Although I never got to meet my grandfather as he died before I was born, I have a batch of his letters to his sister during WWI. I am posting the following transcripts of his letters from France during the Holidays in 1918 right when they announced the end of the war. These are for my mom:
Somewhere in France
Nov. 27, 1918
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and it will seem rather funny not to be sitting at the table at home or over at A.J. Roests.
It also will seem strange to see no snow on the ground or a good old Football game over on the field.
I guess we have run into the rainy season again, the last couple of days it has rained or misted all the time.
I just come back from mess, was on duty all a.m. and off this p.m., not much going on now days, but guess we will start drilling about Friday.
We are billeted in an old French house in a little village here. There’s a school across the street from us and the children are just starting the afternoon session, all little tots.
You ought to see how young the French children start smoking, they are in their delight if we will only give them a cigarette.
A bunch of fellows are looking at some U.S. papers they received this a.m., some about the latest September 18th and most eating them up.
Well Sis, I haven’t received any mail as yet and the way we are traveling around, doubt if I ever do, or at least it will take months so after you receive this, don’t write me any more.
I will write you often and when I think it will be O.K. to write again, will tell you.
Hope this finds you and mother and the girls all well, I am-
Co –B- 102 Inf. A.E.F
December 7, 1918
Yours of Oct. 9 and mothers of the sixteenth received OK this a.m. I guess this must be about all the letters I have on the way as I received some as late as the twenty fourth of the month.
I am glad every thing is going along smoothly at the store and glad to hear F.G. has a man working now instead of a “kid” because it will make work much lighter for you.
Tell F.G. F. that when I get back I am going out hunting with him and show him how to shoot. Has he been getting anything his fall? Remember how he and Geo and Stanley Jones used to go and only get back.
I have expected to hear from Chas. May almost every time I receive mail but I guess he is real busy since they had the new party built on.
I guess in the last two weeks, “since we have been here” I have written about thirty or more cards and letters.
Did I tell you I heard from K.J. Chase. The certainly is some kid – do you think he will ever grow up?
Tell mother I did not receive the helmet she sent to Mills and probably won’t but never mind. I will use it when I get home.
Wasn’t it lucky I got the box of candy and eats the day before I sailed and the last I ate the “penuchey” was in South Hampton England and about the last candy I have had.
This French chocolate, about ½ # bar and bitter, costs us two francs (40 cents) each and cookies (6) costs 1 franc & 12 contrines or 29 cents. A can of jam, about a half cup, costs 2 ½ francs (50 cents), so you see we don’t buy much.
We buy these same things from the Y for - sweet chocolate ½ franc, jam – 1 franc 15 contrines (23 cents) cookies – peanut macaroons (12 in pkg.) 1 franc. The Y man tries to keep a supply with him and in touch with us at all times. On the hike he used to issue us cigarettes about every other day, 1 pckg. Once in awhile the Red Cross send a package of cookies and some cigarettes for each man, so you see we fare well over here with good eats and issued smoking tobacco.
Almost forgot to tell you Sis – we have a new game over here, quite popular with most every one of us. We call it hunting “cooties of course” and it is some sport.
Yesterday, the Xmas packages started to arrive so you see the fellows that have been over here some time will receive their packages all OK on Xmas day.
Well, I will wait until I get home for my Xmas gift ‘eats.’ Today we signed the payroll for Oct and November so you see I will be getting paid some time in the near future around one hundred francs.
Will close as I am near the end of this paper.
CoB – 102 Inf. 26 Div.
Friday, December 13, 1918
Yours of the 8th came last night along with Elsie & Marian’s of the same date. Much surprise to not receive any dated between Oct. 24 and Nov. 8th, but I suppose they took a different course in coming over and maybe on a much slower boat than these three, but I expect I will be getting some more letters within a few days.
The old town must have woke up when they heard the great news and turned loose for a few hours. Glad it came true three days later and then I suppose they went at it again.
What was the matter with Chas May on this day, was he afraid he might loose a few sales, well I only hope he closed on the eleventh and if he didn’t I think when I return I will have to tell him a thing or two.
