As a follow up to yesterday’s post on Homeland, Percy Izzard’s book of nature writing on the British countryside during the First World War, here are several more daily entries. A book well worth tracking down second-hand.
Some deal with the changing agricultural landscape, such as noticing (March 28th 1917) that “It is interesting to see how quickly the birds have become accustomed to the motor plough. The strange form and immense noise of the machine …”
March 25th (1917) “And although the flowers were few when you think what this day has seen in other years, never did they open to a world readier to welcome them”
welcome to a world weary not only of the long winter, but also the war?
British farming and the countryside was facing difficulties by 1917 from poor harvests and the call up of male farm workers. Add to this the demands of feeding several armies overseas. From early in the year, the unrestricted submarine warfare of the German U boat blockade of Britain increased the sinking of merchant shipping bound for Britain with imported food from around the Empire and world.
These were pre-war cheap and plentiful food imports that we had come to rely on, much to the detriment of pre-war British farming.
Both rationing (1918) and a form of WW2 style Dig For Victory in 1917 were eventually organised in Britain in WW1.
We will feature more from Homeland by Percy Izzard in late March / early April 2017, when the quiet world of nature in Britain that he works hard to convey can be read 100 years on as (directly ? deliberately?) at odds with events overseas, the Battle of Arras (9 April to 16 May 1917) in France.
This battle would involve many of Izzard’s audience of “soldier lads” who read his daily nature column in the Daily Mail in the trenches. Forming a valuable bit of escapism, these short daily columns would be adapted and edited to become his book Homeland: A Year Of Country Days in mid 1918.
The Battle of Arras would see the deaths on active service of several of the zoo staff, botanic gardens staff and naturalists that we have been researching through the World War Zoo Gardens project.
Blogposted by Mark Norris, World War Zoo Gardens project, Newquay Zoo.