Somewhere near Gironville, 5/19/1918

Envelope Trench Art - Back Side

Envelope Trench Art - Front Side

4 A.M.

 

Dear Em

 

Yesterday was a perfect summer day, and one that never could be equaled in the States especially at this time of year. By all appearances now it is going to be just as good a day today. OH. Em if you only knew how much we appreciate this sun, and dry weather. Those of us that have got by all winter and Spring with out a trip to the hospital, can excuse all the tough weather that has followed us ever since stepping on to foreign soil, after experiencing such balmy days as the last few have been.

 

I wish you could hear these birds sing outside this dugout, and see the sun just rising between two hills just to our right, which are held by the Boshe. To sum it all up Em, it is a beautiful Summer morning, with peace and quiet every where. Yesterday morning was the same until old Sol got about an hour high and then, the same old fire works began, airships began to buzz over head, the big drums began to roll, and another day of modern science was well started.

 

It was pretty quiet “out front” last night but right here Id better can this stuff before I go too far with it. They have started. Two seventy sevens from across the way have been hurled over landing in a town. More will follow these two, other batteries will pick it up and then the usual days work will be in full swing. Our birds still continue their twitter though and I guess the only thing that would stop them would be a regular barrage (during which a fellow would do well to hear himself sing let alone listen to nature). Many a morning Ive stood sat or layed waiting for this barrage (just at dawn) the sound of which reminds me of all the snare and base drums, explosions and fire works that Greater Boston could muster, and all going at once. But some dry land and a little sun, a fag now and then, and we should worry.

 

We have been on some part of the line continually now since Feb. 7/18 with the exception of the few days that was taken to march that seventy or eighty miles to our training base, and loaded into trucks on our arrival and landed here. We are due for a furlough or a rest soon for to date the last leave that any of us have been lucky enough to get was that last Sat. & Sunday I got from Westfield, and the last time I was home. Well we didn’t come over here for pleasure and Im as contented as one could wish to be, but I thought I’d mention this in answer to questions asked as to whether Id received my furlough as yet. We are over here for business (no Border stuff understand) and any one that comes over with any thing else as their object is going to be mistaken badly.

 

We are getting the assurance that every one “over there” are doing their bit and every thing possibly for us. I got ahold of a Boston Post of “some weeks back” and the accounts of the big parade and the wonderful “come through spirit” of America, for the Third Liberty Loan was very interesting and also incouraging for us fellows that are “over here” and nead backing now. But to change the subject Em – I received two fine letters from you last night bearing the dates April 23, and 25 and was very glad to hear that you are all well. You opened up the first by saying that it was pretty near the close of a perfect day, and your discription of the kids playing ball and piggy is a scene I can well picture, and would appreciate could I witness it. If you think you’re filling all your letters with explaining about your new job, what in the world must be thought of the contents of mine. It shows that we are both interested in our work and surely in each other by writing very often regardless of what we say.

 

Glad to hear that Zella is with you, for Im sure she makes it pleasant and also glad that you have such pleasant surrounding to work in. There must sure be some close to Mary now, and tell her Em I wish her luck. Ha. So the kids fight yet, and Old George is the go between. It would be good if we had an Old George in this World Affair wouldnt it? I suppose Nellie, the husband, (Charlie is it?) Old George and the kids do present some wonderful sights these warm spring evenings, with their graphophone going. Has he got those flags in his possession yet, or doesn’t he display them now?

 

Bully for Napolean! We could use him to good advantage Em if we had him with us right on this sector. Look Em, you know how the farmers in Maine used to rig up scare crows, stick them out in a cornfield, and how these scare crows would answer the purpose of protecting said young corn from being dug up by said crows. Well we have some listening posts in “No Man’s Land,” from which valuable information is some times obtained. You see we would stick young speedy out there, and old Fritz thinking it an old Yankee trick (to draw their attention from some where else) would laugh at it and leave said it unmolested. Of coarse our first problem would be to teach him (not to see every thing understand) but to remember and explain all he did see. It wouldn’t cost the government much for cloths either. So much for speedy, he is just as you say though Em, a great help to his mother and the neighbors. I thought that sugar refinery would cut off quit a little of the view, but it is nice to be able to see the Naval Hospital yet.

 

Well Em I suppose it is getting warm over there now, and I can say right here that as I write it gets hotter and noisier. I can picture Pa trotting off to bed when there is nothing else to do, and look Em don’t forget to put a screen in his window for if the mosquitoes there are as active as they are here, they will pester him to death. Between mosquitoes (as large as horse flys) and cooties (almost as large) our days work is pretty well cut out for us. Im with you Em in wishing Madge out of the place she is now in and hope that before long she will be.

