Somewhere in France
June 9, 1918
Dear Mother and Father:
We have changed our location since I wrote you last. As I told you in my last letter we didn’t expect to stay where we were very long. We were there just a week. We didn’t do anything but loaf around there. When we came there the camp was crowded with the soldiers that came across with the same convoy that we did. After the camp itself was filled they put the new arrivals out in the nearby fields. We were about the last to leave of the men that came over with us. But as we came away there were other ships in the harbor unloading men. Men are coming over as fast as they can be taken care of, and faster than I had any idea of.
It is a little over a week ago that we packed up and loaded onto a train of “36 men or 8 horses”. Our trip was nearly four days long, straight across the widest part of France. Of course there was no comfort in the trip but we enjoyed it just the same. We passed thorugh some famous old French cities but we usually went around the edge of them and so did not see much of them. We stopped once or twice a day for an hour or so at small stations. Some of them were regular stopping places for troop trains and the YMCA and Red Cross had put up places to serve coffee and bread or sandwiches. At almost every large town the Red Cross had coffee for us. That was very welcome, especially during the night. The nights here are pretty cold and there was no going to bed in the box cars. We were lucky if we could even sit down and catch a couple of winks of sleep.
There are a lot of American women over here, both Red Cross nurses and regular army nurses. We saw quite a few of them on the way here. They seem to be a fine lot of women. Those who were serving coffee along the way had been at the front and were sent back to do “canteening” for a rest. They worked pretty hard at that but they didn’t seem to mind how hard they worked if they could do something for the soldiers.
As we went further east we met several French hospital trains going back loaded with French wounded. That made us feel that we were beginning to get close to things. Several of the towns had prison camps. The German prisoners were out working on the roads, building the camp or doing other work. They have it pretty easy. They don’t work hard and are well taken care of. I hope our prisoners in Germany are as well off. In one town where we stopped I talked with one of the guards who had some prisoners out building fences. He said that although they see train loads of Americans going to the front every day, the German prisoners won’t believe that they are Americans. They have been told that the submarines are preventing the Americans from getting over. They think we are English or Canadians in American uniforms. I wanted to talk to one of the prisoners myself but that isn’t allowed.
At one town I talked with some English soldiers who had been wounded and after getting out of the hospital were put on light duty further back. At another town we talked with some French soldiers. One of them was an aviator who had been shot down with his machine. The French people were very cordial to us. We saw lots of women doing railroad work in place of the men who are away. The only men we saw were those beyond the military age. Everybody is tired of the war but they won’t give in.
Our present location is hardly likely to be permanent. We have a real hospital of sixteen buildings. Ten of them are wards and the rest are mess halls, office buildings, sleeping quarters, etc. It has not been used as a hospital as yet and so far we have received no patients. We have been busy cleaning up and putting the place in order. When we first came there was almost no hospital equipment but we have received most of that now.
I have told you where Evacuation Hospital No. 1 is. We are about thirty five miles straight south of them. The American front is north of us and the lowest extremity of the French front is just a little further to the east. It is rumored that we will not be here long but that we will soon move further up behind the American line. I understand that the Americans have had a big part in the activity around Paris and it is probable that if we move we will be around that neighborhood. We are all anxious to get into the work and be doing something.
At present the men are laying walks and making roads. They have been doing that ever since they got into the army and they are tired of it. Our quarters are very comfortable and in that way we are in luck. We are using the beds from the wards to sleep on so we have springs and thick soft mattresses. I have charge of this barrack and have a little room all to myself. I can read and write and practice in here without being bothered by anybody.
We are not so fortunately situated in the way of having a town near us. There are four little towns within the radius of a mile from us but they are hardly more than a few houses gathered together along the road. Only one of them has two streets in it, the others have only one. There is nothing in any of the towns of interest. There are no stores that have anything that we would want to buy. There are some restaurants but I don’t know what we can get to eat there. Our meals here are pretty fiar. Our food is sent down to us from a depot near here. It consists mostly of beans, bacon and such things although we do get some fresh beef every few days. There is a commissary here where we can buy little extra things. We can get canned fruits and jam, soap, toilet articles and tobacco. Everything we buy there we get at the cost price.
[Editor’s Note: The rest of this letter has been lost to history]
© Copyright 2014 by Alice Kitchin Enichen, All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.