DURING the First World War, Belgian refugees helped to start a toy-making industry in Oxford, worked at the university press and at the Oxfordshire Steam Ploughing Company in Cowley.

Their contributions to the city, today largely forgotten, have been brought back to life by Oxford historian Liz Woolley.

After collecting century-old newspaper cuttings, photographs and memorabilia, she has created an exhibition at Oxfordshire History Centre in Cowley.

Ms Woolley, who previously created the hugely popular 66 Men of Grandpont exhibition, said: "It is estimated that 250,000 Belgians came to Britain during the First World War, the largest number of refugees this country had ever experienced.

"More than 450 were housed in Oxford and citizens and members of the university raised thousands of pounds for their upkeep and to send to those still at home in occupied Belgium." She added: "There was widespread public sympathy for Belgium’s plight and for many people, contact with the refugees acted as a good reminder as to why the First World War was worth fighting."

Following the heroic defence of Antwerp in the autumn of 1914, 200 injured Belgian soldiers were brought for treatment at Oxford’s wartime hospital, the 3rd Southern General.

The five who died of their wounds are buried in Botley Cemetery, their graves amongst those of over 150 other men from the Commonwealth and allied nations who died at the hospital.

The exhibition runs until Friday, February 23.