I'm an Englishman in New York and heard about Harry's blog on the BBC world service. You sir are performing a wonderful and important service to the rest of the world. I have read the entire series of letters this morning (not much work done today) and am entirely captivated by Harry's experiences. I have just finished reading Tolstoy's War and Peace which in many ways documents a war 100 years previous to Harry's. It is uncanny yet depressing to see the parallels in the day to day life of the soldiers in both conflicts; from the illogical and unnecessary troop movements, to the tragic and horrifying deaths on all sides. I am profoundly grateful to have never had to participate in war and part of this is due to people like Harry and yourself who document the real truths and not the propaganda. As these truths are told over the centuries I hold some hope that we as a species will eventually war no longer. As a boy I was taught that war was glorious, I now know that it is exactly the opposite and will teach my children the same.
Thank you for this amazing work – really thank you.
Another excellent book of letters from WWI is 'Letters from a Lost Generation' Its a book of letters sent to and from Vera Brittan by her brother and his friends during the war.
Its extremely moving (got through so many tissues reading it!) and, as stupid as it sounds, you forget that the authors don't know the outcome. A very poignant book.
This is an excellent site, that presents the First World War from the perspective of an Infanteer serving in hell. My family lost members in the so called war to end all wars, and my father and uncle fought in the second world war. I myself served with the British Army for over 40 years, and nothing that I have seen in that time can compare to the hell and intensity of both wars - in todays climate, the casualties and conditions borne by our forebears would not be acceptable and the media would be anti-war as the US Media was after Vietnam. I am now hooked and will be following this particular blog to its conclusion. A well designed, unique and thoughtful site. By the way, I saw the link in todays Daily Mirror.
Hi Bill - You don't have to approve this for publication as its more personal in nature.
Superb piece of work. More power to your elbow and great success in the project.
The last time we were in contact was over Acorn 3020's etc for the school.
Oh and I think I still have a analogue / digital converter for the BBC that you once made ...
To Anonymous who wrote that "as a boy I was taught that war was glorious." In many ways, the US Civil War was a precursor to the 1914-1918 war. William T Sherman was one of its great figures, and is famous for saying this:
"There is many a boy here to-day who looks on war as all glory, but, boys, it is all hell."
General Sherman 1820-91: speech at Columbus, Ohio, 11 August 1880
Hi, I'm from south Malaysia. I heard about this blog from the BBC World Service via BBC Singapore. It's very interesting reading the stories. Keep it up
I have just sat and read this all of the way through this morning after seeing a report on Sky News...I want to thank you for sharing this with us, and for the time you have taken in giving the extra information alongside in order to put this all into context. Early on in the blog you mention Sebastian Falks' Birdsong. I read that book years ago, and more than any other book it evoked the feeling of horror, dread, futility and fear in WW1 - I felt I could almost have been there. This blog is giving me that same feeling, and as I read it I share your feelings of horror and fear for Harry in his situation.In getting to know Harry and the characters in his life in just this small way, there's also a feeling of the love he has for people, the need to hold onto that feeling in a time of hell, and the necessity of it as being key to getting through it all (I don't know if I've described that very well, but I hope you understand what I mean). All of these men having to fight this filthy war, whether it was necessary or not, is incredibly sad.
It is such a shame that the correspondence between him and Ethel has disappeared, what an extra dimension that would have brought to this.
The story of Connie has touched my heart. Of Harry and Ethel raising her, Kate not having her, and of the plight of Connie herself.
Anyway, I'll stop rambling now! I just really wanted to let you know how much I appreciate this.
Kind regards, Deborah Moran
whats happened to harry after xmas?? i cant wait to find out, im captivated by the letters, keep up the good work!
