Just when we thought all the voices from the Great War had spoken, a new one comes to light.
Small, spiral-bound, unassuming, this little tome (shown below) lay discarded. It looks like nothing more than a little brown notebook. But open it up, and the first hand-written line of a poem comes immediately to life:
“Somewhere in France I’m writing.
Just where you nor I can say.
In a little village among the hills.
Beautiful in its decay…”
My great great uncle, David Thomas Percy III, was an actor and singer by trade and a talented sketch artist, but he also served as an army medic during WWI. He kept this journal with him in the trenches and dugouts, writing diary entries and poetry and sketching scenes that moved him.
The journal is more than a daily account of his activities and experiences. It’s thoughtful, self-aware, and lyrical.
This little journal was read to my grandfather and his siblings as a bedtime story. They remember hearing his accounts of shells falling all around. It has lived in drawers ever since, and now it’s been passed on to me, the writer and poet who should know what to do with it.
I am embarking on a project to scan, transcribe, annotate, and hopefully publish this work. I intend to share the process of reading, recording, and supplementing his gorgeously-written diary in my blog, adding in some relevant historical background and family oral history as I go. When I’m finished, I hope to publish it complete with scanned pages and photos.
This brings me to the most important reason for blogging about this:
I need your help.
According to my family, my great, great uncle had children.
Our family is based in Popham Beach, Maine, and Percy grew up in Arlington, MA, spending summers in Popham, but because he moved out to California soon after the war and died when he was in his forties, no one knows anything about his direct descendants. Ancestry.com hasn’t shed any light, and I have too few clues to search municipal documents.
If he has living descendants, I would be remiss if I didn’t do everything in my power to involve them in this process. Before I knew he had children, I had planned on donating the original journal to a museum or historical society, but if they exist, his heirs should decide its fate.
Here are some biographical details:
Percy’s first wife’s name was Irene Wakeling, and their children’s names were David and Ellen Percy. Percy and Wakeling divorced, and he remarried Constance Wolfe in 1938. If his children are still alive, they would be octogenarians by now, so at least one of them must have children and grandchildren.
So please forward this on to spread it as widely as possible, especially on the west coast. I’ll share updates and information as I learn more.
Stay tuned to follow my progress…