Thursday 7th February 1918 - 2 Letters

Anonymous said...
This is hannah i think all people from history are great people dead or alive.
February 21, 2008

I. Michael Koontz said...

Re:?sexism?

No, Julie, I doubt it. I interviewed a man who served in WWII as a surgeon, and he despaired over what he could tell anyone back home about his experiences. Who could relate to all that death and muck? Few, if any. Perhaps, as some suggested, he felt comfortable telling his brother more of this rather than his sister.

Think about the things one can tell one's mother as opposed to one's father. Just because the information might be different, it doesn't mean one is condescending to one and not the other, nor that one is treating one with greater respect than the other.

Also, remember this: he probably thought that his sister would be more interested in some subjects and his brother in others. Unfortunately, most of what he is going through he likely felt would be best told to his brother.

If anything, he is being a little gallant about it, and when being gallant has become 'sexist,' I think something wonderful has been lost from this world.

Anyway, that's what I think.

Interesting discussion about a "sexism" angle in the letters.

I just feel that firstly, we are talking of a very different world of 90 years ago and secondly that the word means different things to different users. To one it is an important political concept, to another a simple description. "
'When I use a word it means exactly what I want it to - nothing more or less' - Humpty Dumpty in Through the Looking Glass. ..." Can we leave this one alone now please? BL

A. Bingham said...

I have been following this blog with great enthusiasm.
When I was in Vietnam mail was very important to me.

Considering that Harry was married with children, I wonder if he didn't write to his wife and she to him or if those letters were not preserved?

One may wrongly get the impression that Harry was closer to his brother and sister than he was to his wife.

I know times have changed. In those days many marraiges were arranged and though happy enough there may not have been much of the passion that would be put to letter writing.

February 14, 2008
Harry certainly wrote letters to Ethel, his wife. He says that he's about to write one in one of the letters posted here. And, to clear up your other point, he commends married life to his brother. "I should not like to be single again."

Sadly, none of the letters to Ethel survive.BL

Anonymous said...

Hi, it's Ruth from California once again. My earlier message got lost in cyberspace, or else it ended up on some other blog and confused everyone reading it! To Doofuss, yes, this does hit close to home. Only one generation away, and you and I got firsthand info from our dads, and like yours, my father fought demons all his life. He was in the 42nd Rainbow Div, Battery 150-E, and some of the battles he fought in were Chateau Thierry, Black Forest and Argonne Forest. They certainly could have met. I only recently got this specific information from an elderly cousin. I have a comment too about the issue of "trench foot". "Trench mouth" was another malady from this time, it has a clinical name and it is still contracted sometimes. It is extreme soreness and infection of the gums, and hard to treat. I'd also like to say that this gets more interesting with each contributor adding another anecdote or piece of information from their own stories told at home or passed down. Happy Valentine's Day Everyone.
Ruth

February 14, 2008


Hello, I'm Ruth, a daughter of an American soldier who was on the front lines in France, WWI. I posted on an early listing but obviously, this is the place to be, and not on the first ones. All I have is a single postcard my dad wrote to his mother in Virginia from France, so being able to read these letters is priceless to me. My father didn't talk much about his war experiences but because of them, he didn't want to have sons, he always said. Reading other messages in this blog, it seems that none of the soldiers brought many of the stories home. My father was born in 1893 but didn't marry and have kids until his late 40s, he was 52 when I was born. Thank you so much for putting so much effort into posting all these letters. It will give me a little glimpse into my father's young days. The fathers of my classmates were all in WWII, so they thought it was very odd that mine would have fought in WWI. I will take great pleasure in reading these.
Ruth

February 09, 2008

Ruth said...

My comment did get through but it's elsewhere in this site and I'd never find it again. I wrote again, but again, I think I did it in the wrong place. IF they ever find their way here, I'll delete one of them. This is Ruth in California, and I'll just wait for the next letters home.

February 16, 2008

David T. said...

I have just started to follow the story and I am already hooked. I love history and to read actual historic letters through your blog is amazing. I am glad that these letters where saved and that you would share them with us! Thank you!

February 15, 2008

HG in California said...

Feb 14 has come and gone. Did they then, or do they now, celebrate Valentine's Day in England? Also, Steve commented that "Capital Ships" were attacking Allied shipping. What are Capital Ships? Getting antsy waiting for Harry to write!

February 15, 2008
"Capital Ships" are large, fighting ships of the line - responsible, along with submarines, for the blockade of the U.K. A significant reason for some of the strategic moves in Flanders was to attempt to stop the submarines from operating from Zeebrugge, to relieve that blockade. BL

Roger O'Keeffe said...

