Florence Edith Hemphill, Army Nurse Corps (more letters follow)
Shared by: vwr42075
Nurse Hemphill’s Diaries Concordia, Kans. Dec. 17, 1917 Dear Olive & Mary: [Olive Hemphill, Meriden, Kansas] Well I am still here but don‟t know how soon I will be going. We had word this morning to hold ourselves in r eadiness for our transportations [sic] at any time. They said we had been selected for Foreign Service with [the] British Expeditionary Forces. Where that will land us I do not know. The nurses up here had gotten up a dinner party for us the other night expecting us in on that six o‟clock train and then we didn‟t come. They sure were disappointed...The girls had us over the next afternoon and gave us each a silver folding drinking cup in a leather case and a box of candy to be opened after we get on the train. The sisters at the hospital gave us a silver napkin clasp with our initials engraved on them.... _______________ New York, N.Y. Jan. 6, 1918 Dear Olive: Who would think that I would head a letter like that but one never knows do they? Well I arrived yesterday morning all right - didn‟t have one bit of trouble all the way through. Langley came over one day ahead of me and it was kind of a lonesome trip by myself but I met some mighty nice people on the train. We are stationed in a lovely place. It was a clubhouse called the Colonial Clubhouse and furnished in that style but has been turned into a mobilization station for nurses and later to be used as a hospital. It is all donated by one woman. There are about eighty nurses here now from all parts of the U.S. There are forty of us in the gymnasium and I dreamed last night that I was playing basketball. I guess it was the environment.... We didn‟t need to bring near all we did bring. They furnish us nearly everything - two dozen prs. of stockings, 1/2 doz. woolen - woolen underwear - suit - cape or coat - shoes 3 prs. heavy tan shoes - raincoats - uniforms of gray shambray [sic], please excuse misspelled words - hat - gloves and I don‟t know what all, so I may be sending home some things - they say we can‟t take any of our civilian clothes. I start out tomorrow to be fitted and then some time I have to go to Hoboken to have the paratyphoid serum. Langley has had one dose. We saw girl streetcar conductors to day. They had a rather neat uniform of kaki [sic] colored bloomers, leggings and long-tailed coats.... _______________ New York, N.Y. Jan. 15, 1918 Dear Olive: ...Have all of my equipment now. We are wearing our uniforms. They are certainly nice. We have blue serge suits and a heavy blue coat and a blue velour hat, a blue silk waist with white collar and cuffs. We wear the U.S. letters on the collar of our coats and also the caduceus. It looks something like this [drawing] with [ANC for] Army Nurse Corps. There are about a hundred and thirty nurses here now. One hundred of them belong to our unit which is called the British Exp. Forces There are about that many out at Ellis Island too. I sure am glad we didn‟t have to go out there. Went to the Hippodrome last week. I am sending you the program. It was simply grand. I never saw anything like it. We sat away up in the second balcony but there was a nice class of people up there and it only cost us fifty-five cents. Then one day we went over to the Statue of Liberty. Went on a ferry boat. We thought perhaps we wouldn‟t get to see it when we left as we will steal off in the middle of the night when we do go. We went to the aquarium too that afternoon. We saw every kind of fish there is, I think. Some of them were beautiful. There was a sealion there too and you can tell Sam I wouldn‟t want one to get very close to me. It just tore around all the time, jumping up out of the water and it would bark like a dog. There were turtles there too, big enough to ride on. Monday Langley and some of the other nurses went to Chinatown to a Chinese funeral. The mayor of Chinatown died. They said they had cooked food to bury with him also a bottle of wine and a deck of cards for amusement and a piece of money in his mouth to pay his passage over. We get to take out insurance papers. I don‟t know just exactly yet what they are but we can take out ten thousand dollars and it will only cost us a little over seven dollars a month. We also get to take out an accident policy and if we are disabled we get so much a month for the rest of our lives. Don‟t know how much longer we will be here but you can write here anyway and it will be forwarded. ________________ assigned to the British Expeditionary Force, they embarked on January 18, 1918 at Hoboken, New Jersey. [no date, but probably late January 1918] On Board Ship Yes I am actually on my way. It doesn‟t hardly seem possible but it is the truth. I can‟t tell you when we started, where we are nor the name of the ship, but you can see by the seal [on the stationary] that it is an English boat [Cunard Steamship Company] and we have English style too. We just now had afternoon tea. I will come back a regular Britisher. We are on a very nice boat and we have all the luxuries goings. Our eats are fine. It seems living again after a month at the “Martha Washington” [Hotel in New York]. ...We walk-run-and skip around the deck until I am afraid I will wear out my shoes. We had drill on deck this morning and I expect I will be good and stiff tomorrow.... __________________ “Somewhere” [no date, but probably mid February 1918] Dear folks at home: ...I hardly know what to write. If I could tell all I know and have seen I could write volumes but we aren‟t allowed to tell very much so it kind of takes the inspiration to write away. They say that there is land on both sides of us now but we won‟t really land until tomorrow. I certainly will be glad to get on solid earth once again. We certainly have been well guarded against submarines. Besides having boats on all sides of us we have had lifeboat drill every day and the last few days since we have been in the danger zone we have had to carry our life preservers with us every where we go even to our meals. I told Langley if you folks at home could see us all going around with our life belts you would have a fit but we don‟t think anything about it, even have a good time about it. We have all had a good time (while we weren‟t sick) and plenty of good things to eat since we have been on board. There are a lot of soldiers with this convoy too. We haven‟t been allowed to associate with the private soldiers but there are quite a good many officers on board. I have wished a hundred times that Clyde were with us. They had an auction sale one evening. Everyone donated some little thing and the proceeds went to the widows and orphans of English seamen. I wish you could have seen that sale. Things worth twenty-five cents sold for five or ten dollars. They made three hundred and fourteen dollars. Then another evening they gave a concert composed of the passengers and took up a collection and that amounted to quite a good bit. _______________ Feb. 18, 1918 Arrived safe and sound and have been out seeing the sights. We aren‟t to our journey‟s end yet but will be soon. I certainly will be glad to get to work and I guess we are going to have plenty of it where we go. You would think it was spring here to see the green grass but I am about to freeze to death. I don‟t see how the people here stand it all the time. I see children running around with bare legs and they don‟t seem to mind it.... Took a ride on a bus yesterday afternoon and saw all the different soldiers‟ uniforms. From all the countries. We saw several parades of Kilties and they were all different colored kilts. I suppose each clan has a different one. We saw some U.S. sailors on the street the morning we arrived and among them were some colored sailors. When they saw us they said “U.S. my but they look good to me.” Some of the nurses went to an American Y.M.C.A. hut last night and the boys there just about ate them up they were so glad to see them. They are going to take us around this afternoon to see some of the sights. _________________ [Edith is now assigned to #5 General Hospital, British Expeditionary Force, France] Somewhere in France [this letter was written on stationary headed “On Active Service with the British Expeditionary Force - and with the Y.M.C.A. logo] March 5, 1918 Dear Clyde: So I beat you over after all. When I got on the boat and found that there were troops on too I was so in hopes you might be there but I knew too that if you had entered the Officers Training camp you couldn‟t possibly be coming out yet. It wouldn‟t have been much good if you had been on the same boat and not have been an officer for we aren‟t allowed to associate with the private soldiers. I saw a boy one day doing guard duty on the boat that looked exactly like Walter Coleman. The boys mostly were from Wisconsin. There was a Captain Gagon in the Medical Corps on the boat that came from the same camp where you are. Did you ever hear of him? He had charge of the nurses in coming over. I suppose you heard of the Tuscania being sunk. They were just two days ahead of us and had the rest of the Wisconsin Division. We were [censored] days in crossing and have been delayed on account of measles among us. Miss Leonard from home took down with them after we got on the boat to come from England to France. We suppose she contracted them from some of the boys that were on the boat coming over. We have just started to work. It has been over two months now since I have been busy. We were in London three nights and had an air raid every night we were there. I wasn‟t in the least bit afraid - even went to bed the first two nights and went to sleep. There wasn‟t much damage done I hear as they have such a good system of defense against the air raids here. We nurses are all in the same place but divided up in groups among six different