The series follows the years between 1914 and 1920. Twelve-year-old Bert Middleton spends his days working on the family farm, school and enjoying secret swimming lessons from his brother Joe. The Middleton family though are living in poverty and dad John, has turned to drink. His mum Grace, has made many sacrifices in her efforts to hold the family together and put food on the table.
The Middleton farm has now fallen on different times, so after Grace gives birth to daughter Mary, feeding another mouth proves tougher than ever. John's heavy drinking makes matters worse leading to a stunning revelation about his past mistakes. The Allingham family are also in crisis after Caro's mental health takes a turn for the worse.
Grace is concerned that there is no news from her oldest son Joe from the front line. She is over the moon though after returns to the village on leave. George Allingham informs Martha that his sister Caro is pregnant. Hankin opens the boot factory using cheap labour using Grace and the other woman in the village. There are celebrations as Norma and Arnold get married.
John and Grace are findng it hard to cope after baby Mary becomes dangerously ill with scarlet fever. John steals some animal medicine from the Big House estate farm in a desperate effort to try and save her life. Things heat up between Agnes and Bairstow. It's an important date for the village as the annual wheelbarrow race takes place.
Joe’s short leave from the Front comes to an end. Even though he has tried to conceal his shell-shock from the family, Grace knows that something is not right with him. Bert finds out that he is unwittingly responsible for his brother’s state of mind and takes action, with disastrous consequences for the rest of the family.
In 1920, the war is over and the village has to come to terms with what it has lost. Eyre is released from prison. The villagers come to terms with soldiers returning expecting their old jobs back and women signing up to the union. Some body's won't be making it home whilst others won't be honoured at all.