Thousands Log On to Read Letters of WWI Soldier

Long before the blogosphere made authors out of Iraq-based U.S. soldiers like former U.S. Army Spc. Colby Buzzell, the soldiers who fought in World War I nearly a century ago were writing poems, keeping diaries and scribbling letters to send to their anxious families and friends.

Now, the letters of one such soldier, British Pvt. William Henry Bonser "Harry" Lamin, have begun to make waves in the blogosphere, attracting thousands of readers.

The letters were composed by Harry Lamin when he was serving with the 9th Battalion of the York & Lancaster Regiment in 1917 and 1918 and are now being posted online by his grandson, Bill Lamin.

Bill Lamin found the letters in a drawer while clearing the house. The 59-year-old information technology teacher then took them to his school to help the history department teach students about World War I.

"The department suggested I publish these letters," Lamin told ABC News, adding that his interest in IT led him to "thinking about blogs and how they can help with teaching."

"And then," he said, "I thought, why not publish the letters in real time? I had this idea towards the end of 2006, and I thought that if I waited until February 2007, I could begin posting the letters from the beginning of his stint."

The letters on the blog are posted and dated exactly 90 years to the day they were originally written.

Often, days pass when no new letters are posted online, and readers are compelled to wait to find out if Harry Lamin made it alive to the next day.

And wait they do. Thousands of readers, from countries as varied as Spain, Mexico, America, as well as Harry Lamin's own England, have been logging on for nearly a year to follow the British soldier's journey across the muddy trenches of France, Belgium and Italy.

British transport manager Dave Ross compared it to a soap opera, adding that "each letter is like the cliffhanger scene in any daytime soap that makes you desperate to find out what happens next and tune in to the next episode."

Journey Into the Trenches

The background to this story begins in the northern English city of Nottingham where Harry Lamin was born near the Nottinghamshire-Derbyshire border in August 1887.

He came from a farming family who had fallen on hard times and was working in one of Nottingham's lace factories when he was conscripted in 1917.

He was 29 and left behind his wife, Ethel, and their son, William, then just a year old.

Most of the letters that have made it to the Web site were exchanged between Harry Lamin and his siblings, older brother Jack, who worked as a senior clergyman in Leeds, and older sister Kate, a midwife in London.

When his grandson decided to post his letters online, Harry Lamin said that he only expected to "get about 50 people interested."

Since then, Harry Lamin's blogger profile — which lists his astrological sign, Virgo, and his zodiac year, the year of the rat, apparently — has scored more than 100,000 hits.

"I didn't know how well the letters would engage people," Bill Lamin admitted, "but they do engage people and they identify with him."

Even people who at first glance would appear not to have much in common with Harry Lamin.

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...