William (Bill) Lamin 1916-2010

Sadly, Bill, my father passed away yesterday afternoon, 30th December, aged 94. It wasn't completely unexpected, he has been very frail for quite some time.

Bill (Willie in the blog) was born 9 months before his father Harry was conscripted. He was one of main characters, frequently mentioned in Harry's letters. Click here for the start of Willie's story, in four instalments.

I am very sad that Bill was never really able to grasp how the blog worked. He certainly wasn't able to understand that the book was about his father.

Harry, from 1920

William Henry Bonser (Harry) Lamin 1920 onwards.

I have been dreading writing this. Possibly, because I don’t know enough about the man to make a decent job of it. Also, it has to mark the end of the amazing journey that the blog has led me through.

Well, here goes. (Click on the image to enlarge it)

Harry left the army in January 1920 (Note; he was, of course discharged from the Royal Munster Fusiliers - not the York & Lancaster Regiment) and was given a final payment of £61 2s 1d (£61.10) made up of almost £34 back pay and a £15”war gratuity"(an example of the military’s sense of humour, £5 a year for enduring unbelievable conditions), 4 weeks pay for leave (I was sure "furlough" was a U.S. term), ration allowance and a clothing allowance. From this £1 was deducted. Harry was allowed to keep his heavy army greatcoat for the journey home. If he handed it in at a railway station, he would get his £1 back. The £61 2s 1d was paid, by post, in three weekly instalments and was worth about £3,000 in today’s money. note; The paper that  the Demobilization (surely, "Demobilisation" in England in 1920!) Account was printed on has disintegrated. I just did a jigsaw job on the scanner bed and then returned the  pieces to the envelope. BL

As far as I can tell, once Harry got home in January 1920, he picked up where he left off and found employment in a local lace factory.

 Even that is not known with certainty. I have heard that times for the family were “very difficult” in the 1920s. It was a difficult time for the country, there was much unemployment and many ex-servicemen found it difficult to find employment. The promised  “fit country for heroes to live in" just didn’t materialise. There was no welfare state provision. Maybe Jack and Kate were able to help out. Ethel and Harry were, of course, looking after Kate’s daughter, Connie. No doubt Kate would have chipped in to help with that and, equally doubtless, Harry and Ethel would have been grateful for that help.

I'll continue Harry's story later.

Two related sites

I have been pleased to contribute to help others with similar material to get moving. Harry's blog and book has certainly stimulated several other similar websites particularly Dieter Finzen's  "mirror image" German soldier's WW1 blog, Erich Rochlitzer's German WW 2 Blog and Sam Avery's WW1 "doughboy" blog. I am very proud to have initiated a new and exciting use for the internet. My one good, maybe great, idea.

This week two new publications been brought to my attention. Both are concerned with World War2 and, coincidentally, both concerned with life, not at the front, but back home in England during that war.

The first is a book and blog, "E.J. Rudsdale's Journals of wartime Colchester", edited by Cathy Pearson. E.J. referred to the futility of the slaughter in the war that ended 20 years earlier, on which to base his decision not to join up and fight. I can understand his viewpoint.

The second is May Hill's diary and poetry  ;"The Casualties were Small" edited by Tom and Margaret Ambridge which was published as a book and now is being "blogged". 
May Hill lived in Lincolnshire ('Bomber County'), in a close-knit family and community which suffered the losses in action of several young men during that war. A recurrent theme in May's writing was 'waiting for news'.

World War 1 from Above

A follower from the U.S. has informed me that the "World War 1 from Above" programme is available on YouTube and is well worth a look. In the supporting material, there is a very good account of the "Messines Ridge" battle that was part of Harry's war. The programme (it is English so I'm allowed the "correct" spelling) is split into four 15 minute sections and is of a good quality. Click on the links to view.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Insight into Harry's World - TV Programme

The BBC showed ""World War One from above" on Sunday. It's still available on-line but probably only in the U.K. (Note the consequent careful spelling of programme - with 2 "m"s and an "e") .

A French aviator filmed the Western front battlefields from a balloon, shortly after the war ended. That filming was  linked to well researched background material, with a particularly good account of the Messines Ridge battle, which Harry took part in. (Chapter 4 of the book - June 1917 in the blog).

The programme suggested that the Messines mines were set off sequentially, working to the south - that the Germans in the southernmost trenches watched with increasing horror as a vision of Armageddon approached. All accounts I've read indicated that the mines were fired simultaneously at precisely 3 am. ( I don't see any significant military benefit in a sequential system - with only seconds between detonations.) Does anyone have any more information?

Update. I'm reading Nicholas Rankin's excellent book "Churchill's Wizards". In it he describes "a rolling sequence that lasted an appalling 28 seconds". I don't know if that was the intention or the result of imprecise timings. Access to the orders for the attack, at army level, may be able to answer that one. 

Two sources may appear conclusive, but only if the two are independent.

I found the whole programme to be excellent. Particularly chilling were the views of the water filled shell holes across the Passchendaele battlefield. Not just a few, the whole battlefield completely covered with, what looked from the air like puddles, but which were actually small lakes that would easily drown a man laden with military equipment.

This week, the blog should pass another milestone with the three millionth pageload. There are still over a thousand visitors a day with a steady flow of positive and rewarding comments.

