Where Poppies Blow

Where Poppies Blow

by John Lewis-Stempel


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781780224916
Publisher: Orion Publishing Group, Limited
Publication date: 05/08/2018
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 751,692
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.70(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

John Lewis-Stempel is an award-winning writer predominantly known for his books on nature and history. He lives in Herefordshire, on the very edge of England before it runs into Wales, and within a stone's throw (with a decent gust of wind) from where his family farmed in the 1300s. His many books include the bestselling SIX WEEKS, about British frontline officers in the First World War, THE WAR BEHIND THE WIRE and MEADOWLAND, winner of the Thwaites Wainwright Prize for nature writing. His books have been published in languages as diverse as Brazilian Portuguese and Japanese, are available on all continents apart from Antarctica, and have sold more than a million copies. He has two degrees in history, writes books under the pen name Jon E. Lewis, is married with two children, and also farms.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements xi

List of Illustrations xiii

Preface xxi

Chapter I For king and Countryside: The natural history of the british 1

Interstice 1 Birds of the battlefield, western front 1914-18 27

Chapter II And the birds are beautiful still: Avifauna and men on the western front 32

Interstice 2 Poems about birds written by serving soliders 78

Chapter III All the lovely horses: equus as beast of burden, war horse, comrade 86

Interstice 3 Poems about horses written by serving soldiers 138

Chapter IV Of Lice and men: Trench pests, vermin and disease 158

Interstice 4 The statistics of disease 204

Chapter V The bloom of life: Trenchand pow gardens, flowers and botanists at the front 206

Interstice 5 Nature and the Ancre battlefield, 30 July 1917 238

Chapter VI The Dogs (and Cats, Rabbits, Etc.) of War: Trench Pets 242

Interstice 6 A Complete List of Soldiers' Pets and Mascots 269

Chapter VII A-Hunting and A-Shooting (and A-Fishing) we will go: Field Sports and Poaching at the Front 278

Interstice 7 British and Empire Naturalists Who Died on Active Service 1914-1919 297

Chapter VIII And Quiet Flowed the Somme: War's End 306

Notes 327

Bibliography 350

Index 359

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