hospitals. There are quite a few hospitals all around close together. There is an American hospital just across the street from us. We went out for a walk yesterday and walked to a little village close here. Everything is so different from what it is at home. We visited a house which was built in 1554 and later belonged to a poet by the name of Pierre Corneille. It was furnished with furniture of that time. We are going sometime when we have time off and see the place where Joan of Arc was executed. It isn‟t far from here. On our way yesterday to the little village we went through what was one of Napoleon‟s training grounds. It doesn‟t seem possible, does it, that we should ever be in the same places where those people have been. There is a training ground close here and several of us nurses went and watched some of the cavalry drill the other day. They have all kinds of trenches and barbed wire entanglements around here. I suppose you have learned how to make them by now. I saw quite a few interesting things while in London. We took a bus ride and went to Putney. Saw the Thames river and crossed it. We went through Westminster Abbey and went to the Parliament buildings but didn‟t get to go in. Saw Buckingham Palace, the Old Curiosity Shop and the Temple Court built in 1140 by the Knight Templers. We thought we had a very large convoy in coming over but have learned since that it wasn‟t anything very big. There were thirteen boats when we started and then when we got to the danger zone we were met by [censored] little submarine destroyers. We certainly were glad the day they came up to us. We had life boat drill every day. We certainly were all ready for a submarine and I feel a little disappointed that we didn‟t get to see one. Of course I didn‟t want it to hit us but I would liked to have seen one. This letter is rather disjointed but I am sitting among a dozen or more English, Irish and Yankee nurses writing. The weather over here certainly is nasty. It has rained and snowed every day since we have come. I would advise you to bring the warmest clothing you can get when you come over. You certainly begin to realize there is a war on when you get over here. Every man you see is in uniform and then you see quite a good many wounded men on the streets. Nearly everyone is in uniform for that matter. Even the girls are doing their bit and have different uniforms. The day I arrived in France I saw all kinds of hydroplanes, aeroplanes and dirigible balloons. Well it will soon be time for me to go back on duty so I had better quit. ___________________ France, March 25, 1918 It is now 9:30 here and that means that it is just about 3:30 p.m. where you are. I wonder what you all are doing. I certainly would like to see you and the children. I certainly am glad I came although I am afraid it will ruin me for ever doing private nursing again. I certainly isn‟t like anything I ever did before. The boys [are] mostly English, Irish and Scotch, we haven‟t had any Americans here. They are certainly wonderful the way they endure pain without a word and are just as cheerful as can be. They can‟t be beaten that‟s all. They are so grateful for everything you do for them too. Thank you for everything, even a dose of castor oil. There has been some heavy fighting the last few days. I expect some of our boys are in that as there are some of them at the front. They say that the Germans or Jerrys as the boys call them have a gun that has a range of seventy five miles [the so-called Paris Gun] and that they are shelling the capitol of F. It seems an impossibility, doesn‟t it. Everyone here has their wind up about it. That “has their wind up‟ is a common expression here. Everyone uses it for being excited. Talk about American slang they aren‟t in it. The English use as much slang as we do. “Carry On” is another expression used a great deal over here - the same as go ahead or keep right on - keep going. Everyone here carries a stick, that is all but the Americans, and some of our girls have gotten themselves one. Langley has one and the other day we had a letter come from the chief nurse and she said we were not to carry canes. Well, that afternoon Langley went to town and took her stick and who should she meet but Mrs. Daily the chief nurse. I don‟t care about carrying one myself, but I thought I would get one to bring home as a souvenir. I wish Dr. Kline would come over here. It would certainly be a fine experience for him. The few operations they did at home seem nothing compared to what they do here. One M.O. [medical officer] did seventy five here himself yesterday. It‟s all day long until one & two o‟clock at night. March 30  Started this letter nearly a week ago and haven‟t had a chance to finish it. Have been mighty busy. Have been transferred to another ward - all heavy cases - mostly chest cases with other things besides such as leg amputations, etc. Had several new Sisters [British Nursing Sisters] come today and they could use a good many more. We haven‟t heard a word what our boys are doing at the front but of course they are doing their share...Well, it is almost time for me to go to my dinner which is 3:30 a.m. __________________ France, April 11, 1918 My dear Olive: Received your letter this evening and you may be sure I was glad to get it. It was dated March 25th so wasn‟t so very long in coming was it. That is the first I have gotten since you knew I was here. Do you know what part of France I am in? You would know if you knew your history very well. I would like to send you some postcards but guess that is against the rule. Am going to get some of the places I see and bring them home with me. ...I am still on night duty. Not so rushed as we were a while back but still pretty busy. I have all chest cases and they are hard. Yes Langley and I were in the same hut with Miss Lory and Miss Arthur from Indianapolis but our happy home is broken up now as Miss Arthur and myself are on night duty and our places are taken by some nurses or V.A.D.‟s, I don‟t know which, from South Africa. That is what you might have come as a V.A.D. [*Voluntary Attached Duty]. They do all kinds of work from scrubbing to taking care of the patients. They sure work hard but I am afraid you wouldn‟t like it for you ought to see their hands, poor things, they look like boiled lobsters and mine are getting that way. I don‟t know what they will look like in the winter. The nurses that have been here in the winter have chilblains on their hands and feet. If you think bully beef and biscuit is slang you are mistaken, that is everyday language. I have eaten of both and they weren‟t so bad but I wouldn‟t like a steady diet of it. Here are some of the slang words used here - I don‟t know how they are spelled but this is the way they sound. Buckshe, meaning an extra one, for example if they all have had a piece of bread and butter and there is a piece [left] over that is a Buckshe piece. Then Tres bon (tra bon) & champions means fine in our language and in the English quite fit. They also say Toot sweet for immediately. That is a French word so it isn‟t spelled that way but that is the way it sounds. Then another great expression of theirs is “getting the wind up.” I got the wind up a minute ago. I thought I heard some one calling Sister in a tone of voice like something dreadful was the matter and I went flying down the length of the ward but everything was quiet. So it must have been in some of the other wards. When I am not busy I stay in what is called the “Bunk.” We would call it in civil life an office but here it is spoken of entirely as the bunk. We have the cutest little stove you ever saw. It looks like a toy stove but it keeps the room warm. The only trouble is you have to keep putting coal in all the time. The coal bucket is larger than the stove itself. You ought to see me drink tea. We have it for meals and then two and three times between. The English girls drink it just before they go to bed and the first thing [when] they get up. They also smoke cigarettes too and don‟t seem to think anything about it. I have met some mighty nice girls among them and then some I don‟t care anything about but you can do that at home. They think we are so pale. They all or nearly all have very rosy cheeks. Too red to suit me for when it is cold they are almost purple. I wouldn‟t mind a little though. There are lots of flowers in bloom over in the forest. Some of the prettiest little flowers. Primroses and daisies and lilies of the valley. Then all long the roads the fir is in bloom. There is a convoy in so I may be pretty busy before the night is over. I hear the ambulances going past now. Well, it is half past eleven and time for me to go to tea. Back again. Had tea and bread & butter and jam. That is another thing I have learned to eat. I never touched jam when I was home but here I eat it all the time. They have good jam too. Say, Olive, you don‟t need to send me the Ladies Home Journal or Companion either. There is an awful lot of mail sent over for the soldiers anyway. There was a piece in the paper the other day saying it took eleven trains to haul the American mail, so many packages were sent over. The French trains aren‟t very big anyway, they look like toy trains compared to ours. Haven‟t been able to go to town lately as there are some cases of smallpox in town and we are not allowed to go. _______________ *Voluntary Aid Detachments were formed in England in 1909 to organize transportation, set up field kitchens and provide supplies for improvised hospital trains. “Above all,” writes Lyn MacDonald in The Roses of No Man‟s Land, the women “were to be trained in the art of improvisation.” There was a certain amount of condescension shown toward the hospital V.A.D.s by American nurses France May 26, 1918 My dear Olivia: ...That was quite a picture you sent me. The girls all