 

Following up you letter I will say yes, the 104th did have quite a tough time of it and came through pretty well too. One young fellow, Alpen by name who was in “my old company” Co. K, was knocked off in this jam and a few of the others wounded. I thank Adeline for her kind regards and tell her I was asking for her the next time you see her. Lillian also. Same to the Hollands. Im pretty sure Harry will be over here any way but then he may think different. Good luck to him. I thank Zella for her best wishes, and I hope you all spend a pleasant and enjoyable 17th (OO La La).

 

The reason for the different colored ink that made up the letters of Mar. 14, and 30th that you speak of in your letter of April 25 was in compliance with that common sense saying “Get what you can no matter what it is.” I’ve written one letter with as much as three different pens, in which was different colored ink. The fancy designs I made on some of my letters was done while there was absolutly nothing else to do. Trench stuff you see.

 

It is news to me to hear that Boston’s Own has not left yet, for we heard that they were already on their way to France long ago. When they do get here we will probably never see them for they may be placed many miles from this division. As for them making it possible for us to get some rest, I rather it would make all the more work for the Hun with us still at it until the whole dirty business is cleaned up. Just like Lena when she is cleaning house or doing anything, “Everybody up and doing and stuck until its done.” OH you Lena! Lena playing solitaire, Pa reading the paper, your getting ready for bed, Bert working until nine oclock. That old song “I wonder how the Old Folks are at home” means nothing to me on receipt of your letters for I know all about them after reading the contents.

 

As for Harry giving up the chance to go to England to train, I think he failed to use good judgment for that is where he would get some real good training. I bet your some class in your new rig. Well Em Im going to stop not because I have nothing more to say or because this is all the paper I can scrape up, but because I feel as though Ive said enough. So with love to all I close

 

Sam.

 

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

 

 

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

Somewhere near Gironville, 5/17/1918

Dear Em.

 

Got your letter of April 18 O.K. Yes, Im still alive happy and well. I must say tho Em that we have two very bad enemies outside of the Hun and they are the louse and the French mosqiuto. These so call French pests are as big as any horse fly I ever did see and they sure can pester a fellow. The cootie that you hear so much about grow from a pin head to an elephant (it seems) over night. Outside of this there is very little to say only to repeat that we are still up front here enjoying the perfect (weather) that we have been so fortunate to get the last two days.

 

For the sake of some news Em I will say that where we are now the allies hold the upper hand in the air, for although our planes are very numerous and up all day shooting over and across the lines, the Boshe never come over for any trouble. A crowd of us were talking the other day and although there were five Allied planes right over our heads we paid no attention until we heard a whirr ssssssss pud. Of coarse we all ducked (as tho we had a chance if it was near us). I won’t say anything about the chance but I will say that it was a German dud. It was just one of the many shrapnel shells that old Fritz was trying to stop our planes with that failed to explode and it dropped just inside our lines.

 

Ran across a Draft fellow who was maning an automatic rifle in an advanced post. He has only been in France two months which proves your statement that they will give a good account of themselves. Will give Mr Bishop’s regards to Bill when I see him. He is in another post of the line.

 

Please excuse this letter and writing but it is the best I can do.

 

Love to all

Sam.

 

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

 

P.S. You see I write every chance I can get. This letter looks it, what? The weather is great, so is the noise at times.

 

 

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

Somewhere near Gironville, 5/12/1918

Dear Folks.

 

On the back of my old trusty mess kit and with a stub of a pencil which is very trusty in this case I start this letter homeward with the first news, “All’s Well.” The spirit of “Mothers Day” has been greatly impressed and incouraged by our General Pershing, and time enough has been granted every man of the A.E.F. to at least write a “letter home.” These letters are to be given first consideration, thus answering it’s quick delivery – to you.

 

A year ago I remember very distinctly, Em pinned a pink on my coat (just as I was going out) the significance of which we all know well. This year a gold service stripe is worn showing that we’ve been in the advanced zone six months. Some of the boys from old K have said their last, (one from this company) and others are wearing a gold stripe for wounds received in action. Suming these things all up it is very fitting that this day should find every soldier (in France anyway) writing a letter home, and I gamble that there will be more letters written by the Sammies or (Buddies) today than before. My one wish is that Aunt Madge gets a letter from “Some where at sea.” She will get one from “Some where in France” for it is going to be the very next thing I do.

