Tuesday, November 10, 2009

On Active Service: June, July, 1918

Lawrence Henry Ross
May 6, 1889__August 1, 1918

How 'Ya Gonna Keep 'Em Down on the Farm

Reuben, Reuben, I've been thinking, Said his wifey dear
Now that all is peaceful and calm, The boys will soon be back on the farm
Mister Reuben started winking and slowly rubbed his chin
He pulled his chair up close to mother, And he asked her with a grin.

Chorus: How ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm
After they've seen Paree'
How ya gonna keep 'em away from Broadway
Jazzin around and paintin' the town
How ya gonna keep 'em away from harm, that's a mystery
They'll never want to see a rake or plow
And who the deuce can parleyvous a cow?
How ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm,
After they've seen Paree'

Somewhere in France
June 19, 1918
My dear Mother,
I’m going to start a letter to you, but I may not finish it this morning, for it is cold and rainy and my hands are nearly froze. We have been having a cold rain for two days and my bad hand is so stiff that I can’t hardly use it.
I haven’t heard from you people in nearly two weeks and I do look for your letters. I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have a good father and mother. I can thank God for the home I have, although I didn’t half appreciate it then. I haven’t received any papers yet. I wonder if they are lost. I suppose everything is about as usual there. Was it a late and cold spring? You must have had some awful showers by the way you wrote.
Can’t you write oftener? I know you work hard and don’t feel much like writing after work, but you don’t know how I look for a few words from home. I haven’t heard from anyone in a week, and they all say they are writing lots. I can’t write any more now, my hand is so cold, so I’ll finish it later.
Well, Mother, I’ll add a little more to this letter. The boys are eating dinner and I’m on Guard, so will write what I can while I’m waiting for one of them to finish. I was just making a wish while sitting here in the sun. Can you guess what it was? To be home with you, a good warm dinner, some doughnuts, a good hot bath, then a good bed. Oh! Mother, how I long for those things again! I pray to God that this war will end this summer.
You asked me if my catarrh bothered me. It hasn’t been very bad till now. It is so damp and cold now that my head is all stuffed up. Other ways I’m all right, only lonesome for Dad and Ma and nobody can take their place.
I had a good long letter from Minnie a little over a week ago. She can write as easy as she can talk and I’m glad for once that she can, for I like lots of news. I’m glad to hear that she is feeling real well again. She must have to work pretty hard now.
Oh say, Mother. Did my insurance papers come from Washington? Does the allotment come regular? You or Dad or Harold or any of you that wants to can use the money that comes. If Les or Minnie needs some, let them have it. It might as well be doing some of you some good. Did Dad or Forest look after my other insurance in Ti? Tell me all about it when you write and tell me how you are doing on the farm this year.
Mother! Can’t you knit me a pair of wool gloves with good long wrists? If you can, why not leave all of the fingers together like a mitten, only the first finger. I’ll have to keep that one separate to pull the trigger with.
This is some letter! Well, Mother, I’m at it again. I’ve just had my supper. We had baked beans, bread, coffee. Then our Corporal was down to the Y and we bought a can of pears, so that went pretty fair.
I must close now and write some other ones. Love to all and a big hug and kiss for you.
Your boy,
Lawrence H. Ross
Co C. 120th M.G. Btn.
AEF France Via NY

On Active Service
Somewhere in France
June 27, 1918
Dear folks at home,
Here I come again. I’m pretty lazy today, but I’m going to try and scratch off a few lines just to let you know that I’m fine and dandy. It is a nice afternoon and we’re back in the reserve lines now. You’ll wonder why I say that. Well, I’ll tell you now. I’ve been in the trenches, or in other words, on the firing line. I thought I’d wait till I came back the first time before I told you, although there’s some danger here where we are now. If you don’t think so, listen.
Yesterday, the enemy balloon was up for observation, and here’s the results. They sent over some shells this morning
Censored—piece of letter cut out.
They’ll pay for it and pay dear. A few times while I was up in the front line the pieces of shrapnel came pretty close and made me duck, but thank the good Lord, I’m all here yet and feeling fine.
I’d like to send home for some things. I’m going to ask the sergeant if I can make out an order. If the Captain will sign it, why, you can send it. I’d like a box of Cuticura ointment, some of that ointment from Dr. Knapp and a jock strap. I wish I had asked long ago, for I need those things and can’t get them here. But don’t try to send them till I get permission from the commanding officer.
I wonder what you are doing now. Probably nearly ready to commence haying. I haven’t had any mail from you in a long time. I wonder if it is lost, as I know you must be writing. I was some surprised to see one of my letters in the Sentinel. I would have taken more pains with it if I had known that you were going to publish it.
Well, Dad, I must close now. Hope you are all well, and here’s wishing for the best.
Love to all.
Your boy,
Lawrence H. Ross
Co. c. 120th M.G. Btn.
AEF France
Via NY

