A Foreign Field

A wartime romance, survival saga and murder mystery set in rural France during the First World War height of the fighting on the Western front in August 1914 unable to get back to their units, they shelter in the tiny French village of Villeret Living in daily fear of capture and execution, they are fed, clothed and protected by the villagers including the local matriarA wartime romance, survival saga and murder mystery set in rural France during the First World War height of the fighting on the Western front in August 1914 unable to get back to their units, they shelter in the tiny French village of Villeret Living in daily fear of capture and execution, they are fed, clothed and protected by the villagers including the local matriarch, Madame Dessenne, the baker and his wife in love with the twenty year old daughter of one of his protectors and in November 1915, with war waging a few miles away, she gives birth to a baby girl The child is just six months old when someone betrays the men to the Germans They are captured, tried as spies and summarily condemned to death Using the testimonies of the daughter, the villagers, detailed town hall records and most movingly the soldiers last letters Ben Macintyre reconstructs an extraordinarily story of love, duplicity and shame ultimately seeking to discover through decades of village rumour the answer to the question, Who betrayed Private Digby and his men
A Foreign Field A wartime romance survival saga and murder mystery set in rural France during the First World War height of the fighting on the Western front in August unable to get back to their units they sh

  • Title: A Foreign Field
  • Author: Ben Macintyre
  • ISBN: 9780006531715
  • Page: 149
  • Format: Paperback
  • 1 thought on “A Foreign Field”

    1. It is clear this book is written by a journalist rather than a novelist. Wouldn’t you clearly recognize the difference between the words of a novel and those found in a newspaper? A newspaper article relates fact and number and dates. It states the people and places involved. You are told what happens. That is how this book is written. This book is based on official documents, letters, diaries and newspaper articles. Extensive research lies behind its content. The facts related are about the v [...]

    2. True story of four British soldiers who found themselves lost behind enemy lines in 1914. For two years the villagers of occupied Villeret hid and protected them as best they could, but in 1916, the soldiers were exposed, rounded up and shot. Who betrayed them and why is the mystery Macintyre tries to uncover through extensive research and interviews with the village survivors and descendents, but the real focus of the book is the unrelenting horror of living under German occupation and the amaz [...]

    3. Soon after the beginning of World War I four British soldiers find themselves stuck behind enemy lines and unable to return to their units, they seek shelter in the French countryside hiding close to German troops just outside a French village.They are soon discovered by the villagers of Villeret, a tiny village occupied by the Germans. The locals take the bold decision to shelter them in the barns and houses around the village, right under the nose of the enemy. Their uniforms are hidden, and t [...]

    4. From BBC Radio 4 Extra_ drama:August 1914: After British decimation at the Battle of Mons, four soldiers hide out in rural France. Read by Tom Goodman-Hill.2/5: Suspecting that enemy soldiers are posing as civilians, the Germans warn the French not to hide them.3/5: As the British soldiers settle into the French village, complications arise when one falls in love. 4/5: The German hold on the French village intensifies, but the British soldiers are determined to escape. 5/5: May 1916: The last da [...]

    5. Solid nonfiction of an interesting WWI story, British soldiers stranded behind German lines, in a French hamlet that eventually found itself directly in the battle for the Somme. What is striking is the depravity of the 'Boche', the German military, in stripping the French of every morsel of food, personal possession, furnishings, jewelry, and finally, blowing up the village housing and church. Especially when this rapaciousness repeated in 30 years with WWII, on an even greater scale across Eur [...]

    6. This is a true piece of history but it almost resembles a novel or a mystery.It takes place in France during World War I behind the enemy lines in a small French village located near the Western Front in the Somme River Valley. The villagers in Villeret were under the rule of the occupying Germans and this story unfolds during a period of 18 months during their lives.The author, a respected journalist for the London Times came upon the story when he was sent to cover a small ceremony in the vill [...]