 

The sun is shining again, the big guns cease to pound, there isnt an air ship in sight and Ive got rid of some of my choicest friends which all goes to make things seem very much out of place for this part of France. These unusual events are well balanced by the usual though in that Im feeling fine and expressing the fact in writing.

 

In the last letter that I received from Em she said that Henry and Leonard was “over” but made no mention of Nora. How is she? It is pleasing to know that Henry is feeling so good and acts the same by showing up once in a while. Also that the rest of you are in the pink. Do you know that a picture would not go amiss if you folks ever had the occasion to have any taken. As soon as I get a chance Ill have mine taken just to prove that my statements are right and can be shown.

 

I will tell you in this letter that altho we are quite a ways from the last place we were at we are still at the front, and we expect that the next place we will be at will be very far from here but yet on the front. You see we’ve been up here now about ten weeks but we don’t mind it at all. As for the furloughs or leaves we are or were to get, (the old saying) “What you never had you never miss.” O.D. shirts are being worn today, the first time the weather has permited this since we were in Westfield. It sure is “Sunny France” when the sun is shining.

 

Captain Tobey has returned to the regiment but does not take command of this company so Ill have to continue to grin and bear it. It is a situation I will some time explain for of coarse this is no place for it. Out of the even twenty men that he took with him when he was assigned to this company there are only thirteen left, as follows. 3 sgts. 4 cpls. two cooks and 4 privates. The rest are either on detached service or have been transfered out of the company.

 

You never can tell what tomorrow brings until it etc. Who knows but what tomorrow the war will end thereby putting a stop to this chatter. Hoping this finds you all well Ill close with best wishes

 

Sam.

Samuel E. Avery Hdq. Co. 103rd Inf American Ex. Forces

 

 

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

[Editor’s Note: The “pink” Sam refers to would have been a pink ribbon worn on Mother’s Day in honor of his deceased mother Annie who had died when he was only 10 years old. The “choicest friends” refers to the cooties purged during Sam’s recent bath.]

Under Bombardment, 5/10/1918

On May 10, at 0115 hours in a heavy fog, the Germans detonated 1,141 gas projector bombs containing over 20 tons of phosgene on the south slope of Hill #322, Bois de Apremont, St. Agnant and the surrounding trenchworks which were occupied by the 103rd Infantry. Additional incoming gas, trench mortar and high explosive fire was taken by the 103rd at 0525. A total of 33 men were killed, 12 wounded and 162 hospitalized due to gas from the night’s work…

Somewhere near Gironville, 5/9/1918

Dear Em,

 

After about four days of sunshine and extra fine weather it has again dampened up and I suppose we are in for another spell of usual rain and mud. (Sey la Guerre.) Your letter of April 7th was very interesting and altho Ive received one bearing a much later date the one of the seventh contained news that was new to me. That must have been some parade alright, but there is going to be one better. “The Victory Day.” “One where we all join in.” Of coarse Ive got no idea as to when this will be. You can never always sometimes tell you know. White Plains. The mothers and wives section of that parade sure was some impressive Ill bet.

"Reading Their Shirts" by Baldridge, 1918

 

I am very well and tho we are still where we were there is absolutly nothing doing of any note. It is just one of those long days when every thing is quiet and the clouds hang very low. A day when our very close friends make themselves the centre of attraction and start us in our reading lessons. Speaking of the flag is a reminder, that the other day while at one of these readings I in some way stepped on the watch getting out of it very lucky with only a broken crystal. There was an old watch kicking around from which I took the crystal casing and all, taped same to the watch and it is as good as ever until I can get some place where I can get the right thing. As for the chain, Ive discontinued using it in this place and it is with the rest of my sole belongings Left hand shirt pocket. I wish there was some thing I could write that I thought would interest you, but you see there is nothing.

 

Your discription of what you and the rest happen to be doing as you write your letters, presents a picture as plain as if it was in front of me, and pleases me very much. May you and the “Bunch” enjoy many a pleasant trip to the Beach this summer. Hope Aunt Madge is lucky in her new move, for from what you say it would be a good one. How is the piano and the ice chest? I suppose Katherine has got something planted in the yard by this time. Tell her I wish her the best of luck. Best regards to all

 

Sam.

Samuel E. Avery Hdq. Co. 103rd Inf. Am. Ex. Forces

 

 

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

[Editor’s Note: The “reading lessons” with close friends refers to cootie hunts or “shirt hunts” which became a form of warm-weather recreation for troops while at rest, involving the close scrutiny of garments for lice in order to pick them off by hand. “Left hand shirt pocket” refers to the common location where troops kept their personal effects for recovery in the event they were killed or seriously wounded.]