Ideal Christmas Gift

Now is the time to think about ordering a copy of "Letters from the Trenches" for a Christmas present. I will supply the book, signed, with a personal dedication. At the moment, I'm including a set of the postage stamps with a picture of Harry and a short extract from one of his letters. That will continue until I run out of the stamps.

To order, click on the link to the left. You can buy an unsigned copy or the audio version from Amazon UK.

World War 1 Ends Officially in 2010

Astonishingly, the final event of The Great War has taken place, 92 years after the end of hostilities. With the final installment of the reparations to be paid by Germany to France, the book can, finally be closed.

Follow the link for further details.

First World War officially ends - Telegraph  

Willie -Installment 4 (to date)

This is a tough, most difficult account to write. I’m going to start to work in the opposite direction and see if that works.
Click on any image to enlarge.
Bill, my father, is currently 94 years old. He’s very frail and has great difficulty with his memory. He lived alone after Nancy died in 2000, but  3 years later it became obvious that he wasn’t coping too well. His memory was unreliable and, in 2004 he had a minor stroke that really meant that he wasn’t able to stay in the family home. After a short stay with my sister Anita, he moved into the Residential home where he now lives.

What happened after the Second World War?  He successfully picked up his employment with the textile Company in his (and Harry’s) home town of Ilkeston. He continued with his membership of the Church Choir and became a respected member of the community.

He was successful in his employment, moving up in the company  to become their main  salesman, selling bedding to department stores in the midlands and North of England. In the early sixties, he became an independent salesman, acting as an agent for several textile companies, earning a very good living.  

He has always been a keen fly fisherman, making regular fishing trips to salmon rivers. In the sixties, he bought a share in a fishing syndicate owning the rights to  a stretch of the river Ecclesbourne, a beautiful trout stream in Derbyshire. I have been fortunate to have taken over his share and now enjoy the fishing whenever I am able. Bill was also keen on rough shooting. For many years he was member of  a syndicate that had the game shooting rights over an area of Nottinghamshire, in the vale of Belvoir.  I once remember him saying to me  that he loved walking over the countryside but he really didn’t enjoy the killing of game. He then sold his gun and that was that.

The fishing didn’t stop until he was really too unwell.  Bill made regular visits to his beloved Ecclesbourne right up to 2006. He was  a long-term member of the Rotary club and was made a Paul Harris Fellow for his efforts with that organisation..

I have an account written by Bill about himself. I’ll attach a scan. I believe it was written when he was asked to speak at the funeral of one of his fellow choir stalwarts. I’m not sure how it was used or even if that’s correct, but it’s a valuable insight into the man.

W. Lamin- Married to Nancy. Has two children, 5 grandchildren ( + 4 great grandchildren)

Member of St Mary’s choir for 71 years (still singing). Boy chorister, contemporary of Ernest Lough, soloist of “Hear my Prayer” and many other solos. Rejoined after voice changed and has always lived in Ilkeston

Sang alto then tenor, for many years tenor soloist.

Acting unpaid choirmaster for 8 years, 6 years with 4 volunteer organists.

Rotarian Chas Norman recruited him as unpaid trainer for Gladstone Youth Club, and he finished up as chairman of the club for a number of years. The club was one of the most successful in the area, both in games and voluntary service.

Hobby. Many years dedicated fly fisherman – mainly trout, and occasionally salmon. Compulsive gardener and likes experimenting with cuttings.

He has been a very private person. I suspect some of that is a legacy of his father’s ways. (Just as I, in turn, still have some legacy of Harry’s experiences. It is quite frightening.)

My father has always been an honourable man. I treasure his honesty and integrity, too rare in today’s world.

Willie - Installment 3

It may seem obvious but, of course, I know more about each succeeding generation. If there's too much on Willie, just stop reading. BL

I’ll carry on with Willie’s story. (I think he’s about to turn into Bill)

Click on any photograph to see a larger version.

As I mentioned in the previous post, he had met a young school teacher, Nancy, at the amateur dramatics club. I think the “tree” character was “Heathcliffe” from Wuthering Heights, but can’t check. Nancy was teaching at Chaucer Street primary school which was the same school that Bill (Willie) and, probably Connie had attended as children. The school still exists, but has moved from the old buildings Bill and Nancy knew to a much more modern building.

Bill and Nancy were certainly together by August 1938. I have a lovely letter written to Nancy by Bill. Nancy was home in the English Lake District for the summer holiday.

The romance was interrupted by the war. Bill enlisted in March 1940. In his army Pay book his occupation was recorded as “Buyer”. His place of birth and parents’ nationality were blotted out by the censor for obvious reasons. (I just can’t think what those reasons are at the moment.) He was in for the duration of the war (D of W in the pay book.) Has anyone any ideas what the "Approved Society" is? Or indeed what that space is for?

I’m sure that the platoon picture is Bill’s equivalent of Harry’s squad picture from Rugeley. The legend on the back is ‘6 Platoon Recruits “A” Coy, Normanton Bks, 12/4/40. just under a month after he enlisted. I believe he joined the Sherwood Foresters, Notts & Derbys Regiment. The cap badge of the platoon Sergeant seems to confirm that. Normanton Barracks are in Derby, quite close to the old Derby County Football Ground, oddly named the “Baseball Ground”. Bill is 5th from the right in the middle row- next to the sergeant. A Sherwood Foresters battalion was adjacent to Harry's battalion for much of his service.