You can’t begin to imagine how us fellows felt when we heard the news down the trench – and at eleven o’clock every thing was as quiet ad dead, where a couple of hours before the big guns were sending over a heavy barrage fire. The day was foggy and in the P.M. the fog rose and all you could see was sell torn ground, a line of trenches and groups of soldiers around many fires, the first that they had dared to build in some time.
This day I shall never forget, although we did not celebrate. I suppose they will look at it as a Holiday from now on.
Glad to hear that the new main in the store takes such an interest in his work, and it will make it much easier for you.
How was your Xmas trade this year? It ought to be good and hope it was.
Do you see much of Geo.N. I have written him a couple of times, also Chas. M. and once or twice to F.G.F. but of late I have been spending my spare time doing a little tailoring for the fellows. This gives me a few extra francs. You know I am great on making a little extra at one thing or another.
How is Charlie Darrow getting along – is he able to work yet? I hope he is up and around again by this time, although the last I saw of him the day at the hospital, he looked rather doubtful.
So A.J. Roest was home and all the kids were sick. The “flu” must have hit Michigan later than the other states. There is very little of it over here, although once in awhile you hear of a case.
I haven’t heard from Murf but the once, and don’t care if she bothers herself to write again or not, although she asked what I wanted for Xmas and a few other foolish remarks was all she had to say. Also she had been going up to Aunt Mayme’s to see them while Jim was so sick and was going to spend a week end with them when she wrote.
I also receive a letter from the girl in Ishpenning with an invitation to go up there next summer and spend a few days or whatever my vacation might be. I think my vacation is going on now and will have to hit the ball again as soon as I return.
Well, Sis, I guess I will close for today and write again soon. Hope this finds you all well and happy.
Co. B. – 102 Inf. 26 Div.
January 15, 1919
Well today is Wednesday and a very disagreeable day here in Ageville. It has been raining for the last couple of days so everything is nice and muddy also slippery as most par of the ground her is clay composition.
Yesterday, the Company went over to Regimental Headquarters at Maudres and the whole regiment had a review after which the Regimental Flag was decorated by the French and eighteen of the boys received the French Croix-La Guerre. One of the fellows here on the Provost Guard with me, only from C. Company, was called over. Yesterday he received the French Croix La Guerre, and about four weeks ago he received an American decoration the D.S.C. – Distinguished Service Cross.
Last night for supper we had a regular banquet. First in the line was tea, then my musket bottom full of kidney beans boiled with tomatoes and chunks of bacon, then mash potatoes and turnips together and a piece of fresh pork (fried) about the size of half of this sheet of paper and two slices of bread. Now don’t you think we are feeding fine?
Last Friday night my peg tooth in front came out, so Saturday I had to walk about thirteen kilometers to the dentist and get it fixed. He only fixed it temporarily and this noon it came out again so if tomorrow is a nice day, I think I will have a nice little walk again, of course you know thirteen kilo = only about eight miles.
I haven’t received any mail since about a week ago, when I received the six, all in one bunch – neither has the box or magazines arrived yet. But there hasn’t been any mail for our Company for about three days so maybe they will be bocheau tonight and I hope so.
How is F.G. getting along? I’ll bet now that the weather is so cold, he will let Mr. Weeler do the delivering. It was nice during the good weather to be able to run around in the car, but now taking care of a horse is too much for him.
I have not heard from Geo. Nesbit yet, but I suppose he is rather busy now taking inventory and getting things straightened up for the year.
Well Sis, its getting toward night and growing dark so will stop for today.
With Love to all and Mother,
CoB. – 102 Inf. 26 Div.
January 19, 1919
Dear Sister Jerrine:
Yours of Christmas day received Friday night and glad to hear that you had received my letters on Xmas day. I thought when I wrote first from here that you would get them about that time.
Do you know I haven’t received a letter from you folks dated between the first of December and Xmas day? I guess they have been very busy with mail and of course it’s been slow getting transferred around. Hope I get the Xmas box soon or I am afraid that candy may be spoiling.
When I wrote you a week ago, I thought that we would not be here today, but here we are in the same place as before.
This first week we have had flurries of snow two or three different times but today there’s none in sight although the roads are very wet and muddy.
Was glad to hear that Chas M. and Geo. received my cards O.K. I haven’t heard from either one of them yet, but suppose I will in time as they both are probably busy with inventories at present.
