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I Am Not Afraid of Looking into the Rifles

Women of the Resistance in World War One

About The Book

‘A thrilling narrative that creates an extraordinary picture of female resistance’ The Lady
‘Fascinating’ Kavita Puri, BBC History Magazine
‘A fierce, intense picture of this aspect of the war . . . it will stay with me’ Elizabeth Buchan, author of Two Women in Rome

On the evening of 31 March 1916, a 23-year-old woman was led from her prison cell in occupied Brussels. She wore a long blue coat and walked ‘like a soldier’. The chaplain asked if she would like a blindfold before her execution. ‘I am not afraid of looking into the rifles,’ she replied. ‘I have been expecting this for a long time.’

This is not a traditional history of the First World War. It is the untold story of the women of the resistance in Belgium and occupied France during that conflict.

Rick Stroud describes how the actions of eight exceptionally brave women affected the course of the war. Before the Germans invaded, they were ordinary people: some, like Gabrielle Petit, were working-class; some, like Edith Cavell, were from the bourgeoisie; and some. like the Princess de Croÿ, were from the upper echelons of society. The youngest was only twenty-one. The women took enormous risks and produced extraordinary results: they established underground networks, transmitted coded information, carried out sabotage attacks and helped to repatriate Allied soldiers. What they did was dangerous and exhausting and the penalties were severe: three faced the firing squad.

Recounting their heroism and their inevitable tragedies, I Am Not Afraid of Looking into the Rifles is an enthralling story, beautifully told. In revealing the inspiring work of these remarkable women, Rick Stroud will introduce you to an entirely new version of the ‘war to end all wars’.

About The Author

Author Photo © Neil Spence

Rick Stroud is a producer, director and writer. His most recent book, Lonely Courage: The True Story of the SOE Heroines who Fought to Free Nazi-Occupied France (Simon & Schuster, 2017), has been optioned by Tessa Ross at House Productions and he is the author of several other books. He is a trustee of the London Library and lives in London.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK (February 29, 2024)
  • Length: 384 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781398507074

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Raves and Reviews

‘This is an incredible, taut collection of stories about risk, bravery and sacrifice, recounted in vivid detail. Reading it, I felt I was living it too’

– Don McCullin

‘History written as a thriller. Rick Stroud writes with such clarity, and with such a keen understanding of drama that nothing gets in the way of these extraordinary stories of courage and sacrifice. Lucid, moving, death-defying and life-enhancing’

– James Runcie, author of The Grantchester Mysteries

‘Fascinating . . . Rick Stroud weaves together the stories of some of these brave women for the first time . . . who stood up to the enemy in the First World War – the vast majority of whom have no statue and whose names are not commemorated anywhere’

– Kavita Puri, BBC History Magazine

‘With his eye for detail and his grip on the narrative, Stroud succeeds in building a fierce, intense picture of this aspect of the war, with its risks and consequences. What courage these women had and what a sense of duty. It is horrifying and uplifting at the same time and it will stay with me’

– Elizabeth Buchan, author of Two Women in Rome

A fitting and gripping tribute to eight undeniably courageous women . . . Stroud weaves their precious lives into a thrilling narrative that creates an extraordinary picture of female resistance. I lapped up the personal stories of heroism and felt incredibly moved by what these women from all walks of life were prepared to do to protect their country . . . The book is full of adventure and intrigue . . . Not only do the personal histories stand out, but the book also serves as a valuable reference work. Lest we forget.’

– Elizabeth Fitzherbert, The Lady

‘A coherent and gripping narrative . . . these figures were often acting on their own initiative. Here, Stroud captures that gumption brilliantly’

– Simeon House, Mail on Sunday

‘In telling the story of these women, which involves empathetic imagination as well as research, the author succeeds in making the reader imagine what they experienced and the choices they faced. The result is fascinating and gripping . . . there is still a long way to go in understanding the many ways in which women found ways to help others during wartime. Rick Stroud’s stories of these extraordinary women, often with lives unjustly cut short, are a valuable contribution to the task’

– Alice Kelly, TLS

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