Wallace's Tent on Salisbury Plain

Wallace's Tent on Salisbury Plain
Writing a letter with candle on clipboard, see Oct. 16 letter

Saturday, May 30, 2009

October 24, 1944 Tuesday

Dearest Marjorie,

I hope my letters aren’t too badly mixed in sequence when you get them. Yours are pretty jumbled but they are all nicely dated and I can fit them in. I got another batch today, and I appreciate every one more than you can believe. They do wonders for my own personal morale, and not many people over here worry about that too much. It’s all interesting here, but so strange. You get so that something familiar is clung to very hard. Your letters are the nearest things to home I have. I love you for them, Honey. They say just what I feel. I am interested in everything you do.

Well, that new experience that cut off my last letter almost before I could say I love you was really something. I was made convoy commander of a large convoy from division to Liverpool and back. About the most responsible job I have had. I had 35 vehicles in my column and got them all in safely. It’s a long trip, and I got a chance to see England at close range. I headed the column in an open peep. We passed thru some very famous English towns – Newcastle for one, and the English Marlborough. Was in Liverpool for a day and a half and got around in it a lot. Stayed at a very famous former race track.

It’s almost ridiculous how every English child runs to an American with the inevitable V-sign with his fingers and the question “Have you got any gum?” They usually pronounce gum to rhyme with “broom.” The children and girls are very enthusiastic about G.I.’s and practically mobbed us whenever we halted. British soldiers and some old people are much cooler in their attitude.

The towns are beautiful and quaint. Look surprisingly like an old print in a book by Dickens. And they still have the old names for their pubs – “The King’s Head,” “Legs of Man,” “Bell and Crown,” “Hare and Hound,” “Royal Arms.”

Liverpool is big, but pretty dismal with its “dim-out” that is blacker than our black-outs and the still-censored bomb-damage of the early part of the war. I looked all around its municipal buildings, went thru its long, modern traffic tunnel, visited two if its theatres and roamed around the old part of town and the cathedrals. I saw a very good English movie “Mr. Emmanuel,” and an American film “It Happened Tomorrow.”

I was glad of the chance to see Liverpool again. The first time we went thru it at night and saw only dark silhouettes.

To be complete, I must tell you about the Women On The Street in Liverpool. It’s an important part of the present life of the town. You never saw so many frustrated women. In walking innocently down the street, they approach you singly or in pairs and strike up conversation “Have you got a match?” or gum, or a cigarette? They were particularly perturbed at an officer being unaccompanied and one whole “house” of seven insisted on introducing themselves to me! They are just matter-of-fact professionals and, of course, didn’t even interest me beyond surprising me that anyone could be so blunt and open about it. I would have been disgusted, only I thought that would be a puritanical and moralist attitude. It exists and is something to try to understand.

My driver was amazed also, at the vehicles we saw on the road – pony carts, gypsy wagons, 3-wheeled cars – until he said that he had reached the limit. Not even a nude woman could make him look over his shoulder any more, he said. And I guess it was the English that had Lady Godiva on the roads. They have everything on the king’s highway.

Glad you liked your trip to Rochester, Hon. You’ll have a time at Laura’s, too. She’s an excellent person. A good mother without sacrificing her cosmopolitan interests.

I love your letters very, very much, Bunny. I do think of you and feel you all the time. We are a wonderful pair and I’ll never do anything to break it up. Do not doubt that I will always tell you the truth sincerely. That is the basis of our understanding and as long as it is there we won’t go wrong. I always want to know how things really are with you, so don’t mind giving me the downs and blues with the good things. I’ll understand. I love you, Honey, and always will.

All yours, always,

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

October 20, 1944 Friday

Somewhere in England

Dear Marjorie,

The mailman broke down today and shot two letters at me. One had the first set of pictures you sent on Sept. 22. The other was dated Sept. 26. It is true that V-mail does come thru much faster than regular mail, so if you want, sprinkle in a few of those. I like regular mail better, but they come thru very slowly. Air mail helps, too. Please note that my address does not include the division. That is not necessary and on occasion could hold up mail a giving away locations of a large unit.

