An English Governess in the Great War: The Secret Brussels Diary of Mary Thorp
An Englishwoman of no particular fame living in World War I Brussels started a secret diary in September 1916. Aware that her thoughts could put her in danger with German authorities, she never wrote her name on the diary and ran to hide it every time the "Boches" came to inspect the house. The diary survived the war and ended up in a Belgian archive, forgotten for nearly a century until historians Sophie De Schaepdrijver and Tammy M. Proctor discovered it and the remarkable woman who wrote it: Mary Thorp, a middle-aged English governess working for a wealthy Belgian-Russian family in Brussels. As a foreigner and a woman, Mary Thorp offers a unique window into life under German occupation in Brussels (the largest occupied city of World War I) and in the uncertain early days of the peace. Her diary describes the roar of cannons in the middle of the night, queues for food and supplies in the shops, her work for a wartime charity, news from an interned godson in Germany, along with elegant dinners with powerful diplomats and the educational progress of her beloved charges. Mary Thorp's sharp and bittersweet reflections testify to the daily strains of living under enemy occupation, comment on the events of the war as they unfolded, and ultimately serve up a personal story of self-reliance and endurance. De Schaepdrijver and Proctor's in-depth commentary situate this extraordinary woman in her complex political, social, and cultural context, thus providing an unusual chance to engage with the Great War on an intimate and personal level.
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aeroplanes Allies Antwerp APRIL army AUGUST Belgian Belgique Belgium Berlin Bissing Boches boys Brabançonne Brand Whitlock British Bruges Brussels Burgomaster camp cannon Cardinal Mercier Cazé chômeurs Cinquante mois d’occupation civilians communiqués dear DECEMBER diary Dick Dieu nous aide diplomats Dutch papers Edith England English Étape evacuated FEBRUARY Flamingants Flanders FLANDERS FIELDS MUSEUM Flemish Fougeraie French FRIDAY friends front German soldiers Ghent heard Holland hope JANUARY JULY JUNE killed kilo Lancken Legation letter live Madame Wittouck MARCH Marquis Mary Thorp Micha military mois d’occupation allemande MONDAY months morning night NOVEMBER NOVEMBER 15 occupation OCTOBER October 15 OCTOBER 23 offensive Pavlick peace Péronne Petrograd poor prisoners Ruhleben rumour Russian SATURDAY sent SEPTEMBER Sidonie SUNDAY terrible thousand THURSDAY today told tomorrow tonight town tram TUESDAY Uccle Valérie victory Villalobar Vollenhoven war’s WEDNESDAY Whitlock Wittouck women wonder Xmas yesterday