Fascinating to see the laconic way in which this month's entry describes the battalion being withdrawn from the line in Flanders, having a period of rest and training in which inter alia it receives a draft of 50 ORs (i.e. 50 NCOs and privates - not identified by name, unlike officers!), boards a couple of trains and heads off to fight on a totally different front in Italy!

By the way, the phrase with the question mark is "haltes-repas" - i.e. stops for meals: a French phrase, one of many which the British army picked up in "France", which in the parlance of the time also included Flanders which is part of Belgium, a confusion made more plausible because officers and official documents in the Belgian army used French too.
11 February 2008 15:57
Roger - checked with the War Diary. Definately "Franglicised" to "halt repas" BL

luigi pellizzari said...

Congratulations for the great job. I live in Montebelluna and my grandmother (born in 1896)used to tell me about the British soldiers posted here during the great war. They used to exchange their abundant chocolate and marmalade (very rare in wartime Italy) for fresh milk and "polenta". The British troops also played the very first football match in this town as witnessed by my grandmother and described by Lamin.
A few years ago the local parish published the diary of the Montebelluna priest during the world war 1 years who gives a vivid account of the arrival of the British troops here.
I recommend the following book to learn more about the British troops in Italy: "The British Army in Italy 1917-1918" by John Wilks & Eileen Wilks - Pen & Sword Books Ltd. -Barnley. I really look forward to reading more of Lamin's diary.
Luigi Pellizzari
Montebelluna - Italy

13 January 2008 12:54
Sorry for the delay in collating this one, it was posted with the War Diary and was missed on the updates. BL

Anonymous Roger O'Keeffe said...

13th ... 2nd Lt Park M.C. and 2nd Lt Lewis joined on the 14th inst.

Mr Park is clearly a sound chap, because he has an MC, i.e. Military Cross, which was not given out lightly.

How do I know that MC isn't just his initials? Because, if you look carefully, you will notice that officers' initials, where used, are placed before their surnames, whereas ORs' initials, are placed after their surnames.

While officers were awarded the MC, the equivalent decoration for ORs was the MM, or Military Medal. Occasionally you will see someone whose decorations include both a cross and a medal: that tells you that he was decorated (with a medal) as an NCO or private, was subsequently commissioned "from the ranks" and then won a further decoration (a cross) as an officer.
The War Diary isn't consistent with the initials. Sometimes O.Rs. have initials before surname , sometimes after! BL

11 February 2008 16:47

Anonymous said...

Hello Harry from Arizona, USA!
We've just received news about your letters from the National News Service here in the USA.

I am enjoying your turn of phrase that embeds an image in my mind of what you're going through. I look forward to hearing more about your experiences.

I have a feeling that a chap named Oscar Davidson from Tennessee, USA will soon be stationed very near you. He has been joking about being worried of being so close to English because his family immigrated to America from Scotland and according to him "an English officer is bound to find out that I am from the sheep stealing Davidsons and I'll be brought up for charges." He has quite a sense of humor even though he just started studies in South Carolina to be a Solicitor.

If you happen across him , please pass my greetings to him. I'm his grandson,Kevin. And I'll cherish his letters home for many years to come as will my children.

Thanks for putting up the good fight with the Jerries!

Best of luck keeping your feet dry and warm!

February 08, 2008

Anonymous said...

hello!

thanks for the great job you are doing here in keeping history alive.
I am 26 years old and my own grandfather was an army baker in WW1 since he was born in 1888 and my dad in 1942 as the youngest of 8 kids. unfortunately we have no letters or anything, just the family bible.
learned about your project on German television (ARD) and am following the blog ever since. I have finally managed to catch up and read all the old entries.
I really hope Harry gets to survive the war.

greetings from Stuttgart
Elise F.

February 11, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I, have been following Harry's movements using Google Earth. You can see all the towns and their relationships from the air. It is quite amazing!

February 12, 2008
Vanina said...

HI, MY NAME IS VANINA I`M FROM ARGENTINA AND FOR ME ITS A REALLY HONOR CAN READ THIS LETTERS, I`M REALLY THANK YOU FOR SHARING THIS MEMORIES.
THIS IS AN INCREDIBLE WAY TO SEE WITHOUT BARRIERS WHAT WAS THE FEELINGS AND EXPERIENCES OF EVERY SOLDIER IN THAT WAR.

January 31, 2008

Anonymous clanalba said...

