Happy Christmas to all readers of Harry's blog. It's sad that Harry won't be home for Christmas 1918, to spend time with Willie, Connie and Ethel, back in Ilkeston. At least, the fighting is over and there is a future to look forward to.
May I personally thank you all. This last year has been an amazing and unforgettable experience for me. I look forward to 2009 with eager anticipation. Bill Lamin
Happy Christmas to all readers of Harry's blog. It's sad that Harry won't be home for Christmas 1918, to spend time with Willie, Connie and Ethel, back in Ilkeston. At least, the fighting is over and there is a future to look forward to.
Today's (Monday) entry in the Battalion's War Diary records; 'First Dispersal Draft of 55 other ranks left the Battalion for the Concentration Camp at “Tavernelle”.' The term "Concentration Camp" has all sorts of sinister connotations today. I feel that we should take the term literally, to mean that it was a camp where the soldiers, bound for home, were gathered together. Tavernelle is close to Harry's current billets. It's on the main railway line heading towards France, close to Vicenza, about 50 miles (80 Km) West of Venice.
I can confirm that Harry wasn't in that draft and so I'm afraid that he won't be home for Christmas.
The book, based on Harry's blog, is complete and, this week was sent to the publishers.
The publication date has been set for April 2nd, but already it's available for pre-order at a significant discount from major booksellers.
It's certainly very exciting for me. There has been much more work to complete it than I ever imagined. The blog needed to be completely reorganised and largely re-written (Not Harry's letters!) A book is, of course, a very different medium. Hopefully, I've captured the spirit and simplicity of the original, using the same material but with a totally fresh approach and a more rigorous application to research. (I can hardly ask readers of the book to check the details for me)
As any cook will tell you, the same ingredients can make many dishes.
It would appear to be available world-wide from Amazon so it does seem to be really happening!
The next project, for the new year, is to prepare a school text book on World War One, using Harry's experiences as a scaffold. The target audience will be 11 to 14 years old. At least then, I'll be on familiar ground.
Dec 6th 1918
Just a line to let you know that I have received your long letter and papers. I am very glad that you visited Kitchen’s and found them alright. He is a decent chap very quite. I hope you got the letter I sent you asking for a pipe as I have broke mine. Ethel tells me what a rum chap Willie was you cant help but laugh when you hear about him. I shall be glad when I see you all again and I hope it will not be long. I am sending you a Christmas card. I hope you get it alright.
Wishing you both a Happy Christmas and New Year.
I'm afraid that there's no sign of the Christmas card. BL
As an idea for a Present for the "Harry" enthusiast, you can buy a limited edition mounted and framed version of Harry's stamps. If you order soon, then I'll make every attempt to ensure delivery before Christmas.
Only 100 will be produced, they will be signed to that effect by Bill Lamin, Harry's Grandson.
Now available, a limited edition of 50 of the full set of six sheets of commemorative stamps, framed and mounted.
Click here for further details and to order your Limited Edition Gift .
*Only one set left*
Nov 26 / 1918
C Coy 12 Platoon
With best love to
you both Harry
E Kitchens address
5 Beta Villas
From the content, especially of kate's letter.It looks as though these are the first letters that he has written to Jack and Kate since the armistice. Once more in this saga, I'm almost apologising for Harry. E Kitchen's address would be local to Jack. Harry has got another "green envelope". The contents wouldn't be censored locally and so could be used for any personal or embarrassing content. There is a scan of a "green envelope" on an earlier post but not, unfortunately, addressed to Ethel. BL
Nov 26th 1918
9th York & Lancs
C Coy 12 Platoon
I was very pleased to receive a letter from you. I am sending this with Jacks so I hope you get it alright. I was very glad to hear that they are all going on well at Ilkeston, and to hear such a good report about Connie send me her address, so that I can send a card to her. We are in a very poor place cant get anything and nothing to see only hills its about time we got to a town or to England, but I dont suppose we shall get there just yet. I dont suppose I shall be able to get home for some months yet. It will not be so bad if we can get to England. We had a bit of a rough time last time we were in action just at the finish we had to take a town called Sacile the Austrians had blown the bridge up over the river and held us up for five or six hours, but I and (am) glad to say that I got out of it alright. I hope you have a Merry Xmas it will make a lot of difference now the war is over. I hope you get home for Christmas. Let me know all about Connie if you go to see her anytime and how she is get on with walking. We had a dinner party last week it was called the victory dinner it was very nice. The weather is very cold but it is healthy very cold at night. We are at the bottom of the hills, there is plenty of snow on the top. Write as often as you can and let me know all the news you can, I got the papers alright.
With best love
Connie - to clarify; Harry in a letter to Jack back in August, tells how Kate is going to send Connie to school in Liverpool. I would guess that Chaucer Street School may have found it little difficult to deal with her special needs. The Liverpool school would have been a "special school" and Connie would have been a boarder.
The War Diary tells us that the "Victory Dinner" was held last Saturday, nearly two weeks after the armistice. Was this a general celebration for the whole of the army? BL
Rocco, a reader from Italy has just sent a link to a set of photographs of a reenactment of the crossing of the Piave in October 1918.
It may be of interest to readers. there are some good shots of the topography.
I had heard that the York & Lancaster Regiment reenactment Society were to be represented, so the British soldiers that can be seen may be them. (Although I thought that the leather waistcoats were of Royal Artillery issue.)
The event took place on 25th October. Click Here
As we mark the 90th anniversary of the armistice, we can confirm that Harry has made it to the end of the war.
