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World War One Special

In an extended programme for Remembrance Sunday, Countryfile explores the First World War's lasting legacy on the landscape of the western front.

In an extended programme for Remembrance Sunday, Countryfile explores Word War One's lasting legacy on the landscape of the western front and the part played by those on the home front in winning the war.

Matt Baker uncovers a subterranean network carved out by allied troops from the chalk of Arras and learns about the role played by mule-men like his great-grandfather in the war. Ellie Harrison reveals the iron harvest of bombs still unearthed by farmers today, Tom Heap goes on a very personal investigation to the start of trench warfare, John Craven reveals how we adapted tractors to make the world's first tanks and Adam Henson discovers how man's best friend became his greatest ally when dogs were trained for front-line duties by the British army.

1 hour, 10 minutes

Last on

Mon 17 Nov 2014 01:20

Hull Pals

Hull Pals

Matt Baker is in Oppy, walking in the footsteps of his great-grandfather Tommy.  With two mules by his side, just like Tommy had, he is introduced to the story of the Hull Pals by author David Bilton.  Matt and David get exclusive access to Oppy Wood, the site of a terrible battle in which many of the Hull Pals lost their lives.   Matt and David discover a battle scarred landscape and Matt is able to pay his respects to the fallen at the Hull Pals memorial located at the edge of the wood.

Find out more about the Hull Pals

Sennelager

Sennelager

Ellie Harrison is at Sennelager Training Area.  Once the site of a German prisoner of war camp, it is now a haven for wildlife, with rare flora and fauna nestling amongst its vast heathland and inland sand dunes.  Ellie meets with Lt Colonel Mike Onslow and finds out how the military are doing their bit to preserve and maintain this special site whilst still going about their operations in what is a busy and important training ground.

Tom’s great uncle

Tom’s great uncle

Tom Heap goes in search of his great uncle Thomas who fought on the front line during the First World War. It’s a story that starts among the dreaming spires of Oxford University, before Tom traces his great uncle’s journey across The English Channel to the battlefields of Northern France. As Tom discovers there is still evidence of the bloody battles that took place a hundred year’s earlier. But what happened to his great uncle Thomas in The Great War? 

War dogs

War dogs

Adam Henson discovers how dogs played their part the fight on the frontline during the First World War. Colonel Edwin Richardson was the first man to train breeds such as Airedales and Collies to send messages and rescue wounded soldiers for the British Army. Adam visits the Defence Animal Centre in Leicestershire and discovers that Richardson’s methods still influence those who train the dogs used by the forces today.

Find out more about the work of the Defence Animal Centre today

From tractor to tank

From tractor to tank

One of the biggest innovations in the First World War was the tank. With its thick armour plating and ability to cross even the roughest of terrain it was an invention that helped to break the deadlock of trench warfare. But how was the tank developed? John Craven heads to Lincoln to where he discovers that cutting edge farm machinery formed the basis of the new weapon. At the time of the war, tractors were still new to farming but their abilities to cope with ploughed fields made them an ideal starting point for the tanks that would follow them. 

Find out more about the birth of the tank

Arras tunnels

Arras tunnels

Matt goes to Arras, the site of a battle so bloody it ranks amongst the worst of The Great War.  Underneath the battlefields, Matt discovers a labyrinth of tunnels that housed more than 20,000 men as they prepared a surprise attack on the enemy.  He gets a glimpse of the poignant carvings and graffiti left behind by men who were keen to leave their mark, not knowing if they would see their loved ones again.    

Ordnance Survey

Ellie is on the western front to find out about the bravery of the many representatives of Ordnance Survey on the front lines.  She sees some of the kit they would have been using at the time and how this played a vital role in supporting the soldiers and officers in their operations.  Later, she meets a battlefield guide who reveals some untold stories of her own great-grandfather’s activities during the war. 

War graves

War graves

Matt explores the work of one of the world’s largest horticultural organisations – the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. He finds out about the constant maintenance & restoration involved in keeping the cemeteries that dot not only the Western front, but the whole world, in pristine condition.

Find out more about the Commonwealth War Graves Commission


The Iron Harvest

A century after World War One, tens of millions of unexploded shells are still buried on farmland in Northern France.  Every year people are still wounded by these lethal weapons, which have killed thousands of people since the war ended in 1918. Ellie joins bomb disposal experts in Arras who work all year round to clear what’s known as the ‘Iron Harvest’. She also meets a farmer who has the risky job of ploughing fields littered with munitions.

Find out more about the Iron Harvest

Credits

Role Contributor
Presenter Matt Baker
Presenter Ellie Harrison
Presenter Tom Heap
Presenter John Craven
Presenter Adam Henson
Executive Producer William Lyons
Series Producer Joanna Brame

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