Other Soldiers' Websites

It has been so rewarding to find that others have been sufficiently inspired by Harry's blog to use similar stashes of letters or diaries to produce their own web sites.

It occurs to me that some of my readers may be interested in investigating one or two of these others.

Quite early on, Florence Kaplow from the States contacted me. She had her husband's letters from World War 2 and wanted some advice on how to do something with them - similar to my efforts with Harry's letters. I explained how the system had worked for me. Wisely, Florence ignored everything I said and got some local help to prepare what has the makings of a superb website.

http://www.benkaplow.com is still "work in progress", but is a mighty impressive collection of letters from World War 2.

Sgt Sam Avery has followed Harry's lead. A doughboy's letters from the Great War follow Harry's, a year behind. So he is currently in July 1918, on the Western Front, heading towards the Armistice. His author has made many comments on Harry's website with the persona of Sam. You can find his blog at http://worldwar1letters.wordpress.com

I've recently been contacted by a German contributor who is about to start posting a blog, following Harry's format, of the Diary of Dieter Finzen, a German infantryman who served on the Western Front from 1916 to 1918. The blog will timeshift 93 years, starting to post in September 1916 (2009). The website can be found at http://dieter-finzen.blogspot.com/
I find the opportunity of following a soldier on the "other side" fascinating. I have just read a translation of Ernst J√ľnger's book: "Storm of Steel". I found it quite disturbing to be looking from the "enemies'" point of view, finding it indistinguishable from those of men on the "our" side. I also had some problems with the spatial configuration of the Western Front. Fixed in my head is a front line that runs from top to bottom with the offensive taking place from left to right. I couldn't adjust, mentally, to the German viewpoint, attacking from right to left. Very strange.

dieter-finzen.blogspot.com will find the introduction to this blog.

In addition, the author, Sven Janke, has assembled an enormous collection of websites containing diaries and letters from the Great War. I don't know how many, if any, were stimulated to appear by Harry's efforts! I believe that there are currently 170 entries with an estimated ultimate target of 300. Quite a collection of material.

The links to the third party sites are at www.war-diary.com


Parcival said...

"I also had some problems with the spatial configuration of the Western Front. Fixed in my head is a front line that runs from top to bottom with the offensive taking place from left to right. I couldn't adjust, mentally, to the German viewpoint, attacking from right to left. Very strange."

I am a Swiss reader and just realized that I have the same problem. I guess this is a perfect example how history is made and viewed by the victors.



Anonymous said...

I've got to say the Dieter Finzen blog sounds pretty interesting: I never got to know my great-grandfather or had a chance to ask him what it was like to serve, 1914-1918, as an infantry sgt. in the Kaiser's army --- perhaps I can get just a timy glimpse of what he experienced through Dieter's eyes. (I do have a pretty good idea what it was like for German civilians at home: thank goodness my grandfather was, occasionally, quite talkative about his childhood and the family's homefront wartime tribulations.)
But mostly, I'm STILL waiting for our Harry to make it home!
-Gustav's great-granddaughter

Gretchen H., USA said...

thanks for inspiring others! this is invaluable material that people have in their private collections. i'm glad it is being brought to light after all these years!

Kenneth Nall said...

I have been following this post for years now and thought we should take notice of the death of Harry Patch. Patch was the last British survior of WWI and passed away over the week-end at the age of 111. Records show the last WWI survior to be Frank Buckles (ambulance driver in France) of Charlestown, West Virginia-USA, age 108. It is great to know that their stories are circulating around the world and will last for many more years to come.

Anonymous said...

And it was interesting to see that they had a picture of our Harry in The Mail on Sunday, saying it was Harry Patch in his teens!


Thomas A. said...

Thank you for this information!

I only know WW1 from the stories that my grandmother has told; she was 7 years old in 1914. I remember that she told a lot about the food sitation back then, 900.000 civilians perished from starvation during the war. Her father served in Verdun and he was wounded. He never could speak about the war after he had returned.
So this account will be very valable to compare what the average soldiers worries were on both sides.

Roger O'Keeffe said...

Someone has posted a comment on the Dieter Finzen blog asking if Sven plans to make it available in English.

That struck me as an excellent idea, so that the view from the other side could be accessible to more people - including Harry's fans who will at some point in the future find themselves without their regular history fix! But it could involve a lot of work, and while I'd love to contribute I couldn't promise a dependable service. So I've followed this up with a suggestion to Sven that it might be possible for him to set up a "Wiki translation": anyone who speaks both German and English could offer at least summaries or rough translations, which would spread the workload, and other members of the community could provide revisions, explanations of German military terminology etc.

G. Tingey said...

So everyone else is posting, but Harry hasn't sent any messages for some time.
I realise that his present existence in Italy is fairly comfortable, but we KNOW that he wants to come home to Derbyshire.
Any hints on that front, at all?

Sgt Sam Avery said...

Hello Harry:
Thanks so much for your Honorable Mention. It is greatly appreciated. Soldier's Mail is also coming together as a book, but as with the rest of this war, you Tommies are ahead of us Yanks in the job and there's still more to do. We've just sent the Hun packing but I've ended up in the hospital into the bargain. Italian food would be good right now. Stop by and read when you can.


Dieter Finzen said...

Thank you very much for the great support you are giving my own project. It is greatly appreciated.
With the help of friends i will be able to present my diary in english and in french.
Let´s start 12th september !