FRONT-LINE WITNESS 1914-1918
Author: David Slattery-Christy
Narrated by: Nancy Daniels
“In 1914 an American journalist retired to a small house in France—only to find herself in the middle of World War I, and eventually having an impact on the U.S.’s actions in the war. This is the story of 59-year-old Mildred Aldrich
and her experiences of the First World War. She retired to a small hilltop house called La Creste in 1914, with views across the Marne River and Valley, little realising that she would become embroiled in the first major battle
of the war.
In spite of the danger, she decided to stay and help the British and French soldiers. Her home was threatened by the German advance, with Uhlans hiding in adjacent woods; indeed, the Germans marched right up to her house. However, the British and French pushed the Germans into retreat and La Creste remained in safe territory for the duration. The Allies fought the first major battle of the First World War in the Marne Valley and Mildred’s ‘beloved panorama’ turned into the valley of horror and death. Informed by journalist Mildred’s unpublished journals and voices of those serving in the BEF, and French and German forces, along with historical military background, David Slattery-Christy examines events from the unique perspective of a remarkable woman who lived through them all.”
Drum Beats and Destiny
“Then suddenly one day the miracle happened – once again,
unannounced, the Giant Hands came out of the clouds,
and lifted me to a hilltop, and to my supreme adventure.”
On a very cold, wintry but sunny November day in 1913, in northern France, a self-proclaimed “aged” American lady stepped off the train at a small branch line at Esbly, near Voisons, a few miles outside of Paris. Mildred Aldrich was
aged 59 on the 16th of that very month and she had come to view another potential retirement home, one that perhaps this time she could both like and afford - and more importantly one that would suit her needs, modest as she considered
them to be.
Mildred had lived in Paris since 1898 and had arrived from Boston, Massachusetts, with dreams and desires to continue to make a living as a journalist and writer. As a woman devoid of youth, un-married and working in a world dominated by powerful men, her journey was far from easy and certainly not successful in any financial sense – although she did write as Foreign Correspondent for the Boston Herald and New York Times for a period. However, this was a world where an un-married career driven woman was viewed with some suspicion. That a woman should want any kind of career apart from accepting a suitable husband and becoming respectably married was generally frowned on in the oppressive Victorian and Edwardian eras. Mildred let them all frown as much as they pleased, she had been determined to march only to the beat of one drum – her own!
Mildred's home, La Creste - circa 1914
Amelie, Mildred's femme de ménage