Friday, January 04, 2008

World War I Blog

The Times Online (UK) reported today about a popular blog.

It is a conflict that is fading from living memory, but a “blog” from the trenches of the First World War has become a surprise hit on the internet.

In the past year, the writings of Private Harry Lamin from the Yorkshire and Lancashire Regiment have come to compete with the diaries of call girls, policemen and politicos. The travails of this soldier, set down on the front line in France and Italy in letters to his family, are being posted online 90 years to the day after they were written.

Like the family who anxiously awaited his letters in 1918, thousands of readers keenly await his next post. In the comments section, readers worry over whether he will make it home alive, as he passes through the battles of Messines Ridge and Passchendaele.

His fate has been kept a secret by Bill Lamin, his 59-year-old grandson, who runs the blog and adds photographs and maps he has found while researching the path that his grandfather took through the war. The idea for the blog came to Private Lamin’s grandson, a maths and IT teacher, in 2006.

Harry Lamin, who was born in 1887, worked in Nottingham’s lace industry before being conscripted in 1917 at the age of 29. The first post is in February of that year, from an army training camp in Staffordshire. On May 13, he arrived in France.

After reading Vera Brittain's A Testament of Youth, I wanted to learn more about life during World War I. My dad found his father's journal from WWI and told me he'd send it to me. I imagined the wealth of detail I'd be getting and couldn't wait. But when it arrived, it was a composition book filled with one-line entries, like "Jan 13 - Went into town to see the girls." I was so disappointed.

Private Lamin's "blog" is much better than my Grandpa's journal. His letters didn't come very often but they give a sense of the hardship he endured--at least as much as he was willing to tell his family. In addition to Harry's letters, there are notes provided by grandson Bill to give us some context or a feel for who the people are that Harry talked about.

His blog is here.

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