Somewhere near Vaudesson, 2/25/1918

Same place


Dear Em


This is only going to consist of a few lines, to let you know that Im still well and in receipt of your letter of Jan 13/18 also one from Mary of the same date. Every one of your letters tell of cold weather and it seems I ducked something this winter even if I am and have been so far away from civilization so long. Im glad you ducked the blizzard although the rain storm you spoke of must have been pretty near as bad. That stunt of Mary’s was a funny one, but how in the world did she get up. Im glad Bert’s cold is improving and hope that it will continue to do so.


We heard of a ship being sunk before we left our station for the front but it was reported that no mail was on same and as far as I was conserned there wasn’t for I have received mail regularly latly, surly my share. This paper is just like your hair after you’ve washed it, for it is so wet that I can do “nothing with it.” Lucky to have it though beleive me. You said that you hadn’t received any mail from me for some time, but I suppose your letter was no sooner on the way than my mail came in, “How about it?” I’ve got to answer Little Mary’s letter soon.


Nothing has happened that would interest you, but we can never tell when a final show down will come. They are talking peace, by all reports but Russia is a fair sample of “Peace Talk.” America has a big job on its hands Em, and it gets larger every minute. There are a lot of little interesting occurances that happen here day and night and some day I hope I can relate them to you. Until then my courage is good my health is the best and my thoughts will always be at Home.


Hoping that this letter finds you as all my letters seem to.


Sgt. Samuel E. Avery, Hdq. Co. 103rd Inf A.E.F.



© Copyright 2009 by Richard Landers, All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

Somewhere near Vaudesson, 2/23/1918

[Continuation of letter started 2/22/18…]


Feb. 23, 1918


This is Feb. 23 Em, for I was so sleepy last night I just had to quit and I thought Id grab off some sleep while it was in order. This morning broke damp and very chilly and I awoke the same way. All it is in the morning is pull on a pair of shoes, wrap on a pair of puttees and put on your coat and your ready for the day. I havent had any thing more than my shoes and blouse off since starting for this place and we have been here ten or eleven days now. Ive got to get to work on my reports now (even in the trenches there are quite a few of these). It has been pretty easy to date though for Hdq. Co. hasnt had a man wounded yet. One fellow got hit in the arm with a waisted peice of shrapnel and take it from me was lucky to get out of it as he did.


Colds are the draw back here and they are some colds too. Im not perfect in this respect, for I have a cough but it is very mild in comparison to some of these other chaps. As for cooties Em, now your talking about the family. What a loss it would be were we to lose these friends. You see the cooties and I play a kidding game. I kid myself into thinking I havent got them, and they in turn kid me into thinking I havent got them and at night we have a showdown and find that we are both wrong. We keep each other on the go all the time. There are more than I can handle some times, but wait until I get a bath.




P.S. Give my regards to all and tell Aunt Madge Ill write if I find time. Send my regards to Tom if you can. You havent mentioned anything of Mary or Leonard latly.



© Copyright 2008 by Richard Landers, All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

Somewhere near Vaudesson, 2/22/1918

Same dug out.


Dear Em.


I have just finished a letter to Katherine, and sent it back to the base with the ration wagon that brought up two letters from you today dated Jan. 19 and Jan. 29 which I tell you is going some for Uncle Sam’s Mail Service after all. When you realize where we are and the extra amount of energy and work to forward mail to the front line trenches, and that, in the space of time between Jan. 29 and Feb. 22, well it is well, thats all. Your letters are great Em, I can assure you. Like water to a man that is ready to give up. If you could see the bitter disappointment shown by the boys here who fail to receive a letter you would consider me very fortunate that I had you and others to get mail from.


We have been under a very heavy fire all day so please excuse all mistakes. I beleive I told you that I wouldn’t write much for reasons not my own but I just can’t help it. Every spare minute I get I write to some one, and it is not a bad fault I tell you for the result is a very rich harvest of letters. You see some of the boys dont think of writing at all and they call me a lucky dog in receiving so much mail. I forgot to state that I also got two cartons of Lucky Strikes from the shipper at the shop. Just think of how Uncle Sam is looking out for us. Sending packages clear up to within pistol shot of the Boshe. The best part of these cigaretts is that Id just got down to my last package although Ive still got that pipe and some of the Dills that came in your Christmas Package. I think I wrote and told you I got this package, and probably before this you have received this letter. You see this means another letter to the shipper but its great to get a lot of smokes for a letter.