On Active Service
Somewhere in France
July 2, 1918
Dear Dad,
I wonder what is the matter? I haven’t heard from you in a long time. I know you are awful busy and tired at night, but I get so lonesome to hear from all.
I’m awful tired today. We have been in the trenches for twenty days, just came out last night. I didn’t get any sleep till 3 o’clock and hiked for three hours.
I thought I wouldn’t tell you I had been in the trenches until I came out. Thank God I’m all here safe and sound.It is a beautiful day and I’m over to the Y writing. It is a grand place and I’d like to tell you all about it.
How are your crops this spring? I can’t believe that July 4th is so near. We don’t wait till the 4th to celebrate. We do it any old time. Our artillery put over a barrage from 9 till 11 night before last and the Boche put one back from 3 till 4:30. Some Racket! About the only damage they done was to smash up a few mess kits, a coffee can, tear some holes in the road and cut a few trees.
I can’t think of much more so I’m going back and take a bath. You would laugh to see me. I’m letting my mustache rush. Ha! Ha!
I’m going to put in an order right away and if the Captain will sign it, I’ll send for some things.
I heard that Uncle Amos and Aunt Bell, Uncle Roy and Aunt Edna were over. Oh! I hear, even if I’m thousands of miles away.
I must close now.
Love to all and once more, wishing for the best of luck,
Your boy, Lawrence H. Ross
Co. C. 120th M.G. Btn.
AEF France
Via NY

On Active Service
Somewhere in France
July 4, 1918
Dear Dad and all,
I wonder if your letters are lost. I haven’t heard from you in a long time, and no papers have come, only the April numbers.
I had a letter from Letha and she was talking with Helene and you hadn’t heard from me in over two weeks. I can’t understand it. I write to some of you about three times a week.
Well, it’s the 4th of July and I remember last year Aunt Emma, Anne and Jack were up and we drove up to Uncle Amos’ in the afternoon. It makes me sort of lonesome to think that I’m away over here and none of my relatives with me. If only I could drop in somewhere and talk with some of my people. How I’d like to see you. I hope God permits me to come back. I shall enjoy my home and people more than ever.
I’m back for a rest now, out of the trenches. We went to a band concert last night, ball game this forenoon, another game, sports, parade and concert today. Who said we can’t celebrate way over in France.
[Next page is faded— a repeat of Lawrence’s request to have various skin care items and new jock straps sent, carefully packed. He states that such items were unavailable to him there.]
I hate to bother you so much, but I can’t get them here and I need them bad.
I’m as well as usual, hope you all are well. If you talk with Minnie, tell her I’ll write soon. Love to all and best of all, I’m glad to know I have a father and mother at home praying for me.
As ever, your boy,
Lawrence H, Ross
Co. C. M.G. Btn.
AEF France
Via NY APO 734

On Active Duty
Somewhere in France
July 7, 1918
Dear Mother,
It keeps me pretty busy trying to remember which one to write to. I’m getting lots of mail now and I’m glad of it. I got that family letter from home, another letter from home, one from Uncle Amos, one from Florence, three from Letha the same day!
Oh yes, and one from Uncle Truman Wood. Just a few days before that I got one from Minnie, one from Letha, one from Joe and Mary, one from Uncle Trume! You can see I get lots of it now, but it’s so uncertain. Sometimes I’ll get 6 or 8 of them then I won’t get anymore for a week or two. I hope I get some more papers soon, only the April numbers have come. It seems funny not to know what happened over there in May and here it is nearly the middle of July.
Its funny I never got any of the mail you people sent to the Engineers.
The papers look quite encouraging now. I hope that peace comes before long, so I can eat my Christmas dinner at home this year. It would be one happy day if I could, [even] if I only had a crust of bread.
I’m over to the Y now. We’ve just had a service. It’s the first time I’ve had a chance to attend service in seven weeks. It sure is a grand day here. Its twelve o’clock now and I must go back soon for I’m hungry as a bear. I had a good hot bath yesterday and it felt good after taking one in a cold brook. I took one a few days ago in the brook. When I came out two or three French teams were driving by quite a way off. They yelled at me and I run on the grass and bucked up like a colt. How they laughed. I can’t say that I had much on!
Well, Mother, I’ve had dinner, also a little nap, but the flies bothered me so I couldn’t take any comfort. It is awful hot today. I’m going to crawl out in the shade somewhere before long.
Hope this finds you all well. I’m feeling just as good as ever.
Love to all, and a kiss for you.
Your boy,
Lawrence H. Ross
Co. C. 120th M.G. Btn
AEF France
Via NY
APO 734

