Battlefield Tour

Laney said...I've been meaning to post a comment on one of the entries for some time now. I studied WW1 literature for A Level and became really fascinated with the war and everything that happened, so I would like to thank you for being kind enough to share these letters and everything for other people to read.

I recently found out that my great-grandfather fought in the war and was gassed. Unfortunately that's about all I know at the moment, but I'm hoping to try and find more information about him and where he fought etc.

I'm glad your trip to Flanders went well. I also went to France around the same sort of time, only I was on a 'Somme Trip' so we visited various places on the Somme. Although I've visted WW1 cemeteries and memorials before, it was still a very powerful trip.
June 27, 2008

Kimberly said...Wonderful pictures! I had the chance to do a short study abroad for my undergraduate history degree in England and France on WWI and WWII. I have to say that the cemeteries I visited in France really put WWI in perspective. WWI is not as intensively studied or discussed in school, but it is so important within history to everyone. To stand there and see the still evident destruction of life and earth leaves a lasting impression.
My several times great uncle died at Thiaucourt, France, 26 Sept 1918 - his body was never found.
Thank you for sharing you grandfather's letters, they are wonderful!
June 20, 2008

Anonymous said...I just recently saw a documentary on the Military Channel (here in the US) called "Digging Up The Trenches," about an archaeological dig on both Allied and German trenches in Ypres. Fascinating to anyone who might read this blog; they mention the Battle of Messines, in which they laid the mines that, when they went off, were heard in London. Just wanted to add that information. If you get a chance to see it, do.
Cecilia in Michigan
June 12, 2008

Blogger lonach34 said...This is a surprisingly emotional trip. Check the blog and think "Dammit, Harry, can't you write more often to let me know how you are getting along!"
My father was a US Naval officer in WWI; I have a picture of him, in training, firing a Lewis gun.
Concerning letters, if you don't mind an off-topic comment, in the US, the Postal Service delivers the mail and in the UK, the Royal Mail delivers the post.
C'mon, Harry, how are you doing?
June 12, 2008

Anne-Marie said...Thank you for sharing your experience with us. I've enjoyed the journey with you and hope that Harry made it home safe. My father was one of five men who came home from his platoon in WW2 and his stories always moved me to tears. He never ceased to love and cherish life after his war experience, though it took him a long time to retell any of them. I suspect those of us lucky enough to have lived in peace time have no idea the hell these young men went through.
Thanks again for sharing all of this with us.
Anne-Marie June 12, 2008

G. Tingey said...The most likely route would have depended on where the train started from. However, assuming he had been issued with a travel Warrant:
By the old GN route through Derby Friargate to Burton-on-Trent.
He would have changed trains there, and gone on (MR) to either of Lichfield or Tamworth, as there was a reasonable service to either, and then (at either station) gone down from the HL to LL platforms, and caught the first Trent Valley route local (LNWR) to Rugely.
June 11, 2008
This refers to one of the earliest posts and concerns Harry's possible travel route to his training camp at Rugeley from his home in Ilkeston when he received his call up. Thanks for the information. BL

Anonymous said...Absolutely wonderful blog! Thanks for sharing the story, letters and pictures!
I'm hoping that Harry made it home from the war safe and sound.....

Anonymous many graves. so much sorrow. and we did this to ourselves. thanks for posting the pictures of the cemeteries, they're very moving. it must have had an even greater emotional impact to actually be there.June 03, 2008

Doctor Pion said...Thank you for this wonderful article. My grandfather fought in France, but his letters never told what he saw. Only a few of his stories (and then between the lines) convey what really was there.

The single most striking thing in the pictures is the spacing, or lack of spacing, between the gravestones. The casualties were so high that they had to pack them into the graveyard.

How could it happen? I think Europe didn't notice the hints that were there in the American Civil War, when rifled guns and automatic weapons like the gatling gun made their appearance and massed attacks were often futile. It was assumed that the next war would be like the previous ones, so the threshold for starting one was low. One can see hints of that in the US plan for Iraq.

