The Caretakers: War Graves Gardeners and the Secret Battle to Rescue Allied Airmen in World War II (Hardcover)

The Caretakers: War Graves Gardeners and the Secret Battle to Rescue Allied Airmen in World War II By Caitlin Galante Deangelis Cover Image
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When World War I ended, hundreds of British veterans stayed in France to work for the newly chartered Imperial War Graves Commission. Through the 1920s and 1930s, these veteran-gardeners married local women, raised bilingual children, and dedicated themselves to caring for the graves of their fallen comrades.

When World War II swept through Europe in 1940, more than 200 War Graves gardeners were stranded in Nazi-occupied France. Their bosses explicitly ordered them to remain at their posts, even when their villages were under attack by the invading Germans. While some escaped, others were arrested by the Nazis. A handful managed to stay free and join the French Resistance. With their English-language skills and unshakable loyalty to the Allied cause, the gardeners and their families took on crucial roles in the effort to save British and American airmen shot down in France. In some cases, they hid the airmen in World War I cemeteries.

In The Caretakers, internationally renowned cemetery expert Caitlin Galante DeAngelis tells the true story of three of these unlikely heroes: Ben Leech, a barman from Manchester who became a cemetery gardener in Beaumont-Hamel and joined the Resistance; Rosine Witton, the wife of a British gardener, who served as a key conductor on the famous Comet Line and survived Ravensbr ck; and Robert Armstrong, an Irish gardener who worked for the Resistance until he was captured by the Nazis and sentenced to death.

Through meticulous research, never-before-published journals and papers, and compassionate storytelling, DeAngelis honors the sacrifices made by War Graves gardeners and their families.

About the Author

Caitlin Galante DeAngelis is an internationally renowned expert on cemeteries. She earned a Ph.D. from Harvard University with a dissertation on the political histories of cemeteries in Britain and America. Formerly a lecturer at Harvard, she was also employed by the President of the university to write a proprietary report about Harvard's historical ties to slavery.DeAngelis has been interviewed as an expert on cemetery history by media outlets including the Boston Globe, The New Yorker, and WBUR and her cemetery photography has been published in Atlas Obscura and 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die by Loren Rhoades. She is an active member of several UK-based historical associations including the Western Front Association and the Great War Group, and contributed a popular article about the 80th anniversary of the Dunkirk evacuation for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's blog.

Product Details
ISBN: 9781633888999
ISBN-10: 1633888991
Publisher: Prometheus Books
Publication Date: January 16th, 2024
Pages: 360
Language: English