Somewhere in France
July 14, 1918
Dear Dad,
I know I ought to have written before this, but I was so lazy and tired that I just couldn’t make it. There’s not much to tell only I’m as well as usual and wish I was there to go to church with you today. This is a French holiday* here and I guess the Boche is helping them to celebrate, for they are sending over shells to beat all. Our artillery sent them some pills all night long, and some of our machine guns fired too. Night before last was the first time I ever fired a gun with intention of doing the deed. Between one and two o’clock I fired seventy five rounds, but I don’t know what the results were. It was indirect fire and we couldn’t see. If occasionally you find an extra mark on here, don’t be surprised. I’m on guard and a battery of ours opens up near me, and I jump a little. My! How often I do think of home and dear ones. There never was a time in my life when I realized what a good home was as I do now. I hope and pray that this war is fast closing up. How do the papers look?
I dreamed of home nearly every night last week. The last dream was I came to Graphite on the stage, I guess. You was there and I run up to you to talk with you. You said, “Where are you going first?” I turned around so you could see the front of my blouse. It was worn through. I said, “I’m going right down to have Mother fix it for me. I wore a hole through it unloading grain off from a ship!” Wasn’t that a funny dream? You looked so natural only you had a full beard.
We had pancakes for breakfast and that made me think of home, for nobody can come up to Mother making them.
I had to leave this for awhile and take a list of spare parts for the gun.
Now I’m at it again. It has quieted down now, no guns are firing. I suppose you are haying now. Little I realized when I was on top of that stack last year that I’d be way over here now. I wonder what Wilford would do if he had to go through this?
I haven’t had any mail for nearly two weeks. Probably I’ll get some soon. I wonder why I don’t hear from Harold. I wrote a letter to him, but mailed it home, for I knew you would know his address. If he only knew how I long to hear from him, it seems as though he could waste a few minutes of his time on me.
If only I could talk I would tell you how lonesome I am some days. I must close now and write a few words to Letha. Four months ago today I was rolling on the briny deep!
I had a letter from Earl Carr. He’s not very far from me. I guess you don’t know him. He is a fine fellow. I wish he was here in my company.
Well, Dad, once more, here’s wishing for the best of luck. Hope you are all well and my prayer is that God will take care of us.
Lots of love to all.
Same old boy of yours,
Lawrence H. Ross
Co. C. M.G. Btn.
AEF France
Via NY APO 734

*Bastille Day

American Red Cross
[Croix-rouge Americaine]
Somewhere in France
July 15, 1918
Dear Dad,
I’ll just drop you a few lines this afternoon as I have the list of things that I want and the Captain signed it. Please rush them to me as soon as you can. Be sure to pack them well, so they won’t be destroyed.
I would like to send for some more things, but I don’t want to be a hog. Uncle Amos said he would send me some maple sugar if I would say the word. I’m going to ask a little later, but I needed these things and I can get along without the sugar.
Well, Dad, it’s a grand day, the warmest that I’ve seen it since I came over. I can imagine just what it is over there. My mail is coming pretty good again. I expect a letter from you most any day. I’ve just had my dinner, shaved me, and started to take a bath, but there was so many there that we had to wait awhile, so we came out in the woods in the shade to scratch off a few lines, Doc and I. That’s what I call him. His name is Leslie Dockham and he is a nice fellow. I’ve been with him ever since I came across the pond.
We had a little excitement last night. We put a little barrage over on the Boche. All the artillery and machine guns. There was some noise, believe me. How would you like to shoot the old rifle as many times as we did last night? A little over 4000 rounds. Ha! Ha! That’s going some, by gum!
Don’t worry because I’m writing on Red Cross paper, for I’m all OK, feeling fine and dandy.
I had a letter from Letha and one from Uncle Trume yesterday. They were a long time coming. They were mailed June 12th and I received them July 14th. I hope you’ll rush those things all you can.
Oh, say, Dad, did you get my insurance from the government? [I mean my insurance papers.] Does the allotment come every month? One more question: was my insurance at Ti paid? I’ll soon have my Liberty Loan paid. I think July is the last one. If you need the allotment for anything, why don’t be afraid to use it. If they start another loan I think I’ll take one again. It’s a good investment and I might as well save a little of my money.
Guess I’ll close now and write a few lines to Letha.
Love to all and remember I’m that same old boy of yours,
Lawrence H. Ross
Co. C. 120th M.G. Btn.
AEF France
Via NY APO 734

