Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Somewhere in France: Spring, 1918

Over there, over there,
Send the word, send the word over there
That the Yanks are coming, the Yanks are coming
The drum's rum-tumming everywhere
So prepare, say a prayer,
Send the word, send the word to beware
We'll be over, we're coming over
And we won't come back till it's over, over there.
The Ticonderoga Sentinel published news from communities on both sides of Lake Champlain. From the March 14, 1918 edition:
Edward Ross of Abells Corners and Miss Eletha Murray of Glens Falls spent Sunday at Camp Devens with Mr. Ross's son Lawrence who has been transferred from the 1st Infantry to the Engineer's Division. Since returning Mr. Ross has received a letter which said, "Somewhere on the Road." Mr. Ross will no doubt soon learn where his son is stationed.
March 23, 1918 [postmark]
Somewhere in France
My Dear Dad and all,
I’ll just scribble off a few lines for I know you’ll be waiting anxiously to hear from me.
Well, Thank God, we arrived all OK and I’m feeling pretty good, some tired, but that don’t matter as long as I’m well.
I was some seasick coming over but not near as bad as most of them. I surely saw some awful waves.
I could tell you enough news to tire you out, but will have to wait til I get back.
I don’t want you to worry about me for I’m all OK. I just want you to ask God to protect me and bring me back safe, also to be a man while I am here.
I can’t seal this and I’ll try and find out my address so you can write to me as soon as you get this. I want you to give everybody my address. Be sure to send it to Les and Minnie and Letha anyway.
I’m so glad you came to see me that Sunday, for it surely was the last Sunday I was there.
I hardly know what to tell you for I don’t know what will pass, [ censorship] so I’ll be careful.
We are late with our dinner today and I just went to a French canteen to buy a few mouthfuls. They charge something terrible.
I’ll hold this til night, so to try and get an address.
It is quite warm here. The grass is green and as high as it is over there in May.
When I got most across the ocean, who should walk by but Julius Frazier, Zera Frazier’s boy. And when we landed I found Tony Pazzula, a tailor at Ti that I knew. I know a lot of the boys here if I only can find them.
When I get up in the morning you’re having a good snooze for there is five hours difference in time. If we get up at five, it would be midnight over there. It seems funny. When I got here my watch was five hours slow.
Well, Dad, its night and I must close now. Hoping all are well and be sure and let me hear from you as soon as you get this.
Love to all and a big hug and kiss for each one.
Here is my address:
Lawrence H. Ross
American Expeditionary Forces
19th Engineers
Via New York
Letter OK’d by Lt. W.H. McEachron, a.s.s.r.c. A.E.F.

Somewhere in France
Undated [early April from content]
My dear Dad,
I’ll just scratch off a few lines to you tonight and let you know that I’m well and hope everybody at home is. It seems like a long time since I heard from any of you. It has been a month since I left Camp Devens and I haven’t had a letter since then.
I hope you are getting my mail alright so you won’t worry.
I suppose you are making maple sugar to beat all. Well, just eat a few mouthfuls for me when you sugar off.
I guess I wrote to you before that I’m in the Machine Gun Battalion and working on it is interesting, but I’d like to be back in old Ti driving the old car. I hope I can get some letters and the Sentinel before long. I wrote to Les and I guess he’ll telephone to Arthur Beers about sending the paper, but if I thought he didn’t, I’d have you send yours for the back month.
It has been awful rainy here for about a week, but we manage to keep quite dry. I saw 25 or 30 airplanes sail over our heads this afternoon.
How is Mother and how is Billy? I want to get one of those family letters and a long one, too. I had a good rest Saturday P.M. and Sunday I went to service in the Y. Then in the afternoon a chum of mine and I took our blankets outside and shook them and hung them on the fence for about an hour to air. We sat down on a shelter half and the sun was grand. I thought of you all away back home and it made me lonesome.
I hope and pray the day will come when I can come back and then we’ll enjoy life. I can enjoy a lot of things now that I didn’t before.
It has taught me many a lesson. I must hurry now and finish this so to write a few lines to Letha and Minnie. We have hard work getting paper here, so I can’t always do something when I want, but never mind. I have passed Ayer alright! Ha! Ha!
I’m waiting anxiously to hear from all, especially Minnie. I wish I had your and Mother’s picture here. I’d have you send one but it might never find me. The YMCA man asked to see pictures of our father and mother. I wish he could see you two.
Now, I’ll wish you all the best of luck and may God take care of us til we are together again. Don’t worry for I still stand for the right and am going to.
Love to all and a big kiss for Mother, Helene and Billy
Your boy,
Lawrence H. Ross
148th M.G. Btn. Am. E. F.
OK L.E. Smith, Capt. 148 Am. E. F.

