter for a further three and a half years, eventually moving to Nantes, in France. When they returned to their town in 1919 they found scenes of complete devastation – the town was completed razed to the ground and they had to stay in barracks awaiting the reconstruction. )
It’s important to know what happened around the town of Moorslede and the surrounding area in October 1914 to understand why the Hinnekint family fled and came to the UK. Moorslede is a municipality in the West Flanders and comprises the towns of Dadizele, Slypskapelle and Moorslede. It is close to Roeselare and Passendale (Passchendaele).
In late September 1914, the first Refugees from other areas arrived in Moorslede.
On October 19th 1914 the German forces invaded Roeselare as part of their plan to get through to France as quickly as possible. The 26th German Reserve Corps consisted mainly of inexperienced youngsters and older men. When they were fired upon by French snipers they thought it was a civilian uprising, remembering stories they had been told of similar alleged incidents in other areas (For example, in Aarschot the reprisals for the shooting of a German Officer suspected to be by a civilian had terrible consequences for the townspeople) and these German soldiers took a swift and bloody revenge on the locals – arson, looting and murder. A large part of the population hastily fled, leaving everything behind. Most went in the direction of Ypres-Poperinge-France, others to Limburg, and some even further towards the Netherlands and the UK.
A refugee who was found wandering on the edge of the fighting area told a correspondent of the “Telegraaf” newspaper that he was made to march in front of the German forces going into action. His reluctance to act as a “human shield” caused the German soldiers shoot him in the hand. He was one of about twenty civilians used in this way. Ten of his companions were killed and he was among several injured. The Telegraaf reporter goes on to say that a woman carrying a baby was also used as a shield, and that bayonets were used freely on non-combatants. He declared that the victims in the area numbered nearly 1,000.
November 5th, 1914:
After days of incessant fighting in the area around Zonnebeke and Passendale, the German army moved to evacuate the city of Moorslede. Citizens who had not yet fled the area were removed from their homes and transferred to Roeselare. The nuns were allowed to stay and continue to care for the wounded and sick.
In Roeselare, the living conditions for the refugees were horrific and many died.
On the advice of British servicemen, Guillaume and his family left to seek refuge in the UK. The Reverend Sister Espérance managed to obtain passports for 20 Refugees – among them the Hinnekint-Ledoux family – in order for them to travel to England.
At Calais, the family lost their son Albert for a while but managed to locate him at the police station. As a result, they were three days later leaving than originally planned . They travelled first to Bath, then London and eventually onto Rhyl, where they settled. Guillaume took a job as a gardener. It was whilst they were staying in Rhyl that their son Jean was born.
With them in Rhyl were their other children:
Prosper Albrecht Hinnekint, born 16/10/1904 in Passendale (aged 9 at the start of the war)
Rachel Margareta Hinnekint, born 5/1/1906 in Passendale (aged 8 at the start of the war)
Germana Margareta Maria (Germaine) Hinnekint, born 2/9/1907 in Passendale (aged 6 at the start of the war)
Albrecht Palmyrus Hinnekint, born 25/10/1908 in Passendale (aged 5 at the start of the war)
Godelieva Gabriella Hinnekint, born 13/7/1910 in Passendale (aged 4 at the start of the war)
Julia Paulina Hinnekint, born 28/5/1912 in Passendale (aged 2 at the start of the war)
Paula Magdalena Hinnekint, born 31/5/1913 (aged 1 at the start of the war)
After some time, the family moved to Glasgow, where there were large numbers of Belgian Refugees. Guillaume took a job ironing kilts for Scottish servicemen. The iron he had to use weighed 8 kilogrammes (17½ lb) which was filled with hot coals. Possibly a coincidence or maybe the reason the family moved to Glasgow is that the nuns of Moorslede had been asked to run schools for the Refugees in the area. The nuns were based at Bothwell House, the family seat of Scottish Peer Charles Alexander Douglas-Home, 12th Earl of Home (His son was an officer at Zonnebeke.)
In Glasgow, Guillaume and Maria had two more children – George, born 30/10/1916 and Robert, who was born in November 1918 but sadly died aged two months in January 1919.
This photograph was taken in May 1924
Upon their return to Belgium in 1919 the family stayed in an abandoned villa in Wenduine, and later in the so-called Albert barracks in Moorslede until the reconstruction of their village at the initiative of King Albert I.
Guillaume and Maria had four more children back home in Belgium: Josephus Amatus, born in 1920; Maria Camilla, born 1922; Simonne Irena Albertina, born 1923 and Alma Agnès, who was born and sadly died in February 1925.
Our Refugee baby, Jan Baptiste Hinnekint (Jean) is described by his family as a gentle and friendly man, who worked 16 hour days in the tailor’s shop. He married Lea Dumoulin in 1933 and they had five children. He died in 1996 aged 80 years. He is buried in Moorslede.
The biographical information above was supplied to us by Benno Hinnekint, Jean’s first cousin (the grandson of Guilaume’s brother Oscar (Omer) Hinnekint.) Benno has researched his family history as far back as 1680. Parts of the story above were related to Benno by Guillaume’s daughter Germaine Hinnekint, whom he says spoke an accentless, beautiful, melodious English, and Gustave’s son, Jozef Antoon Hinnekint.
The images were sent to us by Philippe Hinnekint, Jean’s son.
Thank you Philippe and Benno.
Thanks also to Steve Dyke – http://hewasahero.wordpress.com for great help with the initial search and for checking details for us.
In 2017, five chairs from St. Audomarus Church in Passendale will be on display in our area – at The Marble Church in Bodelwyddan. We will record the story of the Hinnekint family in the pages of the book which accompany the chairs. To read about the project, please visit the website: