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’

In August 1914, Lord Kitchener, the war minister, began a recruiting campaign calling for men aged between 19 and 30 to join the British Army.

Harry Williams in his army uniform
Harry Williams in his army uniform.

Harry Williams was born in 1896 and as you will discover from reading his story he volunteered for the army before his 19th birthday.

Men could volunteer at age 18, but were not allowed to serve abroad until they were 19 years old. This did not deter Harry!

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.

Start reading Harry’s story here, browse the chapters below, or search for something.

This war, like the next war,
is a war to end war.

David Lloyd George (1863-1945)

The Book

The full version of “Trenches and Trees” is available in print form.



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.

Notes have been added to help explain certain points. When you hover your mouse over the words underlined with dots the information will appear in a small pop-up box.

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.


The illustrations were obtained from various sources. For more information about the photographs, please contact the contributors.

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