A familiar face, a letter from home

Sandy Vasko

    In October 1917, Wilmington boys were scattered to the winds. Some were even serving “somewhere over there.”
    All these small-town boys were seeing sights that were strange and even intimidating. The joy of seeing a familiar face, or to read a letter from the familiar hand of a friend or loved one helped them lessen the anxiety. You can hear it in their own letters home.
    Robert Jardine was a faithful letter writer. He was stationed at a field hospital in France with the British Expeditionary Forces.
    Although this was a comparatively safe place, it still had its share of war. On Sept. 5 a German plane dropped seven bombs on field hospital No. 5 where a group of Harvard men were serving, five of which were direct hits.
    Jardine writes on Oct. 5, 1917;
“Dear Mother,
    Am in the army church hut just now. Will try to write a few lines amid the din of conversation carried on by about 60 walking patients who are spending the evening here, too.”
    “Perhaps you have read about the raid on the Harvard unit and the Chicago unit. The Harvard unit is right next to us in the same camp. No harm was done us, but believe me the experience was thrilling.    
    “It is beginning to get cold around and we all dread the winter, although the work will be lighter then. As far as I know we will sleep in these tents all winter. I'll be a hard one after the winter, don't you think so. Must close now as we have to line up at 7:25 before going to the wards. Lovingly, Ronald”
    Henry Weidling was in the “Big Apple,” which must have been quite a culture shock for him. He wrote, “A few lines to let you know I received your watch and letter. I received the watch yesterday and the letter today, and they come just in time for when this reaches you I expect to be many miles from land. We got orders, that tonight would be the last liberty and we have to be back at midnight.
    “Say Dad, I received a very nice comfort kit from the Wilmington Loyal Girls Club and am going to write and thank them for same. Dad, you don't know how happy we feel when we receive things like that from friends. It seems to put a new life into us. Of course, it makes us a little homesick, but think I can stand it until I get a furlough.
    “Went out to Mincola to see Chester Taylor last Sunday, and he was on liberty. Still, I enjoyed the afternoon very much, as one of Chester's friends took me all over the field and showed me all the planes. Among them was that large Italian place that flew from Newport News to Mincola, carrying seven passengers. I also had the pleasure of going through a German submarine that the English had captured. It is now on exhibition in Central Park.
    “It seems that I would sooner be on water than on land. On land everything seems the same. I am so sick of New York that I only take liberty about half the time. I will have to close. Thanks for the watch. Your son, Henry”
    Lawrence Treadman was still in the States, he wrote,
“Dear Mother,
    Just got off guard duty and thought I would write you. I go on for a fight (boxing match) Saturday night, Nov. 10. This will be the last one that I will take part in, I am not going around with my nose on the side of my face.
    “The program for Saturday night consists of four 4-round boxing bouts, one 7-round, and one 8-round, and one 10-round. I am down on the program, matched with “breezy” Richardson, as follows, “Welterweight, 4 rounds - L. Treadman, 349th, wt. 145; “Breezy” Richardson, 352nd, wt. 143. This will be some night; music by the regimental band. Admission, 50 cents and $2. The proceeds to go into the 352nd  regimental fund.
    “We are now in the trenches (being instructed in digging them.)
    “I had only one man to put on guard duty last night; took him three miles, on a motorcycle, to a water tank and reservoir. At this tank, a few nights ago one of our guards shot a man. The fellow had climbed up with a jug of poison with the intention of putting it in the tank, but before he completed his dastardly job the guard saw him, fired and the scoundrel dropped to the ground dead. That's the way we deal with such men here - kill them.”
    “I have taken out $5,000 government insurance, and will send you the policy just as soon as I receive it. This, with my other insurance, make me worth $6,250.00. Your loving son, Lawrence Treadman”