Very surprised to hear bout Nell and “Cap.” Gee! Caps a fine fellow but I think Nellie could have done much better than she did, don’t you?
How does Chas May seem after his accident? Gee! The war stopping began things again. I suppose if I stay away long enough, I will hear that you are going to be married.
Say Sis, Gee, I wish I had that fruitcake here today. I certainly could eat about a dozen like mother used to make, but say you hadn’t better save it too long, because you know it might spoil by the middle of summer when the weather is hot, or around the fourth of July, but you know once I get back to some camp in the states, you can send me boxes again, no matter how long they hold us in Camp there.
Gee! But it will seem good to get back across the pond again. You look at the map and it doesn’t seem to be very much water, but oh! you know you always have the chance of being sea sick, although I came across in fine shape.
Well this week will probably find us on the move, unless the reports fall short again. We hear so much, it’s hard to believe any.
Well, Sis, I think I will go to church and then write some more letters after dinner.
Hope this finds you in the best of health. With Love to you and Mother,
CoB. – 102 Inf. 26 Div.
Ypres Le Police, France
January 30, 1919
Dear Sister Jerrine:
Your lovely long letter or as you called it “young book of only nine pages” arrived last evening, along with one from Elsie, Marian and one from Clara Montgomery. They were very welcome as its been over a week since the Company has received any mail on account of our moving also the post office.
So its winter yet at home, honestly it seems funny when you write about the snow and cold weather at home, when over here today its more like a late fall day. Of course we have had some chilly weather and it even freezes over here “honestly” but no snow on the ground to wade through or no blizzards to blind your eyes and zero weather to knife your ears, toes and nose.
Remember how about this time last year the weather used to get down around ten and twenty below zero and I froze my toes, seems more like a dream than anything else now to me. I can just picture you going to work in the morning and the snow drifts on the sidewalk and when you get in front of the store, the windows all coated with flakes of ice. And of course, well I remember John Donely out shoveling the walk off. And say – Does old T. Shilow try and shovel some of his snow away this year or does he think the city ought to do that for him?
Wasn’t if funny they should send our division back into this area where I was before and our battalion should be stationed in the very same place. Well, this time it is very much more crowded than before so some of us stay in billets quite away from the mess hall and town. The billet where I am staying is about a half hour walk to meals and in old French farm house. One large room down stairs and one up – fourteen stay in each room – a large fireplace and very comfortable. We call it “The Farm.”
Gee! But it will seem funny to get back and have steam heat or hot air. I like these fireplaces real well and they are certainly nice to sit around at night and smoke, tell stories and pass the evening away.
There’s a rumor around that some of the replacements are to be transferred as the company is to large now that the old men keep coming back from hospitals and German prison camps and maybe I may be one. If so, I will write when it happens. They can’t do much more than send us to the army of occupation in Germany and wouldn’t that be a splendid life, but I will be satisfied to return to the dear old U.S.A. with out having seen the Rhine or Germany.
It’s hard to tell how long we will be here yet, but perhaps when we move from here it will be to a seaport and boat.
At the present time, I haven’t seen anything of the Xmas box. If it got lost, probably some poor fellow in the hospital got it so I don’t worry much. I have only received three letters with Hershey’s in so far, but the rest will probably be along soon.
Must close – With Love to all and Mother,
CoB. – 102 Inf. 26 Div.
A little addition as I found this piece of paper so can write a few more lines. You see paper is rather short. Was glad to hear that Chas Darrow was back working again. I have written him several times, but have never heard from him.
So Katherine Wilhelm is to marry Frank Turner – Well! Would you “thunkit.” I thought sure she would rope some Chicago music teacher for hers. How does Cap and Miller get along?
Tell Marian I forgot to put in her letter that I was glad “Livey” didn’t wear his rubbers in the house and was very sorry she did have “no no” for picture of herself, Ha! Ha!
Well, any way, “I thought I would write to you once”! hows that? I don’t know I feel like writing a letter today – and if I were home would probably be teasing you girls and mother in grand style.
I was surprised to hear that Murf was up to the house. (O.K. she isn’t sucha bad kid after all) rather set in her ways you know, but we all have our faults. I expect she will be sending me some pictures one of these days. Well the papers gone for sure this time, will close.