It has cleared off cold, the moon shines very brightly, the Boshe still plays a tune with the big boys over our heads trying to find our artillery, and our artillery is hitting a good tenor as the machine guns play to time by sweeping the opennings around and between the dug outs. You can call it music, rag time or any thing you want to but really now Em it isnt pleasant for the nerves. Play us that Soothing Melody on the machine will you, or Temple Bells.


Im glad you like the picture. The fellows all said I look like a girl in that “Hat Over Coat Picture” so I guess the Hollands top it off as a sure thing. I wonder if they ever saw me in a bathing suit. OH you Babe at that music box. Im glad Henry is over his cold, and by the way Em tell him to excuse me for failing to answer his letter also Bert. They can read yours and get as much Im sure as they would were I to write to them. Ill thank them for some letters though. Im some bloke what?


By this time I hope the cold weather you speak of is a thing of the past and warmer weather the rule. You say you dont go to dances on account of the cold weather. “Say Em I just aint getting old thats all.” Sometimes my bones creek and Im lame all over due to the continual dampness but say little one, one good two step would fix me up in fine shape Id be willing to bet. Things must be pretty hard to get over there all right when you can only buy ½ ton of coal at a time and sugar and flour etc. We are scoffing very well and get three squares a day so far.


You open up you letter of Jan 18-18 with Harrah, three letters today. Well Em this is a holiday in the States and although all the holidays that you have there are not even thought of here Ive had a holiday every time Ive received letters from you. Im telling Lena that if she ever had this hat to wear she nead never fear a windy day, and as for the coat, it was an order to have them cut off to two inches below the knee and a belt made; the belt to be two inches wide. For the trenches.


You say you would like to see the Sammies in France. And I will tell you that you would never think they were the boys that came back from the Border. (For the Army in France is the self same Sammies that were willing to Hit the Trail for Villa as well as they are now willing to Hit the Trail for the Kaizer.) You say I take a crack at the draft men every chance I get. Just like the draft men took a crack at us every chance they got. At the same time Em we are here on the firing line now, and it didnt take Congress, and the President months of voting, it didnt take a lot of politicians, it didnt take thousands of dollars worth of paper, it didnt take a lot of weakening in the knees nor exemptions board, to put us here. Yet we were tin soldiers in the eyes of these same millions of driven men for after all draft means driven. Im laughing too Em, so dont think Im mad. The draft army is going to win this war but we will lead the way. If you saw some of these chaps, all in, from loss of sleep, and chilled from continual duty in the advanced posts, you also would draw some distinction between those who chose it and those who had to be shown their duty some of which after being shown denounced even Missouri. It is well that I am drawing to a close in this letter for my eyes are very tired from the flicker of this light. Im still well and hope this letter finds you all well…


 © Copyright 2008 by Richard Landers, All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

Somewhere near Vaudesson, 2/19/1918

Same dug out.


Dear Em.


Having got possesion of a little ink, a stub of a candle and some writing paper (the Lord only knows where the envelope is coming from) I write. I received your very welcome letter of Jan. 20-18, also one from Sadie, the letters you wrote Sunday when Babe was playing the piano, the victrola was going and Pa was enjoying it all. Say Em, you talk about old people finding consolation in reading the Bible. Here is an old man and your letters has it on anything for consolation I tell you.


I suppose by this time you have got the letter I sent stating that we are away up here in the front line holding a section of the line of trenches with the French. Yes Em America is in it now and forever if Germany chooses to look at it that way. This trench life is all that it has been cracked up to be and we havent seen much wet weather latly either. The sector that we are on you have no doubt read of very often I know I have. Two of the boys have already been knoked off and more wounded. (Don’t tell any of the draft boys this) We hear that “Boston’s Own” are in France now and are going to occuppy the town we left before our move up here. If this is true they will go into a nice little town beleive me. We never expect to see this dear little village again for it is too far away from the front to move us to. We expect to stay here about twenty more days before being pulled out for a rest, and then in again for another period.


Ive been very buisy all day writing on Co. work and say Em you talk about coal-less days. My fingers are feel-less and if you liken my feet unto yours when yours are cold you’ll have it. Yes we have quite a lot of paper work in the trenches, while the big shells, machine guns awhirl over head and the air ships buzz, fight, and observe. First you here a whistle that sounds louder and louder, then a bang. Air fights are an hourly occurance, and say the boys are cleaver that drive these machines. Talk about your Beechy stunts, he is dead. The thrill of this, and the big Jack Johnson have all worn off now.