thought it was fine. I wish you could see some of the drawing some of the boys do here. Some of them are just fine. I haven‟t many in mine yet. The patients in my ward as a rule have only one hand to do anything with. One boy drew a picture in one of the girls‟ books of the last Sister waiting to take care of the last man. It was certainly fine but terribly ugly. Went for a walk in the forest this morning. It certainly is beautiful - great big ferns around each tree - I sent a bit in my last letter to you but the censor may have thrown it out. I think this is my last night on night duty and I won‟t be a bit sorry either. Have just come up from my other ward. They aren‟t very sick down there and they do have some good times. They have just been singing some of their songs for me and I wish you could have heard. I would like to have some of them. There is a constant rumble tonight and the hut shakes ever once in a while. Whether the big offensive has started or not I do not know. Have been looking for it for some time. Isn‟t it terrible the Huns bombing hospitals? I was afraid you folks at home might think it was ours or perhaps they didn‟t publish it in the papers at home. There is nothing too mean for them to do - the Huns, I mean. They think they can come over here and do anything they want to but just let them get a taste of it and they squeal like pigs which they are. You ought to be thankful you can go to a box supper and have good things to eat. I wish I could have just one of those boxes. Wouldn‟t chicken, etc. taste good though. Wish I weren‟t so far so you could send me a box like you did Clyde. I would be like Sam. I would eat it all myself and not give anyone else a bite. May 31 [continued] Here several days have passed and I haven‟t finished this letter yet. Quite a lot has happened too since then. Came off night duty Monday. Miss Thomas and I went down town and didn‟t get back until 12:30. went to bed and got up at 2 p.m. and went over to a concert at No. 9 Hosp. It was given entirely by the Amer. boys over there and it certainly was fine. They are a fine lot of boys over there and it does ones heart good to see them and hear them. Then we had tea out on the lawn afterwards. Tuesday was our big day though we took a trip down the Seine to La Bouille [postcard], a little village but the prettiest place. It certainly was a lovely trip. The villages consist of just one row of houses facing the river with the high hills behind them and oh so many beautiful flowers and great big trees in bloom. When we got off the boat it was about noon so we started out to find some place to get something to eat. We were told there was a nice place to eat at the tope of the hill. It was quite a climb but we sure were well repaid for our climb. It was an awful nice place with tables out under the trees. And such a dinner. I don‟t know when things tasted so good. It was served in course. First we had an omelet and bread, no butter. Next came fish and my it was good with melted butter and parsley. Then we had a broiled steak and French fried potatoes. Last we had Swiss cheese with jelly. Did you ever try eating jelly on cheese. Try it sometime it isn‟t half bad. It was the best jelly I think I ever tasted. I think it was strawberry but it had a flavor like the smell of flowers. After we had eaten we took a walk about three miles winding up a will that led to the Castle of Robert the Devil [postcard]. It was just the ruins of the castle but was interesting. We went up into one of the towers and looked out of the slits they used as windows and imagined the men of long ago looking out to see where the enemy was or Lady So & So watching her lover as he rides away. How is that? This castle was built in the 11th century. Robert the Devil sure had an eye to beauty when he located there for there certainly was a beautiful view from the castle. Will send you a postcard of it. [continued] June 2nd I have a new hat. You ought to see it and see me in it. It is perfectly plain with a round crown and a rather narrow brim - sort of a brownish gray with a strap that comes down under my chin - weight five pounds [obviously a British model steel helmet]. Have been on day duty now for several days. Have charge of three huts & two marquees [tents] - all skin cases. About a hundred and fifty patients but have three V.A.D.‟s and several orderlies so it isn‟t so very hard. Am out of doors more and my cold is nearly well. I see you know where I am all right. Saw several navy boys on the street the other day. Did I tell you we had ripe strawberries the other day. They have been on the market for some time. Langley and I went down town the day before Memorial Day and ordered a wreath to be made of red, white & blue flowers and we had it put on the graves of the American unknown dead that are buried here. All the nurses here at #5 Gen. gave it. The nurses from the Amer. Hosp. decorated the other graves. They held a memorial service out there in the afternoon. I saw the boys from #9 General marching past. Well, it is time I was getting to bed. It is a little after ten and hasn‟t been dark very long. It is still quite light at 9:30. _________________ France June 11th 1918 Dear May & Olive ...I went to a circus today - a real American circus - with all the clowns & strong men, etc. It was given by the American unit at #12 General. It was all farce but mighty funny. The nurses gave a Maypole dance that was very pretty. [check on photo] It always makes me homesick when I go where there are a lot of Americans. I wish I were with them. Well I bought myself a pair of slippers the other day. They aren‟t bad looking and are very comfortable. I wish you could see me trying to make the people in the shop understand what I want. I bought a piece of music I‟m sending it to you. It is a very popular piece with the Tommies. The whole ward sings it morning, noon & night and you hear it as the men march off to go to the front. Well I ought to be going to bed for no telling when I may have to get up and pull on my rubber boots and don my new hat and tear out for the trenches. We sure appreciate a night when we can stay in bed all night. We are having days off again. Several of the Amer. girls have theirs tomorrow. I don‟t know what I will do on my day off. There are several places I want to go. Don‟t you worry about my smoking cigarettes. I have gotten a little used to seeing the English girls do it but I can‟t say it makes me think any better of them. ________________ France June 20, 1918 Dear Folks at Home: ...I had a day off Monday and Miss Arthur and Miss Richardson, one of the English Sisters, and myself took our dinners and went to Bon Secours [postcard]. We had intended going on to St. Adrian too but got lost on the way. After we had seen all there was to see at Bon Secours we asked the way to St. Adrian and a woman told us to take the road and it would be about an hours walk. Well we started out and walked and walked. Finally we thought we were coming to a little village but when we got to it we found it was still Bon Secours. We had just been winding around the hill. So we got on the car and came home. There was a concert in the evening anyway at Con.[valescent] Camp so we went to that. They played David Garrick. I heard that once at home on the Lecture Course. It was real good. Last night we went to another concert over there given by the patients mostly. They have some pretty good talent among the boys. There is to be a concert here this evening but it commences at 8 p.m. so if I go I will have to go without my supper as I am on duty until 8 p.m. One of my patients is a painter by trade and he has been making scenery for a week or more. We are going to do something the 4th of July. We aren‟t sure yet but we think all the American nurses are going together and give the Amer. enlisted men a dinner. Perhaps there will be a ball game too. So you can see we don‟t work all the time. I have a new eiderdown comfort. Only had to pay $5 for it postage and all. Miss Thomas has a sister living in Cornwall, Eng. and she got them for us. It is just the thing for this next winter. I expect I will wish I had two or three of them for I am still sleeping with three blankets and my comfort. It is nice and warm during the day but gets rather cool at night. This is Geen.[?] Alexander day and everyone is wearing an imitation of a wild rose. We were all given one to wear too. It was started like our tag day at home for the Red Cross.... [Red Cross tag] ________________ [partial letter written on small cards, pages missing, probably late June 1918] ...was just reading in today‟s paper where King George had reviewed the U.S. troops in London. I wonder if by any chance Clyde was among them. Too bad Clyde didn‟t get a commission [as an officer] but the training won‟t be all in vain. The sky is quite light in the northeast again tonight and we can hear a gun once in a while. Olive, I will tell you what you can send over if ever they allow packages to be sent again and that is coffee - the powdered kind that all you need to do is add hot water. I bought a pound of coffee sometime ago but I never have the energy to make it. Mother said in her letter that she had sent Clyde a box and he never had gotten it. She even told what was in it and it made my mouth water to think of it. We are fed good but the same things gets tiresome after awhile. [?] the one dated April 14th That A.N.C. stands for Army Nurse Corps and it isn‟t necessary to put on [the envelope]. I noticed you had put American Nurse Corps and it might cause some delay in the letters. Two of mine that were addressed just as plain as could be had written on the outside in red not known at U.S. Base Hospital #3. Once before happened too so evidently some of my letters travel around over France before I get them. You asked why those huts were made