A link to a short BBC TV report on this milestone, may be of interest. As would the broadcast on "The World" in the USA.
I've been asked to insert a warning that some of the broadcasts do look into the future. The secret that will remain with me, however, is Harry's story between the end of the war, and arriving home. To find out that part of his story, readers will have to "follow the blog".
While we celebrate Harry's good fortune, we should, of course, remember the many, of all nationalities, who didn't make it through that dreadful conflict.
In Italy, the last week may well have been quite stressful for the troops. They would, I would think, be quite fearful that they would be trained back to Flanders to support the fighting there. By now, however, they would have heard that the War was over on all fronts and that they could really look forward to going home to resume their lives.
I can confirm that Harry's story will continue on the blog until he actually reaches home. The letters continued and will be published, in the same way, exactly 90 years to the day after he wrote them.
The book is progressing well and will be published next April. BL
Over the last 24 hours, I have been totally overwhelmed by the comments from Harry's readers. I have several times been reduced to tears. Please take a little time to go to the "Readers' Comments" blog to see the wonderful scale of this following.
Thank you for your kind wishes, notes of appreciation and messages of support. At times, this amazing journey has been hard work but the response from you all has made it well worth while.
AND, - the story isn't over yet.
I will continue to publish his letters as they were written. Still, his family wait for news. Harry, (like his dear readers) has no idea when he will get the order to go home.
Without giving too much away, there's a lot of Harry's story still to unfold.
Then there's the book. BL
Nov 4th 19/18
Just a few lines to hoping you are keeping fit. I am alright at present, but we have had some trying times as you must have seen by the papers what a big success we have had in Italy. Our div is 23rd there are three brigades in it two went and crossed the Piave and two days after we had to releive them and take up a two Brigades front they had advance about 10 kilos we had to take a place called Sacile which was about 30 kilos farther on. We were not long before we found the Austrians first day it was all open fighting a great deal of machine gun fire but not much shelling as he was retiring very quick it was a rum job going through maize fields and searching old houses. of course we could not do anything at night only put sentries out and wait till morning. next day we went to with about four kilos of Sacile without seeing anything and day after we had to take the town of course he had blown the bridge up but we took it before night. We had four wounded in our platoon bullet wounds. The Austrians then retired to the Taglemento (river). I hope the war is finished by the time you get this letter. My Pal is safe. Kitchens address. 5 Beta Villa, Mayfield Street. He is alright.
Love to you Both
In ALL of Harry's letters, this is the first time that he has mentioned any of his comrades by name. I have always found that quite astonishing.
I would guess that this letter was written in the morning of 4th November. The War Diary entry for today (4th November) is worth a look.
Comments: If you've been following Harry's blog, may I ask that, at this very significant point, you make a short comment - just to register your interest. Thank you. BL
Consulting the Battalion's War Diary for today reveals an extraordinary and very welcome change in atmosphere. From being in an extreme active service situation, today all pressure has disappeared.
Maybe the clue was in the Diary entry for Friday 1st November. BL
Harry's Battalion is in action over the few days following this letter. The War Diary gives a useful account of what is going on. Keep up with their progress between letters by referring to the War Diary entries. Jono Wood has produced a fine account that explains a little more of the experiences of Harry's Battalion over these crucial few days. BL
Just a line to let you know that I am going on alright at present and hope to remain so. I have received your papers and was very pleased with them. They seem to be getting on with the war now and I hope it will soon be over.. We have been in an Italian town for a day or two the biggest we have been in yet. It is a bit more like war out here at present, but I hope it turns out a success, and the Austrians retire. I think they want peace bad. I hope you are both keeping in good health and I hope the war is finished before it is time for me to have another leave. Write as often as you can and let me know how you are getting on.
With best Love to you both
I would guess that this would have been written early in the morning of the 29th. The War Diary shows that this was a busy and active day for Harry's Battalion. They certainly saw some action and recorded 31 casualties. To keep up with Harry's Battalion's progress, the War Diaries are an important source BL
I'm not sure why Harry couldn't write a letter. We can see from the Battalion's war diary, that they were on half an hour's notice to move out. Probably, everything was packed and so the Field Service Post card was the easiest solution.
I'm not sure that all readers will realise, but it would be quite clear to Harry that some serious action was imminent.
12 Platoon I.E.F.
I have received your paper and a letter. I am pleased to hear that you are going on alright. We have had some big marches since I came back from leave, it as just about knocked me out, and I don’t think we have finished yet, we are still in Ital but on a different front, not far from V. we have never been here before. I have not been in the line yet since I got back, they were just coming out of the trenches when I returned. Last night we stayed a night in a city about as big as Nottingham first time we have been in such a big place. There was plenty of Americans - some had just come out of the line which was only about 7 kilos so you see it is very quite just now. I expect there will be something coming off before long. What do you think of the war do you think it will finish this next summer. Things are dearer up this end the Italians tells us the farer east we get the dearer things are. Write as often as you can and send a paper or two, I hope I see you all again before it is time for another leave.
With best love to you both
(I am sending a letter for Ethel)
It's quite clear that Harry has absolutely no idea how long this war will last. His account of marching and being out of the line, ties in with the account in the War Diary. I would think that "V" refers to Venice. The city would be Thiene. Refer to the War Diary, as the marching gets tougher on the next day. BL
I am delighted that Michael O'Mara Books, the London-based publisher, will be publishing a book based on Harry's blog. The contracts were signed this week.
