- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 5, 2008


LONDON — The extraordinary story of a World War I soldier has been keeping thousands of people around the world on tenterhooks since his account of life in the trenches was turned into a real-time Internet blog.

Pvt. Harry Lamin’s letters home are being posted as an online diary, with each dispatch published 90 years to the day after it was written.

Now tens of thousands of readers who have become hooked on Pvt. Lamin’s story are waiting to see whether he survived to see his family or died in battle.

Publishing the bulletins in real time was the brainchild of Pvt. Lamin’s grandson, Bill Lamin, who pieced together the remnants of his grandfather’s war-time correspondence.

“He left for the war when my father was 1, which must have been quite a wrench for him. His family would have been waiting for the letters. They wouldn’t know if they would receive another one or a telegram from the War Office,” said Mr. Lamin, an information technology and math teacher.

In the online dispatches, Pvt. Lamin, who served with the British army’s 9th Battalion York & Lancaster Regiment, has already described how he survived a number of famous battles, including Messines Ridge and Passchendaele in Belgium.

He talks of fighting “Fritz” and having to survive in freezing temperatures sleeping on “three planks and a bag of straw.”

In June 1917, of the Battle of Messines Ridge, in which his regiment suffered heavy losses, he wrote: “We lost a lot of men — it was awful. I got buried and knocked about, but quite well now and hope to remain so.”

Displaying a typically British sense of humor, he went on: “It’s a rum job waiting for the time to come to go over the top — without any rum, too.”

In September, he describes how he was injured by shrapnel in an attempt to capture enemy soldiers, and a month later describes the Battle of Menin Road Ridge. “It was awful — the shelling day and night. What do you think, Fritz came over about five o’clock in the morning.

“We had an exciting time for an hour and a half, I can tell you, but we beat him off. He never got in our trenches.

“They brought liquid fire with them and bombs and all sorts, but not many got back.”

Pvt. Lamin worked in Nottingham’s lace industry before being conscripted in 1917, at age 29. Most of his letters home, posted on www.wwar1 .blogspot.com, are to his elder sister Kate and older brother Jack.

Almost all make mention of his beloved son, William, who is now 92 years old and lives in a senior care home near Ashbourne in Derbyshire, northwest of London.

The latest letter was written on Dec. 1 from Italy, and readers, like his family at the time, are waiting to see whether he survived.

Mr. Lamin said: “That is the way it would have been at home.”

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