At Midnight in a Flaming Town

Written by Lorraine Bateman Paul Cole
Review by Janet Williamson

This collaborative story, inspired by written reports, documents and diaries, reveals the impact and consequences for both real and imaginary characters in Belgium at the outbreak of the First World War.

The writers interweave the world of military, political and civilian personnel, the most notable being Miss Edith Cavell, Matron of the Brussels Medical Institute, who was responsible for the training and welfare of probationer and qualified nurses. She directs determined probationer Marion Drake to escort a group of repatriated German nurses to the residency of the American Legate. There she meets the voluntary aide Russell Clarke, who is calmly alleviating panic and dissension. He secures the nurses lodgings at a convent until the train service is eventually restored. The pair are mutually impressed and attracted to each other.

Miss Cavell has prepared and equipped secret rooms at the hospital for all those in need of help. The Germans have conducted mass murders, random shootings, village burnings and multiple rapes as they invaded.  After the Battle of Mons physically and psychologically wounded soldiers, displaced soldiers and residents without the relevant documents, and women impregnated after being raped, received attention. Therese, a raped nun, was despatched by the church authorities to have her baby delivered at the hospital. There she bonds with Marion, who agrees to protect her unborn baby from life in an orphanage.

When Miss Cavell is arrested after being betrayed by a Frenchman, Marion finds herself in danger for actively aiding in the transfer of the refugees to safe houses within the city.

I hope there is a sequel to this novel.