My aunt’s maternal grandfather was a World War I soldier, and she recently sent me copies of two of three of the letters he mailed to his sister Genevieve from the front in France. They were sent in December of 1918, almost 100 years ago, from Lorraine.
They are kind of amazing.
Mostly, the letters describe his travels, not having time to shave, bombings and trenches, and what kind of food he was eating, but there’s a levity, bravery and a hint of poetry that surprised me.
- Descriptions of arriving in Abbeville, France, just as the German troops started bombing it: “If mother ever wants me to hurry all she will have to do is drop a bomb near me.”
- Anger at soldiers in the U.S. celebrating the ‘Real Good News’: ” I would like to have had some of those “slackers” with me when I was in Dieulouard or Pont-a-Mousson, or up in the Argonne Forest, while the German aviators were dropping bombs so close to me that I could feel the rush of war air that they caused when they burst.”
- Fear of meeting German soldiers, or “Bosches” when out on a dangerous mission: “I also hoped that all the Germans would go to a movie show in their Y.M. that night, or that their Red Cross was giving out Hot Chocolate that night.”
It’s such a fascinating way to see the time, the history of area of France I’m moving to, and his mind. I’m planning on writing a lot of letters home to my friends and family in the coming year (eventually on self-printed Hogwarts stationery). I hope someone keeps them; the way I’ve kept old love letters, a few cards and even some printed emails. Maybe one day someone will think they are a great window into the life of young Grandma Rebecca.
Hopefully the letters won’t involve any “rushes of war air.”