Full transcription of text follows:
Private J.E. Henschel- American Mission- Motor Transport A.E.F. Reserve Mallet- France- December 23/1917- Dear Marian- Your Christmas letter of considerable past date arrived about a week ago. Being a very busy - and lazy - person - I could not reply before now. Besides, it would have been poor form. None the less the good wishes are certainly appreciated and many more returned - (They will probably reach you about March). We have had some very interesting work and some not so interesting - which is all a point of the game. The past five days, for example, I have about filled the scale of possibilities in the guerre [ms illegible: 1wd] by playing at everything from unloading boxcars to butchering a hog. This last task became mine for two reasons; first, coming from Kansas City, of course I must know how the deed is did?
second, I neglected to be present at a roll call. This last is invariably productive of interesting results. At any rate, I killed the beast, and scraped it and cut it up, and now for some time we shall have pork chops and other pork things until it is gone. Every letter now home - almost - tells me of some more of the boys who have received commissions. Which is good. Most of them will make splendid officers, I believe. Yet do you know, it makes me feel rather alone Apres la guerre I intend to dig up the other private (for surely there must be one among all the old outfit) and hold a strictly exclusive celebration. You, I have become quite determined to be a private of some sort or other for the duration. It's an excellent education - in the premat-
urer of inflated heads one meets so many queer types and all quite as useful and valuable as himself. there is the French-Canadian boy (who was accused of wearing a sandpaper collar) assigned to drive with me one on particularly difficult trip. The camion was particularly filthy but we were so all in that we opened our bed rolls and expired without delay, or three hours. In the morning I found a broom and was scraping out, when he remarked quite coyly - "Youse fellers ain't got tuh clean up that junk fer me; I don't mind it." and he didn't! Still he could do a days' labour with any of us, and was just as good-hearted as anyone I have met. His blankets were rained upon, hence useless for sleeping purposed - and having more than enough I loaned him part of my outfit. He appreciated them immensely -
but having no money could not express his gratitude in the only way he knew. So when he left to return to his outfit a few days later he came up and shyly gave me a pair of knitted wristlets. They were the only ones he had and I could not possibly wear them too large) but I appreciated his awkward little gift in turn more than almost anything that has happened since by arrival here. When it is bitter cold - it means something to give away one's only pair of wristlets; not many would have done it. (If I have told this to you once before - you must forgive me; I did tell someone). Which reminds me - I am rapidly
becoming old and rheumatic, have developed a chronic cough and promise to return home a stoop-shouldered old T.B. of seventy or eighty years - but honest - I'm not yet. Just why that weekend thing? Heres one that I found in an ancient Life sometime in July and having solved yet. Jess- Isn't John good-looking - for an awkward cuss? (or the same in other words) Bess- He is if he is. It's beyond me. Stories being in order - here's one - guaranteed Simon Pure. We have a way of brightening up a fellow who chances to be more or less discouraged by remarking that the first seven years of the war would be the worst. Yesterday I was guarding some prisoners when one of them turned loose this variation. "Cheer up Shorty, it'll be easy after the first seven feet". (They were digging a [ms illegible: 1 wd] kitchen). He is the same boy that startled the officer
sent to take him back after an unwarranted leave of absence by remarking in answer to their warnings not to attempt an escape. "Shucks, you can't lose me in this town. I've been here two days." You understand that we are not all of the old Field Service. "Sunny France" is a great place in the winter, to keep away from. It is cold almost all of the time an rains. For some three weeks I don't believe my feet were dry one and consequently am afflicted with rheumatism and an endless cough. That about completes my list of sorrows. The list of joys is much longer. Even the horrible swine animal is included therein. Tonight after mess we all will go to the Y.M.C.A. and sing. The season of course calls for Christmas songs but there will be the usual church hymns. There is more genuine feeling our Sunday night singing
services (if they could be called so) than I have ever seen in a church - and everybody goes. There is a boy in our outfit that plays the violin marvelously; he helps out a lot. This letter has been seriously interupted first by supper and then by a little visit from Fritz. We had to finish the meal in the dark and during the excitement someone relived me of a tin full of French-fries. I don't think it's at all nice to go calling - especially in avions - at meal hours - do you? I must close and go to the "Y" or my friend Harmon will be disappointed. I found out quite by accident the other day that he was a Kappa Sig from Virginia. It is curious the manner in which one makes such discoveries. Just for instance, I was assigned a driving partner and was on the same camion with him for more than two weeks - and an hour before
he left this outfit for another station, I suddenly found that he was a fraternity brother. Again I must close - and again - the very best of wishes for the New Year. Sincerely- J.E.H.
From the service of James E. (Ned) Henschel, Co. B Reserve Mallet--French Army, American Field Service, Quartermaster Corps, General Hdgts., and Motor Transport Co. 831.
|Date||December 23, 1917|
|Year Range from||1917|
|Year Range to||1917|
Henschel, James (Ned) Edward
World War I
American Field Service (AFS)