The book, which is provisionally entitled "Letters From the Trenches: A Soldier of the Great War", is set to be published in hardback in April 2009. The aim is to take the material from the various ‘Harry’ blogs (the Battalion War Diary, the maps, photos and other pictures, the letters themselves) and to combine them, with any other relevant material, into a book which will help the reader to understand and appreciate the extraordinary experiences of this ordinary man.
The work is well under way. I hope to be able to deliver the first complete version to the publisher’s editorial and design teams in December.
There is still a great deal of research to do to complete the task. However, I am very keen not to lose the simplicity and directness that seem to have worked so well in the blog. I shall be providing an introduction and commentary to set the letters in context. I can only hope that my efforts at a book will be as successful as Harry’s blog has proved to be.
Harry has been home, but is now back in Italy. He writes to Jack.
Oct 1st/ 1918
32507/ 9th York & Lancs
Just a line to let you know I have arrived safe back in Italy it is not very nice to be after being at home but I shall have to make the best of it. I was very pleased to find them all well at home and Willie looking so well. The weather is still very hot, and we do our marching at night. I hope you got home safe after your holiday. We are on rest at present in Italian barracks but I don't know how long for. Write back soon as possible as it will be a long time before I get a letter.
Remember me to Agnes.
With best Love to you both.
With the sort of comment from Harry that we are used to by now. "I shall have to make the best of it"
I'm getting loads of helpful suggestions. The real complication is that my original transcription was IBDAPO, whereas the latest transcription is IDBAPO and, being in Australia, with the letter in England, I can't easily check which Harry actually wrote. Apologies.
"Army Post Office" seems pretty cut and dried. It could be 33rd Infantry Division British APO or 33rd Brigade D APO wher the "D" stands for "Distribution", "Dispersal" or something else.
Both the 33rd Brigade and 33rd Division were there in Flanders (May 1917) but neither seem to have had the West Yorks as members at that time.
We'd better leave this investigation on hold until I can check the original.
His full address was "Pt Lamin West York Reg number lines 33rd IDBAPO section 17 BEF France" - temporarily in the West Yorks before joining the York & Lancaster Regiment. email
Thanks to David, Marcy, Michelle, Marilyn, Mari, Robert,Gy and to anyone else who has made suggestions or researched the topic. We have a wonderful community out there.
While Harry is home on leave, it would seem a good opportunity to publish a card that Harry sent to Jack last November. I simply missed it as it wasn't kept with the letters, organised in date order. My apologies.
Harry is on leave. We must remain aware that many soldiers found their time on leave extremely trying. They were in an environment where no one could have the slightest understanding of the horrific world they had left behind. Many were relieved when the leave ended and they could return to their comrades who could understand. BL
There is a gap in the letters. This is certainly due to Harry being granted leave back to England.
In general, ordinary soldiers could expect to get around two weeks home leave each year. Harry has definately not had leave since he arrived in Italy in late 1917. I suspect, but have no firm evidence that he had leave in August 1917 from Flanders. There was a gap in his letters for that month. I think that he would have made some sort of comment in his letters if he hadn't had leave for around 20 months!
I do have evidence of this summer's leave and will be publishing it in due course. Currently then, we can assume that Harry is home with his family.
It's quite possible to order just "Harry" sheet, but the philatelists tell me that as far as a collector is concerned, a "broken" set will have little or no value. The 6 sheets that are available would make up a complete set and, potentially, be more valuable . BL
We should note Harry's birthday. On 28th August 1918, Harry was 31 years old. He had been in the army for 1 year and 8 months and had a son, Willie, who was two and a half years old.
My World Tour continues; I've updated "the World Tour" blog about the Tonga experience with additional bits and fresh pictures. Click on the link to view.
Today, Perth, Western Australia. I can be contacted through the "email" link above.
I'm sorry that there's a gap between letters. I can't make up correspondence. I suppose his family would have been as worried as my readers.
I have two possible photographs of Willie for the letter of 19th August. Both are "studio" photographs so I expect that Kate may have helped with the cost. I've added them to the post.
I believe the picture referred to may be one of these two. I would have thought that the one with Connie is about the right age- two and a half. (But my father looks so sweet on the other...) Any comments?
Reply to...........Company C Bat 9th Regt. York & Lancs Aug 19th 1918
12 Platoon L.G.S.
I hope you got the post cards I sent in my last letter. Ethel is having Willies photo taken so I expect I shall be getting one. We are up the mountains again now it is much cooler than being on the plains, the worst part about it is getting here it is such a big climb I can tell you, and it takes us a long time to get up we are all beat when we get to the top. The village we are at now used to be occupied by Italians who were well off. they used to come up here in the summer, it was too hot on the plains for them but of course no one lives here now as it has been knocked about a bit. I think the Americans are coming up here, well I hope we are not up this quarter for the winter as it is terribly cold for six or seven months and plenty of snow. I shall be glad to see you all again, but I expect I shall be home on leave sometime in the next month if I have good luck, so I expect to see you. I am glad that you are both keeping in good health as I am pretty well at present. I am sending this letter in Ethel's so I hope you get it alright. Write as often as you can. I am always pleased to get a line from you.
C Coy 12 Platoon L.G.S.
