Experience World War I in 'real time'
Letters from a British soldier posted as a blog have gained a huge following.
When Bill Lamin was 12 and discovered his grandfather's World War I letters in a desk drawer, he didn't care much about them. It wasn't until 2006, when he uncovered those same letters as he was clearing out the family home after his mother passed away, that he couldn't stop reading. Entranced by his grandfather's writings about the war 90 years earlier, Mr. Lamin, a retired math and Internet technology teacher from Praa Sands, England, wanted to share them with the world.Skip to next paragraph
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But publishing a book was costly, and he wasn't sure if his grandfather's letters merited a book. So he had another idea: He posted the letters online in hopes of attracting World War I history buffs.
The site (http://wwar1.blogspot.com) attracted few visitors at first, but gradually more people started reading "WWI: Experiences of an English Soldier," reliving the war through the eyes of Mr. Lamin's grandfather, Pvt. "Harry" William Henry Bonser Lamin.
It's constructed as a blog, updated with postings of Harry's letters corresponding to the current date. Since Lamin's first blog post in February 2007, readers have been following Harry's letters about his travels – describing the sights he sees, the people he encounters, and his experiences in the trenches.
The letters were the only form of communication between Harry and his family back home in Britain. Now, some website visitors experience the same anxiety or longing for a letter as they await news from Harry to be posted.
Lamin's blog has attracted readers for various reasons – some are looking for a way to see what it might have been like for their relatives who served in the military during that war or they are simply interested in World War I history. "People have lost relatives – perhaps their grandfather or great-grandfather – and they don't know what he was going through," Lamin says. "These letters have helped. They can engage with their ancestor."
Readers have left thousands of comments about the blog, citing their appreciation and thoughts on Harry's letters. One or two have "reduced me to tears," Lamin says. "It's been absolutely amazing, just how they engaged with Harry."
Some readers ask "Where's Harry?" when they haven't seen a letter for a while; others offer prayers for Harry's safe return.
With the posting of each new letter, readers learn more about Harry's experiences. No one except Lamin knows if Harry survives the war.
"It's kind of like a big thriller mystery that keeps me really enticed," says Jon Teboe, an editor and producer from Los Angeles who was drawn into Harry's world after reading an article about the blog online. "I think [his blog] is extremely important because [of] the stuff he's writing about; nobody can tell you about firsthand what it's like when they are all gone."