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China, December 1941. Having left an unhappy life in England for a teaching post at a missionary school in northern China, Elspeth Kent is now anxious to return home to help the war effort. But as she prepares to leave China, a terrible twist of fate determines a different path for Elspeth and those in her charge. Japan declares war on Britain and America and forces take control of the school and the security and comforts are replaced by privation, uncertainty and fear. Separated from their parents, the children look to their teachers and Miss Kent, the school Girl Guide Patrol leader, to provide a sense of unity and safety. Their motto was to be prepared, but nothing could prepare them for war.