277 Main Street
Norwich VT 05055
Soldier’s Mail #2: Heading off to France
by Lauren Pidgeon
Before heading off to France there were a few chores to do. At the top of Garey’s list was getting his picture taken and making a list of girls to whom he wanted to give his picture.
August 4th, 1918
I will give you a list of who I want to have [my picture] and wish you would send one to each… Give one to Isabelle, Evalyn, Ellen, Aunt Addie, Lois Nelson, Wallace, Florence Berry, Marjory Martin.
Next on the list was letting his family know that he was going to Europe and telling them what battery he had been placed into.
Here is Garey’s drawing of the insignia of the 80th Field Artillery, Battalion B.
While on the ship, he wrote to his parents. I quickly looked up his ship name and date and luckily found a picture of the ship which was taken very near to the day Garey boarded it in New York Harbour.
USS Lenape – 20th August, 1918
September 1st, 1918
We have had no rough weather as yet, the past day or two there have been large swells. It is fun to go over them. The end of the boat will go up and down as much as 10 or 12ft. It has made a number of them sick, the rocking.
When Garey arrived in France in September 1918, the second Battle of the Somme was coming to an end, halting a huge German advancement further into France. For the next two months, the Allies continued to defeat the Germans until the Armistice in November.
A quick history of the US during WWl:
June 28th 1914 – Franz Ferdinand, heir to Austria-Hungary assassinated by a Serbian
July 28th 1914 – Austria- Hungary declares war on Serbia
Sets off chain of alliances around Europe and soon many countries (not all European) are at war
Germany sends Zimmerman Telegram to Mexico saying that if Mexico helps out Germany, the Germans will help Mexico take Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas back from USA
USA intercepts the telegram
April 4th 1917- USA declares war on Germany (almost 3 years after start of war)
June 1917 – first American soldier lands in France
May 1918 – Garey joins up and trains at UVM with other VT soldiers
September 1st- Garey lands in France
August 21st – Sept. 2nd 1918 – Second Battle of the Somme
November 11th 1918 – War ends (Armistice)
June 21st 1919 – Garey arrives back in the US
At the top of all of his letters, Garey wote his location which was always either “Somewhere in France” or “Camp de Meucon”. Camp de Meucon was located just outside of Vannes in the southern part of the region of Bretagne.
Camp de Meucon from the Musée de Bretagne
While reading Garey’s first letters from France, I was surprised to find that he didn’t talk too much about his own experiences. Instead, he talked about the weather a bit, asked after his neice, Ruth, and answered his family’s questions. I had assumed that once he got to France, he would talk about the trenches and the warfare and maybe even mention how nervous he was to actually fight. But for those first months, he did none of that. He did of course talk about some of the girls he kept in touch with.
October 8th, 1918
I sent a couple hankerchiefs in a letter to Bernice the other day. One is for you and one is for her. I also sent one to each Isabelle and Evalyn.
Novemer 1st, 1918
I received a bunch of mail last Wed. evening. 5 from you and 1 from each Isabelle, Evalyn, Lois, Mildred and Aunt Addie.
About the Project
James Eiler, Lauren Pidgeon and Hank Trimble are Hanover High students who worked at home throughout the spring, transcribing letters written by Garey Waterman home to his family during World War 1.Lauren spent the summer researching Garey’s story and will be sharing his story throughout the fall.