The Englishman's Daughter

The Englishman's Daughter

A True Story of Love and Betrayal in World War I

Large Print - 2001
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In the first terrifying days of World War I, four British soldiers found themselves trapped behind enemy lines on the western front. They were forced to hide in the tiny French village of Villeret, whose inhabitants made the courageous decision to shelter the fugitives until they could pass as Picard peasants. The Englishman's Daughter is the never-before-told story of these extraordinary men, their protectors, and of the haunting love affair between Private Robert Digby and Claire Dessenne, the most beautiful woman in Villeret. Their passion would result in the birth of a child known as "The Englishman's Daughter," and in an act of unspeakable betrayal, a tragic legacy that would haunt the village for generations to come. Through the testimonies of the villagers and the last letters of the soldiers, acclaimed journalist Ben Macintyre has pieced together a harrowing account of how life was lived behind enemy lines during the Great War, and offers a compelling solution to a gripping mystery that reverberates to this day.
Publisher: Rockland, MA : Wheeler Publishing, c2001.
Edition: Large print edition
ISBN: 9781587242328
Branch Call Number: 940.48141 Maci 3701 1
Characteristics: 354 pages : illustrations, maps.


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Feb 02, 2016

Journalist Ben Macintyre’s interest is piqued when he is invited to Le Câtelet, a small town near the Western Front, to report on the unveiling of a plaque to honour four British soldiers executed there in 1916. An elderly French woman from the nearby village of Villeret introduces herself as the daughter of one of the executed soldiers.
The story starts in the first days of WW1. Allied attacks against the initial German offensives were quickly turned around. The Allies in retreat, some soldiers were trapped behind enemy lines. Seven British soldiers found themselves in Villeret, a village under occupation. Several villagers rallied to conceal the soldiers ... the best strategy was to hide them in plain sight by integrating them into the village. They protected the soldiers for almost two years.
Full-length exposés by journalists are not my favourite genre of books. Material best suited to a feature story or series is often over-stretched and padded to fit the longer format. Macintyre doesn’t fall into that trap. He frames interesting personal stories into the larger context of the war. He documents the horrors of war, and how the lives of the villagers under occupation and of the occupiers evolve in an area that saw some of the worst devastation of the time.

Cdnbookworm Mar 10, 2012

Near the beginning of World War I, many Allied soldiers found themselves behind enemy lines on the western front. This concentrates on four British soldiers that were forced to hide for years in a tiny French village called Villeret. Other soldiers similarly trapped in the area are also touched included, but the author concentrates on these four particularly because he became aware of their story when invited to a memoiral service at their gravesite in the late 1990s. He didn't at first understand why he'd been invited, until he was introduced to an elderly woman after the service. She told him of the seven British soldiers hidden in the village, that three had eventually managed to escape and make their way home, and that four were betrayed and given up to the Germans. She said "Those seven British soldiers were our soldiers. One of them was my father."
He was hooked and delved through records in France, Britain and Germany, visitied the village again and again digging into the stories and memories of the people there, most of them descendants of the people whose lives were lived there during that time. This is the story he discovered, and, as he says, it made the war personal to him, because the stories made the soldiers individuals who came alive for him. It is a fascinating tale of one small village during the war.

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