Keiron Pim

For king and countryside

Amid the horrors of the Western Front, British soldiers were drawn nostalgically to bird-watching and botany, as John Lewis-Stempel’s touching book informs us

In July 1915 the poet Edward Thomas enlisted as a soldier with the Artists’ Rifles, even though, at the age of 37, he had no obligation to do so. When his friend Eleanor Farjeon asked why, he scooped up a handful of earth and replied: ‘Literally, for this.’ John Lewis-Stempel’s new book is persuasive that Thomas and his contemporaries’ love of the natural world informed both their motivation to fight and their conduct during the first world war.

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