Hi BL
Thank you from Tasmania for providing such an excellent blog.
I await each post willing Harry to come through unscathed.
On re-reading your latest post several times I believe the letter is in the correct sequence.
My theory if it hasn't already been suggested is that:-
At the end of page 2 Harry missed out a full stop after "forget to take".
Also on page 3 where Harry has writted "as" (accepted English colloquial form of "has") if this were substituted for "has" then the sequence will make sense as he then refers, to "A fighting patrol mostly HAS a lewis gun and three or four of the team with them".
God bless him but I think Harry's phonetical spelling and lack of punctuation, capitals etc may have caused the apparent confusion.
Please please keep it going.

February 04, 2008


Anonymous Steve said..

HGinCalifornia

German U Boats and Capital ships were still running amok with the Convoys from the rest of the world to the UK. Ports like Hartlepool in the North were shelled from battleships and Zepplins bombed them.
Although there was not a blitz like in WW2 the Germans still had the power to hold the UK island nation to hostage. and if the battle of Jutland had had a different outcome I am sure it would have been much worse.

February 12, 2008

Anonymous Geoff said...

Re: HGCalifornia.
American Forces were already in France for nearly a year, training and getting equipped before committing themselves on the front line.
German submarines were rife in the North sea and sunk a lot of allied ships. They also sunk American ships which was one of the reasons why the USA joined in the war ...

February 12, 2008

Blogger The History Rat said...

As a history teacher, this stuff is so great! What a wonderful job of revealing what history is made of --- ordinary men and women in extraordinary circumstances. Thank you!

February 12, 2008

Anonymous said...

Reading through the blog, I think often of my grandfather, when he was in France. Thanks for the time and all the work that you have put into the blog.

February 13, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find myself checking in every day, like checking my mail box hoping Harry has sent me a letter. Great Blog please keep it up.

Rick USA

February 13, 2008

Blogger Thomas said...

I read about the adventures of Harry on a German website and felt inspired by your idea to open up an old suitcase that was sitting, as such suitcases tend to do, in some dark corner. It contains a correspondence similar to yours, the correspondence of Else B., a German woman from 1915 - 1962. Obviously WWI mail, "Feldpost", is included.

I proceeded to open up a blog as well, copying the Letters, but dating the blog entries to represent the proper letter dates. The blog will cover most of the life of Else B., not just the war.

The blog sits here: Briefe an Else.

February 14, 2008

Anonymous Ruth said...

Ruth from California again. I'm not sure my comment on the 12th got through. I'll keep waiting. I answered doofus and also noted the battles my dad was in. Hope to see it posted soon and when's the next letter?

February 14, 2008
The next letter? Who knows? We just hope for the postman every day. BL

Anonymous said...

I'd like to know in which front in Italy the soldier William Henry Bonser Lamin fought.

February 11, 2008
I hope to be able to post "views" of the Italian front that have been kindly prepared by a reader. They show the main locations mentioned by Harry and in the Battalion's War Diary. The War Diaries do give locations if you need an early update. Montebelluna would seem to be the centre of his operations. BL

plastic said...

excellent stuff! I also wanted to let you and your readers know that I have started a blog with a similar format. However, instead of letters the primary source material I have are a number of journals written by my Great Grandfather during his time in the AEF in Siberia from 1918-1920. Check it out if you get a chance.

http://aefinsiberia.blogspot.com

February 11, 2008

Anonymous said...

Love how your can copy the original letters. I love it! It is so interesting to read!!

February 11, 2008

Anonymous doofuss said...

I and two others whose comments I have read may actually be getting so much more from this experience that most readers. Ruth, the American lady, says her dad was on the front lines, that he was 52 when she was born. Me, too, Ruth. My dad was was a sergeant from Illinois and was amongst the first American forces in France, and he was 51 when I was born. While most others are making reference to their grandfathers or great grandfathers, for me (and I'm sure for Ruth as well) this experience just brings it all really close to home. Can't help but wonder if Ruth and my dad ever met, if either of them met Harry. Which brings me to mention the other commenter, Tom Thourson who has set up "adoughboysblog.blogspot.com" for his grandfather (?) who not only was also amongst the first Americans to arrive in France, but he also hailed from Illinois, central Illinois, no less, just like my dad. So, for those readers who are bored by others' comments and who urge that readers' comments be eliminated from this blog, I pray that never happens. Because, people, there's just a whole lot more going on here than just a curious peep into someone's past. There is developing an enormous opportunity to examine the long-term effects of WWI, especially for those soldiers afflicted by what was then termed "war neurosis." Probably because my dad was so vague about his war experience and because he led such a -- shall we say -- convoluted life after the war, I have been moved to learn more about the "why" behind his troubles. The mysteries are many and may forever remain so. Still, it would be ever so helpful to be able to document the dates he served, exactly where, etc., but as many are aware, there was a huge fire in 1973(?) which destroyed most WWI soldiers' service records. I find this blog inspirational to the search. Finally -- for a different perspective along the same timeline -- try looking over the combat division histories and compositions at history.amedd.army.mil/booksdocs/wwi/fieldoperations. God Bless

February 12, 2008


February 12, 2008

Anonymous Geoff said...

