Letter to Jack, 26th April 1919

At last, someone's read the book and given their opinion. And it's an independant view. Thank you the Daily Express for the review. (Big sigh of relief - they like it!) Any other views?

The Times on-line has published an article I wrote on the use of blogs in school. That's where the idea for this blog came from originally. The article links to the blog and the book. BL

32507 9th Y&L
attached R.M.F
L.1. Box R
April 26/19

Dear Jack
Just a line to let you know that I am alright and in good health I have not had any letters for about six weeks now. but I have been moving about a lot I hope I am settled down now till they send me home for good send me a paper or two regular if you can. I have seen no news for a long time. The weather here as been very nice lately. we are in a little country place about like Strelly guarding ammunition etc. there is only about forty of us all together but there is a lot of Italians guarding it too. I hope Agnes is keeping well and all at home. I hope to get a letter from you soon. I expect Willie is getting quite a man now he is turned three expect I am for army of occupation as I have got my 10/6 bonus. How is things going on in England and what do you think about the Fuime job and America.
Write soon With Best Love to you both

APO = Army Post Office. L.1 Box R would be the specific address. Strelly is a small village close to Ilkeston in the East Midlands - when I was a child in the 1950s it was a favourite destination for a country walk or a bike ride. The 10/6 (10 shillings and sixpence = 52.5p) weekly bonus was paid to those soldiers who were entitled to be demobbed but were stuck doing some "useful" task. Harry was helping guard an ammunition dump at
Arquata Scriva a few miles from Rivalta Scriva.

For contemporary newspaper reports on the Fiume question - Click here. Thanks again Rocco. BL

Book Delivery Starts Now.

It would appear that the books should start arriving by post in the next day or so, at least in the U.K.

I'll be pleased to take comments and to publish them. However, I must ask that the "ending" isn't mentioned. I really want to keep the story going for those who decide they'd like to continue following the blog. I'll be ruthless and reject any comments that may give anything away.

I now am immensely insecure - worrying that the lovely, loyal, world-wide community of readers following Harry's progress, will be disappointed when they receive my best effort at a book.

If you have a moment, have a look at the stunning Cornish seascapes I've discovered. They just capture the light and atmosphere of the coast down here in West Cornwall. Click BL

The Book - In my hands!

I've just received a copy of the finished book, back from the printers, complete, exactly as it'll be in the shops. Until now, I'd only seen the proof copy which was not nearly of the same quality.

I am so pleased with it. Everything is exactly as I would have wished. However, I daren't read it in case I find an error now it's too late.

Hopefully it'll be in the bookshops and dispatched from the on-line sellers on Thursday.

I just hope that readers that have ordered a copy are as delighted with their book as I am. Let me know. BL

Half a letter - but quite significant

A second letter to Kate, within 3 days.

This is one instance where material is incomplete. There is no sign of the remainder of this letter, just a single sheet. BUT, it is very significant.

Harry has been attached to the
1st (Garrison) Battalion, Royal Munster Fusiliers .

April 8th 1919

Dear Kate
Just a line to let you know I am alright I am still in Italy at a small village called Rivalto it is very nearly in France it is alright I have finished cooking for a bit it is nice to get out D.H.Q broke up and all officers went to England so I was let behind my Batt had gone to Fuime in Austria what was left of them. I am now attached to the Royal Munster Fusiliers it is an Irish Regt they wear the shamrock behind the cap badge. I have not changed my badge. I still ....

Half a letter. The second page is missing.

There are several places in Italy with the name Rivalta. (Harry didn't quite spell it right.) This one is almost certainly Rivalta Scrivia about 6 miles (9 km) south-east of Alessandria, a couple of miles south of Tortona. BL.