In April 1941, Bill and Nancy married at Nancy’s home village, Greenodd in Cumbria. Bill’s army paybook records a fortnight’s leave a few weeks after my sister Anita was born in July 1943.

I think we’ve been a lucky family as far as military service is concerned. Harry survived unscathed and my military career was too short to be much of a problem. Bill tells that tale of being on parade, ready to board lorries bound for Southampton and a ship to the far east, when he was told to fall-out and pick up a rail warrant to Aldershot to join the Army Physical Training Corps.

His comrades arrived in Singapore just before it fell to the Japanese. In February 1942. At best, Bill would have ended up a prisoner of war.

Instead, he became a PT instructor and stayed in the U.K. training soldiers. He tells of stints with Home Guard (Dad’s Army) as well as regular units. He always says that the real Home Guard was even worse than the parody we see in the TV programme. One group was issued with “weapons” made up of two pieces of wood with a leather hinge between the two pieces. Despite Bill’s misgivings, the C.O. decided to issue them to the men so that they could “try them out”. Half an hour later with several broken arms and dislocated elbows, the batons were returned to the store. (Another Home Guard veteran told me that, when faced with the threat of German paratroopers, he was to hide behind a hedge with a stick and, when faced with a paratrooper, was to “Whack him and whack him hard!”. No wonder Hitler cancelled the invasion.)

So Bill got through World War 2, gaining a wife and a daughter and without seeing combat.

The next instalment will take us up to the present.

"Buy the book", link problem - Apologies

I've just discovered that the link to buy a signed copy of the book for the U.K. was corrupt and wouldn't work. Apologies if you've tried to buy one and been frustrated. (I thought sales had gone a bit flat!)

For the time being, I'll throw in a free set of  "Harry" postage stamps as some form of compensation. No need to do anything. Just order a signed copy and the stamps will be included at no extra cost.

Click on the link on the left.

Willie (3) nearly ready to post. Certainly by the weekend.

Willie - Instalment 2 (Work in progress)

I can only refer to the elements of Willie’s childhood that have survived in some form or other. My father rarely spoke about it.

Click on any photograph to enlarge it.

Willie became a member of the choir at Ilkeston Parish Church when he was aged about 7. That it was important to him is without question as he remained a loyal member for an astonishing 75 years. He was a talented singer. He was a soloist as a boy and later as a tenor. It's a great picture of him all ready go as Nanky Poo in the Mikado. (Coincidently, I've a very similar Mandolin hanging on my wall).

On the basis of his talents, he was offered a scholarship to one of the great Cathedral Choir Schools. His story is that his mother, Ethel, decided that such a course wasn’t “for the likes of them”, and the offer was declined.

He played football (soccer), he was a goalkeeper. That was a revelation to me as I’m passionate about the game – and yet never knew that he played. I just discovered the photograph and asked about it. Cricket was his main sport and I can remember him playing for local teams when he was in his forties.

Back to the singing. He tells the tale of how a well-to-do gentleman had left the request that Willie sing the beautiful “I know that my redeemer liveth” from Handel’s Messiah, at his funeral. At the time, Willie’s voice showed signs of breaking – a potential disaster. He was instructed by the choirmaster not to talk a word or to sing in the days leading up to the funeral. He even went to school armed with a letter of explanation. He made it, and received a  treasured letter of thanks from the gentleman’s family.

He was into amateur dramatics, meeting there a young school teacher, Nancy. I suspect the photograph of Willie leaning against the tree was a publicity shot. I hope so.

When he left school at 15, he was fortunate enough to find work in a local textiles company, run by an enterprising Dutch immigrant. He tells tales of  collecting cheese from the Netherlands from the railway station and rolling it down the hill to the factory for the owner.

In 1940, Willie followed Harry into the army, initially  as an infantry soldier, to take part in World War 2. (To be continued)

Willie - Instalment One

This is a tough one. For the last  four years, I’ve never failed to upload any of Harry’s letters on time. I’ve managed to do enough research to put his experiences into a sensible context. Now, I’m finding it easy to put off writing the last two entries onto the blog. Maybe there’s an element of not wanting to end this wonderful journey. 

Willie is still alive. It’s not simple to connect my father, aged 94, with the small boy who was so important to Harry. I’ll try. I’m sure that I’ll write and re-write but, clearly it has to be done.

William Lamin was born on March 23rd 1916. He was the second son of Ethel and Harry. Arthur, the first born, was born two years earlier and had died in infancy. I’m quite sure that  Willie (I don’t even know what to call him “Willie”, “Dad or, as he’s been generally known for all my lifetime, “Bill”) knew nothing of Arthur’s existence. I stumbled across a christening card from Ilkeston Parish Church and confirmed his existence through a reader locating the birth and death records.

Willie (lets stick with that for the moment ) must have been precious to the couple. It must have been desperately difficult for Harry to leave his 9 month old baby son when conscripted in late December 1916.

For three years, Willie only saw his father for one leave in September 1918. As far as I can work out, he was brought up by Ethel with the help of Harry’s sister Sarah Anne (Annie). Annie had a son who was old enough to join up and fight but, at this time, no husband. George, her son, had never lived with Annie – he was conscripted from Manchester, where he lived with the Lacey family.

An important element in Willie’s life would be little Connie. She was six years older and suffered from cerebral palsy and so couldn’t walk. I don’t know how well she could talk, but Willie and Connie are reported as “good friends”. In 1918, Connie was sent away to boarding school in Liverpool.

