In August 1914 four young British soldiers find themselves trapped behind enemy lines at the height of the fighting on the Western front; unable to get back to their units, they shelter in the tiny French village of Villeret. Living in daily fear of capture and execution, they are fed, clothed and protected by the villagers including the local matriarch, Madame Dessenne, the baker and his wife.
The self-styled leader of the band of fugitives, Private Robert Digby, falls in love with the twenty-year-old-daughter of one of his protectors and in November 1915, with war waging a few miles away, she gives birth to a baby girl. The child is just six months old when someone betrays the men to the Germans. They are captured, tried as spies and summarily executed.
Using the testimonies of the daughter who survives to this day, the villagers, and most movingly the soldiers' last letters, Ben Macintyre reconstructs an extraordinarily story of love and duplicity set against the compelling backdrop of German occupied Picardy. After decades of village rumour he asks the question: Who betrayed Private Digby and his men?