    7. Perhaps instead of the subtitle of A True Story of Love and Betrayal in World War I a more apt subtitle for this book would be A True Story of a French Village during World War I. Maybe not as appealing but much more accurate. I found The Englishman's Daughter to be not so much a love story as a story about a small French village during World War I. Reading this book I got a good sense of what life was like for these French peasants before the war and during the German occupation. The affair bet [...]

    8. Ben Macintryre's nose for a good yarn is equalled by his ability to tell it. A Foreign Field is a slow butner, but it develops into a book as gripping as any he has written.It stems from an unpromising invitation to attend a memorial service for four British soldiers who wre executed during the first World War. Having discovered that France kept thousands of first hand testimony following 1918, and then forgot about them, he uncovers a remarkable series of events that took place in one small vil [...]

    9. In 1914, the British faked a retreat to draw the Germans out of position to fight them but this retreat became disorganized and many English soldiers were lost behind enemy (German) lines. Most of them surrendered but a few hid with French villagers including four men in Villeret. They quickly assimilated with the villagers and learned the language and customs and became unnoticeable to the German occupiers. One of the men, Robert Digby, fell in love with a village girl and they had a child. Rat [...]

    10. I've yet to read a Ben Macintyre book I didn't thoroughly enjoy, and The Englishman's Daughter was no exception. Excellent narrative nonfiction, with amazing efforts at reportage and a lovely eye for details.This is a fast read and covers one small but compelling story from WW1, but the intimacy and journalistic immediacy end up delivering deeper meaning than you might get from a more traditional strategy- or battle-focused overview of the war.Because you spend the story focused on a small count [...]

    11. I finished this book on New Year's Day in 2003. What I noted at the time: Story of four English soldiers forced to hide in a French village during WWI. One of them falls in love with a village girl, who has his child. Someone betrays the soldiers, and they are shot. The author goes over evidence and speaks with survivors and family members, trying to figure out who betrayed them. Describes atrocities of war. Well done.

    12. True story of a WWI incident that took place over time. The writer did a good job of placing all the facts while fleshing out the personalities of the people involved. The writer is obviously not just passionate about history but has a passion for developing the entire story. I will look for other books by this author.

    13. There are not many books I read where I feel I knew nothing about the subject before. I have read much on WW1 but its always been through the British lens. Here is a whole new exploration and a very unpleasant one at that. Delivered as a sort of detective story with multiple twists and turns.

    14. This haunting, beautiful story of occupied France during World War I reads like a novel, but it actually happened - which makes it even better, if even sadder. It's amazing to think that most Americans of my generation don't ever even remember the Great War much, when it wrought such shocking & horrific devastation to the whole of Europe, but especially, of course, to the parts of France where the vast majority of it took place. The devastation was so intense that it left scars on the land & [...]

    15. "The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic." (Attributed to Joseph Stalin)While reading MacIntyre's account of one man's fate during World War I, I couldn't help but reflect on the above quote. Truly, it's easier in some ways to accept the deaths of thousands of nameless, faceless individuals than come to terms with the death of single person whose name and face become known to us. It might be argued that the central figure in this book, Robert Digby, died a "good d [...]

    16. This book is ostensibly the story of an English soldier who falls in love with a French villager in German-occupied France. But it's really an account of life under the draconian regulations of a paranoid and controlling German army major in northern France.If you're looking for a detailed wartime love story, you're not really going to find it here. The author does a great job in his research but is limited by the fact that the eyewitnesses to (and subjects of) the love story have long since pas [...]

    17. As Paris correspondent for the London Times, Macintyre went out to report on a meager ceremony in the tiny French village of Villeret commemorating four British soldiers who were executed there by the Germans during World War I. The soldiers had been hidden by the villagers of Villeret for two years.At the close of the ceremony, an elderly woman in a wheelchair seeks out Macintyre to tell him the story of how seven British soldiers had been protected by the village, three of whom eventually esca [...]

    18. The book I read to research this post was A Foreign Field by Ben Macintyre which is an excellent book which I bought from kindle. This book is about World War 1 and the aftermath of The Battle Of The Somme. It's a kind of historical investigation into the treatment of allied soldiers and also of the civilian population in a Northern France town. The allied soldiers were told they must surrender and surrender their arms immediately or be shot as spies. France after being conquered by Germany was [...]