the way they were. I think it is because they can be taken down and put together again in a hurry, if we should have to pick up and leave sometime in a hurry they could be taken along. They are fastened together with bolts - no nails used. The Hun huts [prisoners of war] are bolted together too, no nails used anywhere. No, I don‟t have any German patients and I am very thankful for I am afraid I couldn‟t do it with a very good grace. Have you ever heard this? A V.A.D. got it off today and she said she got it from an American but I never heard it before. Why is a dog with a broken tail better off than other dogs? Well most dogs have their day but a dog with a broken tail has a weak end. ______________ France June 24, 1918 Dear Folks at home: ....This evening we had a meal to equal all. We had company for supper, some of the high scribes were here. We had soup, meat pie, new potatoes & peas, cherries & a fruit salad. It has been misting rain all evening. It has rained quite a little lately but it is dusty again in no time. I treated my boys to strawberries yesterday. It took almost my last cent but it was worth it. They certainly enjoyed it. Some of them said that they were the first berries they had had since they came to France and that was three years for some of them. We will be getting our leave some time soon now. It is due the last of July. I don‟t know yet where I will go. I would like to go to Scotland. Someone was saying we wouldn‟t be allowed to go to England on account of the scarcity of food. I had one of the graduation announcements of C.H.T.S. [?] the other day. I don‟t see how I ever got it as it was addressed with A.E.F. [American Expeditionary Forces] France. No hospital or anything and I got it all right. I believe if you would put No. 5 General instead of #5 I would get my mail sooner. I don‟t think they know what that sign stands for over here. They are sent all around to several hospitals before I get them. You can send parcels to me because I am with the B.E.F. It is just to the A.E.F. that they can‟t be sent without a written order. The boys in the marquee where I am have been decorating the ground on the outside. They have a big American flag and the Union Jack crossed and above it they have Liberty U.S.A. and they did have 1790. They thought that was the date of the Declaration of Independence. They were made to take that away though, so now they have 1917 instead. Then they have a big American eagle and said they were going to put the Goddess of Liberty in front. I told them they better not as it wasn‟t an American hospital but English and they said what did that matter. Wasn‟t an American Sister taking care of them. They make the designs from rocks and glass. They are very nice. The boys are just like so many children. They hand around and talk & ask questions about America. Sometimes when I go around to give medicines it is hard to get away. One of my Jocks gave me his kilt. It is a Gordon kilt. They wear blue suits while they are patients and their clothes are put in the stores. When they are marked for Con.[valescent] Camp or Blighty [Great Britain] they can go get their things. I wondered how he was going to work it about getting something to leave in but when he went after his things he put one kilt away up under his arms and put his tunic on over it and then carried the other in his hand. June 25th There are two American boys here in the eye ward. I went over to see them today. One of them was from Kansas but away out near the Colorado line. The other was from Louisiana. We had string beans tonight for supper. You notice I didn‟t say stringed for they weren‟t. They would have been mighty good if they only had taken the stems & ends off. Margaret, I would be glad to have you send those comforts and if they couldn‟t be used in the hospital I know some nurses that would be tickled to death to have one. If you folks ever want to send anything for the boys just send money to me and I can buy things over here. They certainly need something extra for they just live on bully beef & biscuit when on the line. That is the reason so many of them have skin diseases. We are getting new aprons and collars from the Red Cross so I won‟t need mine from home. I had six aprons made in town and have lost two of them. I don‟t know where they went to. ______________ France July 1st 1918 Dear Olive: ...went out in the forest this evening and had tea, Miss Thomas and Miss Burkett and myself. We took a little tea kettle of water and a spirit lamp and made the tea out there. We also had tinned fish, bread, marmalade and some real ripe peaches. After tea we lay down and had a snooze. It certainly is beautiful in the forest. ...I didn‟t tell you did I that I had ordered my summer hat from Paris. It‟s a little late to be buying a summer hat but we didn‟t know we could have one until a short time ago. They are black, stiff straw sailors with a rather large crown and not very wide brim - have a band of ribbon around the crown with a tailored bow at side. Hope it will be here before the Fourth as we are going to have some big day. Go over to No. 12 Hospital about 2 p.m. and march from there to some athletic ground where there is to be a baseball game. Then down town for dinner and the theatre afterwards. There is a concert company coming from Paris especially for us. There are some new U.S. officers here. They acted like they were tickled to death to see us. They said they had no idea when they were told they were to be with the British they would find some American girls with them. The men said when they first heard they were to be with the B.E.F. they just went up in the air but now they think they are in clover. The officers in the British army have Batsmen that polish their boots and bring them tea in the morning before they are out of bed and so on. I don‟t blame them for liking it, do you? Well, I must be getting to bed for no telling what time of the night I might have to get up and on my little gray bonnet and take a stroll down Broadway, enjoying the stars and the moon and, of, I forgot to tell you we had broiled steak with onions today for lunch. My but it was good. We thought we surely must be winning the war. We have had better meals though lately. Have a new Sister in the mess. ______________ France Friday, July 19, 1918 Dear Olive: Have about a half hour before I have to commence taking temperatures so will try and write you a little. My! but it is warm, but we haven‟t had much warm weather. One day it will be cold & the next day hot. I keep out both a winter and summer gown and use them both about the same. It has rained every day for nearly two weeks. It will be just as nice and sunshiny [sic] and the first thing you know it is pouring down rain. Went out into the forest day before yesterday and had tea and just before we were ready to start home it clouded up and began to thunder. Well we started on our way and when we got about half way home it began to rain. It just simply poured down and hailed too. We were soaked to the skin. I see by today‟s paper where the French and Americans have been having good success on the front. I always knew the Americans would do something once they got started. The boys in the ward get the paper every morning and they are always glad if they can tell me anything about the Americans. We had quite a fire here the other evening. The concert hall & church over at Con. Camp burned down. They had had a concert in the evening and they suppose a cigarette was dropped. All the instruments of the orchestra were lost. We certainly will miss it as that was our chief amusement going over there to the concerts. I was awake last night in the night and could hear the guns rumbling quite plainly. It seems when the atmosphere is heavy we can hear them plainer. Have two little discs given me the other day with my name and religion stamped on that I am supposed to wear around my neck. They make a beautiful [?] but I have deposited them in my tin hat and will put them on both together. I think we have hit on a plan to get some of our parcels from America. Things can be sent to England from America and from England to France. So Miss Thomas, my roommate, has a mother & some sisters living in England and she is going to see if things can‟t be sent to her and then on to us. Won‟t that be a good scheme? Didn‟t get this finished before I came off duty. Got off at 5 p.m. Had tea and then walked over to the Medical Base Depot to get a money order to pay for that book I sent you called the V.A.D. in France. Did I ever write you about it? The book describes things here better than I could. I sent it to Chanute [KS] so the folks will have to send it to you. Then we walked over to the Canteen and I bought three dozen boxes of matches for my boys. Back in time to have a bath before dinner. Since dinner I have put some clothes to soak. I let them soak for two or three days in naphtha. Soap then rinse them out and that‟s all the washing they get. Polished two pairs of shoes and now finishing this letter. Oh yes, visited with Langley for about a half and hour before she went on duty.... ______________ France Aug. 1, 1918 Dear Olive: My! but I am sleepy. How would you like to go to bed at night and be awakened by the booming of guns and the blowing of whistles and bugles. We sure had a night of it last night, just three different alarms. The first one I got up and put on a few clothes and went back to bed. Things quieted down and I was just thinking of taking off my things when I heard the whirring of the Boche [German] airplanes and I hopped out immediately and pulled on my rubber boots and identification tags and tin hat and headed to the trenches. We make quite a sight. Dark figures coming from all directions. It reminds me of pictures I have seen of the Klu Klux Clan [sic]. Ann, that is Miss Thomas, said to tell you if you were over here she would give you a handful of small change. She only has a Dorothy [see below] bag full. We were all paid our field allowance the other night and she came along at the last and got all the small change. She has just been counting it. I told her she reminded me of a miser. We got 596.60 francs for March, April, May & June. The British government gives us that. That is one advantage of being with the B.E.F.