I hope you are getting on alright as I am in good health at present. The weather out here is very hot at present and the grapes and the figs are looking well but they are not ripe yet. I expect we shall be up the mountain when they are ready for picking. last time we were up we were there for eight or nine weeks it is a long time to be up and see nothing only plenty of fir trees so I think we have earned four or five weeks rest which I hope we shall get well we have had just over a fortnight now. The scenery is alright here we area at a place were Shakespeare wrote his poem about Romeo and Juliet. There is two castles just above our billets on a big hill and it is said that it was in one of these that he wrote this peace. it would just suit you to have a roam about here, but it is very quiet. I see from the papers that the Americans have arrived in Italy and have been to Rome. I wish they would take us to a place like thatwere we could seething. I have had a letter from Kate and she said that she was thinking of going home for August and she was going to send Connie to a school at Liverpool. I hope she gets on alright it will be hard for herto leave home but I hope she gets treated alright if not she would be better at home. Well it is Sunday today, and the fourth anniversary of the war, we have just been to church service. I think it looks like going on another year although some people think it will be over this year. I hope so at any rate. I expect I shall be getting a leave late on in September or early October, well I hope so. What do you think about the war. Do you think it will be long. We are up at 3.30 A.M. and finish at 9 A.m. Then we ahve an hour at night, that is while the weather is so hot, and while we are out for a rest. I am sending you a photo or two if you get them will you send one or two to Kate and Annie when you write they are photos of the castle. I have been up to them.
July 16th /18
C Coy 12 platoon
I have received your letters dated 8th July. I was very pleased to get one. We have been up the mountains for about 7 or 8 weeks and I could not get any envelopes they were all stuck so I have not been able to write many letters. We have started to come down so I hope we shall be down for two or three weeks rest. It is very hot on the plains. We have been rigged out with drill khaki it is very thin alright for for summer, we have also got those big helmets. I am glad to hear that you are all getting on well.
Some of or chaps were very bad last month with a complaint we called mountain fever. I had a slight attack but I did not go sick. all the use goes out of your legs, sore throat and cough but you soon get well, we were isolated for a fortnight but we are alright now. I should not be surprised if we don't get on another front again, perhaps the Piave. I am in good health at present. We have had some trying jobs lately in front line on advance posts what they call sacrifice posts out all night about a thousand yards in front of our own wire and we have to stick it and only retire in case of a big bombardment, any minor raids we have to stick at all costs. This last month it has been something like France only the Austrians front line is at least two kilos away. I have had a letter from Ilkeston and they are getting on well they are making Willie a suit or two so I expect he will fancy himself. I have also had a letter from Mr Leverton. Hope you will keep writing every week as I am always glad to get a letter.
The date would seem to tie in with the events of the War Diary (the kit issue and the location) so it seems pretty certain that Harry put the wrong date on the other letter. It also tells us that it only takes about a week for a letter to get from England to Italy. Not bad in 1918. BL
I've added a scan of Harry's letter dated the 8th July on that post. Harry writes that he has been issued with Khaki Drill clothing. Today's Battalion War Diary reports them as being issued today, Sunday 14th July 1918.
Evidence is mounting that the date should not have been 8th July- watch this space. BL
9th July 1918
Just a line or two in answer to your welcome letter which I received last week. I have been a good while in answering it but all the same I did not forget your kind letter which you sent to me in such a trying time as it as been for me but I hope for better times to come soon and I am sure they will come to all of us before many years have passed by. I shall be very pleased to meet you any time you are down Grafton Street just give me a call I shall be on my hospital leaf for ten days starting on the 14 of July. I was much pleased with your letter when I opened it and found it had come from a Church of England Curate and that you had officiated at the Burial of my wife. I thing will brighten up a little and we shall all get home before so many week as passed.
Private W Hunt
July 8th 1918
C Coy 12 Platoon
L G S
I was glad to receive your letter dated 7th. Sorry I not not wrote this last week but you see we have been up the mountains for about 7 or 8 weeks and all the envelopes were stuck. I hope we get down now for two or three weeks. We have had some trying times up in the front line on what we call sacrifice post up in front of our own wire but I am glad to say we got off alright we only went out after dark till morning. Glad to hear they are going on alright at home, I think it would be best for Annie to stay at home and wait for a bit of work. I have had a letter from Mr Leverton. I bet Willie fancies himself with his new clothes. We have got some very thin khaki and those big helmets they are alright out here as it is very hot on the plains. I might get home on leave late in September if I have good luck but I hope the war will soon finish. I think it as been on long enough. I am glad that you are keeping well as I am in the pink at present. The scenery out here is grand it would be alright in peace time for a holiday. we are half way up the mountain now and can see for miles along the plains it does look well. The people out here have some funny ways and not so clean as English, but in towns they are alright they are all Roman Catholics out here. Write as often as you can and let me know how you are getting on send a book or two if you can.
Click on the scans to enlarge
Rocco has turned up some interesting material to help us understand the events of 15th June at Asiago. The maps, as in Flanders, have a mixture of local names and "given names"."Camberwell Green", "Durham Hill", and "Princes Row" don't sound very Italian. Click here Michelle, Contact required by Rocco - see comments
An extra letter included in Harry's bundle.
No 2 Cadet Wing
Royal Air Force
As my father will no doubt have told you I joined the Air Force as a pilot Cadet nearly two months ago, and should have written to you before, but for the fact that our course here is short and hurried, we have to "swot" in the evening. I am thoroughly enjoying myself here, although it is not nice to be so far from home.
It will be a long time before I forget my first army drumhead service. It was one hot Sunday morning about three weeks ago. An aeroplane was stunting at low level throughout the service, distracting attention from the Padre's sermon. As we were moving off the field, the aeroplane flew low and crashed into the ground within a few yards of us. Luckily the pilot was unhurt, but the machine was considerably damaged.
The Padre, by the way, is Captain Daniels who has seen service at the front in some capacity. As a general rule we have the service in the Holy Trinity Church at Hastings.
