Armistice Day: The 11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month of 1918

[Update: Corrected factual error.]

Armistice Day was celebrated as an end to The Great War in Europe. Subsequently it was called “Veterans Day” in the United States in 1954. In Canada and most of the Commonwealth, it is observed as “Remembrance Day.”

Those decorated envelopes were sent by “Tid” Myers, my great grandfather, to his son, Pvt. Walter Myers, while Walter was stationed in France. I remember Uncle Walter as an almost blind old man whose hobby was amateur (HAM) radio.  I was too young to understand his hobby, and didn’t know enough about WWI to ask him what I’d ask him now. Uncle Walter passed on in 1978 and I never knew what he had gone through until decades later.

The following are transcripts of letters sent by Walter Myers to his parents.  He was in the U.S. Army Signal Corps in WWI.  The Signal Corps used balloons to survey the German trenches and movements, and was a very risky business.

The messages below are as is, without editing.
_________________________________________________

France, August 27, 1918

Dearest Mom and Dad,

Was under fire for the first time recently. No casualties. Believe me  you have never heard such an unearthly noise. Everything quiet then all of a sudden “Boom” s-h-h-h sh-sh-sh-sh. The boom is when the shell bursts and the “sh” sounds like the wind whistling through a crack. The “sh” is caused by flying splinters. The damned Dutch can’t hit a barn so we should worry. We have dugouts.

Sorry I can’t tell more. This may be cut out. I don’t think it will though because there is no information. I guess the Dutch remember shooting at us.  So this letter wouldn’t give them any “info.”

_________________________________________________

October 25, 1918
On the Front

Dear Mom and Dad:

Well, as per usual. A short ‘un. Have had some excitement lately but I get so darn used to excitement that it takes something more daring each time to satisfy me.  We lost another balloon the other day.  Burned by a boche airman. God knows but maybe our machine guns didn’t give him “H” but he got away with it. Our observers landed safe in their parachutes.

The Boche shelled us the other night and one shell landed about ten feet from your truly’s tent. Say, boy, you ought to have seen our gang high-tail it for the dugouts.  It was in the middle of the night and we all had to get out of bed but you didn’t see anybody in their under clothes for we never take our clothes off. I haven’t had my clothes off for about three weeks and Lord only knows when I got a bath last.  There is an old shell hole about ten feet from my  tent which is full of water and I am going to take a bath there if  I freeze my “arse” off.

You want to know if I “ever” had the cooties.  Well, I’ll tell you. I have ’em most of the time.  But they aint so worse after you have ’em  a while. I “kinda” got used to ’em.  We call the Boche, “Jerry.”

_________________________________________________

November 14, 1918
For the first time away from the front since July 5th.
In a camp, behind the lines.

Dear Mom and Dad:

Well, of all the wonderful things that could ever happen. The war is “won.”  As the French say, “Fini la Guerre.”  Every Frenchman we meet hollers, “Fini la Guerre, Merci!  Beaucoup.”  It means– the war is over, thank you many times.  We are sure some glad bunch.  I sure will have a lot of stuff to tell you when I return.  And that won’t be long.  We are now away from the front for the first time.  I just got rid of a bunch of cooties yesterday.  I hope that they will be the last, too.  They are sure the cause of one hell of a feeling.

Well, this is all for the present.  So long and hoping to see you soon.

Soldier Bill

_________________________________________________

[Update: The Philadelphia Intelligencer ran a story about the envelopes today, with more pictures.]

Author: Bunk Strutts

Boogah Boogah.

13 thoughts on “Armistice Day: The 11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month of 1918”

  1. I was thinking you’d be putting on an 11hr 11minute, 11 second post: but I didn’t thing you’d do this.
    Very cool!
    I still have my Grandfather’s discharge papers and framed “For King and Empire” photo from WW1.

    I still think of my great uncle on Remembrance Day though for some reason. He was in WW11, but I don’t think he ever got beyond England during that one.
    England must have been tough. hee hee!

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  2. I was told that my maternal grandfather served in the Black Watch during WWI. Unfortunately, most of my interaction with him came when I was too young to remember it.

    My paternal grandfather was in the Army in WWII, but I never met him.

    Thanks for the post. I enjoyed the letters.

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  3. Macker– Got it. I corrected the error in the post.

    istillf– The envelopes had been lost for decades until they turned up in an attic. There are dozens that have been archived and published in a book for the family.

    plane– England almost became a German-speaking nation.

    wheels– The other letters are fascinating — and very understated. I wish I’d been smart enough to ask Uncle Walter about his experiences first hand.

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  4. That was truly awesome Bunk… truly awesome… thanks so much for sharing those letters… very few people even know what today was really all about… this brings in home in such a cool way… you never know until it’s too late that you can never ask those questions… ever again…
    Honor and Remember!

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  5. Tattoo Jim–

    The other letters are fascinating as well. Walter figgered that the War wouldn’t be over until 1920. He also mentioned that everyone slept with their boots on and with gas masks close by. Although they never got gassed, they endured false alarms (in the middle of the night) almost weekly. They took all the alarms very seriously as they saw first hand what the mustard gas did to those in the trenches.

    I’m thinking about posting all the letter transcripts I have in real time next year, maybe on a separate blog. They start on 5 February 1918 and end on 5 May 1919.

    Like

  6. Sehr interessant

    Ah, when the World was young and fresh

    — a bright, young man ready (with his young friends) to lose his life ….. or (perhaps worse) his limbs etc … or lungs, to curb a great tyranny

    “Dutch” — presumably this is a reference to “Deutsch” – ie Germans (as in “Pennsylvania Dutch”

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  7. Herr Eagle– “Dutch” was likely a misspelling of “Deutsch” as you mentioned. The “Pennsylvania Dutch” were Mennonites, and were grouped in with Shakers’ and Quakers’ reformist Protestant sects, especially the Amish.

    At that time in American History, the immigrants were mocked for their backward ways, just like they are today. The Dutch, Irish, Jews, Poles, Greeks, Italians, Germans and others all had their ancestries mocked at one time or another via stereotypes and caricatures. I view it as nothing more than hazing, although some of it went beyond that.

    On that, nothing has changed. Is it evil? Naw. It’s been going on for centuries.

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  8. ‘ He was in WW11, but I don’t think he ever got beyond England during that one.
    England must have been tough. hee hee!”
    ??
    England wasn’t a funny place to be. Canadian troops were
    given the job of setting up defence particularly along the Channel coast, with German guns at captured Calais were able to bombard
    such as the town of Dover. They chafed at this, some arriving
    there by Christmas 1939. Some men got enemy action in the 1942 day raid on Dieppe on the French coast, others saw action in Sicily, then Italy 1943/44, the rest having to wait along with the later- arriving Americans until 1944 June 6,when invasion of Normandy was possible. Depended on when one volunteered, which service, and unit assigned and a mans skills. There is more to total war than “going over the top” – many support functions required.

    Like

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