What a brilliant concept and excellent site. I read about this in the Daily Telegraph yesterday andd immediately went to the site.The personal aspects of this will bring home 'in real time' the horrors of WW1 and the courage of so many young men like your Grandfather. The impacts are still felt today and the sacrifices must never never be forgotten. My paternal grandfather was about the same age as Harry & enlsted day one of the war, badly wounded at Battle of Loos in 1915 , patched up and a year later sent back to the front line still with shrapnel in his back! My maternal grandfather gassed and died young post war when my mother was a baby. Great uncle died at Arras aged 21. My maternal grandmother lost at least 4 other relatives during the war. It is so dfifficult to comprehend the impact of the conflict not just on the servicemen but also their families . This was the generation that largely, when faced with tragedy dealt with it , put it out of their minds and got on with their lives. Your research and your site has a historic importance which should not be underestimated
gent.mo amico, i miei più vivi complimenti per il blog e, soprattutto, per la sua volontà di riportare alla memoria e alla conoscenza di un vasto numero di persone la figura di un uomo che onora la sua famiglia e la sua patria un fraterno saluto m.iodice italy
Hello I found your blog site from an article in yesterdays Daily Telegraph. I have not read it all yet but shall back track and read it all. My Grandfather was in first trained at Oakham with the horses and sent to Egypt - when they were brought back to England he was then trained as a machine gunner and sent out to France - I wish I had spoken to him about it but it was something he never brought up. I shall continue reading your entries. Thank you and kind regards Sue Farr
Hi, I am an Italian woman who is relaly impressed and moved by the letters you are posting. My maternal grandfather was amongst the 17 and 18 years' old boys who were sent by the Italian army to fight the austro-german forces on the same front as your grandfather, after the defeat of Caporetto of 24 October 1917. The defeat, due mostly to the awful inadequacies and appalling inhumanity towards the troops of the Italian army's top brass, had the consequence of pushing the frontline very close indeed to Venice, deep inside the Italian territory. The fear and despair thorughout the country were great and a great number of new recruits, icnluding "kids" such as my grandfather (then barely seventeen) were sent to fight. Luckily the shock also induced a radical change at the top of the army and the disastrous General Cadorna was replaced by a much more effective General Armando Diaz, who also introduced more efficient and more humane methods and attitudes in the army. I suspect that your grandfather's battalion was sent to Italy in the immediate aftermath of Caporetto's defeat to help sustain that crucial front. I like to think that he and my grandfather may have lived for some months and fought relatively close to one another. Unfortunately I have no letters of that period from my grandfather (who survived, went on to become a judge and lived to the age of 87) but I remember his tales of the war period very vividly. Thanks again and good luck Antonella
Keith Ingram said...
Hi heard about this blog via the Daily Telegraph newspaper. May I congratulate you on a wonderful job. The reading is most compelling, and the extra information that you provide is exceptional. I never cease to be amazed at the bravery of ordinary folk such as Harry in times of hell such as these.
I read about this blog on an Italian newspaper and went through all the posts for the whole afternoon.
This blog comes at the right time as I am working to organise a trip to recollect and bring home my grand-grandfather's remains that appear to be buried in Poland, in the cemetery of Ratowice.
Congratulations for the great job you are doing!
Hi, I am just one of the many readers who spent the enitre afternoon reading Harry's letters and I want to compliment with you... being from Sanremo (italian riviera) I can picture the beauty of the landscape mentioned by Harry during his train journey from south France to Italy...
Hi, Thank you so much, finding this so interesting. My grandfather served in the Durham Light Infantry during WWI, he was wounded at the Somme. I too have postcards he sent to my grandmother. Your grandfathers letters are giving me more insight into what he might have experienced, as he never talked about it when he was alive.
Looking forward to reading more. Thanks again for sharing Harry's letters, and learning about your lovely family during this time.
Warm Wishes Eileen
Hi, I read about your blog in the Calgary Herald today and have immediately read all the letters and information on the site.
I'm originally from Scotland and have been in Canada for about a year now. What's interesting is that Paul Gross, Canadian actor turned director/producer (most famous for being the Mountie in Due South) has just filmed a movie out here called Passchendaele,based on the letters his grandfather sent home to him. The movie focuses on the "Fighting 10th" a battalion raised here in Calgary.
You say that you can't accept URLs in the comments, so I will simply say to google Passchendaele the movie for access to the blog which was created during the filming.
What's interesting is that you are both working with similar material, and have given that to the world, just in very different ways!
Keep up the good work on the blog - it's fascinating to have such a personal take on such a huge historical event. Thanks!
Read about this on an italian newspaper today. Very, very fine. I've been wanting to know more about WWI since I read a war diary some months ago. I'll be around. Thanks a lot. kind regards marco biagetti
Peter Collins said...
I read about the blog in today's National Post (Canada).
It is absolutely brilliant.
Thank you so much for sharing these letters, and the history of your family. I have a lot of catching up to do.
It is on par with Edwin Campion Vaughan's "Some Desperate Glory" and the fictionalized account of Frederic Manning's World War I experience in "Her Privates We."
Good morning. I read of this blog on a newspaper of us; like many I spent the whole morning reading the letters of your ancestor. I’m so happy these letters have survived and I think your grandfather would be proud of you: the Jews say one isn’t really dead as long as his name is remembered. War exalts both the best and the worse qualities of men, and I think such letters talk to us about the noblest part of our soul. --- I live near Udine, Italy, in a region that was theatre of war. We have plenty of war cemeteries, Italian, Austrian Hungarian, English, American, from the first and the second WW. It’s always moving for me to discover Italian names in Austrian war cemeteries, and then Austrian names in the Italian ones: so devoid of sense is the war.
Many thanks for this fantastic contribution to the understanding and comprehension of this aspect of our relatively recent history.