From here I shall go in a fortnight or three weeks to a School of Military Aeronautics, probably at Alford. From there for three weeks at a Gunnery School at Uxbridge, and then I shall have some leave. It will be badly needed, as well, I can tell you. After the leave I shall start the real business - flying. England will not be short of pilots to finish off the war as there are 4000 odd of us here.
The weather is, as a rule, fearfully hot and we always spend the day in khaki shorts and bare knees, which have long since turned dark brown.
There has just been a violent outbreak of influenza and pneumonia among the cadets. Two of them died and a quarter of our squadron are in hospital or receiving treatment. Consequently, the medical officers have got alarmed and all theatres, picture halls and pier pavilions are out of bounds for us. Instead of having our lectures in lecture rooms we now have them in the open under trees and spend our time killing the flies. We each kill hundreds in a week. It is a wonder where they come from. I have never before enjoyed such perfect health as I have since I joined the Air Force. We are in the open air absolutely all day and have plenty of exercise and lots of good food.
We shall have an examination in Topography and Morse Signalling next Saturday 13th July, and on the Wednesday following we shall have our grand farewell concert. It is going to be some concert! And on the 19th or 20th July we leave Hastings for good, after having spent a very enjoyable time here. We sincerely hope we shall get our 'joy-rafs' (our slang for officer's uniform) at our next school.
We also have a lot of swimming and bathing here; and sports. The only things I miss are the people at home, although there are several cadets who come from the Grammar School. One of them has been with me all along and sleeps in my room, overlooking the sea. However I expect leave some time in September, and will call and see you if I have enough leave. How are Mr and Mrs Thomas getting on? Has Mr Thomas gone back to France yet? I hope he keeps safe if he has. However, I must close this letter now as it is getting on for tea-time.
Wishing yourself and Mrs Lamin the best of luck always. I remain,
I'm not sure where the letter fits into the grand "Harry" scheme of things. I suspect that this was a letter from one of Jack's parishioners. (I just wonder why he would be addressed as "Mr Lamin" rather than "Reverend".) It's written on Royal Flying Corps notepaper three months after the RFC became the RAF. I suppose it does give quite a good picture of the training that a pilot would have experienced. Does anyone have any other information about Cadet Creighton? BL
C Coy 12 Platoon
I have received your letter and the papers with the writing pad. I was very pleased with it. I have had a letter from Ethel and she says they are getting on alright at home. The weather here is very unsettled and we get plenty of rain. You were right when you say we have been busy out here just lately but I am pleased to say I am going on alright and in good health and I hope to keep so. I am pleased to here that Jack is getting on alright I had a letter from him last week. I hope Annie does not leave home and goto work, well I think she would be better at home. I think she might be able to find a bit of work to suit her in time. Write as often as you can and let me know how they are all getting on.
C Coy 12 Platoon
Just a line to let me know that I am alright and in good health. The weather here is very unsettled and we got plenty of rain.I hope you received my last letter in the green envelope. Let me know if you have. I am pleased to hear they are going on alright at home and keeping in good health. I think Annie is worrying herself about getting work but I don't think she as any need to both. (bother? BL). You will be glad to hear that Willie is getting a fine lad. I had a letter from Mr Leverton telling me about him. I will write a soon and let you know a bit more news. Hoping that you are both keeping in good health.
As I mentioned in a much earlier post, I discovered a couple of cards that were missed out of the correct time sequence. I promised at the time to slot them in when convenient.
This is the York & Lancaster's Regimental Christmas Card for 1917 that Harry sent to... someone. "Glad you liked the card I sent you" says Harry in his letter to Jack of 30th December. This could well be the one he is referring to.
Click on an image to enlarge it.
Off subject request to Readers for help! I am passing through Los Angeles at the end of July, staying for three nights. As a very inexperienced traveller, I would be grateful for any advice about where to stay, or indeed anything that may help. Email BL (I knew this blog would come in useful one day!) BL
York & Lancs Regt
C Coy 12 platoon
I hope you are getting on alright. I have received the book and was very pleased with it. I have not received a letter for a long time. things have been a bit rough out here just lately something unusual after beening so quiet. Our Coy was in close support about 200yards behind front line we were not wanted in the front line so we did not have to fire. I can tell you support line is worst than the front. The fight started about 3 oclock in the morning and Johnny Austrian started to come over about 7 oclock. Well he did get a reception I can tell you, them in the front line simply mowed them down and he got no farther than the wire. I went in the front line during the day to have a look when things had quietened down. The prisoners are the poorest lot I have seen and told us they thought that they were going to meet the Italians and where surprised to see our lads in the trenches. it was a big attack and he meant breaking through if he could. The prisoners had plenty of money, all notes and was pleased to to be made prisoners, well the biggest part of them. They were a mixed lot Austrians, Hungarians and a large number of Rumanians. there objective was to get on to the plain but I can tell you he got a good beating especially on our divisional front. I shall be glad to see you all again and I hope you are both keeping in good health. I shall be able to tell you more when I see you. I hope this year sees the finish of the war, but I think that the enemy is more fed up than what we are. I have had a letter from home and pleased to say they are keeping well. Write as often as you can.
No word has been heard from Harry for quite a while. Saturday 15th June 1918, the Austrian army's attack on the Piave river front that was started on Monday 10th was complemented by a second major attack at Asiago, where Harry was in the front line. The War Diary gives an account of the experiences of Harry's Battalion for this battle.
Consult the Battalion's War Diary for June 1918.