Re: HGCalifornia.
American Forces were already in France for nearly a year, training amd getting equipped before committing themselves on the front line.
German submarines were rife in the North sea and sunk a lot of allied ships. They also sunk American ships which was one of the reasons why the USA joined in the war ...

February 12, 2008
Philly Phan said...

I learned of this blog on the NBC Nightly News here in the US. As another reader posted, WWI gets somewhat short shrift in history classes in the US. I never could "feel" WWI until I visited Brugge and toured the battlefields of Flanders with an excellent guide. Another book for evocative background that I recommend is "A Storm in Flanders, the Ypres Salient 1914-1918". Today's soldiers correspond by e-mail. I hope someone is saving them.
February 11, 2008

harleymama said...

We live in Nebraska USA...listened to your report on NBC news...I have enjoyed what I have read so far, and certainly plan on keeping up each day with your great efforts. Thanks for sharing one man's history with the world. I believe that history stories are a great way to learn about the world around us.
February 09, 2008

sk said...

I have similar letters from a U.S. soldier during this exact time period.

I'll have to do a little research before I could attempt a project like this. Other relatives may have more info I could include.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to comparing the letters and the events. The paper he used looks familiar to the paper the Red Cross issued my great grandfather.

It's my first visit to your blog or any blog for that matter! I look forward to sharing your experience.

Cheers!
sk
February 09

MHB said...

As one wrote, you are helping to bring history alive. Well done - excellent blog - I'm passing along the link on my blog. Keep up the excellent work. Your family has got to be very, very proud of your work.

M from East TN, USA
Sommer said...

I was excited to hear about your blog on the NBC Nightly News. I'm a high school history teacher and I can't wait to share Harry's stories with my students when we tackle The Great War. The unit is always more meaningful when we can put a human face to what is happening in history and I'm sure my students will get into the blog (since its a forum they use regularly.)

What truly interests me is not only the personal experiences, but also the information about the daily grind of the soldiers presented through Harry's stories. One of the items my students enjoy learning about is daily life in the trenches, and the reference of whale oil in relationship to trench foot will certainly interest them.

Thank you for the postings. I can't wait to hear more from Harry!

February 09, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a great blog and can't wait to keep reading. Really interesting to compare 90 years later. Keep it up!

February 09, 2008

welshcorgi said...

I learned about your blog on NBC Nightly News. Wow, what a wonderful story you are graciously sharing with the world. I am a high school U.S. history teacher in Idaho (USA) and can't wait to share your grandfather's story with my colleagues and, more importantly, my students on Monday! I have spent the entire day reading your grandfather's letters and the unit diary entries. Your efforts to enhance and personalize the tragic, yet utterly fascinating, tale of WWI is very much appreciated! Your blog reinforces the fact that history is best told as a story.

February 09, 2008

Anonymous Katrina Marie said...

I would like to thank you for posting these leters online for everyone to enjoy. I was informed about this website when it was mentioned on the NBC news the other night. I'm sixteen years old and I find so much joy in reading these letters and I have told many of friends and family about Harry Lamin's letters. I do hope that he makes it in the end. Thank you so much for sharing this with the world.

February 10, 2008

Blogger Algario Triplets + Mom & Dad said...

I noticed that Harry sometimes asks for a package or a parcel in his letters. Of course being so far away from home who wouldn't want one. I know that if I wrote home and asked my family for package this day in age they would think I was rude and would tell me so. I live in America so perhaps things are different over here. I was just curious given the era and perhaps the age difference with his brother and sister if it was socially appropriate to ask for a package back then or was he just particularly close to his siblings and felt comfortable asking for it? Were they financially able to comply with his wishes or was it sometimes a burden on them?

February 10, 2008
The soldiers were very poorly fed. If you look back to Harry's time in Flanders, he talks of having to share a loaf of bread between 4 or 5 men. Anything from home was welcome, especially cakes and chocolate. Harry's family was not well off. I suspect they survived because both Jack and Kate were in relatively reasonable employment. I suspect, but have no evidence, that Connie's father may also have helped out financially. BL

Anonymous said...

