A BAFTA award-winning documentary writer from Winsham has painted a picture of life in The Great War through the eyes of those who experienced the conflict.
Shadow of War is the first in Stewart Binns’ new series, which will feature a book for each year of the First World War, launched to mark the centenary.
Set in 1914, the book looks at the lives of men and women from across the social spectrum, spanning the Lancastrian mill workers to Winston Churchill, retelling the sequence of events that would lead to the biggest conflict the World has known.
The author, who is in his 60s, lives with his wife Lucy and twin boys, Charlie and Jack.
He reflected on the experience of writing on the Great War in its 100th anniversary year.
“It’s not just about the First World War, but all wars. It’s about that wonderful line, ‘Lest we forget’.
“But the reason why we keep having wars is because we do forget.
“We forget the death and suffering that happens as a consequence, that happens to innocents and civilians, as well as the fighting.
“That’s not to say I’m a pacifist. If you get a monster like Hitler or Polpot, we can’t sit back and let them do as they see fit.”
The Great War also holds personal resonance for the author.
Binns’ grandfather was a gunner in the Royal Artillery, and an Accrington Pal, who won the Military Medal in 1917 for Acts of gallantry and devotion to duty under fire.
As documentary-maker in the ’90s, Stewart filmed the Remembrance Day ceremony at the Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium, describing it as “one of the most moving experiences imaginable”.
There, he met Bill Stone, Harry Patch and Henry Allingham, then the last remaining British survivors of the war.
Stewart remembers: “I was lucky enough to go to the Menin Gate when they were still able to take the last surviving veterans over.
“I think Henry and Bill were in wheelchairs, Harry was able to walk, and all of them laid a wreath.
They were all over 100 years old then.
“I think Harry was the third oldest man in the world when he died at the age of 111.
“Henry Allingham was the last surviving member of the Royal Naval Air Service.
“Harry Patch was a Somerset boy, Somerset Light Infantry, and the last British Tommy to die.
“To meet men who were born in the 19th Century was an extraordinary thing.
“When you think their grandfathers were born around the time of the Battle of Waterloo.
“They shared with me images of Victorian Britain. It was an absolute privilege.”
THE Shadow of War has been released and to pre-order your hardcopy or Kindle download, visit www.amazon.co.uk/The-Shadow-War-Great-Series
The News will have more on the First World War next week.