‟s I am going to save mine to go on leave with. Yes I am sweating on leave as the men say. Sister Evans, the sweetest Irish girl, has written to her people in Ireland and wants me to go there. We have to give an address of someone before we can go to any of the British Isles. After we once get there we will go on to Scotland and see the sights. A Dorothy bag is a little bag made out of cotton with tape in the top to draw it up that are given to the men when they enter the hospital to out their small kit in....Do you know that Harry Lauder isn‟t thought much of over here. I have had both Scotch and English boys tell me the same thing. They said they wouldn‟t go across the street to hear him. I sure would. Aug. 2nd [continued] Didn‟t get this finished yesterday so will make a new start. Am having a half day today. I found a few stamps in my stamp book so I will send them to you. I intended to [in] the last letter I wrote but forgot them. Am going to put a picture in that one of my boys drew in my book. He is off for “Blighty” and that is just the way a good many of them look. Especially those that can walk. When they go as stretcher cases they just wear pajama suits. ______________ France Aug. 8, 1918. Dear May & Family: ...I think about you all often even if I don‟t write. It is the hardest thing for me to do it seems. When I am off duty there is usually something to do or someplace to go or someone is sitting around in your room talking. The patients gave a concert the other night and it was simply fine. It was so good they were asked to give it again tonight. They were mostly boys from our wards - skin patients. Have one boy in my place that is a piper. Have to massage his hand every day. He has his bagpipes with him and if I could swipe them I would. They are some of the same tartans as my kilt. We have quite a few Scotchmen in the hospital just now. Have three Americans in our part too. One is a great big backward boy from West Virginia. He has lived in the country all his life. He says he wants to go home. He has a girl at home. The boys say he sleeps with her picture under his pillow all the time. He will be all right if he sticks to that for there will be very few that will. You see them running around with these French girls all the time and they say lots of them are marrying these Waacs [Women‟s Auxiliary Army Corps - British]. And I have never heard a Tommy speak a good word for a Waac yet. Of course I stick up for the Waac‟s when the boys are talking but I would have to have any relatives of mine belonging to them. They are a rough looking set. They wear their dresses up to their knees and very seldom do they have petticoats on. We can hear the guns quite distinctly out here this afternoon. Seems we can hear them plainer out in the forest or on a day when the atmosphere is heavy. Haven‟t our boys been doing good work though. I am glad they are making good but I didn‟t expect anything else. They say the French people just idolize our boys. They can have anything they want. That isn‟t the way they treated the English Tommy though. The boys say man a time they have taken the handle off their pumps so they [the soldiers] couldn‟t get a drink of water. The people in the shops too don‟t care whether they wait on them or not. One place where we had our hair mashed [?] the man told one of our E.[nglish] Sisters that he didn‟t care for their patronage. But just the same, they are getting rich off the British people. Aug. 10th [continued] Didn‟t get this finished the other day. Will make another attempt. Langley and I are living together once more. The two Miss Thomas have been friends for years so we just traded around. We are quite busy again. Convoys coming in thick and fast but the boys are sure cheerful for the last thing they saw of Jerry [Germans] he was on the run. Some of them were telling about the way they surprised the Boche. They had been just ready to eat when they had to leave in a hurry. The tea was still hot when the Tommies got there. Well it is time I washed my face and went to bed. Hope I get a better night‟s rest tonight. We were disturbed quite a little last night by first one thing and another. I sometimes am glad I am not an English Sister for they never know what minute they are going to pack up and leave. Last night two of them in the room next to us were called in the wee small hours to get up and pack and leave immediately for up the line. They take everything with them even their beds. Write once in a while. ______________ France Aug. 16, 1918 Dear Olive: My such a glorious afternoon we have had. Miss Thomas and I are having our half day and I had wanted to go to town but she persuaded me to come to the forest and have our tea. Ann brought her raincoat and we spread it on the ground and I gathered a lot of bracken and took off my apron and made a pillow of it and a nice smelly pillow it made too. Two American boys went past us awhile ago with their arms around two French girls. It made me so mad I could have gone out and beat up on them. Then about a half hour later they came back alone and walked right up close. We were making our tea and they had the impudence to say “having your tea, girls.” If we hadn‟t seen them go by with the French girls we might have invited them to have tea with us. They looked as if they might have been up the line. Their clothes were soiled looking and their boots muddy. I wish our boys would let these French girls alone but then you can‟t expect them all to be angels just because they are Americans. You wanted to know where I wore my new fall hat [steel helmet]. Well just about midnight or a little sooner we are awakened from our peaceful slumbers by shrieking whistles. We jump out of bed, pull on a few clothes, don our hats and sally forth to stand in the trenches that zigzag all over the place. They are just wide enough for one person to stand or sit in and come just a little above our heads. It is quite interesting to watch the searchlights in the sky and hear the anti aircraft guns booming and see the shells bursting and hear the hum-hum of the Boche plane as he tries to get through the barrage. We used to do that but for the last few nights we have been going to our wards. Now don‟t get the wind up as the men say for there is nothing to be afraid of. I only wish he [the enemy] wouldn‟t disturb our nights sleep. This doesn‟t happen every night though. Just enough to let us know they are still on the job. Perhaps I ought not to write this. I wouldn‟t if I thought that Mother was going to read it but it is quiet back here compared to what it is up nearer the front. What do you know about them turning loose that gas over there. Haven‟t they got their nerve. The people there will have to wear gas masks.... ______________ France Sept. 12, 1918 Dear Olive: I have missed connection somewhere. The last letter I had from you was dated July 29th and you were still at the hospital [Olive was in nurses‟ training]. The today I get a letter dated Aug. 7th and you are at home talking of getting ready to go somewhere. I suppose you are going to a military training school from what you say but where and what. I see a letter for Miss Thomas from you too. She isn‟t here just now, but I expect her back some time soon. She and Effie Thomas & Miss Arthur have gone up to a C.C.S. [?] for a short time. Wish I were with them but maybe my time will come. I had a letter from Ann yesterday and they had gone for a walk and visited the trenches of the both the Allies & the Germans where they had been fighting just two weeks ago. They saw several dead Boche lying about that hadn‟t been buried yet. They live in a small bell tent with a trench in the middle so that if there were an air raid or anything they could jump down into the trench. Ann said she was sitting on her cot with her feet hanging off into her grave. They even have to stand down in it when they dress for you know a bell tent isn‟t very large although the men say that sixteen of them sleep in one sometimes. They must be packed in like sardines. There is one pole in the center and they all lie with their feet toward the pole. I surely didn‟t make myself very clear about the kilt. The boy that gave me his kilt wasn‟t the same one that started to climb the pole. Even he had a kilt on but he didn‟t have anything on under the kilt. Do you understand? Two of our girls were taken over by the American unit No.9 yesterday. I suppose in time we all will be transferred to the Americans. Several have now. I will be glad in a way although I know our own boys can‟t beat the English boys as patients. And they have been so nice to us too. If it hadn‟t been for the boys we were taking care of we wouldn‟t have enjoyed it very much. We got some new aprons the other day - also some new collars & cuffs so I won‟t need those from home. There are lots of German prisoners working here putting up a new ward building. The lazy things. I would like to have a hold of one of the guards guns for awhile. I bet some of them would feel the point of the bayonet a few times. Am sending you one of the letters I received from one of my boys just to let you see how nice they are. They date their letters differently than we do ours. They put the day first then the month. [in a P.S.] Just a little bit of lavender [still extant]. ______________ October 6, 1918 Dear May: I certainly am ashamed of myself for not writing. I think everyday I will