Boy, it really seems obvious that Harry had much more time when he wrote these, as opposed to the majority of his letters. These are not only longer and more thoughtful, the handwriting is much neater, the lines are straighter, and the writing in general is smaller and not scrawled in haste. Assuming these sheets are approximately the same size as his previous letters, compare the last letters (where he wrote about ten lines per page) with these, where he fit in more than twice that per page (not counting the address and salutation, 24 and 26 lines!).

Was there a lull in the fighting? Did Harry perhaps get a short rest period somewhat to the rear, out of immediate danger?

-Gustav's great-granddaughter

February 10, 2008
The writing is much neater but note that there are ruled lines on the pages and the sheets of paper are much bigger so the effects are exaggerated. BL

Blogger Mushy said...

He seems so brave for those back home, trying hard to stay involved in family affairs, but you can feel his uncertainty for his own well being in between the lines.

Thanks again for sharing.

February 11, 2008

Kittybriton said...

The comment about having to rub their feet with whale oil is interesting. Any idea when the practice was started?
I am touched by Harry's hope that the war would be over soon, and his realistic pessimism that it would drag on for another twelve months.
Once again, Harry's blog demonstrates that history is about real people, and their experiences.

February 09, 2008

"Trench foot" was a serious problem that could lead to gangrene and amputation or even death. The whale oil was probably an attempt to keep the feet in good condition. BL

amateur history buff said...

Thank you for your generosity in sharing your family history. It is a great story so far. Do you have photos of Connie, Kate and Willie? The words of your grandfather are painting a picture of deathly boredom, sadness and fear. Just what war is about.

Again thank you

Deborah in the USA
You'll find pictures of Connie Kate and Willie in the blog. I've more to follow.BL

February 09, 2008Emory said...

your Blog just appeared on NBC Nightly News, here in the US.

I am going to follow this, your grandfather's story with great interest.

I lost several members of my family in Flanders and Picardy. I am a direct descendent of one who lies in Rouen. Died from wounds March 29th 1918 - South Lancashire Fusiliers he was a Mons Star holder, having been in France since 1914.

Thanks for this important effort.

February 09, 2008

nonnamack said...

Hi, I just heard about this site on MSNBC News. What a great thing you are doing...sharing such intimate, heartfelt, and perhaps "stirring" letters with us. Those of us who may never be on a battlefield will never truly know what experiences our men and women face who are in harm's way. Thank you so much for helping us see some of those experiences in a more personal way. Good luck with all you are doing. "nonnamack"

February 09, 2008

Anonymous Jeanne Mal said...

Just saw your story on the NBC Nightly News. Although I' m not a history buff, I enjoy history from the personal perspective. I am looking forward to following his story.
Jeanne
Pawtucket, RI

February 09, 2008

Blogger bakekc said...

I look forward to reading your blog each day--I have many letters written by my Father during WW2--it would be great if someone started a site where people could post family heirloom letters and share them with others.

Airwreck said...

Boy do I agree with that statement.. The letters are great.. but the comments are not needed or just make them as mouse overs.. and WHY DO a BLOG.. just build a web site around this wonderful information .and DUMP All the ad's
This could be such a great learning tool.. but a BLOG is not the way to go.. SIGH
February 09, 2008

I think there was an American who said something about not pleasing all the people all of the time! (Abraham Lincoln) BL

Anonymous said...

Thank you for publishing these letters. I only have a postcard that my father wrote to his mother. My father fought in WWI on the front lines in France, born 1893, but he didn't marry and have kids until he was in his 40s. He was 52 when I was born. He didn't talk much about his experiences so this glimpse is priceless to me. And when I see movies of the war, I try to picture my father there. Thank you for this. I will read each entry.
Ruth

February 09, 2008

Anonymous G said...

I'll be following this 'til the end. Great insight, this is a real treat thanks for your work and effort

February 09, 2008

Al's nephew said...

Brian Williams of NBC Nightly News reported on your blog tonight. I have read up to the beginning of the 2008 posts.
My mother's brother is buried in Normandy; another soldier, from a different time, who sailed from an English port into the hell of war.
Thank you for sharing Harry's letters -- you have brought the world closer together.

I hope Harry makes it home.

Dick

February 09, 2008

Anonymous said...

Brian Williams spoke about your blog this evening on NBC News. I am so grateful to him for talking about it and to you for doing the work behind this blog.
The letters (and I went back to start from the beginning) are fascinating and well-written; the anecdotes that you have provided about Harry's family and friends are also interesting and hold one's attention. Thank you for sharing your grandfather with us. We are fortunate that we are getting to know him.
Iva from Pennsylvania

February 09, 2008

Anonymous said...

