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  • Writer's pictureAngela Barton

10th June 1944 – The Cornflower and the Poppy

The cornflower and the poppy are enduring symbols of remembrance for both France and Britain. On this day in 1944, the lives of these townspeople's and the beautiful small town of Oradour-sur-Glane, changed forever.

Oradour-sur-Glane was a beautiful small town in south-west France. It was peacefully isolated in the Charente countryside and even during WW2 it remained relatively untouched by the horrors of war. Oradour was a thriving community with schools, two hotels, a hairdresser, a baker, a butcher, a garage, a doctor’s surgery and cafés. It even had a tram system that carried townspeople to nearby Limoges. I list these things to clarify the scale of Oradour.

As human beings we are capable of wondrous achievements and extraordinary kindness. The vast majority of us possess a conscience – a voice inside each of us that tells us what’s right and what’s wrong. Occasionally however, either through self-preservation, fear or mental instability, some people perpetrate such violence that it leaves the rest of us breathless; incapable of comprehending the magnitude of malevolence humans are capable of inflicting on others. One of these occasions took place on a sunny afternoon on 10th June 1944 when the Nazis drove into Oradour. Six hundred and forty-two people were killed. The town was looted and set alight.

Charles de Gaulle declared that the ruins must stay as a permanent national monument to the townspeople’s suffering. I've visited Oradour-sur-Glane four times. Each time left me horrified and tormented. Tormented not just because of what had taken place there, but because seventy-six years later, the buildings are crumbling, rusting and disappearing. Will people still remember in another seventy-six years time?

I felt compelled to help keep the memory alive and was desperate tell the story from a survivor’s viewpoint. I had to create an innocent and ordinary protagonist because I was going to place some terrible obstacles in front of her and she needed to grow in character, resilience and bravery. So I created Arlette, a twenty-year-old young woman who lives with her brother and father on the family farm. France was, and still is, a huge participant in the agricultural world economy so it seemed fitting to set my story in this rural location.

Arlette’s Story isn’t solely a story about war. For several years Arlette feels its reverberations but she also builds friendships, laughs, falls in love, enjoys family life, experiences adventures and lives her life positively despite challenges placed in her way. That is until the day she helps her grandmother into the family’s horse and trap and takes her back to Oradour-sur-Glane…


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