It is too bad that K.T.C. does not offer the courses you need now. I found out that from today’s letter. That leaves you in a dangerous position, honey. Too much leisure can be as bad as being too busy. A few days of doing nothing always makes even little jobs seem hard to me. I would rather have you raising the most violent kind of hell than being too much of a lady of leisure. That is, the late-sleeping, chocolate-eating kind that dabbles futilely at this and that and does nothing. That kind ultimately loses the will to do anything solid or difficult.

Before you hit me, let me explain that I do not think you would ever become like that. But not being in school, you won’t have any real binding job; and that will make it easy for you to lose some of your efficient habits. I hope your will-power is better than mine when it comes to working without any stimulus other than the reward of work itself. Self-education that is more than a pastime is hard as the dickens. If it is the McCoy, it is the best education, however. If you can carve a curriculum for yourself, swell. If not, better learn how to weld.

I can see your point about finding young people to be with and young things to do. It’s very important, too. Do not join the Grapevine. It is enough to be the subject of their talks, without becoming a member. If you have to be with older people all the time, your idea of moving around – to Tamey, etc. is best. Find new acquaintances where you can, and try not to be limited or narrowed by Keene and its conservative code. I’m just getting at the same old idea, hon, of not “bogging down” to conventionalism, or forgetting that “living” our way means the broadest use of all our capacities. Action, not sleep, brings the best things. The world is too big and wonderful to not be actively looked for and appreciated.

There, my sermon is over. Ignore it if you wish, and in any event do whatever you think is best.

I had been looking forward a lot to those pictures. Now I’m waiting for the batch you sent the next day. I thought they were all very good and showed them all around. Pictures are the best souvenirs you can get. The one of the cathedral interested me a lot. In comparing the one near here (pure English Gothic) with it, New Orleans doesn’t match the older one at all for grace and beauty. Our picture has a solid look – “how firm a foundation” stuff – but the cathedral here, tho larger and made entirely of stone gives an impression of lightness and delicacy that is completely different. Has a much greater emotional effect.

Well, here comes a new experience. More later. Must run.

All my love,

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

October 18, 1944 Wednesday

Dearest Marjorie,

Tonite I am writing you from the cool but well equipped battalion HQ. Reason: I am the battalion duty officer. Of course, my old typing technique has not left me in the months that I have been away from a typewriter. I am still as good as ever. Any questions?

Last night I started a letter to you and never did get it finished. So I will start all over again tonite. First, the news of the day. Oley got his first lieutenancy, at long last. He has rated it for some time as the anti-tank platoon leader. That pleased everyone except a few who felt that they should have come first. You know how they are. Now I am hoping that Lt. Fairbairn gets his captaincy, and we will have the rank we need in C co.

Today the officers got their monthly ration of liquor. There was only a little gin and some eight quarts of Scotch. We had an officers’ meeting and decided to raffle it off. We all drew a tag from a can. Some drew blank sheets and others drew “Scotch” and some drew “Gin” sheets. I hit is for a Scotch, so I am now one of the eight richest men in the battalion! Scotch is very rare over here and the average man goes mad over it. I haven’t done that, but in this cold weather it is well appreciated now and then. Much more so than in the hot old Texas weather.

The last couple of days Oley and I have been handling the company all alone. I had the pleasure of signing the morning report as the C.O. yesterday. There haven’t been many important decisions to make, I admit, but it has been good experience. Makes my platoon seem like a smaller job to handle. Lt. Fairbairn will be back from London tomorrow.

Well, I have to finish now. I love you honey.

All yours,


Oct. 19, 1944
Hello, again,
I’ll add a few words to this now wrinkled letter. Hiked and played football today. Our new general spoke to us today. He is O.K. Gee, I love you Honey. Always. Please don’t forget it. How I wish I would get a letter from you!
All my love,

October 16, 1944 Monday

Somewhere in England

Dearest Honey,

Makes me feel a little like a school boy to use this paper, but it is all I have at present. It is a gift of the Red Cross—in that packet I told you of—given to us on the boat.

