Bert Middleton is the second oldest man in Britain, and a film is being made about his life and his village. He takes us back to the summer of 1914, when he was twelve years old. Bert and his brother Joe fall in love with the same woman, and Britain declares war on Germany. Joe considers whether he should enlist, and Grace pushes him to seek his freedom.
It's January 1915 and the Middleton farm has fallen on very hard times. John is drinking heavily as his desperation grows, and Bert assumes responsibility for his mother and the survival of his family. Also, a strange incident takes place at the manor house when John is seen chasing Caro out of the woods. Detective Bairstow is called in to investigate and the dark secret in John's past is revealed.
It is March 1916, and conscription is introduced for the first time in British history. Call up papers are delivered throughout the village, and soldiers arrive at the Middleton farm to requisition Bert's beloved horse, Big Molly. Opinion is divided when it is revealed that Eyre is a conscientious objector, and as he awaits his tribunal tragic news is received from the front.
It is 1st July 1916, the date of the Rondo: an annual wheel barrow race on the cricket field, and unbeknownst to the villagers, the first day of the Battle of the Somme. Rumours sweep around the village that the local Pals Battalion are taking part in a big battle about to be launched in France. Bert decides that winning the Rondo this year is a matter of life or death: if he wins, then Joe will be kept safe.
Joe's brief leave from the Front has come to an end. He has tried hard to conceal his shell shock from the family, but Grace knows that something is badly wrong. When Bert learns that he is unwittingly responsible for his brother's state of mind he takes action, with disastrous consequences for the family.
It is 1920; the war is over, and the village tries to come to terms with its loss. The date of the unveiling of the war memorial draws close and, as the inhabitants debate how best to honour their dead, divisions open up at the heart of the community.
Old Bert Middleton
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