Dear America Wiki
Dear America Wiki

"It's terribly upsetting. I was miserable for the whole of the rest of the day. I've been doing this for quite a while now, and I shouldn't let it get to me. But under every brown blanket is a man–sometimes just a boy–who is loved by someone else. And on every small brown pillow is a face that a mother or brother or wife or sweetheart longs to see. Sometimes the poor faces are so damaged they won't be recognized–that's all part of the horror of this filthy war."
Daffy Rowntree[2]

Road to War: A First World War Girl's Diary is a book written by Valerie Wilding. It is the twenty-first book in My Story to feature a female protagonist and the thirty-sixth overall. The book was first published in May 2008 and reissued in June 2014 with a new cover. It was followed by Jim Eldridge's Roman Invasion.

The book follows young Daffy Rowntree as she joins the FANY and ships off to France during World War I.


"For Frederick John Harris, my Uncle Fred"

Book description[]

"It's 1917 and the Great War rages in Europe. When Daffy Rowntree's brother goes missing in action she refuses to sit safely in England, and determines to do something to help win the war. Soon she finds herself in the mud and horror of the battlefields of France, driving an ambulance transporting the wounded of the trenches..."

""I just wish I could go and look for him. Is anybody looking for him?"
It's 1917 and the Great War rages in Europe. When Daffy Rowntree's brother, Archie, goes missing in action she refuses to sit safely in England. Soon she finds herself in the mud and horror of the battlefields of France, driving an ambulance transporting wounded soldiers. Daffy will help to save the lives of many brave men and women, but will she find what sent her to France in the first place? Where is Archie?


Despite the war, Daphne "Daffy" Rowntree lives a relatively quiet life on her family's estate in the countryside. She spends most of her time riding her horse, Honeycomb, and playing with her dog, Billie. Her mother, "Mimi," is busy with her paintings which are popular with Americans. Daffy's younger siblings, Freddie and May, have a governess looking after them, while their other brother, Archie, is away at school. Soon after she starts her diary in December 1916, Daffy learns that her father has died while fighting in France. She wishes to be useful to her mother. However, they both have little knowledge on how to run the estate. Daffy, therefore, relies on her uncle Cecil and the servants.

Daffy becomes worried about Mimi, whom has started painting fairies with names and backstories. Her worries are lifted temporarily when Archie comes home from school. Archie later introduces Daffy to his sweetheart, Violet Wetherby. When he praises Violet's "war work," Daffy decides to start her own knitting group, only to find out that the village already has one. Unfortunately, she is terrible at knitting so one of the village women invites her to roll bandages instead. Meanwhile, Daffy learns how to drive a motorcar from Archie and takes to it "naturally." In mid-April, Archie decides to join the war as a cavalryman and leaves the car to Daffy. Her great aunt, Eloise, later comes to help run the household.

When her uncle visits, Daffy talks to him about doing "war work" at a factory. He instead suggests joining an organization like his wife Leonora. Daffy visits London a few days later and learns about the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY) from Leonora. Daffy starts training, but soon receives word that Archie is missing in action. Daffy returns home for a month until her mother convinces her to go back. She officially joins the FANY as a driver and ships off to France. Mimi says to her "Find my Archie" before she leaves. In France, Daffy has a busy first week at camp. She goes for her first drive with Jolliphant, whom she confides in about Archie. Daffy is not sure if he is still alive, but decides to keep looking for him.

Daffy soon becomes busy with her job, but feels at home at the camp with her new friends. Later that month, she meets an officer, Charles Wensley-Croft, whom she develops a crush on. Daffy is upset when she thinks that he has someone else named Mabel. In late November, Daffy is shot by a German soldier while protecting a messenger dog. Due to her injury, Daffy returns home on leave. She receives letters from Charles, but refuses to open them. In late December, Charles arrives to learn why she is ignoring him. She explains and he reveals that Mabel is actually his sister. Charles stays to meet Daffy's family. She later reflects that the war has taken things from her, but she has found where she belongs.

Historical Note[]

The First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY) was formed by Sergeant-Major Edward Charles Baker, whom saw that soldiers died "from lack of help before they could be taken back to base for treatment." Young women had to pay ten shillings to join and then six shillings a month. They were required to learn a number of skills. In 1914, when the Great War, the FANY offered their services but were rebuffed. They instead helped the Belgians but, after seeing their contributions, England was happy to have their help. During the war, the FANY performed countless tasks, including driving ambulances, running hospitals, setting up canteens, and just generally helping weary soldiers.

In World War II, the FANY were given even more tasks, including confidential work. Today, the FANY are called the Princess Royal's Volunteer Corps, though FANY is still widely used. The organization is still ready in times of emergency, including the 7 July 2005 London bombings. The section includes a timeline of World War I events and ten photos related to the FANY.


Main article: List of Road to War characters
  • Daphne "Daffy" Rowntree, a so-called "tomboy" who does not fit in well in her small English village. She wants to do something for the war and finds her calling in the FANY.
  • Charles Wensley-Croft is an Army officer Daffy meets while driving him to the hospital. She continues to visit him there and they eventually grow to care for one another.


Main article: Valerie Wilding

Valerie Wilding is a children's author and former school librarian.[3] She wrote six books for the My Story series, including Bloody Tower, The Queen's Spies, Highway Girl, No Way Back, and Wartime Princess. Road to War was her first for the My Story relaunch and was followed closely by her second, Highway Girl. According to Wilding, Daffy is a "bit" like her as she also finds it hard to "fit in."[4]



  • The cover of the first edition was illustrated by Richard Jones.
  • The second edition of Road to War uses a photograph taken by Jeff Cottenden on the cover.


See also[]

My Story

The Hunger | Voyage on the Great Titanic | The Crystal Palace | Blitz | My Tudor Queen | Twentieth-Century Girl
The Great Plague | The '45 Rising | Civil War | Trafalgar | The Trenches | Battle of Britain | Mill Girl | Transported
Armada | Crimea | Bloody Tower | Indian Mutiny | Zulu War | Mayflower | Agincourt | Suffragette | Waterloo | Slave Girl
Flying Ace | Anne Boleyn and Me | D-Day | Victorian Workhouse | Spy Smuggler | Desert Danger | War Nurse
U-Boat Hunter | The Queen's Spies

1st relaunch

Princess of Egypt | Pompeii | Road to War | Roman Invasion | Viking Blood | Highway Girl | Sophie's Secret War
The Storm to Come | The Sweep's Boy | The Fall of the Blade | Pyramid of Secrets | Factory Girl | Dodger!
No Way Back | Wartime Princess | London Stories | Berlin Olympics | Lady Jane Grey | Nowhere to Run

2nd relaunch

Codename Céline

3rd relaunch

Noor-un-Nissa Inayat Khan | Ignatius Sancho | Princess Sophia Duleep Singh | Mary Prince

My Royal Story

Victoria | Anastasia | Cleopatra | Marie Antoinette | Elizabeth | Mary, Queen of Scots | Henry VIII's Wives

My True Story

What If They Find Us? | Hero at Dunkirk | Standing Alone | Give Us the Vote!

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