By the way Em Im fine and have been ever since my first real sleep which was Sunday night. Do you remember those two pairs of big heavy socks I bought away back when I was called out. Well Em they are the most sensible thing I ever bought in my life. My feet are cold understand but I can imagine what they would be with the issue sock. This little candle is burning very fast and it is a race as to who will finish first the light or me. Living in the ground no fires and very few candles. This is the life, this is the life, (it has come to be the life for me). Im far from liking it, but its the best weve got.


Im going to try to send Madge a line, but she is all I guess outside of you folks at home there. Its funny to here you mention the picture and having a few more left I thought Id send them along, before I loose them. Some lose what? Id like to put these fingers down your neck now, I bet you’d go over the top to get at me. Well Em such is life up to the present and here is hoping that the future is as good as the past has been. We are in for some tough times but Ill pull through all right as I always have. Im in the best of health which is half the game to start with.


Does Lena bite her finger nails now. Tell her I havent got any. Hoping this finds you all very comfortable (I can appreciate it) I think Ill close for the present. It is neadless for me to mention them all by name but I think of every one back there and I want you to remmember me to them. Yours truly.


1st Sgt. Samuel E. Avery Hdq. Co. 103rd Inf. 26 Div. A.E.F.


Now for an envelope.


© Copyright 2009 by Richard Landers, All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

Somewhere near Vaudesson, 2/11/1918

Some where In, In France


Dear Em.


Although Im writing this in pen and ink, and on some real letter paper we are in. We have been in now for two days and Im getting pretty well used to this part of the ground. I will have to admit that it has been some time since I have written to you, and also since Ive heard from any one back there, but that is due to our movement which was some movement beleive me. As usual Im feeling well considering. You will have to consider trenches to get an Idea of what it means for me to say Im well. The boys are all standing up under it O.K. The Bosh has felt Uncle Sam more than you folks at home probably know of. And beleive me they are going to get more.


The 103rd Regiment was the first Infantry N.G. organization to enter the trenches and of corse that means that this company and our dear old Capt Tobey was the very first of infantry to see the (well what is called no mans land). Now I dont want you to think Im trying to throw a lot of bull, but I do want you to know that all is well. As I said in my letters to you before we left for these parts, Im not going to write much. Just let them all know how things stand and also tell them not to expect any mail for some time to come yet. If you could see me penning this you wouldn’t stay long to know what Im going to say. You’de be satisfied to wait for the mail. I hope they get your mail up to me soon for I know it will make things lighter. The ink that is in this pen now is the last Ill see for some time and I may have to finish in pencil (just as I thought).


I wish it was fitting and wise to explain some of the real things Ive seen since landing on this front but as usual, Id rather the letter got to you than take a chance. Give my best wishes and regards to every body. The watch says 3.21 now and night will come soon enough. Ive still got the pipe and some of that Dills that you people sent me and a few cigaretts which is fine right now.


This paper is very very damp now but I guess Im drying it up pretty well with this line of chatter. Its pretty dry now, isnt it? As soon as we get off this sector (if they feel like moving it) Ill tell you more. Having said all I can for the present Ill close





© Copyright 2009 by Richard Landers, All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

Into The Front Line, 2/5/1918

The 103rd Infantry and the rest of the 26th Division left the Neufchateau training area on February 5, 1918 and headed for the front in the Chemin des Dames sector of the Aisne line. After briefly billeting in Soissons, the American units moved into the trenches on February 9. This was intended to be a time of final “on the job” training for the New England troops while holding the sector along with the French. What would follow was the baptism of fire for Sam and his men. Following are notes from Sam’s Pocket Diary:

“Feb 5/18 Borded train at 12 noon, train started at 12.45, arrived at Soisson 9 am Feb 6. Hiked to barracks at Crouy arrived at 2 pm. Left Crouy at 8 am 7/18 marched to Hill #60 arriving at 11.30 for mess and rest. Rested in dug out until 4 pm Feb 7 when the signal scouts and intelligencs entered the third line the rest of the company being Billeted in the town of Soysons until 6 pm Feb 9 when the different platoons moved in with their different Battalions. 1st Sgt. Clerk moved in at 10 pm Feb 10 with field desk, typewriter…”


© Copyright 2008 by Richard Landers, All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.