Where Poppies Blow

Where Poppies Blow

21 November 2017

Price: £20

Author: John Lewis-Stempel

Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson

ISBN number: 978-0297869269

In Flanders fields, the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row

That mark our place, and in the sky

The larks still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns blow

John Lewis-Stempel offers an intriguing new perspective on the motivations of the British soldiers who fought in the Great War by examining the soldiers' relationship with nature. He suggests that instead of fighting for 'King and Country', many went to the front on behalf of 'King and Countryside'. Chapters in the book range from an examination of soldiers' views of wildlife, including the many birds that were spotted from the trenches, to their relationship with animals in service, notably the horses that carried out a range of duties from cavalry to artillery use, pulling heavy guns.

Lewis-Stempel also deals with the daily encounters with decidedly less pleasant (and rather unwelcome) examples of nature's creatures, like lice and vermin. Through fascinating first-hand accounts, we are taken back in history and given a captivating insight into the minds of the British soldiers. I enjoyed these first person accounts, as well as the chapters devoted to poetry written by servicemen during their time at the Western Front. We learn a great deal about the deep appreciation these soldiers had for the British landscape. This book is a moving read for anyone interested in the historical context behind Britons’ relationship to nature. I would thoroughly recommend this book, which is sure to make you take a second glance at the world around you the next time you step outside for a walk – particularly for anyone who has visited Flanders fields and other poignant battlefields of the First World War. Robyn Stephens