I can’t pretend to know more. He spent some of his time at the relatively “posh” Whitworth Road, – Annie’s House - returning to Mill Street when Annie married. Then I suppose Ethel was on her own with Willie, supported from a distance by Kate and Jack.

The crucial first three years of Willie’s development  were without his father.

Friday morning, January 9th 1920,Willie got his father back. I can imagine the scene as he walked in at 9am, wearing his khaki greatcoat, and greeted Ethel and young Willie. I can do nothing but weep at the image. Willie, aged 3 years 9 months would have to get used to this stranger. I’d guess he’d hide behind Ethel as this unfamiliar man walked into the house. You can make up the picture yourself.  To help you, you can see the house on the BBC video. Click

I think that is enough for now. I’ll publish this first instalment and then I’ll just have to continue with the next phase of Willie's life.

Update - and even more information on George

Apologies, I am struggling to finish off Willie's story. It's very difficult to write a sensible account about my father. Sister Anita has some information that she's sending to me to help. 

Since Ken's correspondence, I've had even more information about George from Frances. (Frances, I'd like to thank you personally for your stirling efforts, but have no contact details.)

Frances wrote; Although George emigrated to Australia, he did come back to England for a time. He and his new wife, Nell, travelled on the Demosthenes, (there’s a picture of the ship on the Encyclopedia titanica website) and arrived into London on 4 April 1924. He was 27, and a bootmaker; Nell was 19. Their “country of last permanent residence” is unsurprisingly listed as Australia, but more interestingly, their “country of intended future permanent residence” is given as England. “Permanent residence” is defined as being “a year or more,” so they clearly intended to stay for some time.

Their address is given a 10 Geoffrey Street, Chorlton on Medlock, Manchester. Perhaps George came back to introduce Nell to the Laceys?

They seem to have stayed for about 5 years, as the next record is for their departure for Melbourne on 3 September 1929, aboard the Barrabool, (there’s a picture on the Photoship website) under Captain Sheepwash. This time, 2 year old Ken is travelling with them, having being born during their stay. George’s occupation at the time is recorded as “Salesman.”Meanwhile, 

I've heard from Ken, George's son, from Australia. You may remember that George was the illegitimate son of Annie, Harry's sister.

Ken knew little of his father's story and so has learned a great deal of his own family's history by following the blog.

Ken has emailed me with the following information;

"My Father George was a shoe maker by trade, as I understood from my mother and from my later observation.

George emigrated to Australia about 1921 and landed in Melbourne.  He told me that his first job in Melbourne was with Dunlop Rubber, see Chas. Macintosh of Manchester, and opened a boot repair shop in the suburbs some time later. Also a member of the Lacey family, I guess a son, had already emigrated and opened a shoe repair shop elsewhere in Melbourne. Shoes were a family tradition!  Close by near to that shopping centre lived the Tooth family, who would have known the Lacey’s, where I surmise my father would have met my mother to be, Nell Tooth.

Nell’s Father, son Fred and a younger son Sydney all served in the Australian army. The father was returned to Australia for health reasons and served as guard until 1920, Fred after training in Egypt went to France and went to action in the infamous battle of Fromelles on 19 July 1916. Over 3 days there were over 5,000 Australian casualties, including Fred who was wounded and managed to return. Brother Syd was posted to France in early 1917 and was wounded and declared unfit for action and returned to Aust July 1917.  Fred, after more action in France, went into action in Polygon Wood and was killed on 26 September 1917. I guess Fred’s forces would have relieved Harry’s forces and George would have been about there according to the blog.

Arthur Lacey as Guardian is interesting. Again nothing was said by George and Nell referred to them as friends. I only became aware of Arthur’s role as executor of my fathers, although, we, as children, were well aware that he didn’t have a registered father."

Jack - John Ernest Lamin 1870 - 1945

Harry’s brother Jack  was born in 1870 to Henry Lamin and his wife Sarah.  He was  17  years older than Harry.  In 1891, the census tells us that he is an assistant schoolmaster, living in Awsworth. We can only assume that he was teaching at the same village school that he attended as a child. 

One of the photographs I have looks about right for a young schoolmaster in his early twenties.

I have quite a few photographs of Jack as his career progressed, but now, thanks to Frances, know little more of the detail of what happened to him.  After some impressive research, Frances said...

On the 1911 census, he was living at 149 Church Street, Kimberworth. He was a lodger in the property, and living alone. His occupation is recorded as “Clerk in Holy Orders, Established Church.”

I consulted Crockford’s Clerical directory for various years, which gave me some more information on Jack’s career.

He went to St Catherine’s College in Oxford, where he got his BA in 1905. He was awarded his MA in 1916.   By 1916, St Catherine's wasn't yet a "proper" Oxford College. It was set up to permit less affluent students gain a degree without the great expense of attending the University as a full undergraduate.

He became a deacon 1905, and a priest in 1906. From 1905 until 1911 he was Curate of Kimberworth, Rotherham. In 1906, his address is recorded as 98 Regent Street, Rotherham.

From 1911 – 1912, he was Curate at St Marks, Broomhall, Sheffield.

From 1913 – 1915, he was Vicar of Grimethorpe, Barnsley. His address (unsurprisingly) was the Vicarage.

