August 1914, London. Britain has just declared war on Germany, and the whole country seems to be in uproar. Flora, Hilda and Will, who grew up together in St Boniface orphanage sit in the sunshine in Hyde Park on a rare day off, discussing the impending war and the changes it will bring to their lives. Will means to go off to fight, Hilda hopes to better her current lot in life as a maid at the charitable institute Hailing House, but Flora is content with her job as assistant to the Isle of Dogs' kindly Doctor Tapper.
Lizzie Flowers has had a hard life, but she is still full of true East End grit. In the bleak years after World War I, her family faced desperate times, and deep tensions split them apart, but when barrow-boy Danny Flowers asked her to leave for a better life in Australia, she stayed true to her family's roots. She married Danny's brother, Frank, instead, a decision she came to bitterly regret.