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on 11 November 2009
The story of the children of British gardeners, who lived in Belgium to establish and tend the War Graves after the First World War, would not at first sight seem an attention grasping subject.

However the story of the foundation of this expatriot English community and the establishment of a British School to educate the children of English fathers and French or Belgian mothers provides the starting point for an extraordinarily detailed, fascinatingly documented and moving book.

From the description of the annihilation of Ypres in the First World War to the tales of amazing bravery of two of the children, who as adults played their part in the Resistance in the Second, the narrative of this compelling book gives as good an account as many broader histories of the two World Wars.

Seen through the eyes of the members of the Community the book evokes in a vivid way the variety of individuals, some good some bad some weak some strong, who populate this little society.

The book is a thoroughly entertaining read and, because the characters are brought so strongly to life, their very ordinariness gives a colour and poignancy to this remarkable history.

Buy it!!!
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on 1 November 2009
Sue Elliott has written a truly excellent, and lively, chronicle of a unique group of children and their families living in extraordinary times. The style is engaging, extremely readable and will have a wide appeal to anyone interested in the day-to-day activities of the Imperial (now Commonwealth) War Graves Commission, during the period between the two World Wars - as well as to those who enjoy reading more generally about the human experience.
Essentially this book recounts the story of the children of the ex-servicemen, who worked for the Commission creating and maintaining the vast number of First World War cemeteries and memorials in `Flanders Fields'.
The children were part of an expatriate community who attended the British Memorial School in Ypres, studying a very British curriculum but living in a wider multilingual community - often spending spare time amongst the cemeteries tended by their fathers. One of these children was Jimmy Fox who spent at least a decade tracing former pupils, and gathering their stories, to provide the core of this story.
The book is packed with fascinating anecdotes and facts - I had not appreciated just how soon the Commission got to work to establish the gardens around the growing number of graves. The moving pilgrimages of relatives of the dead in the immediate aftermath of war are described, as well as the experiences of those with the grim task of recovering bodies.
At the heart of this story are the extraordinary, and very different, travails of the children, with their families, as the German invasion of Belgium in 1940 loomed - and then engulfed - the community. Whilst many escaped to Britain in good time, others joined fleeing groups of refugees to undergo terrifying moments. But many remained in Ypres - some of the Commission staff were still hard at work as the Panzers poured around them.
The eye-catching title `The Children who Fought Hitler' comes from the stories of many ex-pupils whose knowledge of Flanders and their multilingual ability fitted them superbly to join the struggle against Hitler's forces; like Elaine Madden, who made it back to Britain and joined SOE, and Stephen Grady trapped in Belguim who fought with the Resistance.
There is much, much more - all in all, a `cracking good read'!
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on 13 November 2009
Sue Elliott has skillfully managed to combine the history of a small group of seemingly ordinary British adults and children with their personal stories and recollections in a beautifully written and accessible form making the events come alive on the page.
So much has been written about the two great world wars it's overwhelming - it is refreshing to read about the struggles and achievements of a small but significant band of British children doing their (not insubstantial) 'bit' for the war effort.
You must read this book if you have any interest in people, the war, emotions and courage - it will entertain and surprise you. A great read!
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on 20 November 2009
I must confess that I normally avoid books, TV programmes or films with Hitler in the title. But I'm so pleased that I didn't follow that rule when I bought this book. It is a remarkable story or, should I say, it contains many remarkable stories. And it is written intelligently and with great sensitivity.

I finished the book feeling that I knew many of the people that Sue Elliot wrote about and I learned an awful lot about both world wars. I recommmend it wholeheartedly.
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on 22 February 2017
Loved this book as my late grandmother " Greta fisher" who father was Fredrick fisher, one of the guys who dug the tunnel , find it sweet that my nan and her brothers and sister is as well on the front cover.., family history. I'm trying to find relatives of the fishers from Belgium. My nan was Greta fisher ... zowiedavis@hotmail.co.uk
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on 19 July 2016
If, like me, you have an interest in WW1 then you will find this book informative and very readable. It starts with the Tommies who stayed on in Flanders and the British School to which many of the children went. This progresses on to tell the story of what happened to the families of the Commonwealth Graves Commission when Belgium was invaded in WW2. Again, following the 'children' is very moving. The book is well written and easy to read. It is a book that you will read more than once.
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on 6 May 2010
This book started life from a great deal of research by Jimmy Fox who lived in Ypres and went to the same British school as my brothers and sisters - Sue Elliot has done an excellent job in putting all this down. My father was an ex 1914-18 soldier in the Royal Horse Artillery and in 1919 volunteered to work for the War Graves Commission in Ypres as a gardener. Unbelievably, some the 350 British were not pulled out of Belgium at the outbreak of war. Hence the graphic account of women and children making a dash for Calais with the help of Captain Howarth (a bit like Capt Mannering!). The book describes graphically his heroic efforts and I probably would not be here today - but for him. There is an excellent account of the history of the War Graves Commission in its early days (now the Commonwealth War Graves) and a lot of it is quite moving. I don't think people understand the scale of the casualties and you have to go there and see cemeteries like Tyne Cot to see the sacrifices made by so many young men. This is not to take anything away from the present conflict. One casualty is one too many and I grieve with the relatives My son has served both in Iraq and Afghanistan flying the Nimrod. He lost many good friends when one went down. To return to the book, I think it is an excellent account of life in the 1920s and later in Ypres. My only criticism is that I don't think the title did it any favours. Sorry to go for so long - but I am an interested party to those events.
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on 28 July 2014
Having just been out in Ypres I found this book fascinating and also very informative about how Ypres got back on its feet after the war. Very interesting too about the beginnings of the Imperial War Graves Commission work.
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on 9 January 2015
Members of my family in it! vwery interesting.
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on 14 July 2014
A very interesting,detailed insight into post-WW1 life in Ypres and the development of the CWGC cemeteries,the life of the British community and their amazing WW2 exploits. Excellent book !
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