The fraction of soldiers who fired a weapon in combat was even lower in WW II and WW I according to the studies I have seen, and the increase since Vietnam has been associated with the increased rate of PTSD among veterans. [Wish I could tell you were to look for the detailed article I read on this.] In additon, many soldiers in Vietnam and previous wars held jobs that are now done by contractors, so a larger fraction see combat today.
June 09, 2008

Anonymous said...I check this blog every day, as if I were a family member waiting for a letter or other news of Harry. I want to thank you for sharing Harry's letters and the documentation of your trip. You hear the number of people who died in combat during WW 1, but it means nothing until you see all those headstones, and it hits even harder when you realize that you are looking at only a portion. I found your photos very moving, and it makes me even more grateful to those who serve.
Cecilia Saline, MI USA
June 08,

Blogger Rocco said... I ENVY you your great experience on your grandfather Harry's Flanders batterfields! And I envy your great way to tell it.
To win my envy I'll be near the Piave River, were Tommies fought, on next 13, 14, 15 June: there will be concerts of the "massed band" of PIPES AND DRUMS OF THE LONDON SCOTTISH together with the SCHIEALLION PIPES & DRUMS, the PIPERS OF THE TRINITY PIPE BAND OF EDINBURGH and the PIPES & DRUMS OF THE ROBERTSON ACADEMY, SUSSEX. I'm sure it will be a great event!!
I'm Italian, I don't have any British relatives but, during my frequent visits on the Asiago Plateau British cemeteries, I cannot get out of considering that young British dead 90 years ago helping an unknown country. Thank you
June 08,

Showbizbuff said...This is a fantastic site. My wife's father served in WWI, and his health was damaged to the extent that he passed away when she was just 12 years old. She did not have the benefit of a normal father/daughter relationship because even though he did survive the war, he was in poor health for those 12 years, caused by this dreadful war. Your site has been marvelous for her because it gives her a little insight into what Harry endured, and therefore, what her own father must have gone through as well. We hope Harry makes it to the end.
June 06, 2008

Linda said...Wonderful pictures, absolutely perfect description - please do not change a thing, so moving.

John said...Please, there is no need to edit and revise, you get across your feelings admirably. If you revise you will (to me) possibly lose the heartfelt feeling that you have conveyed to me!

Thank you
June 05, 2008

erathwomen said...What a lovely tribute and description. I, too, feel the need to go there someday.
June 05, 2008

Anonymous said...My friend and I, both descendants of members of the 21st Btn CEF, had a very similar experience last October. Thank you for voicing so very well, what we felt and experienced. We had the unique privilege of placing a wreath at Menin gate during the ceremony, on behalf of the descendants and I have to say I was never so moved by any thing, save perhaps the birth of my sons and my marriage day, in my entire life.
June 06, 2008

tps said...Professional copy editor here: No need to change a word. "... the 50,000+ names inscribed on the Menin Gate are those of men who were not found and buried" -- powerful.
June 06, 2008

True Newspaper said...How to stop a war.

In the Vietnam war only 30% of
the American soldiers going to the front line fired their weapons. The remaining soldiers had 100% of the bullets still in their guns.

So the individual soldiers own conscience kept his finger off the trigger of his rifle.

Which, with the help of the protests back in America, helped lead to the end of the Vietnam war.

Anonymous said...Did he die?? and is this for real "Battlefield Tour"?

Keep reading to find Harry's fate. The Battlefield tour is certainly real. Follow the link from the main website to get the details. BL

Rocco said... from George Henry Barnett-48th Division:

".......on june 19th the 23rd Division came for the changeover. Our 48th descended to Trissino....
the only difficulty was a strange fever suffered from some battalions on the Plateau: we called it "the mountain fever". Symptons were a very strong headache, extremely high temperature for three or four days and then some days of prostration. Doctors got crazy to find definitions for that, and, at the end, they decided it was a simple influence......

from wikipedia: in Italy, the first alarm of the Spanish desease was given in september 1918.....

Right name Mount CAVALLETTO, minus than 1 mile south west of Granezza Valley

Letter to Jack, 21st May 1918

Anonymous said...very interesting...
May 23, 2008

Anonymous said...It really isn't a very good reflection on the Army leaders of the time, that Harry has had to ask his civilian brother to find him books on Lewis gun operations and how to be an NCO! Anybody have any ideas WHY the Army didn't or couldn't supply such necessary books to the troops?
May 22, 2008
No real idea but I suspect that ammunition, food and men were rather occupying the priority spots - especially with the current problems in Flanders.