Having recently been involved in a WW1 archaeological dig in Jordan the utter reality of that war was profoundly brought home to me. Indeed one of the things I found was a simple pen nib inside the remains of a tent circle, which evoked emotional and deep empathy with a serviceman writing home from the battlefield. Readers may be interested to find out more about our investigations of the WW1 conflict in Jordan, which may be found starting at http://garp2007.blogspot.com/2007/10/pre-dig-info.html
I notice you said you found the Battalion war diaries on-line from the National Archives at Kew. A couple of years ago I did some research on my own grandfather's WWI service and visited Kew in person. It is an amzing experience - which I would recommend to anyone doing similar research - to physically hold the pieces of paper, be they batllion war diaries, or in this instance his joing up papers with his own signature and handwritingon the top. To anyone not as fortunate as you to have handwritten letters, the next best thing may well be to see the handwritten evidence of their ancestor's war service at Kew.
Hello, Bill. Greetings from "across the pond". I was fortunate enough to have read about your blog in yesterday's issue of The Washington Times. It is truly a remarkable service to students of history that your work has provided - and a tribute to those who have served in any war. Males in my family have served during every major war from the Revolutionary War to the War of Northern Agression (a.k.a. the Civil War)to today in Iraq and Afghanistan. My son (Damien) proudly serves as a military officer. Someday a similar blog may appear about Damien's exploits ... after all, we have carefully saved his email! Keep up the great work, and thanks again for bringing a part of history alive.
I was interesting until I noticed the text ads and more below each post. Yes you might have had a relative who served and yes you might have transcribed his letters, but to profit from his experiances is really quite amazing. You must be very poor, financially and morally.
Hi, I'm from Brazil I heard about this blog from the g1(http://g1.globo.com/Noticias/Tecnologia/0,,MUL250001-6174,00-SAGA+DE+SOLDADO+I+GUERRA+MUNDIAL+E+RESGATADA+EM+BLOG.html) nice work friend.
im only 15 and im already sucked into it. Its amazing to read the history of the war and i cant wait to read the rest.
Totally Captivated... I've just read the entire blog in half an hour!
I can't wait to hear what becomes of Harry, although I can't help but fear the worst.
My great, great Uncle dies months before the end of WW1 somewhere in France. He fought for the Australians (not entirely sure why - as he was British...) so the mention of the Australians and New Zealanders tugged a few strings!
I'm only 22 and have recently discovered this about my family. We have a long line of servicemen in the family - my great uncle in the Royal Navy (WW2) and my dad (for 22 years, luckily no wars served.) To have this perspective is fantastic - you mention the tug as Harry faces 'going over the top' I'm sure I'm not the only one that feels the same as you.
It's a totally humbling experience to share these letters with you... thank you for letting us.
Of course a HUGE thank you to Harry and the men that fought that hellish war in order for us to live xxx
WW1 if there ever was a war that is so emotional for me it is this miserable one. I am from the highlands, two great uncles died from gas in france,my granfather was in the dardenelles (gallipoli). I served with the british army in the 80's, it is in my blood as it is in every monument in every village in Scotland. From my family I say Damn you to hell General Haig and god bless you LLoyd George where every you sleep to night.
That's really great, thanks from Brazil!!
Hi... I just found out about this terrific and wonderfully informative site via Yahoo! England. I am currently living in California and cannot wait to see the next installment.
While I am enjoying reding Harry's letters/stories, I came in late (via the media) so i am playing cath up. To say you made it 'complicated' by setting things up in reverse order is putting it mildly. With all due respect, this is a poor way to attract readers.yes you get those who really want to read the blog, but common sense dictates setting it up to read top to bottom not bottom to top. I hope i am many would would like it set up a bit more normal. Thank you.
Sorry, but I can't think of a better way! Judging by the comments other readers don't have a major problem. BL
Hi Bill. Greetings from Mexico. Great idea and great material. I arrived to your blog, luckily, just by chance, didnt see it in any newspaper, radio program or TV. I served only three months in the army at the age of 18 and when I sent letters to my family they said it seemed we did not had anything to eat, because all my comments were related to food. I deeply understand what Harry felt and why he asked once and again food to his relatives. It is a shame that we have to learn to appreciate what we have only when we see it lost. We, the world, should learn to make love, not war.
what a great idea - a great educational tool as well as very interesting.
However, I can't seem to find the first 6 months or so of 2007/1917. Am I looking in the wrong place or are they not there?
What a pleasure to see and read about so much History. (Only wished it was around when I was at school).
I am just glad that it had loads of media coverage or I might not have found it.
Thanks for all you amazing work.
Just came across this Blog quite by accident - not through any advertising in news or media - wonderful!
Please "keep us posted!"
I am very intrested in reading this blog as my grandfather who was also born in 1887, and served with 6th Battalion, Yorks & Lancs. Joining as a volunteer in 1914. I shall follow daily to see what became of Harry. My grandfather survived the war and lived until 1958.