A soldier’s blog from the trenches

2008-01-11 00:00

In many ways he’s a typical war blogger — William Henry “Harry” Bonser Lamin’s descriptions of gruelling battles compete with complaints about cramped quarters and apologies for his irregular updates.

But the postings from this English laceworker are 90 years late, telling of his experience in the trenches in World War I.

His letters are being posted on the Internet — exactly 90 years after they were written — by Lamin’s grandson, Bill. And like Harry’s family at the time, readers don’t know if his most recent update will also be his last.

“People are coming back to see if there’s another letter, if he’s survived, to see what he’s doing,” Bill Lamin, a 59-year-old schoolteacher, told the Associated Press. “It captures people.”

Lamin said he found the letters as he was clearing out his parents’ home several years ago.

He said the response from readers, many of whom say they lost relatives in World War 1, has been overwhelming. The soldier’s Internet “profile”, complete with a picture of him in uniform, has attracted more than 25 000 hits.

“I was not sure I could be bothered to transcribe all the letters, but now I feel I have no choice,” Lamin said.

His grandfather served in the 9th Battalion of York & Lancaster Regiment, which was part of the 23rd Army division.

Many of the entries are run-of-the-mill: complaints about uncomfortable barracks in England, comments on the hot weather in France and thanks to his family for packages and cigarettes. But other posts speak to the horror of a conflict that claimed millions of lives across Europe.

“We have had another terrible time this week the men here say it was worst (sic) than the Somme advance last July,” Harry wrote on June 11, 1917, when his unit was engaged at the battle of Messines Ridge near Ypres, Belgium.

“We lost a lot of men but we got where we were asked to take. It was awful I am alright got buried and knocked about but quite well now and hope to remain so ... It is a rum job waiting for the time to come to go over the top without any rum too. The C.O. got killed and our captain, marvellous (sic) how we escaped.”

Another letter, in October, recounts a German assault on his position.

“Fritz came over about 5 o’clock next morning we had an exciting time for about one hour and a half I can tell you ... they brought liquid fire with them and bombs and all sorts but not many got back we had twenty casual(ties) and the captain got killed a jolly good fellow too.”

As of Tuesday, no letters from Harry Liman have been posted this year; the last two letters, containing Christmas greetings, were dated December 30, 1917.

“It’s almost a soap opera,” Bill Liman said of the blog. “People are saying they’re rooting for Harry, they want him to survive.... When I read the letters, I go back 90 years: I’m there.”

- Sapa-AP.

• On the Internet: www.wwar1.blogspot.com

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