write and something happens that I don‟t get to it. Our room seems to be the meeting place for all of the Yanks. When I do have a minute‟s time there is always someone here. So this evening there are three of us sitting around the fire writing. I wish you could see our stove. It is about the size of a small box. We burn oil in it when we can swipe a little. They haven‟t commenced to issue us any yet and that is another reason for my not writing. Often it is too cold to do anything else but crawl into bed. It has been pretty cold for the last week or two. I don‟t see what I will do when it gets really cold. I just expect to freeze to death. Maybe the war will be over though. The men all say it will be over by Christmas. I hope they are right. Poor things, they just can‟t bear the thoughts of being out here another winter. The most of them would just do anything to get out of it. They are fed up, they say, and I don‟t see how they have stood it as long as they have. I got the coffee and it sure was fine. Its all gone. I gave the last of it to one of the English Sisters to make coffee for one of her American boys that has had his foot off. We had several parties with it. Miss Evans, an Irish girl that is in the room next to us, was in one night and I made some coffee and the next night she came in and said “You aren‟t going to have coffee tonight are you.” She said it was the best coffee she had had since she left home. I made some candy - divinity - in the ward one evening and maybe you think the boys didn‟t enjoy it. We got three pounds of sugar a piece from the American commissary and one of the girls got a can of Caro [Karo] syrup from the American canteen and she let me have a cup of it and I made part of my sugar up into candy. I am going to use the rest to make some for Clyde. We haven‟t had an air raid for so long. We have almost forgotten there is such a thing. I expect they are keeping Jerry so busy up the line he doesn‟t have time for us. I hope he never comes back for it rather keeps one on a strain thinking they will have to get up in the middle of the night and dress. We have had quite a good many Americans in this last week. They are mostly from N.Y. and N. Carolina. I am glad we are getting some of them for that was the one thing I hated about being with the B.E.F. that we weren‟t getting to take care of our own boys. They are mighty glad to see us too. If you want to send some money for the boys you can just send a bill and I can get it exchanged over here. I am going to spend part of my money on gramophone records. Miss Dunlop, My V.A.D., bought a gramophone for the men to use and they sure do enjoy it. Am sending the children some handkerchiefs. _______________ October 6, 1918 Dear Olive: I expect you will think I have forgotten you. I haven‟t written anyone for the last two weeks. It seemed like the fates were against me. Every time I would think I had a little time to write some one would come in and talk and I couldn‟t possibly get a letter written. So tonight I told Langley I was going to shut the door and lock it so I could get some letters written. I have only had one letter from Clyde [Clyde Russell Hemphill, 11th Infantry Regiment, 5th Division] since he came over and that was dated a month ago. One doesn‟t need to think much about what might be happening all the time or they would lose their minds. I sure am glad to be busy. We had had quite a good many Americans in this last week. Some of them are seriously wounded, some gassed and some just slightly wounded. I am so glad we are getting to take care of some of them anyway. They are mighty nice boys and they are so glad to see someone from home. They are fighting with the British and that is how they happen to come here. They haven‟t time to separate them [at the clearing stations]. Am having a new dress made to go on leave with. The nurses that came over first had blue serge dresses instead of their suits and they are mighty fine looking so several of us are having one made. Its going to cost me 140 francs but they will be nice and warm to wear under our big coats this winter. I expect you live just about like we do only we don‟t have a sleeping porch or a victrola and it won‟t be quite so cold. How do you like being in a military hospital [Olive was at Camp Jackson, South Carolina]. I know you like it lots better that Christ‟s. I wonder if you will get any of the boys that will be sent back to the U.S. Langley said to tell you not to be too swank just because you were in a military hospital. Most of the U.S. boys here are from New York and N. Carolina. I had one boy in my ward that had been in Camp Jackson awhile.... ______________ October 24, „18 Dear Olive: Aren‟t you ashamed of yourself talking about going to dances and out to dinner and so forth while poor me sits at home in a little two by four beside a stove about as big as your hand. And all the different men too. I would be ashamed. We don‟t dare do such things. We would scandalize the British army. It is strictly against the rules to go to dinner with an officer. In the American hospitals though two couples may have dinner downtown together but just one can‟t. Too bad we can‟t be trusted, isn‟t it? A bunch of us nurses can‟t even go to a concert across the road after dark without a chaperone. We have to be in by eight o‟clock but I wouldn‟t want to be out after dark anyway. I have been downtown once or twice after dark and you feel out of place. There are so many men around - all nationalities - good and bad - that you feel just a little bit afraid. You can‟t guess what four of us bought. You couldn‟t guess in a hundred years. An oven. We got so hungry for some good biscuits and things that we decided we would make some for ourselves. So one day Miss McGuire and I went downtown and we hunted all over Rouen until we found what we wanted. We sure had a time trying to make them understand what we wanted. We were just about to give up in despair when I happened to see one and it was just the thing. It fits our little stove to perfection. So the other night we had a party down here in our room and Miss McGuire made biscuits and we had coffee and jam. My but they were good. The first I have had since leaving home. We are going up to Miss McGuire‟s room tonight and two nurses from No. 9 Hosp. are coming over and we are going to have cornmeal muffins. We talk about having cornbread and pancakes as if they were delicacies but it is things like those we crave most. We do miss our own home cooking. We get plenty to eat but it is always the same. I don‟t believe the English do much cooking besides meat & potatoes and carrots. We had some canned corn the other night and the English girls had never eaten any before. Some of them liked it and others thought it would make a good pudding. Imagine. We have cauliflower and cheese for dessert regularly, once a week. You ought to see my new overseas cap. It is just like the boys‟ caps only blue. They will be fine for this winter. An American nurse died here the other day [check on]. She had just come over. Two of their number died in England and she out here. We went to the cemetery for the burial and there were two U.S. boys buried too at the same time, all in one grave. The ceremony was quite simple but very impressive. They had the firing of the guns and the last post. We are having a lot of that influenza over here. It is dreadful. They are bad right from the start. We are going to be issued the capes. I am certainly glad for I think they are very good looking. Swank, as the English say. _______________ France November 18, 1918 Dear Folks at Home: ...My, a week ago today was an exciting day [Armistice, November 11, 1918]. The people here just went wild. Langley and I had a half day and went downtown - such a crowd. It was worse than a Fourth of July celebration at home. It lasted for about three days & nights. I was glad to be home by dark for it was getting wilder every minute and you can imagine the number of drunk people when wines, etc. flow like water and is drunk more than water. Didn‟t things come to an end suddenly though. I didn‟t expect it to end yet for awhile. I don‟t know when we will be coming home but I don‟t suppose it will be long. I suppose we will be the first as we are with the British and they won‟t be needing us much longer. I am sorry I didn‟t get up to the front. I would like to see “No Man‟s Land.” The Miss Thomases and Miss Arthur are back and Miss Thomas brought me a large shell case and one of my boys gave me another to match it. My box hasn‟t come yet but I expect it will be here some of these days. I sure will be glad to get those stockings as I have chilblains on nearly every toe and the bottoms of my feet as well. They aren‟t too bad yet though just nice and fat. I have one on one of my fingers too. I haven‟t heard anymore from Clyde. I sure wish he would write oftener. I see by today‟s paper that his division [5th U.S.] is to be one of the divisions for army of occupation. I wouldn‟t mind that if I were he.... ______________ France November 24 „18 Dear Olive: ...There isn‟t much to write about only my work and [you] now have enough of that without hearing about mine. We don‟t even have the officers to go out with, even a “loot” (second) [lieutenant]. There are a few American officers here but they are all married and the English ones are the limit. They are married too but that doesn‟t make much difference. They are not my style. We aren‟t allowed to go any place with them either. It is against the rules of the British army for the nurses to go to dinner downtown with an officer and a dance they hold up their hands in horror. The day the Armistice was signed the officers from the Royal Engineers base came over and asked Matron if they gave a dance could we come and she was shocked to think they would ask such a thing. They did