On Active Service
Somewhere in France
July 18, 1918
My Dear Mother,
Guess I’ll drop you a few lines this morning. I’ve just had my breakfast and its half past eight. How’s that for lazy? I went to bed about ten o’clock then I had to get up and go on guard from one till three, so you can see I have to sleep late to get rested.
Well, Mother, how is everybody there? I thought of you while I was eating breakfast. We had pancakes. Wish I could have been there to eat with you. Just think, I haven’t seen you since last November 18th, I think, over eight months. We use to think two or three months was a long time to stay away from home.
I suppose it must be awful hot there now. It is pretty hot here in the daytime.
You’ll notice a different kind of ink this time. My pen has run dry and I haven’t any ink. I have a dandy new pen, though. It’s the one Uncle Trume gave me.
There’s not much to tell only I’m just as well as ever. I think that’s about the best I could tell. Oh! I forgot to say that I have fruit most every day now. Lots of raspberries here and when I’m not busy I go pick a cupful, look them over, wash them, put some sugar on them and let them stand awhile. Then they are just like jam. Great? Well, I should say so!
We have plenty of water here, so I try to keep clean, take a bath most every day and wash my clothes twice a week. I’m trying to keep the “cookies” [lice] away!
It’s funny I don’t get my May papers. Only the first bundle of them came.
It was awful dark here last night and its some job to find our way out to the gun position. We can’t light any matches. If we did, Fritz would hand us over some shells. It’s a great game. One fellow says, “It’s a great game when people throw iron at you.”
Guess I’ll close now. Hope you’re as well as I am. Let’s hope and pray that the day will soon come that we can be together again.
Love to all and a kiss for you,
Your boy,
Lawrence H. Ross

Le Foyer du Soldat
Somewhere in France
July 25, 1918
Dear folks at home,
I hope you won’t think I’ve forgotten you all. I have been awful busy. Come out of the trenches the second time and took a long ride on the train. I’m feeling fine, only tired. Not much chance to sleep with thirty men and packs in a parlor car [box car, Ha! Ha!]
I hope you are all well. I think of you every day, Dad, and long to see you. I hope the good Lord will see fit to let us all be together again. I know it will be the happiest day of my life when I can be home again. I love my home now more than I can tell you. There’s not much more I can tell you, only I’m well. I’m sure that’s the best of all.
I haven’t heard from you in quite a long time, but I have to make some allowances for mail. There’s lots of it to handle over. I had a nice letter from Jack Russell. I was glad to hear from them.
Do you notice the difference in paper? You can labor on the reading [French] on the front.
I know this is a small letter, but as long as I let you know that I’m alright, I’m sure it will satisfy.
I saw an American lady yesterday and I heard her talk for a minute. Did it sound good? Well, I’ll say yes! Only the second time I’ve heard one in nearly five months. You don’t know how lonesome I get just to shake hands with some of the people at home and hear their voices. I’d like to write some of my experiences to you, but I’ll tell them later.
Love to all and here’s hoping for the best.
Here’s a big hug for you and a kiss for Mother.
Your boy,
Lawrence H. Ross
Co. C. 120th M.G. Btn.
AEF France, via NY

The letter dated July 25, 1918, was the last one found in the bundle which my Uncle Bill [the toddler, Billy] had squirreled away in his big trunk. It is possible that family members or Letha may have received others written after that date.

Lawrence Henry Ross was killed in the Second Battle of the Marne, August 1, 1918. It was several weeks before his loved ones learned of his death.


  1. These letters have been so interesting to read, he must have been speaking for so many lonely boys when he wrote. I was rather hoping that he'd survived and made it home to his Mum and Dad and Letha. I wonder what happened to her? It's very sad that, like so many millions of young men, he never saw his beloved home again.

  2. Oh.....

    Thats tragic.

    So many.

    Kind regards.......Al.

  3. How sad. I was hoping he was going to come home safe and sound. He was such a family person wasn't he? No wonder he missed everyone so much as he sounded a bit "self-contained" - perhaps not one to make friends easily? He only mentions one or two.

    Your family must have been devastated by his loss - no wonder every letter was kept. His poor sweetheart - I wonder if she ever married? Do you know?

    My grandfather's brother, Ben Bolt, was killed in the final months of the war too. Strangely, my grandfather, although his given names were Charles Francis, was always called Ben . . .