Wallace's Tent on Salisbury Plain

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

Saturday, January 15, 2011

November 3, 1944 Friday

Dear Honey,

I finally managed to get some V-mail forms, and promise to use them all I can. You V-mail has reached me in seven days or less—by far the best method. I hope this goes equally fast. I am glad you are finally getting some of my letters.

Tonite, after officers’ school, I went to a free movie at our semi-cylindrical mess hall, and saw “Flesh and Fantasy”; it was a very good show—almost the first movies I seen here. Did take in a couple at Liverpool.

You mentioned wearing my old leather jacket in today’s letter. Please make use of any of our things like that that you can. I like to think of you having them, too. I am very, very glad that you keep your letters coming even when mine don’t come. They do make us very close together, and next to seeing you, are the things I want most.

After censoring as much mail as I do, I can see that anything I say would be plagiarism—it’s been said every conceivable way, so let me add my own version of “I love you” to the mass now on its way. I do, Hon, awfully.

Your Wallace

November 1, 1944 Wednesday

Dearest Honey,

Was really busy today. Had the company on a hike all a.m., was with Lt. Fairbairn all p.m. cleaning up the payroll, went to a 2-hour long officers’ school tonite, and then censored mail until 11:30, which is now. Lt. Fairbairn and I are the only officers in the Company right now. Tomorrow he goes on a detail, so I will have the company.

Got some more mail from you today, dating from the day you made your speech at Uncle Carl’s birthday party to Oct. 25—which is not long ago—gee, I hope you are getting my mail now, hon. I hate to think of it not coming thru. I am not able to write every day, but I try to make the best average I can.

I appreciate your letters very, very much and am glad they come so frequently, even tho they are scrambled up. I am a little out of the groove as far as writing of “homey” things is concerned. That old G.I. rut takes most of my time and thoughts. I do get in just a little reading every now and then. I have a little manual on psychology, and a popular book on logical thinking about social problems. I really don’t get anywhere in them, just read them to keep from forgetting that there are things that are not G.I. Those books and your letters are about the total of civilian contacts I have.

I love you, honey, and hope our “future” will not be long in coming.

All my love, Bunny,

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

October 31, 1944 Tuesday

Hello Hon,

Here we are all alone again tonite. I just got back from our now nightly officer’s school. Buk and Young are in London, Oley is in the hospital and here am I by myself in a messy tent. By the way, Oley is going to have a hernia operation that will take at least 10 weeks to recover from, so he is being dropped from the company with only dreams of ever getting back to it. That’s really bad, because he is a good worker, and my best pal in the 56th. I guess the fact that he is a college man, too, gave us something in common. We were the only “C” company officers who have been.

Lately I have been doing a lot of side jobs in addition to leading my platoon. These extra duties certainly make a liberal education of being an officer. Today I had the company payroll to get at the finance office—some 1700 pounds. Then I became the inventorying officer for our P.X. I had to oversee an inventory of the entire stock, make out a lot of forms, count all their money and swear that the place was financially sound and operating efficiently. They evidently thought I was from the inspector general or some such, because they gave me all the respect due him. I guess I made them think I knew what I was about. All I did was look reserved and businesslike and see that none of the papers I signed was incriminating. Tomorrow I may have to have to see that the engineers are building their bridges right! Of course, I am always advising our mechanics on how to run our motor pool. It’s wonderful, being expected to be an expert on everything—you have to learn fast to keep from getting into an embarrassing situation!

More on the side than anything, I have been reviewing the employment of my platoon. Officer’s school each night gives me a good chance to keep up on theory and most every day I get plenty of practical work in handling the platoon. Armored outfits have big platoons and there are a thousand things to keep in mind. Men, vehicles, weapons, tactics, security, etc., etc. Sometimes I wish I had certain parts of those notes you said you have been reviewing.

Tonite I finally got some paper to wrap your Xmas gift in. Please forgive the roughness of it all, it’s the best I could do. I only hope they reach you in good condition, and soon! I’ll get that little book off to the folks when I can, but I know you’ll look after the folks in case something goes wrong. Remember to get Bob a diary as a gift, as well as some other little thing. Make them all know that I am thinking of them for Xmas, but just can’t send much but my love. That goes particularly for Grammy, too. I’ve been several weeks trying to get yours in the mail.

My bedtime gets earlier and earlier as it gets colder and colder. Get very sleepy in the air all day. I love you, Honey, more than I can ever say.

Every bit of my love,

October 29, 1944 Sunday

Dearest Bunny,

Here I am again, and with more to say than I can ever cover in an orderly manner. So please let me wander along saying whatever pops into my mind. Eventually I may cover everything.