Two letters. Not Good News

April 5/1919

Dear Kate
Just a line to let you know that I am alright and in the best of health. I had a letter from Ethel she told me you have had your letters returned no wonder they could not find me as I have been all over the shop lately. D.H.Q as broke up and gone to England so have finished working I was the only cook left so I did very well but such a lot of work. I had ten officers and more to cook for at the finish to much at it from 6.30 AM t0 10.30 PM they must have thought it was a restaurant but I pulled through we had the general with us to finish up with had a big dinner last night seven courses and I got congratulated on it so I was satisfied. I have not drawn any money since January 28 and I got 10/6 [£0.525] bonus from Feb 1st so that is about £9.00 to my credit and I have never had so much money while I have been in the army you see the officers gave us so much a week so I am set up now for a bit, I liked the job but I did not feel so well always being shut up I dont know how I shall get on when I get back to the factory again. I hope I shall be seeing you before long, how is Connie getting on. The weather here is very fine
My address at present is
9th Y+L Regt
G.H.Q Demob
Concentration Camp
I.E.F Italy

I might get one with a bit of luck but I can quite understand the letters going back as I have been all over the shop lately I am in a little place call Tavernelle in the province of Vicenza near the province of Verona you will see it on the map. I hope you get this letter and I hope I shall be seeing you all before long
With Best Love

April 5th/1919
Dear Jack
Just a line to let you know that I am alright and in good health I am not at Fuime but a small place called Tavernelle in the province of Vicenza it is next province to Verona. All the lads from our batt as gone to Fuime. I finished cooking two or three days ago when the D.HQ broke up. Ours was the only mess left and we had BGD general Beaman [Brigadier General A.B. Beauman, commanding 69 Brigade] with us the last few days so we had some big dinners all the officers thought me and the waiter was on the D.H.Q cadre and was going with them to England they were surprised we had to stop had they known we should have gone with them but it does not matter we should have been soldiers in England when I come home I want to get demobed. There is to much work cooking for officers 6.30 AM till 10.30 PM to much if I can get out I shall. We had ten officers and more sometimes to look after not bad I had a big dinner last night and got congratulated on it by all the officers and one or two had their wives with them so I was satisfied although I had a lot of work. Remember me to Agnes. If there are any more leave trains to Rome or Naples I shall try my best to get on one as I shall never get the chance again. I hope I do not have to go to Fuime I dont want any more guards or sloping arms, as I am fed up with that I would rather be up the mountains again. when do you think peace will be signed, cooking as been a good thing for me as I have not drawn any money since January 29 and I get the 10/6 bonus from Feb 1st so that is over £9.00 to my credit. My address at present is
32507 PT Lamin
9th Y+L C of G.H.Q
Concentration Camp
I.E.F, Italy
You can send a letter here I might get it with a bit of luck and I might not as I dont think we shall be here long
With Best Love
to you both

Harry has missed out on the moves. We can see from the war diary that a large proportion of the battalion has been sent back to England on "Dispersal Drafts". Another sizeable party has gone to do policing work at Fiume. 5 days earlier on 30th, the remaining "cadre" (a nucleus of skilled men) of around 20 men left for England. The 9th Battalion York & Lancaster Regiment has left Italy.

Harry, now cooking, with something approaching £500 (today's value) from his war bonus, must be the only one left! "Winning" the cook's job at DHQ seems to have backfired on him. Amazingly, he still sounds cheerful and up-beat. The bonus was paid to all soldiers who were due to be demobilised but were still serving, from 1st February. This extra pay was worth about £25 a week in today's values.

SNAFU - Used frequently in military circles - probably an anachronistic acronym, ( I like the sound of that) as it was almost certainly first created in World War 2. It stand for "Situation Normal, All Fouled Up." E.g As an answer to "How's the mission going?" The military language tends to be a little richer, but I can leave that for the reader to consider.

Many thanks Rocco. This link goes to a wikipedia explanation of various acronyms. Warning, they contain "military" language. BL

"Many a Slip 'Twixt Cup and Lip"

Some of the faithful few are assuming that Harry is on his way home and the story ends here. His family may have heard that the battalion is being disbanded and assumed the same.

"SNAFU" is a frequently used military term . BL

The Book - Out of my Hands, at last. War Diary update.

The final proof copy of the book has been checked, re-checked and checked again. At last, the deadline for delivery to the printers has arrived and, it's gone. I daren't look at the proofs again for fear of finding a vital error.

Nothing to be done now, just wait until 23rd April when it should appear in a bookstore near you. The only way to get advance information on Harry's ultimate fate is to buy a copy! It's available for order on-line now with a huge, pre-publication discount.

Meanwhile, I've updated the war diary. The final entry for the 9th Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment states that.
"On 29th [March] the CADRE left TAVERNELLE for ENGLAND." What about Harry? BL