Harrys-WW1.co.uk
poppy

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky 
The larks, still bravely singing, fly 
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

Dr. John McCrae (1872-1918)
In Flanders Fields, 'Ypres Salient'

Harry in uniform. 
Photo from family collection.
Harry in uniform.
Photo from family collection.

Harry Williams, my Grandfather, was born in 1897 and as you will discover from reading his story he joined the army before his 19th birthday. Fifty years later he was persuaded to write about his war memories, he titled them "Trenches and Trees", as he seemed to spend most of his army life down in dank trenches or up aloft in trees.

It is not an encyclopaedic record, but it is a true account of his army exploits. Despite his claim to be uneducated his writing has a colourful style, punctuated by his unique humour and descriptive narrative of the often pitiful conditions he was subjected to.

He was a painter and decorator by trade, and sometime after the war was sent to Ireland to supervise redecorating railway stations. He did not stay long, despite his wartime exploits he was not prepared to get shot at in civvies!

Harry and wife Gladys on the promenade at Cleethorpes. 
Photo from family collection.
Harry and wife Gladys on the promenade at Cleethorpes.
Photo from family collection.

My only recollection of my grandfather was as a grey-haired old man, resembling the actor Arthur Lowe who played Captain Mainwaring in the BBC TV series Dads Army. I had never thought of him as a young man growing up, so reading about his experiences has made quite an impression on me.

When it was originally written he did attempt to have his story published, but he was told that there was not enough sex and violence in it. His original text was typed double-spaced on 253 sheets of quarto paper. In transferring the original typed pages to a word processor document I have corrected any typographical and spelling errors, but I have not corrected the grammar or use of words.

What follows is a highly abridged version of his memoirs, none of the details have been changed, but some of the events have been excluded from this version.

Explanatory Notes.

Notes have been added to help explain certain points. When you hover your mouse over the highlighted words in the text the information will appear in a small pop-up box. Move your mouse away and the information box will disappear.

Ruins of Ypres from the air. 
Photo credit: Ray Mentzer
Ruins of Ypres from the air.
Photo credit: Ray Mentzer.

Photographs.

The illustrations were obtained from various sources as indicated with the images. Clicking on a small image will open a full size image. Click the [close] link in the image window to close it again.

Editorial note.

This is a highly abridged version of Harry's story. Where some parts have been omitted a brief description of the text is included, as shown below:

Text that appears like this has been condensed for continuity.

image showing example location map

Maps and Diagrams

Maps and diagrams have been added to show the approximate relative positions of various locations. The maps are not to an exact scale and are only intended as a guide to the positions of the locations. Some place names have changed, and the place names in the text may not be accurate.

Further Information

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Explanatory Notes.

Notes have been added to help explain certain points. When you hover your mouse over the highlighted words in the text the information will appear in a small pop-up box. Move your mouse away and the information box will disappear.

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Harry in uniform. 
Photo from family collection.

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Harry and wife Gladys on the promenade at Cleethorpes. 
Photo from family collection.

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Ruins of Ypres from the air. 
Photo credit: Ray Mentzer