During the dreadful Battle at Verdun, the French command urged the British to ease the pressure and launch their planned offensive on the Somme. The battle started on July 1st 1916, and in September the British used tanks for the first time.
Following the second battle of Ypres, furious fighting continued on all fronts. Casualties were high, conditions dreadful, and life expectancy short. The only break the men had was a brief home leave, or a few days away from the trenches.
Billeted away from the trenches for a week, Private Peter Galbraith suddenly finds himself separated from his retreating regiment and marooned in the town of Ypres in the face of the German advance. With the army gone, law and order has broken down in the town and looting and fighting is rife. Private Galbraith takes it upon himself to re-establish the rule of law in the town, and before long he becomes the acting provost and recognized King of Ypres. But he realizes that his conduct is likely to be seen in a different light by his superior officers.
Flanders, June 1917: a British officer and celebrated poet is shot dead, killed not by German fire, but while recuperating from shell shock well behind the lines. A young English soldier is arrested and, although he protests his innocence, charged with his murder. Douglas Kingsley is a conscientious objector, previously a detective with the London police, now imprisoned for his beliefs. He is released, and sent to France in order to secure a conviction.