I really liked your blog

February 09, 2008


www.democratz.org said...

A fine blog. Thank you for letting us see what your grandfather went through. Apparently the world did not learn the lessons of WWI and fought again over 20 years later.

February 09, 2008

Blogger Mushy said...

Heard about your efforts here on the NBC News tonight and dropped by...I'm looking forward to catching up.

I wrote about my Vietnam experiences on my blog, but they won't hold a candle to these excerpts!

Thanks for sharing them.

February 09, 2008

Blogger Judy said...

What a wonderful thing you're doing. And to have these letters in your possession...they are absolutely priceless.

February 09, 2008

Blogger historianangel said...

Of course Harry is writing two different versions of events to two different people. Working in an archive I have read many letters to family members from soldiers and they do write differently to different members of the family.
Many times sisters and mothers were not given a lot of details, wives were sometimes given more details then the sisters or mothers. Most male soldiers felt comfortable given more details to their brothers or friends.
Fathers were sometimes not even given a lot of details. I am not surprised that Harry gives different details to his brother then his sister.

I know it has been said a lot but what you are doing is such a great thing not only for history buffs but for people who do not know much about history this is a great way to draw them in. Thank you.

February 09, 2008

Blogger Smallfry said...

Wow. I just saw this blog from NBC, and decided to check it out. And i must say, it is amazing! Many complements for doing such a great historical work!

February 09, 2008

Anonymous PAL said...

I found you via NBC, nightly news in the USA. I am fascinated with history, genealogy, and this blog is amazing.
My Grandfather, from Falmouth was in WWI, fighting in Turkey, Persia, Mesopotamia, the Holy Land, and North Africa---He was a proud English Soldier.
I will follow this each day, and I have made Harry my own. Thank you so much. I will pray for Harry.
PAL Missouri USA

February 09, 2008

Blogger smitymann said...

I heard about this blog while watching the NBC nightly news and was fascinated with the trials and travels of "Harry". I can't wait to see the next posting of his letters to home.

February 09, 2008



Julie said...

But the period in which Harry is writing is 1914 - 1918. It was in March 1918 that some women (those over 30 with property) gained the right to vote in the UK. This after a long and torrid campaign over the previous decade by the Pankhursts and their supporters. Harry is exhibiting the characteristics of his social class and his era by being paternalistic and condescending towards his sister - and that is sexist.

February 09, 2008

arrtgrrl said...

My husband saw about this blog on msnbc yesterday and told me about it, since I am a great history reader. Excellent! Keep up the good work!

February 09, 2008

Blogger Animal-Lover-13 said...

I was told about this by my History teacher and it was homework to read some of it. I did my 30 mins but could not stop reading as it is a great tale of his life, and it helps to get an idea of what they must have been going through.

I like that fact that you're doing it in the same way that he would have written the letters, its almost like you're waiting for the next one like his family would have done.

Its a great learning source, and a great way of sharing the letters with everyone.

Congratulations for getting over 1 million views!!

February 09, 2008


Anonymous said...

Being in a much different but similar situation at one time myself, perhaps I can try and explain the differences in the letters to different family members.

Sexist, never. You must keep in mind while reading this EXCELLENT blog on Harry's war time experiences, the period in which it is taking place. You should not apply todays standards to any part of this, as they do not apply.

Harry is, for sure, giving two different views of his situation. This is done to this day by those who do not want to worry their loved ones. Put yourself in his shoes, his situation. Would you want your sister, your wife to be worrying about you sleeping in mud, rats, water up to your waste and god only knows what else. Think of the worry they had just knowing where he was and what he was doing. Having them know the the detailed version would not help anything. Harry was not being sexist, he was using his love and respect to filter what he wrote to who.

The more detailed version, of which is still not detailed to show what Harry actually went through, allows Harry to get some of what he is going through out. Out to someone he is very close to and believes understands him more then anyone. There are moments in Harry's letters where you can sense him holding back in his letters to his Kate and in his next letter to Jack, more of the detail is there.

I would submit that this is done out of love and respect for all those receiving the letters. Why worry them more, it accomplishes nothing. This continues today in the letters from Iraq, Afghanistan and all the other hot spots around the world where service personnel are deployed.

GH MacDaniel, Col (Ret'd)

PS: As has been said so many times. Thank you for your great work and for sharing this with the world.

February 08, 2008

dieguin82 said...

