Willie - Instalment One

This is a tough one. For the last  four years, I’ve never failed to upload any of Harry’s letters on time. I’ve managed to do enough research to put his experiences into a sensible context. Now, I’m finding it easy to put off writing the last two entries onto the blog. Maybe there’s an element of not wanting to end this wonderful journey. 

Willie is still alive. It’s not simple to connect my father, aged 94, with the small boy who was so important to Harry. I’ll try. I’m sure that I’ll write and re-write but, clearly it has to be done.

William Lamin was born on March 23rd 1916. He was the second son of Ethel and Harry. Arthur, the first born, was born two years earlier and had died in infancy. I’m quite sure that  Willie (I don’t even know what to call him “Willie”, “Dad or, as he’s been generally known for all my lifetime, “Bill”) knew nothing of Arthur’s existence. I stumbled across a christening card from Ilkeston Parish Church and confirmed his existence through a reader locating the birth and death records.

Willie (lets stick with that for the moment ) must have been precious to the couple. It must have been desperately difficult for Harry to leave his 9 month old baby son when conscripted in late December 1916.

For three years, Willie only saw his father for one leave in September 1918. As far as I can work out, he was brought up by Ethel with the help of Harry’s sister Sarah Anne (Annie). Annie had a son who was old enough to join up and fight but, at this time, no husband. George, her son, had never lived with Annie – he was conscripted from Manchester, where he lived with the Lacey family.

An important element in Willie’s life would be little Connie. She was six years older and suffered from cerebral palsy and so couldn’t walk. I don’t know how well she could talk, but Willie and Connie are reported as “good friends”. In 1918, Connie was sent away to boarding school in Liverpool.

I can’t pretend to know more. He spent some of his time at the relatively “posh” Whitworth Road, – Annie’s House - returning to Mill Street when Annie married. Then I suppose Ethel was on her own with Willie, supported from a distance by Kate and Jack.

The crucial first three years of Willie’s development  were without his father.

Friday morning, January 9th 1920,Willie got his father back. I can imagine the scene as he walked in at 9am, wearing his khaki greatcoat, and greeted Ethel and young Willie. I can do nothing but weep at the image. Willie, aged 3 years 9 months would have to get used to this stranger. I’d guess he’d hide behind Ethel as this unfamiliar man walked into the house. You can make up the picture yourself.  To help you, you can see the house on the BBC video. Click

I think that is enough for now. I’ll publish this first instalment and then I’ll just have to continue with the next phase of Willie's life.


wellardmac said...

Thank you for all the time you have put into this blog. I have enjoyed every post. I can only imagine the journey that you have taken in retelling your family history. I have to admit, I will be as sorry as you are to see the story come to an end.

Kenneth E. Urban said...

How cool! Except for the year, Bill and I share a birthday!

Thanks for the blog... It has been a joy to read and follow.


faith said...

You say Willie was the second son born to Martha and Harry. Who was Martha? I thought Harry's wife's name was Ethel?

Anonymous said...

Easy to see why Harry missed his boy so much --- Willie looks like a real charmer!

Marc Bernard said...

My mother was four years old when her father came home from the war to Canada in 1945. She remembers asking her mother, "Who is this man? Do I have to listen to him?" As the father of two young girls myself, I can't imagine the mix of joy and heartbreak that situation would be.

Thank you for sharing these stories. It's been a fascinating ride.

Anonymous said...

I had just turned three when my father returned from WWII, and I remember it clearly. I lived in Northumberland with my mother and aunt, and Daddy was always talked about. We played at going to the station to meet Daddy, so I was looking forward to meeting him. He had been abroad since just after I was born, with only one leave before I was old enough to remember.

After all the 'rehearsal' he just arrived at the door, so we didn't go to the station. The telegram announcing his return came the next day. I recall being woken up and taken down to meet him - having been brought up by two women, my best recollection is his prickly chin!

I hope Ethel talked about Harry so he wasn't a stranger to Willie when he returned.

Thanks for all your work with this blog. I have enjoyed reading it and talking about it with my mother who is 97 and has some memories of WWI.