The twentieth century saw two world wars and countless other conflicts whose effects on society have been well documented. Here you will find the less familiar story of how these international struggles managed to reach into the quietest corners of the British countryside. From Battle of Britain vapour trails looping over summer cornfields and affecting local hawks and waterfowl to the lone ringed bird who limped in from invaded Czechoslovakia, diarists note down and discuss the momentous changes wrought by wars on British country life. Women and children fetching in the harvest as their menfolk fight in Flanders. Italian prisoners of war singing opera in Herefordshire orchards. Mobilising the Women's Institute to make jam for the war effort. Beautifully written and subtly observed, these rediscovered treasures reveal how for all its soft beauty, Britain's rural landscape has been shaped, in part, by man at war with man.
Martin Wainwright is Northern Editor of the Guardian. He is the editor of A Lifetime of Mountains: The Best of A Harry Griffin's Country Diary (2005), A Gleaming Landscape: A Hundred Years of the Country Diary (2006) and is the author of The Guardian Book of April Fools Day (2007) and the Coast to Coast Walk (2007).