I have been in London for the last three days. All by myself, but not nearly as lonely as you would think. In fact, it seemed good to have a little privacy and solitude after the too-communal life of the army for so long. Gave me a chance to “catch up” with myself. Necessary to get re-oriented every now and then. I appreciated being alone, too, after traveling in convoy where you have to mentally pull so many men and vehicles along with you. Had only me to worry about, so I could fly about very easily most anyplace. At that, I managed to leave my field bag in the train with most of my toilet articles – you can see I wasn’t thinking at all about appendages.

Oh, I was homesick a couple of times and thought about you being there most all the time. We would have done the same things, and had much more fun. But I preferred not to go with another officer because so few of them like to do just the things we do. You seemed very close to me all thru it, Hon. You were the closest thing to a companion I had – and you did very well, for I wasn’t lonely.

I went to London aboard a special train Thursday morning. Narrow little foreign trains, like the one that Sydney Greenstreet slept in in “The Mask of Dimitrios.” Remember? With the compartments? They ride as easily as our trains. By the way, “Dimitrios” is in London now – that makes Louisville, Abilene, and London that I have seen it advertized in.

Nicely enough, we were in a “London Fog” all day, so I didn’t see much scenery on the way in. Censorship won’t let me describe how London’s buildings have changed since the war started. Too bad. Anyway, when I got in to Waterloo station I took a taxi to the Jules Hotel. The taxi had right hand drive and all to make it seem English. I felt like Dr. Watson riding all alone in the rear seat. Over the Thames, to Picadilly Circus, to the hotel, now run for officers by the Red Cross. I signed in, settled into the most luxurious place I’ve been in in England. Sheets! A mattress! A hot bath! A flush toilet! I reveled in my room until I felt civilized. When I first arrived the shoe shine man thought I was just in from France, from the mud on the high-cut boots.

It was pretty well into the afternoon when I got fit to appear in public. The fog and the hour made sightseeing impossible on Thursday. So I had the people at the Red Cross arrange for me to see the Sadler Wells Ballet that evening. I took a walk around Picadilly, and had another one of those suffocating “Teas” at the Marble Hall CafĂ©. I entered the damn thing thru a rear door that took me into the Hall – very, very ornate and all of marble, -- by way of the stage! I was in the center of the stage before I knew where I was, so I continued in a stately manner on down a wide flight of maroon carpeted stairs. I tried to look like King George, because he is the only person that could have entered in such a conspicuous way. You see, there was a line maybe a block long waiting for tables at the normal entrance! Once in, tho, they couldn’t think of a thing but to give me a table. A little cart with teeny sandwiches came by, -- I took three. Then a cart with pastries – the kind we thought New Orleans should have. I regally pointed out the two I wanted, and they put them on my plate with a pair of big tweezers. Then a pot of tea came, and a pot of hot water to mix with it for the second cup. Didn’t have to order, it just came. I was the only American there! It was very, very – rawther!

I have yet to get a real meal from the English. I did get a lot of those pastries, like big tarts, or buns, or layer cake while in London, but no meals. Result of the war, no doubt.

Returning for my tickets, I found that the Ballet was sold out and that they had substituted tickets for – guess what? – The Merry Widow! I was pleased at the idea and took off at once to a 15 shilling seat – one of the best! It started at 6:15 and was over at 9. Blackout makes all theatres start by 6:30 or 6:45 anyway. The production was a lot like the one we saw – about on a par with it. The main difference was that Danilo was chiefly a dancer not a singer like Wilbur Evans (or was it Maurice?). He looked like an English version of Fred Astaire. Very graceful all thru. They put in a long boring mess of English slapstick in the second act, that was well left out in Boston. I sat right next to the horn and appreciated the music very much. “Vilia” was not as beautiful as Kitty Carlisle did it. Madge Elliot didn’t have the clear voice for it. It had a thousand memories, so you can imagine whom I was missing like the very dickens when I groped my way home in the fog and dark and went straight to bed. As in Boston, the music carried the play.

I didn’t mention that the theatre was very high with several tiers of boxes. They sold song sheets instead of souvenir programs, and they used a revolving stage that allowed quick changes of scene.

Friday morning I set out to do London with our tested and approved system. First I took a taxi tour of the main points. Took two hours, and we rode with the top of the taxi down. Was in a group of 5 soldiers. We saw all the things you’ve heard of in London—Fleet Street, Dickens’s “Curiosity Shop,” St. Paul’s Cathedral (no more impressive than the one near our camp), Big Ben, Westminster Abbey where just about everybody is buried, and the other places named on the sheet I will send you. It would take a book to tell about each one. It was all intensely interesting.

