Winner of the 2017 Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize for nature writing
The natural history of the Western Front during the First World War
‘If it weren’t for the birds, what a hell it would be.’
During the Great War, soldiers lived inside the ground, closer to nature than many humans had lived for centuries. Animals provided comfort and interest to fill the blank hours in the trenches – bird-watching, for instance, was probably the single most popular hobby among officers. Soldiers went fishing in flooded shell holes, shot hares in no-man’s land for the pot, and planted gardens in their trenches and billets. Nature was also sometimes a curse – rats, spiders and lice abounded, and disease could be biblical.
But above all, nature healed, and, despite the bullets and blood, it inspired men to endure. Where Poppies Blow is the unique story of how nature gave the British soldiers of the Great War a reason to fight, and the will to go on.