Birds

How a stork helped the UK get through the First World War

Harry Perry Robinson was elderly (age 54) and infirm at the outbreak of the First World War. But he was also a senior correspondent of The Times with a distinguished service record; a confidante of the proprietor, Lord Northcliffe; and a rabid patriot long convinced of the German threat to world peace. There was really no stopping him from crossing the channel and heading to the Western Front.
Robinson was, in fact, the oldest correspondent who covered the entirety of the war, writing up to two-thousand words a day for The Times, articles that were also syndicated in newspapers around the world. He was part of a coterie of correspondents at the front, including Philip Gibbs and William Beach Thomas.
As there were often long stretches between battles, correspondents searched for topics to write about to satisfy a public hungry for news. Robinson, keenly interested in the natural world, turned his reporter’s eye to the war’s impact on flora and fauna. “Strips of waste land by the roadside are ablaze with wildflowers, ragwort and milfoil and toadflax and evening primrose,” he wrote. “A single chiffchaff – plucky little thruster that he is! – was singing impatiently not
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