World War I Letters home 1918


After crossing the Atlantic and landing in Liverpool, England, Walter traveled across the country to Dover, where they boarded the 'Onward' to cross the English Channel over to Calais France.  He will remain in France for the duration of the war, traveling around by train or on foot.

Walter fought in several battles during the next 7 months, but two of the most critical were the Battle of Chateau-Thierry (also known as 2nd Battle of Marne) and the 2nd Battle of Argonne. By July 1918, the Germans had made their way to within 60 miles of Paris, occupying France up to the Marne River.  The 2nd Battle of Marne finally stopped the advance of the Germans, causing them to lose ground in France.  In the Battle of Argonne, the Germans were steadily pushed back until the Armistice was signed.

In these letters home to his family, Walter says very little of the actual battles since they were not to disclose their location.  When he was in battle, he would send home a Field Card (view >> front - back) which was a pre-printed card that had several generic statements on it.  The soldier would cross out the ones that did not apply and sign the card before mailing them so folks back home knew he was OK.

His letters contain amusing accounts of soldiers in pink dresses (July 31) and of Walter going under German fire to retrieve plums from a tree (September 1).  In October he is given a 10-day furlough and visits one of the most famous spas in the world, Aix-les-Bains (view pamphlet >> front/back - inside). 

But of course there are serious moments as well.  In October Walter finds out that his best friend has been severely wounded.  And in a letter written just 2 days before the Armistice (November 9th) Walter gives a very solemn account of the faces of the dead German soldiers.

As the Allied forces pushed the Germans out of France, the Germans realized that they were defeated, and rumors of peace negotiations began to circulate. In early October the Germans announced that they wished to discuss a treaty, which sends people into the streets to celebrate. The armistice process began on November 8, 1918, and was signed on November 11, 1918 at 5am.

It was to take affect at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month--
November 11, 1918 at 11am.

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