Kittybriton said...Are there any clues about what the books were? It would be interesting to know what Harry is reading in his spare time.
May 22, 2008
Harry asked Jack for two books - one on the Lewis Gun and one on Military matters like drills and saluting. I don't suppose either would take his mind off the war! BL

Ian Eiloart said...What's a y.m.?
May 20, 2008

Paul said...YMCA
May 20, 2008

"Y.M." is the common abbreviaton for Y.M.C.A. (Even today in the U.K.) The letter was written on Y.M.C.A. notepaper. The link takes us to a website about the Y.M.C.A. in World War 1. It is, however, a U.S. site and so is directed, understandably, at the "Y.M.s" for the U.S. soldiers. BL

Kathleen said...No letters to Kate for a while. Have these been lost or has he not written to her for a while?
May 21, 2008

Talizi said...I think these been lost.
May 21, 2008

Blogger Pamsie said...Indeed, we haven't seen any letters to Kate for a while.
Wonder what happened.
May 22, 2008

I have no way of telling! BL

Letter to Jack , May 8th 1918

Imitation is the best form of flattery! We have a rival site containing "Letters from an American Soldier" The publisher is, at the moment posting the backlog of letters to catch up so that it works in the same way as Harry's blog from then on. Link here.

ERIC SHACKLE said...Dear Bill. You may like to read a story just posted in the South Korean citizen reporters' newszine OhmyNewsInternational, that mentions your fascinating blog. Just click on
Best wishes, Eric Shackle (in Sydney, Australia).
Thank you., Eric for the very good article. BL

Did You Know? nice blog.. God Bless!!!
May 15, 2008

Anonymous said...Where is he!! Whats happened!! I need the next letter!!!! Is he dead!!! Is he alive!!! Its been 8 days and no word from him!!!
May 16, 2008

Harry may well be in "the Line". He has said that it's difficult to write from there. See the "War Diaries" to get clarifcation. BL

Rocco's pictures of Asiago

enfieldian said...Some very poignant photographs. Rocco Chiarolanza must be congratulated on the way they have been depicted. 13 May 2008

anj said...Vera Brittain's (Testament of Youth) brother Edward was killed and buried at Granezza, Asiago Plateau 1918. Is this anywhere near where these photo's were taken? Read the account of the battle in 'Vera Brittain, A Life" by Paul Berry and Mark Bostridge (page 131).
April 28, 2008

Rocco said...
Yes, it's exactly on that place! Edward's burial stone is in The Granezza cemetery, 2nd row, on the left.
May 09, 2008
That is a great result! Well done Rocco. BL

Anonymous said...I don't know if you want to post someone else's website address or not, but I found a site, , that is full of photographs of WW1. And if you click on the section "pics by mad photographer Frank Hurley", you can find a photo of two soldiers firing their Lewis gun.
May 08, 2008
Some great pictures on that site that give a very strong impression of the conditions in Flanders. (I have no problem with links, it's links to advertising sites that I object to!) BL

Andrew said...Let's hope Harry hasn't a headstone in these pics....God, I hope he gets home in one piece. Lest We Forget.
May 06, 2008

Anonymous said...They are indeed stunning pictures, and it's good to know that these hallowed places are so well looked after. Rocco, you're a wonderful photographer, and I hope you send many more!

But a question: the cemetery seems divided by those stone walls into sections. The 'central' section, the one with the altar?, has a small flag on the side of each individual marker. Most, but not all, of the flags appear to be Italian, as well as the three stripes of color laid into the grass. Am I right in guessing the soldiers in that section are the local boys, so to speak, and are the other sections also laid out by nationality?
May 06, 2008

The cemetery is split into sections by nationalty. My next task is to copy over Rocco's title for each picture, then that will become much clearer. Time is always a problem. I wanted to get the pictures in place first. The detail will follow. I felt the one picture absolutely demanded its title - I'm sure that the readers will agree. BL