Thursday 7th February 1918 - 2 Letters

Feb 7th /1918
32507/ 9th Batt York & Lanc Regt
C Company
12 Platoon L.G.S.
P.S. (Put I.E.F. on address and leave Italy out)

Dear Kate

I have received your letter. I also received your parcel. it was in good order. The weather here is very cold at night, but it is quite warm in the day. I have received a letter from Jack hes going on alright and said they were alright at Ilkeston excepting dad who does not seem to get much better. I was sorry to here the bad news I got about Jack Bonser and Uncle. Jack’s wife was headmistress at East Oxford Girls school and also head mistress of the Girls Night School. of course that is some years back. I dont know how long she remained there, but I remember her quite well. He often sends me bits of thing which come in very useful. I dont know whether I told you that I had a parcel from Mrs. Higgins at Christmas. I don’t know when I shall get a leave I don’t suppose it will be just yet as there is plenty to go before me, but anyhow I would certainly let you know. Ethel tells me what a job it is to get a bit of butter, tea or sugar. I hope youre keeping in good health as I am very well at the present. Write back as often as you can and I will answer as many as possible.

With best love from Harry

Feb 7th /1918
32507/ 9th Batt York & Lanc Regt
C Company
12 Platoon L.G.S.
P.S. (Put I.E.F. on address and leave Italy out)

Dear Jack

I have received your letter and I also got your small parcel alright. I was very pleased to hear that you are both keeping well and hope you remain so. The news was very sad which I have had about Jack Bonser and Uncle what had Aunt Annie got to say I dont suppose she would stay very long especially were Aunt Polly was. I shall never forget her tongue. It does not seem that she has altered much. It must have upset Uncle a great deal when he heard about Jack’s death and no doubt it would make him worse. The weather here is still very cold at night but it is grand in the day. I dont suppose the war will be over just yet it looks like lasting another twelve months to me, I hope Im wrong. I think America has got to have a good to try at it before it finishes. Things look very bad in England as regards food they seem short all over of course we get our usual rations which is none to big, but we cant grumble we have missed something coming out here and leaving Flanders I hope we don’t go back again, things are very quiet out here, well they have been up to now but we don’t know how long they going to last. When in the front line we have had a fire at night and sometimes we have been in an old house so you can bet we are not bothered much by shells. I could not say where the H.A.C. is. It is a London Regt. I remember quite well when we were going in the trenches at Ypres they were just being releived. I got lost I could not get along it was up to the waist in slug and water. I came across some chaps who are also lost and they said they belong to the H. A.C. It is supposed to be a Toffs regt. Artillery is only a name they have given them they belong to the infantry. I don’t know how they went on but I found my way after wandering about for two or three hours. I shall never forget the times we had up there. I dont know how we managed sometimes, but I don’t feel no worse for it now, but I hope that we dont get anything like it again. We have to get our feet rubbed every morning with whale oil when in the trenches every morning it is cold at night.
Write back as soon as possible

With best love to you both


H.A.C. Refers to the "Honourable Artillery Company" - it took a moment for me to remember that "Honourable" is spelt with an aitch! Website

Thanks to all who are submitting comments. They are quite as interesting as the main blog! Click for full list of comments

Also, to find out what Harry is currently involved with, take the link to the Battalion's War Diary. War Diary (At the moment, he's just come out of the front line. Compare today's letters with the one from a week ago written when he was in the line! I'll put a scan of one of today's letters on the blog at the weekend) BL


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.



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.

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.

Steve said...

H.A.C. = Honourable Artillery Company

Nobby said...

nice link to harrys division.

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.

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!

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

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!!

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.....

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

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.

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.

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.


Diego C.

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.

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.

Judy said...

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

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.

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!

PAL said...

I found you via NBC, nightly news in the USA. I am facinated 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

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.

Anonymous said...

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.

Bugzita said...

Harry, I have posted a blurb and link to

I love your letters!


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.

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!

Animal-Lover-13 said...

I was told about this by my History teacher andit was homework to read sme 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 te 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!!

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.

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!

Anonymous said...

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

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.

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.

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?

Anonymous said...

Well Julie I am sorry you feel the way you do about Harry's letters. If I could suggest to you for one minute to put away the the idea that because something is not the same for men and women, or, if appropriate, any other difference that man kind may have and read Harry's letter s for what they are. A documentation of a time in the worlds history that MUST be remembered and shared. These letters are being posted and shared here and all comments, I am sure, are welcomed. It is because of men like Harry and all the other service personnel( men and women) from all countries around the world, that we are able to share this forum and post our own thoughts with out fear.

BL I am sorry for the the two posts that I have made but this is something that is very close to my being. I shall not make another post on this topic and thank you again.

GH MacDaniel, Col (Ret'd)

Robin said...

First off, thanks for letting the world enjoy your family's history. It is fascinating! I, too, hope dearly that Harry survives. I just wanted to comment on receiving parcels from home. I live in the U.S. and it is perfectly fine to ask family and friends for parcels when you are at war. Anything from home is so welcomed by the soldiers. They are on rations, lonely and missing loved ones. Packages meant so much to them, along with their treasured letters. I can't wait to read more.

I. Michael Koontz said...


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 hom 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 hsi 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.

Eva said...

Did I miss something? Someone mentioned on Feb. 8 that they were sorry about the actions Ethel took. What did I miss? What do you know? I am embarrassed that as a 52 year old, I am obsessed with this story. What a wonderful connection to the past here. Anyone willing to fill me in?