Category Archives: From England

04.20.1944 Letter

Dear Willard, Grace and all:

This will let you know that I have arrived here safe and well. The trip was interesting, but uneventful.

I have seen a little of the English country-side and it was quite picturesque. It’s neatness would knock your eye out. I know you would be interested in these dinky railroads. The reminded me of those little “baby” trains around the mines thought they are quite a bit larger that those. It was better than any troop train I have ridden on in the U.S.

Say, better not type V-Mail letters because when they are reduced that type might not be legible. I received your letter before it had been reduced, so it was OK.

Our food is good thus far and I believe it will remain that way. More details will follow when I can get a little better situated.

Russell

England

05.07.1944 Letter

Note:

In this letter, Russell discovers that his next oldest brother (Howard, who is 10 years older than Russell) has been drafted into the war. Russell is not happy that his older brother was drafted – as Howard was in a serious accident in the late 1930’s where his arm was severely injured, and a finger had to be amputated.

Dear Willard, Grace and All:

I have received the letters which you sent through various methods of mailing. I might say that I have also received the letter in which you mentioned the glasses – that long one on V-Mail. I answered that and probably neglected to give you the impression that I received it OK by not mentioning the glasses. However, I mentioned something in one of my letters about not trying the V-Mail. That was just to make sure I could read them when I got them. I got that one letter before I came here – that long one. Go ahead and type them just use a good ribbon and fairly clean letters.

Now, about the glasses. I did things in such a hurry before leaving that I did not realize how efficient I really was. I managed to carry along about everything I needed and the glasses were eventually found. So hold onto those until a later date. You can see that the answers to your latest letters — three which I just received — is a little behind, but mail is gradually beginning to catch up and as I receive yours more promptly after you begin to use this address — all the others I have received so far have been addressed to APO 7712 — you will get more up to date answers. My mail should reach you more promptly than yours reaches me when I move around and you can probably understand why that is. Let me know what kind of service you are getting on V-Mail or any Air Mail that I might happen to send.

So they finally got Howard in. Taking him in is one of those things that gripes me. After all, you might as well take a man with one arm. Of course there are many others in the Army with similar handicaps, but the gripe I have against it is the fact that they leave so doggone many of those baseball players stay out — these guys that are physically fit to play only 150 games per year, slide all over a field on their fannies, collect anywhere from $5 to $50,000 dollars, and yet they’re not good enough for this Army. Seems to me they bend over backwards to keep them out, and I think it’s time people should do something about such things. After all, they are no better than the rest of us who have to stick our necks out. What do you think? So much for that.

I can say something here about English money that we use. A pound is worth about 4 dollars. When I first got one in my hands it reminded me of a Mother’s Oats coupon. It’s just a little bigger than that. Then the coins are half-penny, pronounced “aypenny” which is worth about one cent; next is a penny which is worth about two cents. Then there is Threepence which is pronounced “thruppence” and is worth about 5 cents. Then there is a Sixpence which is worth about a dime. A shilling comes next and is worth about 20 cents. Then a two shilling piece. Then a Half-Crown which is worth about half a dollar. Everything is figured on a penny basis. For instance, Threepence piece is equivalent to 3 pennies. A shilling, 12 pennies. A Half-Crown is two shillings, 6 pence or equivalent to 30 pennies. 20 shillings make a pound. Just thought you might be interested in this.

Russell

England

05.18.1944 Letter

Dear Helen and Wilson and all,

I’m starting one of those letters in which I can’t think of very much to write about. I feel as well as ever, and my mail seems to be coming through in fair shape right now. It takes anywhere from ten to twelve days. I haven’t gotten enough air mail to say for sure whether it comes through faster than V-Mail. I think the Air Mail is faster personally.

You have probably seen the letters I wrote to Willard and Grace. I meant it for all of you. I’m looking out for some souvenirs for the kids all the while. In fact, I’ve decided that I will get a set of English coins for all of them. That ought to please them. They’re really hasn’t been anything around here.

There is no ice cream or fresh milk to be had around here, but we are able to get plenty of Coca Cola right now. It doesn’t seem quite as strong as our cokes back home do. Still it’s a coke. My main difficulty is in getting blades to fit my Gillette razor. I can get plenty of Gem blades but they won’t work. Good thing I brought a little supply with me. Another thing I’m short on is reading material. I’m not getting my Readers Digest over here and don’t know whether I will or not. If you can pick up some razor blades somewhere I would like to have some. I know they may be hard to get, but if you should manage to pick up a few (sometime, and also a few late magazines like “Liberty” or “Saturday Evening Post” I would appreciate if you would send them on to me. Even though our eats are good, I wish I had one of your good meals right now. So, if you include something I can eat and something that will keep on the way over I will certainly appreciate it. By the way, if and when you do send this stuff (if you can get it) make sure you wrap it real well.