give a concert the other night and served tae and cakes and invited us over. It was very nice. But tea is the most exciting thing they can do here. The Americans were going to have a Thanksgiving dinner downtown and have turkey and things but we were told we couldn‟t as it was against the rules of the British army. ...I wish you could have seen Langley just now. We have visits from mice every evening and one was in her kit bag and she went over and shook it and the mouse jumped out. I don‟t know which was more scared, the mouse or Langley. The bugle is sounding “Lights out” so I guess I had better quit. This pen isn‟t much good but I took it down today and tried to get a new point in it. They were going to charge me sixteen francs for one so I decided to keep the one it had in it. The French sure stick it to us over here. ______________ Nice, France December 8, 1918 Dear Folks at Home: Who would have ever thought that I would be down here by the Mediterranean Sea and taking trips up into the Alps. I have to almost pinch myself to make sure that I am actually here. We had quite a hard trip down but it has been worth it. The trains are crowded to over flowing. People were sitting, standing and lying in the aisles. We had one seat and shared it with seven American boys that were on the trains taking turns sitting down. I don‟t know what we would have done if it hadn‟t been for those boys. We started Monday morning, arrived in Paris at noon. Had to stay in Paris all night as we couldn‟t get a seat in the train. Then left Paris Tuesday morning and traveled all day. Had to change cars at Marseilles and didn‟t get into Nice until Wed. evening. We were certainly tired and hungry as we hadn‟t had but a cup of coffee and a piece of bread since Tuesday evening. The American Y.M.C.A. has taken over the Casino here and that is the meeting place of all the Americans - the enlisted men as well as the officers. A party of fourteen of us took a trip yesterday in automobiles to Monte Carlo - Monaco and across the Italian border. We had dinner at a hotel up in the Alps. The scenery is beautiful. I couldn‟t do justice to it in trying to describe it. We visited the noted gambling place at Monte Carlo but didn‟t get to see anyone playing as it is against the law for anyone in uniform to be in during the gambling hours. We are going to try mighty hard to see if we can‟t take a trip to Corsica. In peace times it would be easy enough but since the war they haven‟t been having excursions there. I would certainly like to go. We intend to go back the 12th and stay in Paris three days. We will be there for President Wilson. I am anxious to see Paris but I almost hate to leave here. It isn‟t a bit cold - so different from Rouen. I am afraid we will notice the difference when we go back. ...I am sending home some of my summer things so I will have a little more room in my truck. I may be a little bit hasty but I don‟t believe we will stay much longer after peace is declared unless we are transferred to the A.E.F. I wouldn‟t mind staying awhile longer. They are taking over some of the large hotels for hospitals. I sure would love to be stationed here. We are living on the fat of the land here. There doesn‟t seem to be a shortage of food here. The only things one doesn‟t get is sugar and butter and we brought our sugar with us and we don‟t miss the butter. P.S. Forgot to tell you that there are orange and lemon trees here and just hanging full of oranges and lemons. They also have date trees but it isn‟t quite the season for them. ______________ Dec. 17, 1918 Dear Olive: ...We left Nice on the 12th and stayed in Paris until the 16th and were there to receive President Wilson. Had a fine place to see the whole show. Paid a French girl five francs to stand in her cart. Before he came along just out in front of us we saw two or three French men decorated. The people in Paris simply went wild that day. The streets were one solid mass of people singing, dancing, throwing confetti. It sure enough was gay Paris. I don‟t think the streets were clear all night long. We went to a picture show in the evening and it was late when we went home and they were still crowded. We didn‟t do any sightseeing that day. Went to a matinee in the afternoon at the Follies Bergere [program]. It was the funniest thing I have seen. I laughed more than I have done altogether since I came over. The next day we went to the Notre Dame Cathedral to an early mass and heard the organ play. It is the finest organ in Europe. My! but its a beautiful cathedral and so immense. The two most beautiful windows have been removed on account of air raids but there was still one large rose window. We also saw that morning the St. Gervais cathedral where so many people were killed by a shell from Big Bertha [actually the Paris Gun] on Good Friday. The blood stains were still on the floor. In the afternoon we went to Versailles and went through the Palace. It is an immense place with beautiful gardens. Saw the room where the peace conference will be held. The next morning we visited the Arc de Triomphe where the returning victorious armies will march through when Peace is signed. We saw quite a few interesting things that morning and then in the afternoon we had to leave for Rouen. Sure hated to come back to work. In the heart of Paris there is a big square called the Place de la Concorde, another place where a good bit of history has taken place, and on both sides of the street all around the square and all the way out to the Arc de Triomphe, are big guns captured from the Germans, also tanks. We stood near a big German tank when we were waiting for Wilson to pass. We also saw German aeroplanes and balloons. I wouldn‟t take anything for the privilege of being over here and seeing all I have seen. I have wished a hundred times though that you were with me and seeing it too. I bought twelve pounds of chocolate from the American commissary today for my patients for Christmas. I don‟t have any idea when I will be coming home. Think there will be a change the first of the year but whether I am sent home or not I don‟t know. Would rather like to go on into Germany [with the occupation forces].... _______________ Joue les Tours Feb. 16, 1919 [envelope is marked “B.H. 120, Am. E.F. - Base Hospital 120, American Expeditionary Forces] Dear Olivia: Well I have moved again and no telling how long I will be here. We are on duty but there is a rumor that this hospital is to be evacuated soon. Its a good way to see France but the railway accommodations are something fierce. It took us from six o‟clock in the morning until eleven at night going about forty miles with no place to get anything to eat and standing in the aisles most of the time. This is a lovely place looking up and out but I wish you could see the mud under foot. Do you remember our pig pen out where [the folks] are living now. Well, it is just like that only a little bit worse all over the camp. Everyone wears rubber boots. The hospital is located on a hill about a mile & a half from Tours. Its a beautiful place - a large chateau with fine big pine trees. They use the chateau as the administration building. Maybe you think I am not glad to be with the Americans. Its like coming back home. There is a different atmosphere here than there was with the British. The boys are so different too. I have a ward of fifty one patients and there isn‟t a sick one amongst them. I don‟t have a thing to do all day long. I am sure taking life easy. I am off every other day from nine until two and the next day from two off. I haven‟t gone to Tours yet but think I will go in a day or so. It seems to be quite a town. I am over in the Red Cross writing this and one of the men has a rattle trap of a gramophone going and one of the girls in her bedroom slippers is dancing with an officer in rubber boots. They have a lovely Red Cross here with a nice kitchen and serve tea in the afternoon.... _______________ Joue les Tours March 7, 1919 ...had a letter from Clyde but he didn‟t date it and there‟s no telling how long it has been following me around. It was sent to No. 5 General [Hospital] and I have been gone from there since the middle of January. He was in a hospital number 111 and it could have been close by and I never would have know it. I was stationed at B.H. [Base Hospital] 110 while at Mars [?] but wasn‟t on duty. I wouldn‟t be surprised to see him walking around here some day if he isn‟t already on his way home as this is just a sorting out station it seems. No great convoys of men that have been classified and are on their way home. I have a ward of fifty one beds and all the boys are up and around. They sure are nice boys, such a change from the Tommies although they were good patients but our boys are so much more alive. The boys aren‟t allowed out only one pass from every ward every other day and there isn‟t anything to do here so they sit around and play “Black Jack” and a few other games that I don‟t know for pennies and cigarettes. Its strictly against the rules but I don‟t care much if they do. They can‟t sit around and hold their hands. I suppose Father would think I had entirely fallen from grace. Did I ever tell you I got a letter from him once about something I had written to you. He hoped I wouldn‟t entirely disgrace the family name. He didn‟t say that but something to that effect. I answered it and then tore it up as I said some things that I thought would go better unsaid. Tours is a pretty nice place but I haven‟t seen much of it yet. They have a fine museum here - some beautiful pictures. There is a Y.M.C.A. in town that put on some good shows. Last week they gave “Let‟s Go” given by the Ambulance Service Corps that has been working with the French, They simply were fine. The boys had beautiful costumes made by the best artists in Paris. You couldn‟t tell