At the start of the First World War, Eleanor Ruth Dent was still a school girl at 15 years old. Along with her mother Mary Violet Dent and neighbour Mrs Clough, she helped at Blackmoor convalescent House; looking after Belgian soldiers and refugees evacuated to the village. While her mother looked after the housekeeping Eleanor Ruth assisted with occupational therapy. She ran the small industries making toys and pictures with the men which they could sell.
She wrote an extraordinary account of the Belgians’ experience in the New Forest entitled the ‘“The Chronicles of the Belgians” dedicated ‘To mother and Mrs Clough as a souvenir of the Belgians who were the cause of much laughter during the sad years 1914-1915’. In the Chronicles she describes the various Belgians who arrived at Blackmoor, their daily routine and activities and events. She also included some illustrations. Looking after the Belgians for a bright young person (who later become a prominent illustrator of children’s books) proved to be a mixed and sometimes frustrating if important life experience. Whilst writing The Chronicles of The Belgians, she also edited and illustrated a children’s magazine called “The Pierrot” which was circulated all over the UK.
With the support of the Our Past, Our Future a National Lottery Heritage Funded Landscape Partnership Scheme the collections of Eleanor Ruth Dent have been digitised and preserved with the permission and support of her daughter Dionis McNair. The low resolution images of this digitisation can found above all images and are free to be used with the following credit: These files were photographed as part of the Our Past Our Future Project. Courtesy of Dionis M Macnair. (C) (Year of publication) New Forest National Park Authority.
As well as the digitising one of our volunteers also transcribed the Chronicle of the Belgians which can be read in full here: Chronicles of the Belgians Transcription
At the end of the First World War, at just 18 years old, Eleanor Ruth married a young submariner, John MacNair. She went on to have a long and adventure-filled life until her death on 24th July 1984. She is buried with her husband at the same church in Burley in which they were married.
Hampshire Cultural Trust created a small film about the diaries and the Chronicles of the Begians
Further articles on New Forest Knowledge relating to Dionis McNair and her mother