It's awesome to read this letters, congratulations BL for the blog! And thank you very much for the contribution to the history knowledge. I'm fascinated with this history, and I'll follow up each day. This is my first comment in this site, so I have to say sorry for my English, I'm trying to improve it.

Regards,

Diego C.
Argentina
The English is excellent! BL

February 08, 2008
The Don  Said

I came,
I looked,
I loved what I saw.
Keep up the good work.
dancingnancie said...

Hello from Arizona! I'm 26, and was just watching TV yesterday and it hit me that I had no idea who we fought in WWI, so I got it in me to go web surfing and I came across this blog. It's absolutely fascinating! I've always been a war history buff, but always skipped over WWI due to lack of interest/coverage. We just kinda glanced over it in school - we study Civil War and then dive into WWII - WWI doesn't really get discussed. I can't imagine wht it must have been like, I hope Harry gets out alright!!

February 08, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I teach and study WW1 lit so these letters are more than entertainment to me (not that I'm belittling how others read them or being critical). These are somewhat typical of what the men sent home--they were restricted in what they could say and of course they didn't want the folks at home to know how bad it was. They didn't know, generally, that some people at home DID know how bad it was. I hope that Harry's right about America coming in (I love going through with him!) but I especially hope he survives.....

February 08, 2008

Anonymous HGinCalifornia said...

It seems odd that the War Diary lists so many drills and competition between units on these days when Harry makes no mention of them in his letters. On the 7th they even had competition among the Lewis gunners. Makes one wonder if the War Diary is being "padded" with activities when the troops are just standing down and doing nothing, or very little. And why would they have the troops doing Saluting drills? Are they actually talking about saluting, or a WW1 weapons drill that shares the name? I'm looking forward to seeing Harry come home safe. I, like others, am booting up and checking for today's letter before anything else.

HG in California

Yes, it was saluting. The army today would be doing the same things. Just as inexplicable, just as nonsensical. Hard to believe then, but today's soldier would recognise the approach! BL

February 08, 2008

Anonymous Steve said...

I was trying to get a feel for the area in Italy he was in, and I dont know if you have done this but I google mapped Montebelluna Treviso, Veneto, Italy

Its nice to get a feel for position and how far he was from home and it must have been cold at the foot hills of the alps.

February 08, 2008

Anonymous Julie said...

It may not be what we now call sexism but he most certainly gives more detail to Jack than to Kate. It would have been fascinating to be able to have read what he wrote to Ethel - sad that she took the actions she did. And,of course, no-one gets the full details, which may not have even been self-censorship. If you KNOW someone else is only going to black it out, why bother writing it in the first place. I agree he is abnormally chatty here. He is bored. He is lonely. He is missing home. He may even realise how lucky he is to have survived France and to be in Italy. He could be chatty to entice chattier letters from home. Whatever it is - it is engrossing.

February 08, 2008

VetMichael said...

Excellent letters, thank you for posting them. I keep checking every day to see if Harry has written yet, it certainly has had me worried!

February 07, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Julie, above: Harry isn't neccessarily being sexist, not even by the standards of his era, in the different kinds of letters he writes to his brother Jack and to the women in the family. True, Jack does seem to get a little more actual detail; but not even he gets EVERYTHING Harry is going through: just a broad outline, whereas Harry writes bland, all-is-fine letters to his sisters and wife.

I think it's a combination of Harry being closer emotionally to his brother (don't forget, Harry spent several years of his childhood in Jack's care) than to his sisters; plus, no matter what war and what era, soldiers often 'self-censor' so as not to worry those at home.

As I've said on a previous comment here, I'm currently getting the very same sort of letters from a nephew in Iraq: "nothing to worry about, all is fine, I'll be home soon." It's not sexism, it's self-preservation and trying not to worry the folks at home with things they can't do anything about.

That said, these are both much longer letters than usual; not as hurried, more thoughtful, than Harry usually seems to have written.

-Gustav's great-granddaughter

February 07, 2008

Anonymous said...

Wow two letters, a good day for me so must have been wonderful for Jack and family. Harry seems quite chatty in these letters it makes you feel that he had more time even though (if I read correctly) he is back on the line. It's great to see that he seemed to be getting quite a lot of messages from home even if it was not all good news, it obvious that he was well loved - good for him.

Like another reader I too look for Harry's mail before my own - keep up the great work.

Regards

Linda

February 07, 2008

Harry has left the line for the moment. That may account for the dramatic change in quality of the letters. BL
Anonymous Japa B. said...