I haven’t heard anything as yet from either Howard or Elizabeth. I know that Howard is at Ft. Custer, Michigan.

I have a letter from Mom dated May 2 or 4 which I haven’t answered as yet.

I do my own laundry. I have time and it seems to come out pretty well. However, to get a uniform dry cleaned takes anywhere from 10 days to 2 weeks.

Guess that’s about all I have for now. Write and let me know the latest dope.

Russell

England

05.20.1944 Letter

Dear Howard:

I got a letter from Mildred and Ralph this morning and your address was included in it. So here goes.

As you already know, I am over here in “jolly old England” but I think it is anything but jolly in my estimation.

One of my first problems after arriving here was how to use English money. I have gotten used to it by this time and this is how it works. A Pound worth about $4.00, is a note which reminds me of a Mother’s Oats coupon. Twenty Shillings make a pound. There is a Ten Shilling note which is half a pound. The rest of it consists of coins which are half crowns, which are two shillings, six pence; two shilling pieces, one shilling pieces, six pence pieces, three pence; pennies and half pennies. Curious thing about them is the pronunciation given to three pence, two pence, and half penny. They say throuppence for threepence; toppence for two pence and ‘aypenny’ for half penny. I got on a train (trolley) before I became accustomed to it when I told her where I wanted to go, she said tuppence and aypenny please. I didn’t know what she was talking about, so simply held a handful of change in front of her and told her to take her pick and I watched.

Of course you know all of the traffic is on the left side of the street here. So you have to learn to look when crossing, just the opposite of the way you do in the states. You get on the trams and buses in the rear, and practically all of these are double Decker. Most of the trams practically never come to a complete stop when picking up or discharging passengers, everybody waiting to hop on freight-train fashion.

As for me; well as you can see from my address that I am with the European Civil Affairs Division. You’ve probably read about it in the papers back there. I saw a picture of part of a unit in “Stars and Stripes” which was taken from New York Times. The name of the Division in itself is self-explanatory. We’re waiting for things to happen like everyone else.

The beer is lousy and the whiskey (where you can find it) is weak. There’s not much use in drinking it. They call a beer garden a “Pub”. In most places the beer costs like hell. Why a glass that you would pay ten cents for in the states, would cost more than twice that here.

I think the thing I miss most in the eating line is milk. This powdered stuff is only a fair substitute. But otherwise the eats are pretty good. I had steak for dinner today and it was alright. Coffee isn’t too good. I’ve been at Mildred to get me some Nescafe and she tells me that thanks to Elizabeth she has been able to get a can.

The influence of the states on this place is quite strong. Theatres (cinemas) show practically all American films. Their popular music for dancing is practically all from ours. If the buildings were more modern here you probably wouldn’t be able to tell it from an ordinary American city.

This fast time here doesn’t let it get dark until around 11 o’clock at night. Think of what it will be next month.

I guess that’s about all I can say for this time. Give my regards to Elizabeth and Grant.

Russell

England

P.S. What does the sun look like anymore? Is it still round?

05.27.1944 Letter

I’ll send you an Air Mail letter with my account number over my signature, and you can deposit it at Endicott Trust Co.

I saw a funny incident down town the other night. I rounded a corner and happened to be looking out at the bus stand. There stood a woman bent over holding the baby in her arms, the baby being bent, with his pants down his legs and dress pulled up, and reminding me very much like a kinked piece of rubber hose. She was simply letting his little radiator drain right over the curb. What a laugh we got out of that. Never saw that expedient used before.

I just this minute was handed a letter from Howard, so I’m reading it. Nothing new except he said that he had an X-ray taken of his arm. That’s a good beginning.

Hope you get both these letters at the same time. I’m going to close and go eat supper.

Russell

England

06.05.1944 Letter

(the day before the invasion of Normandy – written from Winchester Cathedral)

Dear Willard, Grace and all;

I answered a letter I received from you around a week ago. This morning I received 3 more which you wrote at about the same time, one when you went for groceries. On reading them over, I find that that letter just about answered everything in all of them. The V-Mail was damaged in the machine and could not be photographed so it was sent as a regular letter. I don’t know where they were but don’t forget to leave off “Advance Echelon” in the address.

I have a V-Mail here which I have written to Jack. I’ll mail it today. By the way, I know of boys who have received something like Aqua Velva etc., and if it is packed well, it will get through OK. On the mail, V-Mail is probably your best bet — most consistent — 8 or ten days. Mine is probably Air Mail.

