University of Bath

The orphan story of British women and internment in occupied France

In this seminar, Dr Ayshka Sené will present her research which focuses on the 'orphan stories' of British women in Frontstalag 142 camp during WW2.

5 Mar 20191.15pm
5 Mar 20192.05pm
Black and white image of the Eiffel tower and Paris skyline with a dove.
View of the Eiffel tower in Paris. Many British women were living in Paris in 1940 when they were arrested.

This seminar focuses on the experiences of British women in Frontstalag 142, a camp in Vittel, Eastern France, where up to 4000 women were interned. It contextualises their stories of incarceration within the broader experiences and narratives of British women in wartime France, and questions why these experiences of internment have been overlooked until now.

Drawing on interviews, biographies and archival material, this paper interrogates current understandings and stereotypes about British women during the Second World War. It argues that the life stories of Vittel internees are ‘orphan stories’, which have remained peripheral in popular memories of the war because they sit in-between national narratives in Britain and France, and, even today, do not align with depictions of the British national self as ‘triumphant’ or ‘tragically defeated’ (Daase 2010, p.19).