Somewhere in France
May 12, 1918
Dear Mother,
Today is Mother’s Day and I saw in the paper that every soldier is asked to write to his mother, so I’ll do it. If I go ahead and tell all the good things it would take about ten pages to do it, so I’ll just tell a few.
First, I thank God that I have such a good Mother. I never half appreciated what a good Mother and a good home was before, but I do now. I never thought how nice it was to throw out my dirty clothes and have nice clean ones waiting for me until I had to do my own and wash them in cold water, too.
Then I used to think it was awful if I didn’t have a lot of butter every meal, and no matter how ugly I was, you was always the same. I could go on and name a million things you done for me and I never gave it a thought. When I get back I’ll be a different son and you can bet on that. I’ll never grumble about the food or clothes or anything you ask me to do. If I do, you can send me back into the Army and that will shut me up.
I can’t remember ever hearing you speak cross to any of us. I hope you don’t get sick of reading such stuff.
How I’d like to be there with you today, Mother. We could go to church together. Just think, it has been six months since I saw you.
I’d like a good cup of cocoa like you can make, some toast cut thin, you know how I like it, and a nice dish of sauce. What kind? Why! Strawberries would be alright.
Then after that, Helene could sit down to the piano and we would have a good sing. Of course I’d want Uncle Amos there to help it along. After that we would have a nice visit. Do you remember the Sunday nights when we lived at Hague? Uncle Amos used to try every chair before he went back home!
I haven’t said a word about Father yet. You remember the song we used to sing, “Why don’t you say a word for dear old father”? So I will. I think I have the best Father and Mother in the world. Now this is pretty soft stuff for me to write, but on “Mother’s Day” it’s the time to tell good things.
I must close now and write one to Minnie. I hope all are well. May God take care of us all and permit us to be together again.
Love to all and a kiss for all.
Your boy,
Lawrence H. Ross
Co. C. 120th M.G. Btn.
AEF France
Via NY

Somewhere in France
[undated, early May?]
Dear Brother,
I guess you’ll think I’ve forgotten you, but I’ve been on the go for nearly three weeks, Sundays and all, so I’m pretty tired, but this Sunday I have to myself and I’m resting up a little.
I’m in the Machine Gun Battalion now, have been in that about a week. I don’t know how long I’ll be here and can’t tell you much news.
I’m feeling pretty fair but tired, for I’ve had all kinds of feed and my sleep has been broken up so much that I’m nearly tired out. I have good feeds here and I sleep awful hard. My eyes are terrible sore in the morning.
I wonder how you are getting along in the shop and wish I was up there for a visit with you. I miss the mail more than I can tell. I suppose it will be a long time before I get any mail, for it takes a long time to get it here.
I hope you are well, and did you go up home for Easter? I have that picture of you here with me, also one of my girl.
We have been having a cold rain here for a day or two and the nights are awful cold. It is clouding up again so I suppose it will rain again soon.
I tried to get a transfer yesterday so I could drive, but I guess there’s no chance.
I’ve run out of news for I can’t tell much. I’ll close for now, hoping this finds you well. Remember me to Mr. and Mrs. Aikins, and may God protect us both til we meet again.
As ever, your brother
Lawrence H. Ross
Co. D. 146th Machin Gun Batt.
Am. E. F. France A.P.O. 727

Somewhere in France
May 30, 1918
Dear Brother and all at home,
I ought to be ashamed for not writing to you before this, but I knew you could read the letters that came home, no matter who I address them to I mean them for all.
Well, we have a holiday and I’m out under a pear tree, I guess it is, and a little garden nearby. It is a nice day, but the nights are still cold. Did you have an early spring over there? I suppose you have written me all the news, but I haven’t received any mail from home yet. I had two letters from Letha and one from Florence Balcom May 28. That is the first and all the mail I’ve had so far. If some of you have written, why don’t worry, for it probably went to the Engineers or else to the 148th Machine Gun Battalion and it will reach me in time, only don’t wait, keep on writing. I sure have had some wait for mail, nearly three months. You must write me one of those funny letters and tell me all about the farm. Any news from the old farm sounds good to me now.
I wish I had you over here to count my money for me. I was paid last week in French money—63 francs. A franc is about 20 cents, but to change it into American money it takes 5 francs, 60 centimes [12 cents] . Five centimes equals 1 cent, a 2 cent piece [10 centimes] is a little larger than a half dollar. I’m glad its paper money, for if it was all centimes I don’t think I could heft it. I can figure it out fairly well now. At first it was hard to trade at a store and make change. I have an English coin, also a Belgian coin.
Be sure to have someone send me the Sentinel. The other boys get their home papers and I want to see all the news.
I broke my glasses about two weeks ago and I can’t get them fixed here, but I’ll get along some way.
I guess I wrote you that I could hear the big guns roar when the wind is right. This sure is a crazy letter. I’ve asked and told all I know, now see if you can do as well. How many cows are you milking this summer? I have a cup of bread and milk quite often. I bring my bread from supper, then I get a cup of milk and they taste like home.
I must close now.
Love to all,
Your brother,
Lawrence H, Ross
Co C. 120th M.G. Btn
AEF France
Via NY

*Although Lawrence addressed this to his brother Harold, he lapsed into the mode of a family letter, inquiring about news of the Orwell farm. Harold worked in Springfield, VT and came home on weekends to visit his parents and Eva Fowler, his “girl.”

