July 15, 1917

Dear Ma:-

Got in from post yesterday and discovered your letter and Betty's as well as some newspapers waiting for me. I have been having quite a time at this last post and I think I will answer your note after I have copied a few pages from my diary beginning July 10th.

July 10th.

Just to celebrate my [seventeenth] birthday I was sent as orderly with Sam Shober to - - - a post about a kilometer from the lines. We met a Catholic priest who wants to learn to talk English and belongs to a machine gun corps. He took us to his cantonment in an abri (an underground room) and offered to show us around the country a bit. Then we walked up on a hill and got a squint down into the trenches. At this post we are living in an abri, but it is not bad except the bugs. Before we made our beds, we flooded the bunks with kerosene to kill all we could. We eat with the brancardiers (stretcher-bearers) and the food is rough to say the least. We get only two meals as usual.

Rats are plentiful and so rash that it is easy to kill them with a stick.

July llth.

The abri is about twelve feet below the surface of the ground and so very little sun gets in. The result was we woke up about 10 o'clock this morning. The bunks also had something to do with that as they are made of the hardest boards I ever felt and we spent until daylight trying to find a position that one could sleep in.

Lunch at 10:30.

After lunch, Sam and I went and investigated a battery which just finished its day's work as we arrived.

Supper at 5.

After supper, Macault, the priest, showed up and took us through Eux and out to the first line trenches. We also went out in a sapper's trench to a little listening or observation post. One of the trenches leading from the listening post ran toward the Bosche and after one had gone a little ways along there was a pile of sand bags across the trench. One side was French, the other Bosche. We also visited a machine gun emplacement and Macault explained the gun to us. We had had quite a walk when we got back. Those boards felt somewhat softer. At the place where we had been in the trenches, the first lines were perhaps a mile and a half a part. The observation post was perhaps a little more than a quarter of a mile from the Bosche first line.

July 12th.

Today nothing very much happened because Sam was laid up with indigestion from the greasy brancardier food. So far, the meals we have had have all been so greasy that the so-called gravy hardens on your lips and tongue while you chew.

These brancardiers are certainly musical, especially when the soup and wine are served.

Sam stayed in bed until supper time (5 o'clock) and then ate a little food, but it was the same as usual so after supper we got some raw potatoes from the cook and roasted them on a little stove that was in our abri. They were great and all we wanted was some hot tea or coffee.

July 13th.

Nothing happened until after our second meal. About 6 Sam had six men to take to Chiffour and as there was no room for me, I went for a walk. All day, the sky had been full of Bosche and Allied planes and both sides had been filling the sky with shrapnel. I went walking toward the lines and by fine chance, I discovered a French observation post not like the one we were in on the llth, but one for spotting batteries, etc. There was an awful nice sergeant in charge who let me use his high powered glasses and showed me lots of interesting things. I saw four Bosche shells explode in a little town as clearly as though I had been within 15 yards of them.

July 14th

Today we were called before daylight to take a man to - - - - who was wounded in the thigh. About then, we would have bid high for a cup of hot coffee, but nobody was up to offer it. When we got to - - - , we found a coffee pot with some coffee in it. We lit a fire and heated it and got about a cup apiece. By then, the sun was beginning to show some signs of life so we went back to Joffre and bummed another cup of coffee off the brancardiers and a slice of bread.

We packed up and hung around to go back to the cantonment. We got there for lunch. They had a tack meet scheduled and a big dinner in the evening. All of us went in everything and the events were run off so fast and we weren't in training so two fellows were laid out and the rest of us felt pretty stiff and tired.

We had a wonderful dinner and champagne that flowed like water. After dinner, one of the boys who had started on a trip in the afternoon had not returned and I was sent to find him. I got back about 11:30, pretty cold and tired. However, that's the job.


Now, as for that letter.

No doubt when this reaches you, you will know that we are getting along much better. Now that we are settled, we get regular meals and lots of good plain food, but it is well cooked. We got a good cook after we left Souhesme and he is with us now. Every once in a while, something goes wrong and then everyone raises a howl and things improve. At present, tho, there is very little to kick about except perhaps when we are at the posts. Of course, now nothing is happening in this section, but there are rumors that we will move into a more active sector soon and then I suppose we will be missing one of our two daily meals and working harder, too.

I got Dad's letter and also Betty's yesterday, but no packages outside newspapers.

I wish you would get me all the dope you can on college. As you know, my enlistment isn't over until Oct. 28th. Also, there is not a fellow in this section that is going back to the States, except one or two who expect places in some corps. Most of the others are staying here because we don't want to come home and listen to talk of debutantes doing their "bit" transplanting a lettuce plant, and listening to fool societies organize. The general opinion here is that the general American public is almost hysterical and so they do all the most unuseful things instead of getting down to real business.

I feel the same as the rest and don't want to be the fellow in civilian clothes. However, I would like to know if Harvard gives us credit while we are in the service. I wish you would tell me what you think about my staying here because I certainly want to.

Now I must go out and look over my car after its ride last night and see how many bolts are gone.

I never felt better than just now, but the appetite I have developed is remarkable. This greasy food doesn't get me, but what a treat such things as that box of domino sugar is, not for me, but the section and especially my particular friends.