LONDON — On Jan. 1, 1917, a young man from Lancashire started a diary. It might not sound like much to write home about, but the 21-year-old — Lawrence Enderson Grimshaw — happened to be a soldier stationed in the trenches during World War I.
One century on, the soldier’s daily entries are being shared with the world as his step-grandson posts them online on the exact day they were written 100 years ago.
His step-grandson, Andy Howard, vows to post the diary entries on a blog in real-time every day for a year so others can get a sense of daily life at the Front.
According to Howard, Grimshaw was a dispatch rider and gunner in the Royal Garrison Artillery, stationed in northern France.
For many years, his diary lay untouched at the bottom of a drawer in Howard’s grandmother’s house. When Howard discovered the diary — along with some medals and a compass — while rooting through his grandmother’s drawers, he knew he wanted to do something with it.
In 2016, Howard’s idea came to fruition as he typed up the entire diary and got ready to turn it into a blog. “A lot of the entries give a taste of what it was like in the trenches. He loses some of his friends. He talks about how he feels. He discusses his feelings towards Germans,” Howard explained.
“He also seems to have had a spell in hospital, but we’re not sure why. He writes that it’s snowing and very muddy and that the food isn’t that well supplied,” says Howard.
In the entries, Grimshaw — who was known by the nickname “Endy” — describes his days matter-of-factly and and with little embellishment.
“On the Somme, not so bad for New Year’s Day. Attached to the 49th Siege Battery. What a place. I wouldn’t have told anyone about this place. I hope we are not here long,” reads Grimshaw’s first entry on Jan. 1, 1917.
“This is what they call the Somme… Up to the neck in mud and water. Shells flying everywhere,” Grimshaw continues on Jan. 2.
Grimshaw describes frequent brushes with danger throughout the diary, but fortunately he returned from the war unscathed, according to Howard. Grimshaw had prepared for the worst, and noted down a memorial prayer at the back of his diary in the event of his death.
“The call was short, the blow severe/ I little knew that death was near. Only those that have lost are able to tell/ The pain that I felt at not saying farewell. Endy, Somewhere in France,” read the verse.
Since Howard began publishing the entries on a WordPress site on Jan. 1 this year, he’s been touched by the positive response it’s received, particularly since his daughter’s boyfriend posted the link on Reddit.
Howard hopes that people will follow the blog throughout the year to see what his step-grandfather got up to.
BONUS: Forget notepads, this digital diary was all the rage in the ’80s