Somewhere in France
June 3, 1918
My Dear Dad,
It is Monday afternoon and I have just taken a bath and washed some towels and socks. Now I’ll write you a few lines.
I’m out in my tent, flat on my belly writing this letter, so if it bothers you to read it, you’ll know why. Well, Dad! We have changed places again and I have some new paper. How do you like it? I haven’t heard from you yet. I had a letter from Florence Balcom and two from Letha. You can bet I was glad to get them. I shall be glad to hear from that good old home of mine, and also get a paper. Say Dad, can’t you send me a picture of the farm? One of those I took when you were down in the field plowing. Send along a few of those that Harold took for me to look at occasionally. They sure will look good to me. I’m feeling fine and dandy and you just ought to see the tan I have now. I never was so black. Tell me all the news and what you are doing. Letha said she saw you on your way to Brandon, also Helene and Harold on their way to the station. How long was Harold home? Why don’t you and Mother skip over and see me? Its only a few thousand miles, but if you did the horse flies would eat you up. I never saw such flies. Why! They are larger than a good size bird and thicker than hair on a dog.
I’m getting to be an awful wicked fellow. I haven’t been to church in five or six weeks. I was out shooting last Saturday and I only fired [576] five hundred and seventy six shots. I have a good loader, a little Irish man and he’s a clever little chap. We get along fine.

Somewhere in France
June 5, 1918
Dear old Dad and all,
That family letter came today and you ought to hear me yell when my name was called. I was so glad to hear from you all. I almost cried when I read the letter. It surely seemed good after waiting three months for a letter from you. I got two from you and one from Letha. They were mailed May 8th and I received them June 5th. It seemed good to hear all the news over there and I’ll be glad to get the Sentinel. I don’t want you to worry about me, I’m feeling fine and dandy every day. I’ve just eaten bread and milk; two slices of bread and a quart of milk, so I feel pretty full just now.
We get some good milk here.
It has been awful cold here today, but the sun shone bright.
I’m glad Mother received the hankerchief all right. I think Helene will get one soon. I sent one a little later.
You asked about rain. We haven’t had any in a long time, so I’m lucky about drilling in the rain. I can’t tell you where I am, but I haven’t been in the trenches yet. I would like to write you all the news, but you must wait till I get back, then I’ll tell it all to you.
I was sorry the doughnuts didn’t reach me before I came across. It sounded good anyway to hear you talk about them.
I’ll be glad when my mail all comes. I’ve only had six letters. Three from Letha, two from you, and one from Florence Balcom. I have written about fifty and I expect a big bunch of them before long. The newspaper will look good.
Remember me to everybody and tell them that I’m well. I’m glad to hear that Dad and Mother are praying for me, for it cheers me up. It made me laugh to hear you say that You and Letha would come over some Sunday. Ha! Ha! Sure! Come right along. It would only take you about three or four weeks to get here and when you got out on the ocean I’m sure your breakfast would come up. Most all of them did.

Somewhere in France
June 10, 1918
Dear Mother and all,
I’ll just drop you a line tonight and let you know that I’m well and that’s the best of all. I was so glad to hear from you all, more than I can tell. It done me lots of good. I had a letter from Letha today. It was written May 18th. I’ve had seven letters now and I wish it was seventy seven.
I’ve changed places again since I wrote you before. I’m down to the Y now, and the phonograph is playing songs. It sounds good, but the old piano at home and you people would suit me better.
It has been awful rainy today. I was glad I didn’t have to go out and drill. I don’t know much news, but I like to write and let you know all I can.

Somewhere in France
June 14, 1918
Dear Dad,
Here I come again, and I know you’ll be glad to hear from me. Well, same old story. I’m feeling fine and dandy. It is a grand morning here, cool and a nice wind. I take it from your letters that you are having a late spring over there and lots of rain. Probably you’ll have lots of grass. I had three letters a few days ago, two from Letha and one from Minnie. I sure was glad to get them.
You ask me to tell you all the news, but there’s not much to tell. We have just had dinner. I’ll tell you what we had. Mashed potatoes, hamburg steak, bread, coffee. I was hungry and it tasted good.
While I sit here writing I can hear the big guns roar, and the shells are bursting all around. It sounds like the fourth of July.
You asked about the boys here and if I had got acquainted yet. Yes! I know all of them now and they are fine fellows. We have some great singers in the company. They have a quartet and sing some lively songs. It makes me think of the Ross Quartet. Those were good old days and I’ll be glad when they come again. We’ll have one grand celebration.
OK’d by L.E. Smith, Capt. 146 AEF

Lawrence never doubted that the family were praying for him and that they were writing letters, although the mail often did not get through. I find it interesting that, other than being homesick, there are no more complaints. He sounds more cheerful and confident.

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