First of all, many thanks to Mark of Soverign Battlefield Tours. The trip was organised brilliantly. Once the party was in his care, everything was sorted. There was nothing more to worry about – just relax and let Mark take the strain.
Most impressive was the real-time research that was done on the ground to try to locate the people and places that Harry would have known. We needed a lot of careful work, some inspiration and not a little luck, to enjoy the success we had.
I needed to visit the battlefields. The work on the blog for the last two years had left an enormous gap that could only be filled by a visit to the place where the terrible events took place.
What was the aim? I wanted to see the places where Harry fought. I wanted to visit the locations where the battles took place and to try to picture something of what he experienced 90 years ago.
Please refer to the folders of pictures to illustrate the account. Click to access the albums.
We visited the cemeteries. The row upon row of young men’s graves gave off a powerful message. Many times in the three days I felt the tears welling up as I thought of the sorrow that was there. Each stone marked one man’s death but signaled the grief, the tragedy for his wife, children, mother, lover, brothers, sisters and friends (delete where not applicable.)
We started to focus on Harry’s letters, the War Diaries and the maps, to try to extract details.
We tried to find the grave of the Battalion Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Bowes-Wilson, who was reported killed on the morning of June 7th 1917 – the Battle of Messines Ridge. The Commonweath War Graves Commission provide a computer database at the Tyne Cot Cemetery Visitor Centre that was easy to search.
Lieutenant-Colonel J.H.Bowes-Wilson was buried at the
Once we located the small cemetery, it was quite simple to follow the date sequences on the stones to find him. See photo Our first success, a very nice feeling.
Careful work with the “Operation Order” for the Messines attack (Actually written by Colonel Bowes-Wilson) led us to “
The defensive action on the 30th September was a little harder to sort out. We started looking a few hundred yards adrift until “Bedford House” – from the war diaries - was spotted. Bedford House was named as the location Harry’s Company was to move from to relieve the troops in the front line trench. The house was destroyed but “Bedford House” was now the name of a war cemetery. If we found it on the ground, maybe that would help us with the location of the front line trenches for that day.
“the Captain got killed” writes Harry of the defensive action on September 30th 1917.
We went to the
There were over a thousand graves in the beautiful Cemetery, but luck was on our side. As soon as we located the date area for September 1917, there he was, Captain A. W. Sykes Age 42. “The dearly loved husband of Mary Sykes Netherleigh Huddersfield” Photo
“A jolly good fellow too” adds Harry in his letter.
This was powerful. Here was someone that Harry knew. Captain Sykes was in charge of C Company. He would have known each of the 100 or so men under his command personally. He would have known Harry.
We couldn’t really go much further with this one. It was only possible to guess the rough route that Harry would have taken from the assembly point to the front line trench.
We did many of the popular tourist sites. We experienced the Ceremony at the Menin Gate,
We visited Poperinge, a sensible distance behind the lines, for Talbot House - a haven for off-duty solders - and the "Shot at Dawn" site.
The whole experience was rewarding and emotional for me. Tears flowed. I felt such sorrow that men could cause this horror and carnage. A purely personal view – I realise that I am no different from the men responsible, yet cannot conceive circumstances where, given the responsibility, I could allow it to happen.
Yet, I am the same.
I must be far from understanding how it really took place.
Several readers have commented that this version is fine. Reading it, I don't think that I can improve it, however much time I spend. This is no longer a draft! BL
A fantastic, emotional journey. Below is slideshow of some of the photographs from Day 1. Click on the image for access to the full set of albums for the trip. You'll need to unblock "pop-ups" to get to the albums. When the album "Day 1" loads click on "View Album", then "Harry's Public Gallery" to access "Day 2", "Day 3" and other Harry pictures. There are several hundred photographs and so it may take a day or two to caption each one. Many thanks to David McGovern who has contributed a huge proportion of the photographs.
May 21th 1918
12 Platoon L.G.S.
I have received your letter and books alright. The small book is very handy as it does not take up much room. I thank you very much for sending them. I have just had a letter from Kate and she is getting on alright. We are still in the same place only it is a bit warmer this time up, and not so quiet, but I am going on alright. You will see that we have a Y.M. up here but it is only a very small one. If you dont get a letter from me every week, keep writing as it is very hard at times to get letters away. I did not see any processions at Easter as we were in an out of the way place but there would be plenty no doubt. They go to church at all times here. I have seen them going at five in the morning and bells ringing at three. Every body here seems to go to church regular. we see soom strange sights out here, but the scenery is very pretty. I guess Willie would fancy himself when writing to you. I will write again as soon as possible. I am please that you are both getting on alright and keeping well.
May 8th 1918
12 Platoon L.G.S.
I have just received two letters and small packett I was very pleased with them. I hope you got my letters asking for a book or two, if so will you send them on as soon as possible. I have had a letter from Ilkeston they are all getting on as well as can be expected, which I was very pleased to hear. I think Connie and Willie will miss grandad but they will soon forget. We have had a lot of rain here lately, but when the sun does shine it is very hot, things in the gardens and fields are looking very well, you can see small bunches of grapes forming on some of the vines already and I have seen one or two lemons on the trees, it must be fine to have a summer out here and see all the fruit ripen. I was very pleased that Mr Leverton was at dad's funeral it was very good of him. I think I will write a few lines to him.