I’ll give you a little thumbnail story of what I did yesterday. I had an opportunity to go on a tour to a town which has quite a historic background. Where it is or its name I am not permitted to mention at this time. But some of this particular cathedral was perhaps more than a thousand years old. Construction of which may have begun somewhere around 900 A.D. You walk around inside the place and walk on top of old tombstones. The date on one being 1680. There may be some older, but I couldn’t find any older that that. They were all worn out from walking over them. But the stone work inside was beautifully carved and the Norman and Early English architecture really stand out. It is a massive building and church services are still held in it. They have some sort of preservative on the stone for protection from crumbling.

But getting back to the mail — I like the V-Mail because I can keep a little file of it, and where the circle is I used that to note when I answer it.

Mildred sent a package out to me so she said in the letter I got from her today.

With that I’ll close.

Russell

England

This letter was written, the day before D-Day.

06.14.1944 Letter

Dear Elizabeth:

Well how are you and Grant doing? I suppose Mildred’s keeping you up on the latest dope about myself. I had a letter from Howard quite some time ago, and wrote him one just about the time he arrived here.

I wrote Mildred a while back that I had seen Coventry. Did you see that letter yet. I’m telling you, it’s quite a sight. I’ve also seen a few old cathedrals. It almost gives you the creeps when you walk into one and think about the place being over a thousand years old. On top of that they used to bury the dead right in the Church. You know I think some of the homes must be that old too. I know I never saw thatched roofs until I got here. By 11:30PM it gets dark and around 5AM it gets light. I suppose it’s just vise versa in winter.

Last night and this morning I had my first taste of “C” Rations. We were out a few miles from here and pitched our tents for overnight. Plenty of beans in them. Not bad tho. Woke us up in the AM with tear gas. You should see me get into my mask. One officer in BVDs left his mask in the truck and tore cross country in there to find the mask.

What a sight!! What a laugh!! Now it’s your turn. Thanks for keeping personal papers.

Russell

England

06.19.1944 Letter

Dear Willard and Grace:

Thanks for the razor blades. I’ve got a pretty good supply now.

Don’t suppose you have received my mail that I wrote prior to D-Day, but I guess it is starting to go through again by now.

I wrote a letter (V-Mail) to Jack about the 8th. It’ll probably catch him before long if he should move. He’d certainly get a kick out of things here.

As to what I will be able to do about the address of the Guillon family, I don’t know. There is no possibility of my looking it up at the present time. It’s one of those things I’ll just have to leave to chance.

I get a kick out of watching planes go by here. A lot of them fly plenty high — in fact, you can’t see them sometime except for a white vapor trail that they leave behind. It looks ghost like, you see the trail and can’t see what makes it. You can hear them though. Sometimes I watch a formation and they remind me of a flock of wild geese. They maneuver around in formation just the same. I suppose around big air bases at home, similar stuff happens all the time, but I never happened to see it until I came over here.

We went out the other night after supper and took some pictures. We were walking along the road and came up to a pasture where a couple of horses were grazing. We enticed them over to the fence with fresh grass and they were pretty tame, so we patted them and had our pictures taken with them. Hope they came out as it was getting rather dark.

What did you think of the invasion news? You probably get it for breakfast, dinner and supper.

We’ve been having some nice weather around here lately. I’m glad of that because we were out on a bivouac and I don’t like it to rain on those things. We walked back the next day and that helps to keep you in shape.

Last night I took in a doggone good show. It starred Margaret O’Brien who it seems is turning out to be another Shirley Temple type of actress. She’s only around six and very good. The name of the show was “Lost Angel”. Maybe you’ve seen it.

Guess that’s all that’s on the fire for now.

Russell

England

06.28.1944 Letter

Dear Willard and Grace:

Just a few lines for this time as I noticed a couple of clippings in the paper and am enclosing them.

Apparently some of my mail hasn’t gotten through. I had a letter from Mildred dated the 14th, but some of mine must be held up somewhere as I haven’t seen any other for about a week now.

By the way, I am now billeted in a private – an other fellow and myself. It’s a pretty nice home too. They have fireplaces in every room. All the windows in the house have some sort of design painted on them. I used to think the glass was cut fancy, but the illusion came from seeing these designs. The couple keep the place as neat as a pin too. But we still sleep on army cots. To be able to wash and clean up in a bathroom is the least I ever expected to do over here outside of a hotel.

If you may have been thinking about the flying bombs, I just like to say that the only place I’ve seen them has been in the movies.

Russell

England