By the way, let me orient you on the Red Cross activity here. It is extremely good. Remember, in the last war, they said that the Salvation Army did most of the real work with the soldiers while the Red Cross took the credit. That is not true now. The Red Cross is very active with us. They have met us with refreshments and clubs at every station and town we have been in. Today they had a big club-mobile down at the rifle range. They served coffee and donuts to men who were waiting to go on the firing line. That was better than in the States, even. I shall support the Red Cross when we are living a normal life.

Tonite I have a rather interesting method of lighting. I told you that they took our electric lights away. To meet the emergency, we got some candles. By standing one up on the upper left hand corner of my clip board, I can sit on my foot locker and write on my clip board and have the finest light you can imagine on my paper. Just the right angle, and the candle serves as a perfect pipe lighter, always handy. My feet are to the fire and warm. Maybe you don’t know how our tent is arranged. That [drawing] is the general idea.

Buk and Young are in London on pass. Lt. Fairbairn goes tomorrow. Oley and I will have the company. Oley is O.D. tomorrow, so that leaves me company commander for the day! Such a life—responsibilities do come, however, even to the un-ambitious. And as far as the army goes, I am unambitious. I have enough rank to avoid odious things like K.P., and not enough generally to be too damned responsible.

Nite, honey, the candle is burning low. I love you as always.

All yours,

Sunday, March 8, 2009

October 15, 1944 Sunday

Somewhere in England

Dearest Honey,

After deliberately wiping my pen off with my handkerchief (I’ll probably wash it myself, and I don’t mind) I am ready to write to you again. This thin paper is a gift of battalion Hq. Hope you can read it.

Before I get into telling what has happened, let me say I have missed you a helluva a lot the last few days. My lonely walks across the countryside made me think of you, and wish we could be together. I’m a solitary old soul I guess. You’re the only person I feel that “togetherness” with. Makes all the difference to know there’s one person that takes that lonely feeling away. It makes being alone enjoyable and profitable, where it could be almost frightening and anyway, sad.

Well, I have had two days almost completely off now. Oley and I returned to that cathedral I told you of before and went thru it more slowly. We met an old fellow who knew all about it and showed us the little side chapels and the cloisters and chapter house. The cloisters are something like the “patio” affair in the Boston library. The priests do their meditating there, and it is a beautiful spot for it. The whole thing dates from 1215, I found, and contains one of the three originals of the Magna Carta. Do you remember we saw one of them in the British Pavilion at the World’s Fair? I thought the man who showed us around was a professional, and wanted to tip him. But Oley thought not, so we didn’t. I still believe he was, but was forced by the sanctity of the church to appear as a gentleman and not to solicit money.

We did our Christmas shopping, too. A few cards, a little book for the folks, and something for you. It was fun browsing thru the many silver shops for yours. We couldn’t get a lot of things for want of ration coupons. I didn’t see any books or music that seemed right. So we decided to get something from the fine silver shops. Oley got some (two) sterling silver napkin rings. What I got for you is not sterling, but is good ware. Hope you like it, Hon.

Oh, and we got in early enough to see the market place in full swing. Like booths at a fair, only selling staples and jewelry and sundries. For two pence I bought a small plate of raw [shell] crustacea (!) called a whelk. Looked like a spiral [shell] snail. It does have a shell, as you may have deduced from the cross-outs. It tasted about like clams or oysters.