Somewhere near Gironville, 5/5/1918

Dear Em.

 

Received your letter of April 11, last night and was very glad to hear that every thing is O.K. there with you folks. Im just the same as usual and will go farther by saying that we are at (present) enjoying perfect, sunny weather. It sure is great hear when the sun is shining and it is appreciated more so for the reason that we’ve seen so little of it latly. Although we occupy a sector of the front yet, the trees here are now in full bloom and the feilds are very pretty. Birds fly back and forth singing and twittering as tho there was no such thing as conflict and strife right in the very air they fly through.

 

Yes we are enjoying Spring just as you folks must be enjoying it now, and I know you will agree with me when I say “Its Great.” It has been very quiet here for the last two or three days, and today you would think that peace had been declared or that they had ceased hostilities for the Sabbath.

 

OH joy Em! Cant you see why my mind turns to Spring, birds, green fields, apple blossoms, sun shine and bumble bees tee hee. I suppose the children are having their May Parties and enjoying themselves now. Any way, rest assured that Im enjoying life “over here” and we haven’t had as much as one days leave since hitting France either. We’ve been at the front or on the road ever since Feb. 5 and I guess it is about as good a place as any – (in France).

 

That drive for the Liberty Loan must be making things very interesting, especially the Tank you speak of, and the airships. From all accounts every one is taking hold in the real American Spirit, which is very incouraging to us. Altho we get white bread with every meal, I would like to get ahold of some of Lena’s several varieties.

 

Glad to know you are getting along so well at Plant’s, and that you like it so well. When you speak of Pa and his pipe, it reminds me that I have many a pleasant smoke from the first one you sent which I think was around Christmas. I suppose the Beach will soon be in full swing, and that you Zella Sadie and the rest will soon be enjoying what there is down there to enjoy this Summer. As for me Em, well I think I will have a steady job over hear.

 

Well Em I know you will be disappointed in this letter as to its length and the news that it contains, but it is the best I can do. Saw Emma’s husband the other day and he is looking good. He said he hadn’t heard from home for quite a while and was surprized when I told him the date of my last letter. It took your last letter just 23 days to reach me which is going some considering where I am. Keep it up, also give my regards to all.

 

Love

Sam.

 

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

 

 

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

Somewhere near Gironville, 4/30/1918

Dear Em

 

Got your letter of April 1, yesterday (the one in which you mentioned receiving the Stars & Stripes) and I guess it was about time you got it. A carton of Perfections was very welcomly received by me also and beleive me they didnt last long for a ready made cigarette to us right here is a gold mine. You bet your life we should be satisfied with first class mail and I wont mind it until they start to cut down on this.

 

Glad to hear you say that you will continue to write regardless of how much you hear from me. I am very well, and was glad to know that you are all about the same back there. I suppose you’re getting used to that hour change by this time, and make very good use of it.

 

We are still where we was after leaving the last place and where we will be until we leave for the next. You see the responsible information we are intrusted with keeps us from getting a head ack. It continues dark and rainy but it is much warmer. The latest news in the papers does not effect us. Liable to hear from us soon. In closing I want to assure you that where ever I am I will remain the same

 

Sam.

 

Samuel E. Avery Hdq. Co. 103rd Inf American Ex. Forces

 

 

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

Somewhere near Gironville, 4/22/1918

Dear Em

 

I suppose you will say, “About time.” Or will I blame you very much, for it has been quite a few days since Ive sent you a letter, and that one, if I remember right, was very short. To start with I am very well and have been ever since my last letter. Received quite a few letters in the last three days among which was your four letters dated Mar. 16, 20, 24, and 26, and one from Lena. I have answered Lena’s and it seems as though all I do latly is write. Seventeen letters to answer keeps a fellow pretty well occupied in his spare moments beleive me.

 

I am going to answer your four letters in this one hoping that this will be agreeable to you. I got a letter off to Madge last night, and addressed it to 103 Rutherford Ave, which is doing pretty well for me, how about it? Was very glad to hear of your good luck in getting into Plants, for Ive heard that the help out there is given every consideration for accomadation and amusments.

 

Who are the chosen few, pray, that the letters are turned over to. Say Em you’re there when it comes to composing letters. You may think you have an idea how interesting they are getting to me, but I don’t think you will ever realize fully how much I am appreciating them of late. Of coarse you know that we are up here again where you wake up with a roar, get your mess with a roar, and where we are roared to sleep, and, as the French men say “It is noising.” When really it is nothing. This is Monday the 22nd and Im writing so don’t get me mixed up in the news that was printed Sunday. Get me.

