Granddaughter Reunited

Back in March 2013 I got a Facebook Messenger from a second cousin I’d never met called Prue Karsenbarg.  It transpired that my great uncle Reginald Hall was her maternal grandfather, husband to Hilda Hall, nee Hart (and later Dewson when she remarried)!

She mentioned that all she had relatively little contact over the years, but had visited her twice in Canada and introduced as her uncle rather than grandfather.  She’d always wondered about him more though and was surprised when she found his diary that Debbie and Alex had transcribed for my 40th birthday through Google!  She’d read references in it to Hilda her grandma and her “showing” in January 1916, when she was obviously pregnant with her mother.

At the time she asked to get in touch and from memory I think I asked Debbie to respond on my behalf, as I’d just been told that my father had been diagnosed with the stomach cancer, that sadly he was eventually to die of nine months later.  Alas we never did get in touch and I’d not used Facebook messenger for some time until recently when up popped a message from Prue again suggesting we get in touch.

We eventually agreed to a call on the 22nd September at 6pm by Messenger where I told her that I would post off to her address in Southsea Hampshire, Reginald’s original diaries, his GPO long service medal which has his name engraved on the curved edge and his East Yorkshire Regiment army cap badge.  I’m sure he would have wanted her to have them.

Rightfully reunited

We had a fascinating talk and I’m very pleased to report the above package arrived safely the next day.  Prue also plans to visit Yorkshire and visit Auntie Dorothy living in the Old Coach House home in Hessle, who is probably the last surviving relative that remembers Reginald well.    She also plans to visit her grandfather’s grave who’s buried with my own grandparents (Charles and Hilda Shores) and his sister Daisy in Western Cemetery in Chanterlands Avenue, Hull.

The Hall family grave
Granddaughter Reunited

Transcribing Diaries

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!  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…

Peter Shores Student 1981 InterRail Diary

Following on from this first, the following alphabetical list of diaries will be shortly published as blogs, time permitting!

Frederick Bailey Royal Marines 1943 War Diary

Frank Booth 1942-43 War Diary

Frank Booth 1945 War Diary

Benjamin Coller 1942 War Diary

Walter Crewe 8th Armoured Division 1942 War Diary

Ivor Gibbs 1943 War Diary

Reginald Hall East Yorkshire Regiment 1916 War Diary

Reginald Hall East Yorkshire Regiment 1917 War Diary

Reginald Hall East Yorkshire 1918 War Diary

Philip Healey Royal Warwickshire Regiment 1944-45 War Diary

Archibald Maidment RAF Regiment 1942-44 War Diary

Archibald Maidment RAF Regiment 1945 War Diary

David Moor 1942 War Diary

Ronald Taylor RAF 1942 War Diary

Duncan Townsend RAF 1942 War Diary

Unknown Soldier 1916 War Diary

Unknown Woman 1941 War Diary

Unknown Young Woman 1945 War Diary

Laurie Warner Royal Artillery 1942-45 War Diary

Jean Whitear WAAF 1945 War Diary

E. Wood RAF 1944 War Diary

Dennis Wright RAF 1944 War Diary

Dennis Wright RAF 1945 War Diary

Dennis Wright RAF 1946-47 Post-War Diary

Transcribing Diaries

Deborah Jayne Shores – Publisher

Now that our move seems back on track again, although following a slightly different direction, I thought I’d share with you some details of a Kindle based publishing venture Debbie set up a couple of years ago.

Basically she publishes old handwritten diaries from the First and Second World War, usually from individuals in the military, but occasionally from the home front.  These are not famous individuals, nor typically senior in rank, just ordinary people going about their lives in extra-ordinary times.

It all stemmed from my Great Uncle Reginald’s First World War trench diaries (1916, 1917 & 1918) left to me after his death. For my fortieth birthday Debbie and Alex transcribed the 1916 diary for me and gave me a printed copy.  This was a fantastic gift that I really treasured, but work stopped there until my fiftieth when Debbie started on the 1917 diary.

I had the idea she should go back to the start and use the internet to research all the correct spellings of the locations and verify their accuracy, particularly of any casualties my Great Uncle referenced.  Much to my surprise and very movingly there was nearly always an exact correlation between the casualty mentioned in the diary and the record the Commonwealth War Graves Commission site.

We then decided that rather than keeping the printed and electronic copies just to ourselves, we’d make sure they lasted forever (or for at least for as long Amazon exists) to be read by a wider audience by publishing them as ebooks on Kindle Direct Publishing.  She uses the very small income derived each month to source other diaries aiming to preserve their memory which would otherwise be lost.

To be fair many of the diaries are very mundane and not as well written as Reginald’s, but they do give you a real sense of a different way of life in an important historical timeframe.  To make the electronic version of the diaries more understandable we have inserted hyperlinks to Wikipedia for place names, historical facts and the CWGC site for details of casualties.

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Deborah Jayne Shores – Publisher