Friday, November 9, 2012

August 25, 1919 Paris Train ( From Lille ) and Berg. Gladbach

Bill is on leave and writes to his mother in Teeswater. He has travelled from Cologne to Brussels to Antwerp back to Brussels to Ostend via Ghent and Bruges and along the coast from Ostend to Blankenburghe and Zeebrugge. Now he on on the Paris train via Thorout, Roulers, Courtrai, Turcoing, Lille, Douai, Arras and Albert passing through the war areas most damaged. He describes the bleak landscape in north-eastern France prior to reconstruction and describes and photographs German fortifications long the coast before they were dismantled.

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  Note: the rest of the letter is written around the beginning of September 1919 when Bill returned to Berg. Gladbach, Germany.

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Note: Photos mentioned in this letter will be posted separately

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

14 July 1919 Gronauer School, Berg. Gladbach, Germany

This first six pages of this letter from Bill to his younger sister Norma (my mother-in-law) was very badly water-damaged and quite difficult to read. I transcribed those 6 pages then found and scanned an additional 12 pages written on smaller paper.

In this letter Bill talks about his work in the Army of the Rhine and describes relations with the German family where he is billetted.

Gronauer School
Berg Gladbach,

Dear Norma:  
Something like a month ago I wrote home and I said that I would write the next letter to you. Well this is the next. I have received no letter from home since. It is nearly 2 months since I have had any word from home – the longest time since I left home in 1916. I can’t make it out and worry ? something must be wrong somewhere. In fact I haven’t had a letter from anywhere for weeks. I don’t care about the others but I am worried about news from home (or the lack of it.)  

We have been constantly on the move or getting ready for moves since I wrote last. I think tho’ that we won’t be moving for a while now that peace is duly signed and ratified.   We went from Gladbach to Dellbruck and were there 2 weeks. It was a constant succession of guards. We were guarding a huge Bosche Munitions Dump and so there was little time for? Education. I had half the men for an hour a day however and managed to get something done. We should have been there a month but at the end of 2 weeks we were suddenly moved back to Gladbach and had everything ready for the forward move in case the Bosche didn’t sign the peace. We moved from one part of the town to another but in spite of continual standing to and endless warning orders about moving, we were not required to move again till after the peace.  

In the meantime I kept getting more disgusted with the way the educational work was carried on in the battalion and with the way in which the C.O. and Adjutant treated the Edu. Staff and altho’ I was willing to work all the time on Educ. I was not willing to do regimental work too particularly in the Infantry Unit. This the C.O. made me do but only once or twice which was all I would stand for… had been asked for by the Divisional Artillery two or three times and so when something happened which particularly annoyed me, -I forget what it was -, I went over to Divisional H.Q. and in half an hour was transferred to the Div. Arty. I came here and am now Educ. Officer for the 113th Brigade, R.F.A. I do nothing but Educ. and besides having the organization etc for the brigade, I have the instructing in one battery to do (“A” battery).   Altho’ the classes only occupy 2 hours a day, I find I have the whole day full of work. I enjoy it however, as I am left to myself and can carry on as I see fit. Just at the present moment I am assisting at Second Class Army Certificate exams. There are 30 candidates from the brigade and 23 of them are from my battery. I suppose about 10 or a dozen might pass, but it’s a ridiculous exam.  

Well I can’t say that there’s a great deal to write about, even tho’ it’s so long since I have written. I haven’t been anywhere except to Cologne and I’ve told you enough about that. When I get leave and go to Paris, I’ll have lots to tell.   What I have been watching with a considerable interest is the fluctuations of the German Mark and if any of you have any spare money kicking around which you can afford to let stand for a while, I should advise you to consider changing it into Marks if you can. The normal value of the Mark is just about a quarter of a dollar but now it is worth only about 7 cents. It is at its lowest ebb now and it is bound to rise steadily although perhaps not very rapidly. I have practically all my money in Marks. Of course we use only Marks here and so I might as well have it in Marks as in Sterling. 

You said you were likely to leave in June. Did you go to Toronto to teach as you said you might? Your letter of March 30th was written in a minor key but I can quite understand it. I know exactly how you were feeling. I used to feel like that more than I do now. The longer I live, the more I find that I can just as well take things as they come and make the best of them. Of course I have about as little to worry me now as I could expect to have. My main difficulty here is that Majors and Colonels etc who have been in the Army system years look upon any scheme of education for their men as a menace like small pox and as something to be nipped in the bud or if already past the budding stage, to be stamped out at any cost. Every day in the morning I am off trying to persuade some Major or other that the men not only can be educated but want to be educated, but that higher commands from War Office right down to units, insist that they must be educated. I should have a staff of 2 officers and 10 N.C.O’s under me but I have only one Sgt and one civilian instructor who gives part time to the Divisional School. When they reduce the Army of the Rhine, however, which will be done shortly, I shall probably get some more from units which are breaking up. At any rate I can see great possibilities for helping …

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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

1 June 1919 53rd Battalion, The Royal Warwickshire Regiment, Army of the Rhine

Bill writes to his mother in Teeswater from Cologne, Germany where he has joined the British Army of the Rhine. The Occupation of the Rhineland by British, French, Belgian and American Forces began after the Armistice of November 11, 1918. He describes interactions with the Germans and his work in setting up classes for his soldiers in practical skills which they might use upon returning home.

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