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Solihull author's first book inspired by wartime tragedy

A CHANCE visit to a village in a quiet part of Europe inspired a former Tudor Grange School pupil’s first novel.

A CHANCE visit to a village in a quiet part of Europe inspired a former Tudor Grange School pupil’s first novel.

One Day on Oradour, by Helen Watts, is a hard-hitting story, taking place in Nazi-occupied France during the Second World War.

Her inspiration was a real-life atrocity, committed in a quiet village, some 20 miles from Limoges.

Events unfold in the summer of 1944, when SS troops wiped out almost an entire community - over 600 were killed and only one schoolchild survived.

“My sister-in-law has a goat farm in France and I went out to stay with her,” said Helen, aged 47.

“We went to Oradour and I couldn’t get over it - the original village has been left as a memorial to the dead. Exactly as it was when the Germans left almost 70 years ago.

“While I was walking around the exhibition, I saw this photo of a little red haired boy, Roger Godfrin, who was only seven. He’d been the only child to survive the massacre.

“He reminded me a bit of my son, who was the same age at the time, and he must have been so brave. He played dead for two hours after the Germans started shooting.”

The mum-of-two, whose interest in history goes back to her time at Tudor Grange, was inspired to tell the story of a tragedy which is little known in England.

“It wasn’t something I knew about and lots of people I’ve spoken to aren’t aware of it either. There were horrendous events that happened in the war that aren’t well known.”

Helen, who grew up in Broad Oaks Road and Widney Manor Road and now lives in Warwickshire, has previously penned short stories, features and non-fiction, but this was her first attempt at a novel.

“It was something I’ve wanted to do for a while but it’s like anything, unless you actually put the time aside you’ll never actually do it.”

One Day on Oradour is in shops now.

 

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