LUX PERPETUA LUCEAT EIS (Let light perpetual shine upon them)
April 30th 1918
12 Platoon L.G.S.
I am writing a few lines to you hoping that you are both in good health. It is a long time since I wrote to you till this week so I expect you will get two letters at about the same time. I should be pleased if you will send me a small book on the Lewis Gun and one which I think is called the soldier it gives you all information about guards, salutes and all army regulations etc. if you cant get one, send the best you can. I expect we shall have to do guards out here. I think they are getting on a bit better at llkeston now. I don't know when I shall get a leave, all leave is stopped out here for a bit. I hope you got that letter telling you I was amongst the snow and rain on the Asiago Plateau front, it did seem strange to be amongst the mountains for a month. I was very sorry to hear that Mr Thomas's son as got killed it is very sad. Write as often as you can as I cant get letters off very well when I am in the line.
I have received some lovely material from an additional contributor, Rocco Chiarolanza. Rocco lives locally in Italy and has taken photographs of the British military Cemeteries on the Asiago Plateau. Follow the link to the beautiful images.
Rocco has also kindly offered to take photographs of any individual graves if relatives wish. Please email me if you have a special request. Many thanks Rocco.
Link to Rocco's photographs.
Jono Wood has also provided two more of his topographical images showing the latest movements.
Click here for topographical views
12 Platoon L.G.S.
Just a line to let you know that I am going on alright and that I am in good health. I had a letter from Ilkeston telling me about dad, I was very sorry to hear it but it as been wonderful how he as kept up. The weather here as been very changeable just lately plenty of rain but we have had it hot now and again. We can get plenty to eat were we are just now, such as fruit and eggs. The scenery is also very pretty. did you get over to Ilkeston, if you did, how long did you stop. I have had a letter from Jack and he told me that Mr Thomas's eldest son had been killed in Palestine that is the second son he has lost it is very hard lines and I was sorry to hear it. They were both officers. one was in the West Riding's Batt. There is only one son left but he is only about 17 1/2 years.
I have put a letter for you in Ethels envelope I hope you get it alright, let me know if you get it. Write every week if you can, it does not matter if it is only just a line or two.
April 22nd 1918
C . Company
12 Platoon L.G.S.
I am sorry I have not been able to write to you lately but we have been on a fresh front on the Asiago Plateau it was different altogether from the Piave. We went up the mountain first time in motor cars as far as we could get. When we was on the plains it was very hot. but when we got to the trenches it was knee deep in snow and freezing. After we had been up a bit it started to rain, we gt wet through time after time. There was nothing doing only patrols we had a rough time now and again, we had to do outpost duty, we should be about two hundred yards in front of our own wire, you can bet what it was like out there in the rain and snow but we are down on the plains now and I am in the best of health. By the time you get this letter I shall have been out here 12 months altogether. I was rather upset to hear that father is dead. I had a letter from Ilkeston telling me that he had died April 7th. I have not been able to send any letters for about three weeks so they will wonder where I have got too. I am pleased you keep writing to me, I hope you are both keeping inthe best of health. We don't seem to be getting on very well with the war in France it would not surprise me if some of our chaps dont have to go back. Write back as soon as you can and let me know all the news you can. I suppose you have had the Zepps around your way again. I hope they are all keeping well at Ilkeston. I have met one or two fellows from Ilkeston and one from Kimberly in our battalion. I will write again soon I don't think we shall go up the mountains when we go in the trenches again, it does seem strange to be up above the clouds, I can tell you we see some fine sights, you would like to be here in peace time for a holiday. I am going to write to Kate now.
Harry's notepaper this time is rather different. On the front is printed "FOR SCRIBBLING OR NOTES ONLY.", on the reverse, "Question.......... Write only on this side of the paper, and not on either margin." Ex- school Teacher Jack must have sent him some old examination answer sheets! BL
A Battlefield Tour Company has designed a tour that is based on Harry's experiences, visiting the key locations mentioned in the blog.
Soverign War tours have kindly invited me along for a 3 day tour starting 30th May.
Jono Wood has also produced more of his topographical views so that the reader can get a very good idea of the lie of the land in Harry's latest location, the Asiago Plateau.
Harry's letter to Kate, April 2nd 1918. A single sheet approx. 20cm x 17cm written on both sides. Jack's letter, written the same day is on a different type of paper. The envelope used is scanned in the previous post.
Click on the images to enlarge.
12 Platoon L.G.S.
I have just got your letter dated 24/ I also got the money alright. Postal orders are alright. I have also had a letter from Jack and one from Ethel. Ethel told me that Jack had sent Willie a shilling for his birthday, it will soon be Connie's now. The weather here is very cold we have had frost and snow and it has been raining now two days, but still we are alright, it is very quiet not like beening in France. I am always glad to get a letter from you I have not been able to write any letters lately, but if you don't get one you will know the reason so you can write a line every week. I am pleased they are all keeping in good health at home and that dad does not get any worse. I will try and write you a long letter next time I write. Could you send me a stick of shaving shop and a piece of washing soap next time you write.
The envelope for Kate's letter. Note the censor's stamp. The letter's content also reveals that the post to Italy took about a week as Harry had received Kate's letter from 24th March. Is it any better today?
A "shilling" was worth 5p. Twenty shillings to the pound in 1918.
12 Platoon L.G.S.
Just a line to let you know I am going on alright. I was pleased to get your letter and to hear that you both are keeping well. We have had some frost and snow out here, but it as been raining for two days. I have had a letter from home and they told me you had sent Willie a birthday present. Things are very quiet out here a bit different to being out in France. things seems to be a bit rough out there now, but I hope things will change. I will write again in a few days and let you know a bit more news.
There are now available topographical views showing the route taken by Harry's Battalion when they marched from the end of the railway journey from Flanders to the Front Line in Italy, a total of over 100 miles.
