Letters from the Great War: “I am trying to get out of the Army”

Devonport, England, Military Hospital, R.A.M.C, 7th Coy, February 16th, 1919 (Letter #31) 

Dear Brother;

Hoping this will find you in the pink as this leaves me at present. We have got the fever very bad here again. We have got about 200 in this hospital now down with it, about seven deaths a day on average. It is still not quite as bad as the last time.

Well, I have been trying to get out of the army since the first day of the year and I should have been out the 3rd of January, but there is so damn much red tape they are trying to do me out of my passage back, but there is nothing doing, they got plenty of fight out of me. I have not done four years for nothing. Well, have you got plenty of work? Labour is unsettled over here. Everybody is on strike. The country is in a hell of a state, plenty of Bolshevik and German money behind it.

Well, how is Herb Hatch and all the other boys? I suppose Ted and Mary are going to high school by this time. Is Ted alright. You said he had a bad ear the last time you wrote.

Remember me to Sam, Flo and children. I heard Lillian is working, as I had a letter from Mother yesterday. Well, I wish you would drop a few lines when you have time. Hoping I will be able to see you all about 1920.

With love and best wishes.

From your brother, Lee.

Editor’s Notes:

  • The war may have been over but the suffering continued. Labour movements had been building momentum throughout the war. Strikes were rampant.
  • The Paris Peace Conference began on January 18th, 1919, included delegates from 27 nations and resulted in the Treaty of Versailles with Germany and subsequent treaties with Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary and Turkey.
  • The Treaty of Versailles placed full blame for the war and a tremendous financial burden on Germany, which is believed to have created the conditions for the later rise of Nazism which led to WWII.
  • World War 1 casualties were estimated to be somewhere between 9 and 11 million military. The estimate for civilian casualties is somewhere around 8 million.
  • The army camps were rife with flu, and when the soldiers returned home, the virus spread to their families and communities. Estimates were between 20 and 40 million died within a year and a half after the war, but current estimates are much higher at 100 million. It was referred to as the Spanish Flu. Spain was neutral during the war. The Allied countries suppressed the news about the flu, but in Spain they freely reported on the illness, so people associated it with them.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.