From 1916 – 1923, he was Curate of St John, Newland, Hull. His address is recorded as 20 Ryde Street, Beverley Road. Hull. There is a reference in the East Yorkshire archives for St John’s dated 8 December 1916 which reads “Licence for assistant curate John Ernest Lamin.”

From 1923 – 1936, he was Vicar of North Dalton, again living at the Vicarage. North Dalton is small village south west of Driffield, in the East Riding of Yorkshire (where, coincidently, some of my ancestors lived).

From 1936 onwards, he was at Newton-on-Ouse, again in Yorkshire, this time north west of York. His address is the Vicarage. In 1938, he became the Officiating Chaplain at the nearby RAF Linton-on-Ouse. From June 1937 until April 1940, the Station was also home to Headquarters No 4 (Bomber) Group, which controlled the bomber stations in Yorkshire.
May 14, 2010 

Thank you Frances. Fills many of the gaps.   to my efforts. BL
By the 1901 census he was an “elementary schoolmaster” (Not an assistant)  living in Oxford, with young Harry staying with him. Oxford is mentioned in quite a few of Harry’s letters so Harry must have stayed there for a while.

By 1917 John had been ordained into the Anglican Church and was was a curate, a  novice clergyman, living in Newland, Hull, Yorkshire.
He spent quite a time in Hull and was, at some time, was given title of  Canon (an honourary title in the Anglican Church, given to senior, well respected members of the clergy) attached (probably the wrong word) to York Minster. I have discovered that the Canons attached to a Cathedral or Minster (as York) are allocated a pew – a seat in the church – that is for their use whenever they attend a service. Maybe that is where the family story of him having a plaque  came from.

I know that he retired with Agnes to Rugely in 1943.  He had married her  in late 1917, aged 47.  It was the same Rugeley where Harry did his basic training before the Flanders battlefields.

Willie knew "uncle John"  quite well and always referred to him in a respectful manner.  Jack officiated at Willie, my father’s wedding, in 1941. He died in 1945 aged 75.

The “Bill” referred to in Jack’s letter to Kate, is Willie, my father. I don’t know if he made the visit.

The Vicarage,
27th Feb 1944

Dear Kate

We made a mistake over the date of my birthday – we made it the 24th instead of 25th.  Your pork pie came on the right day and we are enjoying it very much. We are expecting Bill on next Sunday. I hope we shall have better weather than it is (to)day for it has been snowing very heavily all day!

I see they have got a new vicar at last at Newton – when are you thinking of coming to see us? The Curry’s …… We are both very well just now and  we both   send our best love.
Yours affectionately

J.E. Lamin

I can't really give a better picture of John Ernest Lamin. I have no access to anyone who knew him apart from Willie, and I'm afraid his memory gives us no help.

More information from blog follower Veda.

The remaining piece of information missing from your added comment to the blog is that he was Canon and Prebendary of Husthwaite from 1940.

"Prebendary" means that he was given this honorific title as a senior parish priest. The connection with Husthwaite will have been non-existent, and simply a random title which became vacant and which the cathedral Chapter decided to bestow on Jack. In the medieval period it seems to have been fairly significant, with legal jurisdiction:
   Link to guide 1
  Link to Guide 2
Although some canons have a specific role in relation to a cathedral which means that they live in cathedral houses and are part of the cathedral's day-to-day life, a canon with a title like Jack's had been given this office pretty much as an honorary distinction in recognition of long and faithful service. He might have been involved in some of the Minster's business as member of a council or committee, and may have been invited to preach very occasionally. As you said of his Oxford degree, well done Awsworth!

Thank you, Veda.

I'm really grateful that Jack kept Harry's letters safe so that they could be handed on to Ethel. Followers of the blog owe much to him and to Kate.

Photographs and images (Click to enlarge)
There are no dates with any of the pictures so the reader can make their own judgement.  The only exception is the last photograph,  taken at Willie's wedding to my mother, Nancy Satterthwaite, in 1941.

Thanks to readers' efforts and the Church of England's detailed records, we seem to have arrived at a good account of Jack's career.

The next post - Willie

Catherine Lamin (Kate) 1876 -1948

Harry’s sister Kate was born on 22nd April 1876, the year after the family sold the “New Farm” at Annesley, about 8 miles (5km) North of Awsworth. On the birth certificate, her father, Henry, still recorded his occupation as a farmer, but by the 1881 census he had accepted the status of farm labourer. Catherine was the fourth child as far as records show. John was the oldest, 7 years older, followed by Mary Esther and Sarah Anne at 2 year intervals. Catherine was identified as a “scholar”. As she was only 4 years old, this may have been an error.

We can see at the 1881 census that the family was living with Harry’s grandmother, the widow Sarah Brown (evidently she must have lost two husbands).

In the 1891 census, the family, now having lost their mother, was still living in Awsworth in Towsons Row. (Farmer Towson – farmer of 54 acres - lives at number 1). Catherine, called Kate on the census, has no recorded occupation but, at 14, was probably occupied in looking after 3 year old Harry.

I have no further information about Kate until the 1901 census. In the intervening time, she would have been helping to bring up Harry and will have endured the loss of her elder sister Mary Esther who was 17 when she died in 1889.

By 1901, Kate was living with her father in a different house, this time in Kimberly Lane Awsworth. We know that Annie was in service and Harry was living with brother Jack, now a school teacher in Oxford. She has no recorded occupation. Her father Henry, was a chemical labourer.

