Solihull author's new book brings to life a French girl’s journey at the Somme - The Solihull Observer

Solihull author's new book brings to life a French girl’s journey at the Somme

Solihull Editorial 13th Sep, 2022   0

THE experiences of an abandoned French girl living near the Western Front during the First World War are revealed in a new book released by a Solihull author.

Solihull-based author Sara Rowell, tells the true account of the life of Yvonne Millet, who was sent to Abbeville, Somme to work as a maid in her book Yvonne, Child of the Somme.

Soon after she arrived, in July 1916, the Battle of the Somme began and casualties flooded into the town.

Sara was encouraged to research into Yvonne’s life, after her granddaughter, Jan Bagley mentioned her story.

Sara said: “The seed for my book was Jan’s curiosity about her grandmother’s early life. She has fond memories of visiting her grandparents in Welwyn Garden City but always sensed there was some mystery in the background.

“As I’m a regular visitor to France, she asked me to help. I was able to search archive records in Paris and the Somme region.

“As soon as I began to uncover the truth, I was hooked – the story that emerged is extraordinary. The book eventually took me three years to research and write.

“Children like Yvonne, at the margins of society, were deeply scarred by what happened to them.

“The poverty of their origins and their vulnerability as ‘assisted children’ were made much worse by the war. After the age of 14 or 15, they had no reliable protection, even in the darkest hours of the conflict.”

Jan said: “No-one in the family seemed to know anything about her early life and in recent years I began to wonder about her beginnings. I never imagined that a chance conversation with Sara five years ago would lead to me finding out so much.”

Yvonne’s story is closely entwined with that of Albert, a soldier from London. He signed up for military service 1914.

Four years after the war, Albert left behind a good job and a fiancé to return to the Somme area. He married Yvonne in Abbeville in 1923 and they made northern France their home.

In 1939, Yvonne, Albert and their children fled to England, settling in Hertfordshire.

Visit to purchase the book.


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