After the tour, I looked way ahead to evening, and decided to see another play. From such plays as “Uncle Harry,” “While the Sun Shines,” “Arsenic and Old Lace,” “Blithe Spirit,” “Peer Gynt,” I decided to try to get into the “sold out” production of Hamlet. Nothing low down about me. They said it was impossible, so I went directly to the theatre and squeezed out a single seat in the centre of the first balcony for 5 shillings, 6 pence. It was still morning so I went to the National Gallery of Art at Trafalgar Sq. They have only war pictures there now. After an hour or so there I left and looked all thru the many book stores on Charing Cross Road. Found a small copy of Hamlet and bought it. Felt very, oh so very, cultured when I returned to the National Gallery at one p.m. to hear a piano-violin recital and read away on Hamlet. But we know how hard Shakespeare is if you are not brushed up on it before hand. The concert was fine, too. Seemed wonderful after living in the mud so long. Quite a contrast!

After the recital, I took the “tube,” or subway, to the Tower of London. I saw it in the morning tour and had decided it was the place I’d most like to see in detail. Still following our system, you see. I saw it from top to toe, all the time looking for Anne Boleyn with ‘er ‘ead tooked underneath ‘er arm. Saw where she was beheaded, and all, but I guess she was out. Saw where Raleigh was imprisoned so long – (Read of that in Benet’s “Western Star”) and many other sights. The tower was built in the time of William the Conqueror!

Had a chance to breeze thru the whole of Hamlet before the play started at 6:30. It was wonderful. The scenery was simple, as it should be, but the acting and costumes were excellent. I caught every word, and am still remembering whole speeches from it. It was better than our “Falstaff” in “King Henry IV, Part II.” The play is full of life, seems natural, and gives meaning to a lot of lines that read only as so many words. Polonius was quite a humorous character, and they made several incidents really funny. Of course, Hamlet was a very complex character and you could speculate on him all night. It was a revelation of how Shakespeare still makes fine entertainment if you get him away from the “scholars.” Hamlet’s soliloquies were so engrossing that the whole house, tho packed, was as silent as a church, during them. [John Gielgud as Hamlet, Theatre Royal, Haymarket]

I slept late Saturday morning, I was so comfortable in a real bed. I had to hurry to get out to Buckingham Palace in time to see the changing of the guard. I just made it. It is very pompous, precise, and impressive. The British click their heels on the pavement as they march, so you can hear them tramp out each command. “About Face,” and you hear stamp, stamp, stamp, as they bang their feet on the stones. The band was of the best.

An American outfit was holding a review nearby, and we didn’t lose a thing in comparison to the Royal Guard. I think we are better in precision and snap, but lack the heavy dignity the British seemed to have.

Then I checked out and set out regretfully for camp. It was a great experience, and had given me a chance to rest up and get “on the beam” again. Seemed too short, tho.

I have already told you that the British are very politically conscious, and the social & political tracts find a good market on the streets. I bought a couple of small manuals on psychology—one on “Personality,” one on the “Inferiority Complex” to read on the way to camp. Soon after a man came up to me and said that he was interested in psychology, too. He talked with me for some time about British clinics and educational ways. He thought they should have more, but it seemed to me that the British were more conscious of the need for both clinics and adult education than we are.

On the train I have a long talk with a British aristocrat about the war and postwar problems. He told me how the British “socialized medical system” works. He was against it, as you might expect, and against the whole trend of social planning. And he justified himself well. I didn’t disagree with him because it is so hard to get the British to talk freely that I didn’t want to risk shutting him off. He was a conservative. In the U.S. he would be a devout republican. He commanded a battalion in the last war, so we talked over military things, too. Differences in British and American organization, etc.

Then I got back to camp and into the routine of camp once more. Today I am O.D., spending my time by the fire in the guardhouse. Just got my weekly P.X. ration, and that is giving me the bad habit of buying everything they will let me have. May lead to catastrophe if I ever get free in a 5&10 when I get back!

I meant to say earlier that your letters are coming thru swell now, seven to 10 days. And that they are appreciated just as much as you can imagine them to be. I love you so much, Bunny, and it makes me feel very confident and happy when you write and say that you love me and know I love you. You can always have that faith, honey, and I will always be equally sure that you love me. It makes everything all right when I know that we always have each other, even tho we aren’t together. It makes living alone very bearable. “I’ll Walk Alone” is a true theme song for these days; fits us perfectly. I’ll always walk alone, and love you until we can walk forever together. So long again, my Bunny. You are the best wife in the world. I am glad and thankful I was the lucky person to be your husband.’

Always all yours,