Today I accomplished my mission of getting to see one on the most enigmatic structures in history. Stonehenge. I had to walk two miles to get to it. It sits out on top of a hill that dominates the country around. I think I enclose a copy of the story of it. The diagram you see won’t mean anything to you, but I located every stone indicated on it and covered the entire area in the two hours I was there. I was all alone, so I could see it the way I wanted to. At first the (the rocks) appear pretty well scrambled up, but after following it thru you can see just how it was before some of the largest rocks toppled over and spoiled the design. The rocks are large, and weather beaten to such an extent that it is hard to tell their exact original shape. Bit the large design in clear, and the joints that hold the cross pieces onto the vertical stones are ingenious. The structure is very imposing even now. Built before the age of arches, it shows how old civilization is. Not a great deal is known of the people who made the place, but it has been there over 3000 years and looks solid enough for 3000 more. Gives you a very mysterious feeling.

I’d like to write more, but it is getting past my bedtime. That gets earlier and earlier. Fresh air makes you sleepy, so I get to bed by 9 almost every night. I live you more than ever, honey. Thought about you all across the hills to Stonehenge and back, and it’s 2 miles each way from the bus station closest to it!

Every bit of my love,

P.S. Encyclopedia Britannica probably has more readable dope on Stonehenge. The flower is from the road to Stonehenge.

October 13, 1944 Friday

Dearest Marjorie,

This looks as tho it should be quite an epistle. The other end of this sheet may be dangling in the dirt for all I know. I can’t see it from here.

The usual cold rain here continues with enthusiasm. Tonite it looks as tho the house “C” officers built by ingenuity and covetousness is crumbling before our eyes. The lights were removed by higher command, the stove is [fr] ashes and there is no fuel, our lanterns and axe have been stolen, and one side is caving in due to rain. Crime does not pay, no more doubt of that. We have evacuated it for Battalion headquarters for the evening. That has only about 2 inches of water on the floor.

Tho all this is true, we aren’t near as miserable as it would appear. Only an army man can be comfortable in such weather, but believe me I am now an army man. Olewine and I spent the afternoon playing cribbage in our orderly tent. He is currently suffering from a severe charley horse—received it when a pfc. tackled him in a football game! No respect for rank!

In case you remember Sergeant Sohl—I had him for a platoon sergeant when you first came to Abilene—he has now become our company first sergeant. I still have Sgt. Siverling, the boy wonder, as my current platoon sergeant. He’s a good man, too. Lts. Fairbairn and Bukovenic took a pass today, so Olewine and I had the company. They are very liberal with passes—they don’t let training interfere with them at all. I have only had the one I told you of. If I were a private I could have one every other day! I’m about due tomorrow or the next day, tho. Oley and I have some sight-seeing planned.

Mail seems to be coming thru every other day for some reason. This was the off day. Mail certainly does add a lot to the morale of the men. Wonder who looks after the morale of censors? We do cartloads of mail a day. The redeeming feature is that I do the same men’s mail each day, and so get in on some colorful continued stories.

Well, bye now hon. Remember I love you all the time.

Loads of love,

October 13, 1944 Friday

Dearest Marjorie,

Friday the thirteenth today. It looks bright enough, tho. One of the prettiest days we’ve had. Pretty is a good word for England. It’s small and neat and just, pretty. The leaves are turning now, so the landscape reminds me even more of New England. The everchanging weather makes me feel at home, too. Instead of maple and elm trees, there are many, many beech trees. But they look generally like maples from a distance.

Since noon yesterday I have been Officer of the Day (O.D.) for the battalion. Had a guard mount, live in the guardhouse with the Sergeant of the Guard, check the battalion area for anything that needs checking, and several other little things. It’s a good job, on the whole, unless something unexpected comes up.

For your satisfaction, Aunt Flossie was wrong in every particular concerning my departure from the States. Leave it to her to be “in the know” on such things. Was interested in the news of Wiggins, tho. Please find out what you can.

So you did get started on your book! Not everybody gets to starting a book, even! I await my copy, Hon.

Your latest letter (I got 2 more yesterday) was dated Sept. 26. I believe they’ll come faster when the routes get smoothed out.

Glad you have been able to adjust yourself fairly easily to Keene life again. I mist you very much, Hon, but as you say, it’s not the desperate kind I have known. I think with you that new environments help that a lot. I love you forever.

All yours always,