Still nothing more that I can find until 1910 when Connie was born. Catherine’s occupation was recorded on the birth certificate as a school teacher. I had always assumed that Connie was the result of some youthful indiscretion – or perhaps some “gentleman” had taken advantage of her youthful inexperience. Of course, at 34 years of age, neither was the case. Connie was born at 145 Nottingham Road Ilkeston, I believe it was where sister Annie lived later, maybe then. The only clue as to the father’s identity is Connie’s middle name - Constance Wilkinson Lamin.

By 1913, Kate had moved to London and had become a qualified midwife. I have no information about what happened to Connie. Ethel and Harry weren’t married until March the next year. 24th January 1913, “Kate Lamin entered the service of the Guardians of the Poor of the Parishes of St GILES-IN-THE FIELDS AND ST GEORGE, BLOOMSBURY, as Midwife”. She was described as “A qualified and certificated midwife. Kind and considerate to her patients.

Her employer changed their name on amalgamation to the Holborn Union. In November 1916 became Kate became a Health Visitor, becoming qualified as an “Inspector of Nuisances” by taking an examination mentioned by Jack in a letter to her at that time. (Coincidently written on the same day that Harry took his first examination as a front line soldier at the battle of Messines Ridge.)

A testimonial written in October 1917 confirms that she resigned from the London job and moved 200 miles North to Leeds in Yorkshire. I’m not too sure about the detail, but the family story is that she worked at Leeds Infirmary and, eventually, became a Matron there. Maybe. She certainly left Connie behind with Ethel and Harry in Ilkeston.

Then we lose track of her. She appeared for Connie’s funeral in 1929, as she registered her death. We can see her at Willie and Nancy’s Wedding at Greenodd, North Lancashire (now Cumbria) in 1941. Her last will and testament was signed in 1946, before her death in July 1948 aged 70. She was buried in the same grave as her daughter Connie in Ilkeston Cemetery.

The family always referred to her in quite respectful terms. I got the impression that she was quite well off, if not wealthy. My sister Anita, who hadn’t quite reached her fifth birthday when Kate died, can remember her. She recalls “a formidable woman.”

Pictures (Click on any picture to enlarge) From the top.
1. The poster for the farm sale 1875.
2. Kate's cross-stitch sampler produced at Awsworth Board School.
3. Funeral cards for Harry's mother and sister, Mary Esther.
4. Employment record for her London job.
5. Wonderful velum certificate "Inspector of Nuisances".
6. A studio photograph of Kate in her nurse's uniform.
7. On holiday in Blackpool in 1925. (Actually, on holiday in front of a picture of Blackpool!)
8. Kate at Willie's wedding to Nancy 1941.

Final word - my daughter was named Catherine, after my great Aunt Kate. She is now a school teacher in London - quite successful, it appears. BL

Next Post, Jack.

More news.

Marek VaĊĦut has approached me asking if I would mind if he produced a Czech version of Harry's Blog. Mind? I'm delighted.

Marek has made a start and his initial efforts can be found  Here

Finding that the current version of audio book is not available outside the European Union, I am recording readings of each of Harry's letters. This, rather than an audio version of the whole book, could act as a companion to the book.

I should have the right sort of accent as I was born and brought up in the same town as Harry. Watch this space for details and availability.

More on Annie and Something on George

What an amazing surprise! Today I received a "comment" from "Frances" that gives a lot more information on Annie and George.  

It ties together some of the details we knew. George, when he emigrated to Australia, started a shoe factory in Melbourne, my sister Anita tells me. If he was a shoemaker 1916, that would make some sense. I'll publish Frances' contribution without any further comment. BL

More on Annie and something on George

On the 1911 census, Annie is living back at home with her widowed father Henry, Kate, Harry, and Connie (acknowledged as Henry’s granddaughter). They are living at 145 Nottingham Road, Ilkeston.

Annie (35) has no occupation recorded; Kate (33) is a monthly nurse, and Harry (23) has “twist hand lace factory” as his occupation. Father Henry has “formerly oxide worker at chemical works.”

George Lamin, Annie’s son, is nowhere to be seen. I found him, still with the Lacey family, but they have now moved to Manchester. The address is given as 164 Upper Brook Street, Chorlton on Medlock, Manchester. George is 14, and a joiner’s apprentice.

By 1916, George is working at Chas. Macintosh & Co Limited, India Rubber Manufacturers. In military records (on Ancestry), the following memorandum, dated January 13 1916, is preserved:

“Dear Sir, the bearer, G. Lamin, wishes to join the Army for immediate service and we have released him from munition work for this purpose. Yours faithfully, Chas. Macintosh & Co. Ltd.”

George enlists aged 19 years and 1 month. His address on his papers shows that he was still at the same address as that given in the 1911 census. He is 5ft 8½ inches tall, and his occupation is given as shoemaker. He is passed for service with an A1 medical category. His next of kin is Arthur Lacey, who is his guardian. He is assigned a Sapper 440567 in the 497th (Kent) Field Company RE (Royal Engineers).

Some of the military records are charred round the edges, and difficult to read. But George was awarded one medal: the Victory medal, which he received and signed for in 1922! 

The medal card shows TWO medals. Exactly the same as Harry. It's such a shame that similar documents for Harry aren't available. A lot of records were destroyed by bombing in World War 2. 