Click here to view the graphics
32507/9 Batt York and Lanc Regt
12 Platoon L.G.S
Just a line to let you know that I am going on alright and I am pleased that you are keeping well. I have had a letter from Jack and one from Ethel, they are all going on alright except for the food problem which bothers them a bit. the weather here is grand very hot during the day but very cold at night. Jack is sending Willie a present for is birthday which is saturday. I have sent him and Connie a card or two I hope they like them. I am pleased that you write often as I am always glad of a letter from you. I think I shall get a leave sometime this summer if I have good luck. I will write again soon.
Jono's topgraphical view of the two days' march 16th and 17th, is now available Click Here
This card is almost certainly the "view" referred to in the letter. Interestingly, it looks as though the censor had an unsuccessful attempt to block out the location!
Click on the picture for an enlarged view.
12 Platoon L.G.S
I was pleased to receive your letter and tin of salmon. It is now Sunday night and it as been very hot we have had church parade this afternoon as we where all busy this morning cleaning up. We have just finished two days march, just over forty kilos so we had a good march and I had a pair of new boots so I went through it but I stuck it. I think we shall stay here a bit now, but we might get to a different part of the line. We had a grand place for scenery when last we were in the line, well the support line we were on Mountbello Hills I think that is what they call them. The mountains on one side and we could see right over the venetian plains for miles all fine country it was these plains what the Germans wanted when they made their advance. the Italians releived us when we were in the line they do seem a windy lot as soon as they got in the Austrians started to shell a bit, they all get in dug outs and they would not move. I don't know how they would go on up Ypres. The country is alright but I don't think much to the people a lot of the Italian soldier can speak English as they come from New York or some part of the States. If you see a small book any time which would help me with the Italian Language I should be very pleased if you would send it. I am glad you are both keeping well and I hope they are going on alright at home. I think it will be hot here in summer as some parts of the day now it is awful. We are having a quite time here, well it is a picnic against France. We cant grumble at the rations we are getting out here but of course it is the same thing over and over again. they are sending them on leave from Italy but I dont expect I shall get one for another three or four months yet time for the war to finish by then. I get your papers regular now and I noticed the piece you marked out in the guardian. I am sending you a view, I have been to this place a time or two. Write back as soon as possible and let me know how you are getting on.
I do find it remarkable that Harry is using "Kilos" (Kilometres) quite comfortably - rather than miles. I'm not sure that his family would be quite so familiar with them. In the U.K. today, 90 years on, we stubbornly hold onto miles.
The "Guardian" is quite an up-market newspaper. Probably Jack's choice rather than Harry's! BL
A retired Officer from the Duke of Wellington's Regiment (West Riding), Jono Wood, has worked with The War Diaries and prepared some wonderful slides that give a picture of the topography of the Italian Front. Until this was produced I was working with a list of largely meaningless Italian place names.
Thanks to Jono we can get a much clearer image of what Harry was encountering. The plain, running down towards Venice in the South, with the mountains to the North, is clearly illustrated. We can also see how the river PIAVE looks with the several streams, as mentioned in the War Diaries.
Jono would like to dedicate his contribution to to all who laid down their lives with the BEF in Italy.
Battalion Billets in December 1917
Overview of PIAVE RIVER Front
PIAVE RIVER Front, Looking West
Map showing the Route to a new location, including MOUNT GRAPPA 16th-18th February
The route back to the MONTEBELLUNA area, 25th & 26th February
Jono has also now prepared an account that gives valuable background information on the Italian campaign. Certainly, it all becomes much clearer with the additional information.
12 Platoon L.G.S
I have received your paper's and was very pleased with them I am glad that you are both keeping well. as I am alright at present. I am pleased to hear that you are able to stay at home and that the army will not require you. I have had a letter from Ethel and she says that dad does not get much better. I am glad that you have an idea where abouts I am things are still quite I hope they remain so. We are not doing so bad for food out here it would be better if we got paid more regular we have only drawn ten lires in a month that is equal to five shillings in English money, (25p - 50 cents! BL) so I think we shall have a bit to our credit, we get plenty of fruit out here oranges and apples etc. It will be Willie's birthday this month 21th but I shall not be able to send him anything. We see some fine scenery out here we are quite close to the mountains some of these take about five hours to climb and they are not the highest. it is different to flanders being out here. I think Kate will try to get a day or two off to see you she told me in her last letter that she would like to pay you a visit. Write back as soon as possible I am always glad to get a letter.
12 Platoon L G S
I am pleased you are getting on alright. I am in good health at present. I am glad they are keeping well at Ilkeston, it is Willie's Birthday this month. I hope the war will be over before it comes round again. It must be bad for you in England being so short of food it will be a good job when it is over. We are not so bad off for food out hear and cannot grumble, not in war time. I have had a letter from Jack he says that he and his wife are keeping well and that he will not be required for the army so he is alright, I am very pleased. Write as often as you can and let me know when you pay Jack a visit. The scenery here is alright we are quite close to the mountains and they look well. It takes five hours to get to the top of some and they are not the largest it would be alright out hear in peace time We can get plenty of fruit out here oranges and apples etc. but we dont get paid often enough. I think I must be a nice bit in credit.
We have a lovely post card to Connie where Harry refers to himself as "Dad". I have taken a small liberty in posting it here as it would, almost certainly, have been posted to Ethel. Somehow, it has found its way to the bundle of letters to Kate and Jack. I found it in the envelope addressed to Kate with this letter, so I've posted it with it!