 

Did you enjoy your dance at Hibernian Hall that you said you was going to. You also mention in the same letter, of rain you was getting, and I want to say that all we have been getting latly is rain. Yes Em Miss Gorey was right when she said I was a tall thin boy. I wonder what she would say if she saw me now. One safe bet is that she wouldn’t know me, but I’d know her all right. More speed to where Daddy goes when he goes out.

 

Lipsett has not returned to us yet. As for the draft men, they are arriving over here every day. Some of them are being used to fill up this very regiment. I agree with you Em, they will be there when their time comes, for they are Americans and will be shown every consideration, even if we are only volunteers.

 

I had no idea that I had written so much, but it only goes to show how many I must have received from you. That day light saving idea is an old one in France and our time changed Easter, also. OH you new kitchen! I remember when Pa said, “Aint it the dirtiest green you ever saw,” (Haw Haw). Instead of, I wonder how the table looks at home, its the kitchen wall now.

 

I received that last package you sent O.K. and it came in very handy. Ive got the face and shaving soap with me now. I hope Berts mother is settled in her new home now, and also feeling well. I hope Aunt Madge gets a letter from Tom about the same time mine arrives and Im sure she will enjoy it better. I suppose Mary and yourself have some great old talks riding to and from work? I wish you could send some of that sunshine you spoke of in your letter of Mar. 23 over here.

 

Talking of Easter and your new coat, makes me think. I dressed up a little that day myself. Said day happened along while we were on a four day hike from the last front. I attended church that day, and dressed for the occasion, which consisted of scraping the mud off my shoes and puttees, washing my face and hands and combing my hair. I thought of you folks at home that day and thought Id like to see the usual parade again this year.

 

That item in the paper about Bob Melvin is quite a get up, but he is a good fellow and deserves all that is coming to him. As for that vacation you speak of, I hope you all enjoy the one you take. Mine will come when the world gets hers. Here is hoping I don’t get one until then for a blighty as far as I can make out won’t taste good, and Id rather be in it with a whole freight and a few worries, than out of it as a convalescant and nothing on my mind but the clock.

 

There couldn’t have been any mail consigned to me on the ship you speak of for I think I drew all that I was intitled to. Hoping this finds you all well Ill close.

 

My best regards to all

Sam.

 

Samuel E. Avery Hdq. Co. 103rd Inf American Ex. Forces.

 

[Editor’s Note: Easter Sunday occurred on March 31, 1918. It appears that Sam’s unit celebrated Easter worship in advance during their march to Reynel. This was likely due to the limited number of Chaplains that had to widely circulate among many units. It was enough to simply recognize the Feast at all, never mind on the actual day.]

 

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

Somewhere near Menil-la-Tour, 4/13/1918

Dear Em.

 

I thought it about time I dropped you a line and informed you that Im still well and enjoying life as well as could be expected. Ive received no mail now for about a month which means, I suppose, that there is an awful batch of it “somewhere”. There is really nothing to say, for nothing of note has happened since my last letter. There is one thing that can be always spoken of though and that is the weather. We’ve been very fortunate in this respect of late for it is just “graund”.

 

Ran into a fellow who was in the Hospital Corp of the Old Eighth and we had quite a chat about old times. Have read papers dated March 2nd that spoke of the New England Regiments and thought that the news was exagerated very much. What must they be doing now?

 

Lost my tooth brush yesterday so you see Im in an awful imbarrassing position now. There is a barbor here and I get my hair cut once in a while just for old times sake. How are all the girls at the shop? The boys are all well and in good spirits. Those lines at the top of the front page of the Post are real jolly don’t you think?

 

Everybody over here seems to think Germany won’t last much longer, and I suppose that is the ruling thought over there. This drive will decide it I hope. If not it means a long winter in France for the A.E.F. and those that are not yet A.E.F. How many (less) days have you folks got now. There is one I bet you will be just as well satisfied with, Winterless.

 

Well Em, look out for showers and don’t forget to give Napolean a smile. My best regards to all and knowing you will excuse pencil Ill close

 

Sam.

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

 

P.S. Had a bath yesterday, and parted with some very close friends. Big hearted chaps at that. Easy enough to get some more though.

 

 

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

Engagement at Apremont, 4/12/1918

On April 12, men of the 103rd Infantry were sent into the left side of the line at Bois Brule near Apremont and St. Agnant to reinforce the 104th Infantry. Throughout the afternoon and evening the 103rd was engaged in small unit close combat with German infantry in a tangle of earthworks, wire and underbrush. The enemy was finally driven back from the American positions…