    19. 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 understa [...]

    20. I love an interesting story, told well. And Ben Macintyre's book delivers for the most part. A journalistic encounter-turned-project, it relates an episode in World War I in which battle lines shifted so quickly that some British soldiers ended up stranded in German-held territory in occupied France. Macintyre relates their tale, which contains elements of heroism (especially on the part of the resistance), romance and betrayal. Macintyre's research is impressive. He sets the story amid its gory [...]

    21. This was an excellent book. After reading the prologue anyone with any sense of curiosity would have to read the rest of the book. There has been so much written about the dreadful conditions in the trenches it was for me the first time that I had read anything about the way ordinary French people lived in the areas immediately behind the enemy lines. The book deals very sympathetically with the mixed feelings of patriotism, every day survival, the change of attitude towards Germans the people g [...]

    22. The amount of research undertaken to develop this account of an 18 month period during WWI is staggering. The book tells the story of English soldiers,separated from their units, living in an occupied French village near the Western Front. The Englishman, of the title, falls in love with a village girl and fathers a child with her. Their relationship is not necessarily central to the story, which provides a fascinating level of detail about the daily lives and suffering of the villagers and thei [...]

    23. Since my Daughter and her Family have moved to France and now live in a huge old barn that my Son-in Law is now working hard to make it into a comfortable home, I have been intrigued by the history of this barn especially during the occupation by the Germans in World War 2. So I was very pleased to acquire the book “A Foreign Field” No it’s not about this particular barn, but about a group of soldiers who lost their unit and was sheltered by the French. It’s about a young soldier who fal [...]

    24. Macintyre reconstructs an affecting microhistory of WWI, in which four English soldiers got trapped behind the lines in 1914 and were sheltered by the French villagers of Villeret in a collective act of solidarity and defiance, with Private Robert Digby hiding in plain sight as a popular local and romancing a local belle. Fast-forward three years, after German occupation had straightened circumstances and Digby's marriage and child with his French sweetheart had ignited local resentment, and an [...]

    25. Nine British soldiers are trapped behind the German line after the series of advances and retreats at the beginning of the war that preceded the laying down of trenches. Forced to hide in a tiny French village until they could make it back across the trenches to the Allied forces, Robert Digby and his comrades disguise themselves as Picardy peasants, growing long mustaches and learning the local patois. Digby takes the disguise even further, falling in love with a local girl and fathering a chil [...]

    26. Thoroughly enjoyed this book despite thinking when I reserved it the library, that it would be hard going. It was anything but and loaded with historical fact. I finished the book within a few days despite reading only in the evenings, which says much about my fascination for this era in history. It is heartbreaking to read of the level of suffering, death, destruction and deprivation of WWI and WWII not only to soldiers, families and society as a whole but especially the French country folk who [...]

    27. Four British soldiers trying to evade capture in a German occupied French village in the First World War are betrayed by one of the villagers. The book recounts how the French villagers of Villeret lived under the scrutiny of their German invaders while at the same time hiding and feeding four British soldiers in their homes. Several personalities are given more attention than others in this book mainly because they are suspected by the author to have been the one to betray the British soldiers [...]

    28. In his introduction the author tells how he came upon the story. Part of the book discusses the various war actions occurring in that small area of France where the incident took place. This book tells of the attitudes of the villagers to German Occupation and the British soldiers in their midst. In the latter part of the book is a description of what the Germans did to the area as they retreated behind the Seigfried line. It is that part that provides a partial explanation for the French insist [...]

    29. This book is well written and hard to put down. During the early days of the First World War some British soldiers were trapped in France as the battle lines moved. Once the trenches were set, they had to live in occupied France and the village sheltered them and treated them as their own. Until someone in the village betrayed them Like I said, this book is hard to put down. Macintyre attempts to solve the mystery and I think his conclusions are sound, despite the many years dividing the events [...]

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