A love of birds has always been an important part of the British way of life but in wartime birds came into their own, helping to define our national identity. One the most popular bird books ever, Watching Birds, was published in 1940 while songs like "There'll be Bluebirds over the White Cliffs of Dover" epitomized the blitz spirit. Birds even featured in wartime propaganda movies like the 1941 classic "The First of the Few" starring Leslie Howard where they inspired the design of the Spitfire.
Along the coast flooding to prevent a German invasion helped the avocet make a remarkable return while the black redstart found an unlikely home in our bombed-out buildings. As interesting as the birds were some of the people who watched them. Matthew Rankin and Eric Duffey counted seabirds while looking for U-boats. Tom Harrisson, the mastermind behind Mass Observation, watched people 'as if they were birds' while POW Guy Madoc wrote a truly unique book on Malayan birds, typed on paper stolen from the Japanese commandant's office.
For Field Marshall Alan Brooke, Britain's top soldier, filming birds was his way of coping with the continual demands of Winston Churchill. In comparison Peter Scott was a wildfowler who was roused by Adolf Hitler before the war but after serving with distinction in the Royal Navy became one of the greatest naturalists of his generation. With a foreword by Chris Packham CBE Birds in the Second World War is the story of how ornithology helped to win the war.