What very valuable work you're doing here. Thank you very much.
I started reading this blog only last weekend, and was in great suspense how Harry would fare. Thakfully today his next letters were posted, and I think his last few letters are markedly different from the ones he sent before. Particularly today's letter to Jack seems downright chatty for him, as if he needs to get his thoughts off his chest. The deaths of Uncle and Jack Bonser seem to have affected him deeply, as well as the poor health of his father. Maybe he feels his own vulnerability in the deaths and illnesses of people he knew as a child. Maybe not so incidentally this also seems to be the first detailed description of his life in the trenches - and he is quite adamant that he does NOT want to go back. It almost feels as if the reality of the hardships he endured is catching up with him in the relative quiet in Italy. He says he is "no worse for it now", but I cannot quite believe him. Stay alert, Harry, don't take any chances, let's hear from you soon.

February 07, 2008

Anonymous Julie said...

I guess there are folk who would say that your Harry writes with his audience in mind. For me, though, it comes across as sexist. This was probably the era as much as anything. He certainly treats Kate and Jack to different slices of his reality.

February 07, 2008

Anonymous Steve said...

H.A.C. = Honourable Artillery Company

February 07, 2008

Thanks Steve, I forgot that it was a new set of initials. BL

Anonymous Nobby said...

http://www.1914-1918.net/23div.htm

Nice link to Harry's Division.

February 07, 2008

I have used the site for research in the past. Thank you for posting it.BL

Anonymous Leah said...

Wow, Harry's had a rough week! I still can't help but notice the difference in the letters to his brother and sister. I suppose his sister must have been a real worrier, and he really didn't want to upset her; whereas his brother was probably a little less "dramatic" (for a lack of a better word) about his worries. I really wish that the letters that people sent Harry survived, as well as the ones that he sent to Ethel. They would definatly fill in the gaps.

February 07, 2008

Sorry, no letters to Ethel. I've had a few discussions as to whether, if I had them, they should be published, or would they be too personal? BL

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hello Harry from Arizona, USA!
We've just received news about your letters from the National News Service here in the USA.

I am enjoying your turn of phrase that embeds an image in my mind of what you're going through. I look forward to hearing more about your experiences.

I have a feeling that a chap named Oscar Davidson from Tennessee, USA will soon be stationed very near you. He has been joking about being worried of being so close to English because his family immigrated to America from Scotland and according to him "an English officer is bound to find out that I am from the sheep stealing Davidsons and I'll be brought up for charges." He has quite a sense of humor even though he just started studies in South Carolina to be a Solicitor.

If you happen across him , please pass my greetings to him. I'm his grandson,Kevin. And I'll cherish his letters home for many years to come as will my children.

Thanks for putting up the good fight with the Jerries!

Best of luck keeping your feet dry and warm!

Anonymous said...

hello!

thanks for the great job you are doing here in keeping history alive.
I am 26 years old and my own grandfather was an army baker in WW1 since he was born in 1888 and my dad in 1942 as the youngest of 8 kids. unfortunately we have no letters or anything, just the family bible.
learned about your project on german television (ard) and am following the blog ever since. i have finally managed to catch up and read all the old entries.
I really hope Harre gets to survive the war.

greetings from Stuttgart
Elise F.

Anonymous said...

I, have been following Harry's movments using Google Earth. You can see all the towns and their relationships from the air. It is quite amazing!

A. Bingham said...

I have been following this blog with great enthusiasm.
When I was in Vietnam mail was very important to me.

Considering that Harry was married with children, I wonder if he didn't write to his wife and she to him or if those letters were not preserved?

One may wrongly get the impression that Harry was closer to his brother and sister than he was to his wife.

I know times have changed. In those days many marraiges were arranged and though happy enough there may not have been much of the passion that would be put to letter writing.

Anonymous said...

Hi, it's Ruth from California once again. My earlier message got lost in cyberspace, or else it ended up on some other blog and confused everyone reading it! To Doofuss, yes, this does hit close to home. Only one generation away, and you and I got firsthand info from our dads, and like yours, my father fought demons all his life. He was in the 42nd Rainbow Div, Battery 150-E, and some of the battles he fought in were Chateau Thierry, Black Forest and Argonne Forest. They certainly could have met. I only recently got this specific information from an elderly cousin. I have a comment too about the issue of "trench foot". "Trench mouth" was another malady from this time, it has a clinical name and it is still contracted sometimes. It is extreme soreness and infection of the gums, and hard to treat. I'd also like to say that this gets more interesting with each contributor adding another anecdote or piece of information from their own stories told at home or passed down. Happy Valentine's Day Everyone.
Ruth