Following up on Frances' research, a little more work (All the hard work's been done) I discovered that through 1917, George would have been in the Ypres sector in the Royal Engineers, supporting units like Harry's. When Harry was involved in night time activities, improving the trenches, as in June 1917, he would have been under the supervision of R.E. personnel. 

George's unit was, as was Harry, also involved in the Battle of Passchendaele. George was hospitalised for 5 weeks in September 1917 when the battle was intense, but the records don't help with a reason. Also, on discharge from the army, he leaves the section on hospital experiences blank. More research into this guy with bow legs and a scar on his jaw? (According to his medical.)   

Thank you Frances, for really great piece of research. Any ideas where Ethel was in 1911? BL

Frances said...According to the 1911 Census, Ethel Ward Watson was living in Digby Street, Ilkeston Junction. She was 19, and her occupation is recorded as "Bobbin winder." She was born in Codnor, Derbyshire. She is a boarder in the house of a Mr Robert Scattergood, who is listed as head of the household, and married, but his wife does not appear in the same entry. There are three other boarders listed at the same address: Mary Ann Watson (56), cop winder, presumably Ethel's mother, although she is listed as being single; Annie Ward Watson (19), stripper; and Annie Elizabeth Ward Watson (16), no occupation given. These last two girls are Ethel's sisters. Hope this helps!

March 22, 2010

Ethel, Harry's wife

Ethel was my grandmother. She’s someone in this story that I knew, and can remember.

With sister Anita, I’d spend weekends with her and Harry. They lived a little over a mile (2km) from my family home and, in the carefree days of the 1950s, I was allowed to walk there after school if I was to stay.

I can remember her as slightly stern - not too many smiles - but both Anita and I enjoyed staying there. We could drink lemonade and could listen to “Children’s Favourites” on the radio on Saturday morning. The food was different. Ethel cooked on small coal-fired range in the living room/kitchen. Somehow, the sausages tasted different when cooked in the oven and the mashed potato was whipped to a wonderful creaminess with butter and “top milk”. I’ve never had anything quite like it since.

Ethel had a tough time after the war. Looking after Connie, I’m sure that Kate helped her out financially.  Later in her life, Anita says that she wouldn’t go shopping for clothes for herself. For Anita’s wedding, my mother went to the Co-op clothes shop and took a selection of outfits. Ethel, reluctantly, chose one from the selection. 

The letters to her from Harry haven’t survived. My mother reported that Ethel hated the war and everything to do with it and almost certainly burned the letters that she received. Thankfully, later on, when she inherited the bundle of letters from  Kate and Jack, she hung on to them.

When I was16, I decided to go to the army’s boarding school, Welbeck College, with a view to taking up a military career. Much, much  later, I discovered that Ethel was devastated at the thought of her grandson joining the army. She had such a hatred of the army after Harry’s experiences. Much to my great regret, she passed away while I was at Welbeck, still on course for that military career, which never actually happened.

The earliest reference to Ethel I can find is on the 1901 census. Ethel Watson was born in 1892, making her 5 years younger than Harry. In 1901 she was living with her widowed mother, 5 sisters and brother (maybe step-brother) in 50 Digby Street at the Eastern edge of Ilkeston – just over the river Erewash into Nottinghamshire. There are still a load of old factories in that part of town. Digby Street is a few hundred yards from the Gordon Street home that was the eventual home of Harry and Ethel. Ethel never moved far, always living within a 400 yard radius. Compare that with Harry, who saw the sights of Flanders, Venice and the Dolomite Mountains

At the time of that census Ethel was 9 years old. Two of her elder sisters aged 16 and 17 worked as hosiery (skin) buttoner worker and a hosiery runneron worker. One of the streets off Digby Street is Trumans Street. Harry worked at Trumans  Lace factory. A neighbour of Ethel’s family was a  Mr Truman who’s occupation was a Lace curtain maker. Perhaps we can guess how they met

 I discovered from the census that she had a sister Nelly. My sister Anita and I have discussed where the “Auntie Nelly” we knew as children fitted into the family. Now it makes some sense.

Harry and Ethel married in  March 1914 in a civil ceremony at Basford, Nottingham Registry Office. Their first child Arthur, was born in June 1914. Sadly Arthur died, a few months old, early in 1915.

The following March, 1916, my father William (Willie) was born. By the end of the year, however, Ethel was on her own as Harry had been called up to join the army.

There are lots of indications in the letters that Annie (sister Sarah Ann) teamed up with Ethel during the time that Harry was away. For some of that time it seems clear that Ethel, Willlie and Connie shared a house with Annie. When Annie married, Ethel and the children  returned to the family home in Mill Street.

After Harry’s death in 1961, Ethel lived by herself until she died in 1966, aged 74.

I wish that I could give a more complete account of Ethel’s life but there is little available and, of course, no one left to ask. ( How many  family history researchers have said that?)

Photographs; from the top. (Click to enlarge)
Ethel, on the right, with elder sister Nelly. The two were good friends and spent much time together.
Ethel at the Gordon Street home with "Nipper". I can only guess the date.
Ethel and "Nipper".
Willie's wedding in 1941. Ethel, with Harry behind her. Next to Harry is his sister Annie (wrongly identified in the book.)
Ethel looking very proud, with Kate at Willie's wedding in 1941, when she would be 49.

