The Children Who Fought Hitler, By Sue Elliott with James Fox

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The Independent Culture

The title is slightly misleading. This is, in fact, the history of the British Memorial School in Ypres, which was founded after the Great War to educate the children of the British gardeners who tended the war graves there. There was thus a community of a few hundred British people in Ypres when the Second World War broke out. The gardeners were interned by the Germans (sharing quarters for the first year with PG Wodehouse). The children were evacuated in 1940 and most, after extreme danger and privation, reached England; some joined the armed forces when they were older, and so could be said to have fought Hitler. A few remained behind and at least one, Stephen Grady, was active as a teenager in the French Resistance, putting sugar in German petrol tanks and assassinating a German officer.

This is a vivid slice of human history, compiled in part from eyewitness accounts. (James Fox was a pupil at the school and has traced many of his former classmates.) The photos of the school before, during and after occupation are haunting.