After the death of my great uncle Reginald Hall, my paternal grandmother’s brother, I was left three handwritten World War I trench diaries of his covering 1916-1918. They were very faded, especially those written in pencil. Even those written in ink were difficult to decipher with the lettering being so tiny & spidery.
Without me knowing what the two were getting up to, my wife Debbie used a magnifying glass reading out the daily entries to eldest son Alex on his laptop it took ages to complete the 1916 diary & print out a hard copy for my 40th birthday.
This gift meant an awful lot to me as Reginald & I were very close when I was a young boy and I have very fond memories of him. Sadly I’d never got around to even reading his diaries properly and they had just sat there as a treasured memento inside a shoe box stored away along with my father’s medals from World War II.
Over the past seventeen years with Debbie’s help I’ve transcribed Reginald’s two other diaries for 1917 & 1918 and also got my father’s & his father’s medals mounted, along with my Intelligence Corps cap badge, into a properly mounted frame on display here at home.
Having a father in the Royal Navy, various uncles in the RAF & Fleet Air Arms in WWII, a grandfather & great uncle in the army in WWI I was naturally very proud of them all. It always struck me as very sad whenever I came across diaries & medals for sale on eBay, that for some reason left their family’s ownership and along with that their stories becoming forgotten.
Why such material leaves family ownership I can only but guess. I suspect that sometimes when people pass away, house clearances take away things of real value to many descendants in terms of memories, that if only they’d known about, they would never have been parted from them. Of course some people are only interested in realising some immediate monetary value rather than preserving memories but hopefully they are in the minority.
So over the years whenever I’ve come across such war diaries & medals, I’ve tried to make sure these memories are not lost and have painstakingly transcribed and researched them for posterity.
Initially I published them on Kindle using Amazon Direct Publishing, but on top of formatting issues I was never very comfortable about charging readers even a small fee to read them. Free books are only permitted for short time promotions on Amazon despite the fact that the cost of acquisition always exceeded the small royalty stream by far, so I certainly wasn’t doing it for the money!
That said over time I received quite a lot good feedback from readers across the globe thanking me for not letting these stories being lost forever. Indeed on one occasion I was contacted by the granddaughter of one of the diary’s authors and managed to reunite the diary and his associated medals with her and her mother in Canada.
This got me thinking, the internet is a great medium for distributing content globally, but I want to be more in charge of the distribution of the diary content going forward and offer it to the general public for reading free of charge going forward.
As a result I have unpublished all titles from Amazon & from now on they will appear in this blog http://www.llanfoist.com! I will endeavour, through hyperlinks to other web content such as the Commonwealth war Graves Commission & Wikipedia to bring the stories to life and help explain what was being written about as places, names aren’t alway obvious to understand for the modern reader.
I shall start though with one very personal and relatively recent diary – my own – from the summer of 1981. It’s a record of my second InterRail holiday with good student friend Gary Hayes as we travelled around Europe by train. I hope you enjoy my youthful naivety as well as subsequent more serious publications as and when they appear.
The diary was transcribed from my daily notebook entry made at the time. August 1981 was a very different world to now, with the Eastern European countries still being Communist led and many with stringent currency controls. Yugoslavia was still a single country with armed soldiers in drab uniforms at every city street corner in the capital city there and in Romania. I was 22 years old…
Following on from this first, the following alphabetical list of diaries will be shortly published as blogs, time permitting!
Ivor Gibbs 1943 War Diary
David Moor 1942 War Diary
Ronald Taylor RAF 1942 War Diary
Unknown Soldier 1916 War Diary
Unknown Woman 1941 War Diary
Unknown Young Woman 1945 War Diary