Next week, Kate

Unabridged Audiobook is Released

The unabridged audiobook of Letters from the Trenches was released by Whole Story Audio Books on 1st March.  click here.

The site contains a downloadable clip. I've just listened and, to my great relief, really like it. I was so disappointed when the short extract came to an end. I think the whole book will be going on my MP3 player as soon as I get my copy.

Geoff Annis, reading it, is quite believable as an East Midlands boy. It was quite strange listening to him saying my own words as he read from the introduction.

Have a listen to the clip and add a comment here. All welcomed - complimentary or not. Thank you.

Apologies to world -wide readers. I've just been informed that the publisher doesn't have the right to distribute outside the European Union. I'll try to find out more. Bill

Comments - An extra step required, Apologies

I'm afraid that, recently, I've been getting quite overwhelmed with advertising masquerading as comments. Some have contained quite offensive material. After three and a half years (not a bad innings) I've had to turn on the word verification thing to intercept the automated "spam". That should reduce the moderation load a little.

I'm sorry if this  is a nuisance for you, but please, please don't stop making the comments. They are one of the really rewarding features of this adventure.

Bill Lamin

Sarah Ann Lamin (Annie)

(Click on any image to enlarge)

Annie was regularly mentioned in Harry's letters.  It would seem that Ethel's sister-in-law provided much needed support while Harry was otherwise engaged in the war. Some of her story, although a diversion from the main plot, may be interesting to the reader.

Sarah Ann was born in 1874 and so was 13 years older than Harry, 4 years older than Kate. Like Harry and the rest of her siblings, she attended Awsworth Board School. The sampler was produced as part of that education. Spot the deliberate mistake? I wonder if Annie ever noticed. 

For Annie, I also have a certificate from the School Inspector. Level 5 is, I believe, the standard that was needed at the end of schooling. As she was aged 13, that would be about right.

I can't find what happened next to her. She doesn't seem to appear in the 1891 census and  she wasn't at home with Harry, Kate and the rest of her family. At 17 she was  probably away working as a domestic servant, as by December 1896, that is the occupation recorded on the birth certificate of her son George. No father on there. George was illegitimate.

Update! Frances has found Annie on the 1891 census. All the details age, birthplace and, if read carefully, the name (Transcribed as Lamm, not Lamin) are correct. She was a servant living with the Hutchinson family at number 70 Wilson Street, in the centre of Derby, about 12 miles from her family. Well done Frances.

A "cold call" to the next door offices of AB Consulting found a very helpful Linda, who went out and took a photograph of number 70 for me. Some people are just so helpful. Thank you Linda. I can imagine Annie and Ada,  the other servant, in the top room.

By 1901, the census tells us that Annie is working as a " cook domestic", one of two servants, in one of the big houses in Lucknow Road, Mapperley in the city of Nottingham (still, a "posh" area of the city). Little George, aged 4, was living as a "nurse child" with the Lacey family in Radcliffe-on-Trent 7 miles away. This is terribly sad. Of course, Annie (recorded as that  - not Sarah Anne) - couldn't work with a baby son in tow, so some arrangement had to be made.  That is all I know for quite a while. I know that George did some service in The Great War. His son Ken told me that he thought he was in the Engineers but I can't identify him on any military records. 
Another update; George's birth was registered by "E. Lacey - Present at the birth Ratcliffe on Trent." Almost certainly Kate E Lacey of the family that was "nursing" George at the time of the 1901 census. 

We know Annie married a Mr Enoch Hartshorne in the summer of 1919 but I can't recall any mention of the man from family members.

 George married  in 1920 and , in the summer of 1929 emigrated to Australia with his wife and young son Ken. He visited England in the 1950s, I can just remember his visit. 
Ken, now in his 80s has visited quiet recently, staying with sister Anita.

Annie became the Auntie Annie that I can remember staying with when quite small. She lived about half a mile (a Km) from my family home. She died in 1954, aged 80 and is buried in the same cemetery as Kate and Connie. The picture shows Annie at the terraced house she lived in when I visited. The sharp-eyed readers may spot that, in the book, she's wrongly identified in the photograph of Willie's wedding.

I'll be packaging up the originals of these images and sending them off to Ken in Australia.

Next week Ethel.

Major Jono Wood 1956 - 2009

Followers of the blog will be familiar with Jono's contributions. If you look down the left -hand side you'll see links to maps of the Italian campaign. There is a whole series of maps and images charting Harry's progress through Italy. They were all Jono's work. He picked up the blog quite early on and, with his own military background, quickly engaged with Harry and his activities.

He volunteered to work on the maps. As Harry's battalion shifted location in Italy, he would email the annotated map for inclusion on the blog. He was the only person in the world who knew Harry's movements in advance.

Last summer, after we had started to make plans to meet up with Rocco, to visit the Italian battlefields, all correspondence suddenly stopped.  To my shame, it's taken until now to discover what happened. It was so simple to just email. When that failed, I had no "Plan B." SNAFU.

Sadly, Jono died suddenly in his sleep in June. He leaves a wife, Stella and three daughters, Kate, Alexandra and little Sophie.

To my eternal regret, I never sat down with him and enjoyed the promised glass of wine. I know we would have become firm "proper" friends once we'd met face to face.

I've made many internet connections through this blog. Jono was one of the firmest. I've met a few of those friends. This gives me the resolve to make the effort to get out there and meet a few more.

Thanks to Jono for the support. Goodbye.