they were boys if you didn‟t know it. They danced beautifully in high heeled slippers and everything. They are showing in Paris this week and I see by the papers they are making quite a hit.... I suppose your caps are like ours. We had to change a short time ago and are now wearing the regular army cap. I don‟t like them as well as the Red Cross cap. Well, it is time to go eat and I am always Johnny on the Spot when its eating time. We sure do have good eats here. Am making up for the time I spent with the British. _______________ March 28, 1919 Dear Olive: ...Was going into town tonight to a show put on by the 77th Division at the Y.M.C.A. but we were not able to get an ambulance to come for us and as I didn‟t feel like walking back decided not to go. The boys of the Hospital Corps gave a dance here the other evening and we were invited. Sure had a nice time even if I don‟t dance much. I don‟t see why I never learned to dance for you sure are out of it if you don‟t. They are trying to lock the barn door after the horse is stolen. You know we haven‟t been allowed to associate with the enlisted men so they have been going to French dance halls and running around generally with the French mademoiselles and of course you know what the result would be. So now there is an order out that the boys can‟t have anything more to do with the French girls and we have been told, but not officially, that the ban is off for the nurses & enlisted men. They are doing it to save their hides when we get back home. No one that hasn‟t been over here will ever know the temptations our boys have had placed before them all the time and often just drug [sic] into things. Then to cap it all they weren‟t allowed to hardly talk with the American women over here.... _______________ April 1, 1919 Dear May: ...I‟m now in a German prisoner ward and they are just being fitted up with clothes to go home. I wish you could hear them. I suppose they are as glad to get home as our boys are. The most of these [men] will never fight again as most of them are with just one arm or something else just as bad. Several are blind - no eyes at all - caused by hand grenade. April 11 Here it is the 11th and I haven‟t finished this letter yet. I don‟t seem to have any ambition anymore. I can‟t seem to accomplish anything. There were a hundred and fifty nurses through here the other day on their way home. Some of them were some of the girls that came over in our unit. I wish I were one of them but guess it will just be a matter of time until we all will be on our way. ...It rains here all the time. Whoever said this was sunny France surely weren‟t here very long. The boys say someone must have come over and landed in the south of France and stayed a half hour. I made candy last week for the boys that drive the ambulances and the orderlies of my ward. Then yesterday here came one of the boys from the kitchen and wanted to know if he would furnish the materials would I make them some candy so I did. I am getting to be quite an expert at it. Am sending you a picture of the interior of our mess hall. We eat off the bare table[s] but they are nice and white. We sure do have good things to eat and one of the nurses that is in the kitchen is here in our barracks and she was just telling me we are going to have turkey for dinner next Sunday (Easter). Our Germans expect to leave either tomorrow or Wednesday. I hope they do go for I would much rather take care of our own boys. They are very nice patients though and they would do anything for us. When you see these boys in the hospital you can hardly believe they have done the horrible things they say they have done. If I had to choose between the Germans & French, I would choose the Germans every time. I don‟t have any love for the French but you don‟t need to tell anyone. I think you won‟t find many that have been over here that do have any use for the French. They are dirty, immoral and everything else. The country is not worth fighting for. Well, maybe I had better stop. _______________ April 25, 1919 Dear Olive: ...Well I don‟t think we will be here much longer but whether we go home or somewhere else I don‟t know. We don‟t have much to do anymore. There are only five patients in the ward I am in but we are expecting a convoy this evening. We have been told this will be the last convoy but one is never sure about anything in the army. I am in an isolate ward. Sort of a receiving ward. They stay in here until they find out what is the matter with them then they are transferred to the wards to which they belong. We all have to wear gowns and masks. Four nurses went on a hike yesterday. We went down to the station at Joue les Tours and boarded a freight train and went to Loches where there is a big chateau dating from the 15th century and a dungeon. I sure am glad that I am living in the nineteenth [twentieth] century and not in the time when they used to throw people in a place like that for looking cross-eyed. It was used during the reign of Louis XI and I guess the Huns didn‟t have anything on him for cruelty. Miss Lakin, one of the nurse that belongs to our unit, and I are going on our leave the first of May. We had wanted to go to Lille and from there into Brussels and over to Cologne. Some of the girls had gone but we can‟t have leave up there anymore on account of our expecting orders to move any day and they want us where they can reach us if they do get orders. I am sure sorry for I did want to see some of that country.... _______________ Joue les Tours May 26, 1919 Dear Olive: You have me beat for writing. I have had two letters from you since I last wrote. They aren‟t long in coming over now. The last one was just two weeks. May patients are doing the same things yours were. They are taking their afternoon nap but they are doing it of their own accord. We don‟t make them. I am still in the T.B. [tuberculosis] ward but we only have five patients now. We don‟t have to sneak out anymore if we want to take a walk with the boys. We have a dance or two every week with them and in the afternoons and evenings we sit out under the trees and talk or play cards, etc. I have been playing ball with some of them the last few evenings and have a big black and blue spot in the palm of my hand as the result of it. Two of our girls that were in our unit were decorated yesterday with the Royal Red Cross by the British. We had quite some ceremony. I only wish yours truly could be bringing one home. They weren‟t given for any special service but for good work. They had started yesterday letting about twelve nurses off for the day to take trips in ambulances to see some of the chateaus around here, but a big motor truck full of boys ran into a stone wall, crippling a lot of them and killing a girl that was with them. This has put a stop to our getting to go. I sure am sorry for I wanted to see some of them. ...If I am here until the middle of July, I can put on a third service stripe. I will be all decked up when I come home with service stripes, the A.E.F. ribbon and my insignia. I never told you the kind of insignia I wear, have I? Its a blue background with an eagle and a lion and a Roman [numeral] II in the white, something like this [drawing of Second Corps shoulder sleeve insignia]. That‟s not a very good picture but you know I can‟t draw. ______________ June 6, 1919 Dear Olive: You won‟t need to write to me anymore in France after you receive this letter because we think we are coming home soon. If we don‟t, I will let you know. We only have a few patents now and are having days off every other day and we are only on duty a half day when we are on. Soft, don‟t you think? The corps [2nd Corps] boys are all out drilling. They just now passed by. I am sitting under a tree writing. They haven‟t had any drilling until lately and I guess they think going home they will need some. We stood inspection yesterday too by General Pershing. We went down to Barracks 66 for it and as he passed in front of us he said “I wish the men could turn out as well dressed as the nurses do.” Afterwards he gave us a talk and then shook hands with all the nurses. Think of it. I shook hands with the Commanding Officer of the A.E.F. We had our pictures taken too I was right up front. We are going to have an extra good dinner tonight in honor of the Red Cross girls that are leaving next week - fried chicken and strawberry short cake.... _______________ Joue les Tours, France June 12, 1919 Dear Olivia: Just received your letter of the 28th. I expect this will be the last one you will get from me from over here for we are all packed and ready to go. Just sitting around doing nothing. We expect to leave for Nantes on Monday the 15th. I hope we won‟t have to wait at the post of embarkation long. I am ready to partie [French “to leave”]. ...I went to a dance last night given by the Marines. Had quite a nice time. They served punch and it was some punch, also lemonade and sandwiches. Have you seen any of the Victory ribbons the men are wearing? Won‟t you be jealous of me when I come home wearing mine and my three gold stripes [for overseas service]? I am so glad you are going to Washington to finish your training. Who would have thought a few years ago that you would be where you are and that I would be where I have been. And we owe it all to our Mother.... _______________ July 2, 1919 Dear Olive: ...Have been waiting here at the embarkation center now for about two weeks. We thought when we left Tours that we would be home for the 4th of July but no such luck. There are 1300 nurses waiting here and about that many at Brest [France]. We are quartered in what used to be Base Hospital 69. There are forty eight of us in a ward. Such a lot of women. I am so tired of crowds of women I don‟t know what to do. We stand in line for chow. Stand in line for clean linen. I suppose we will stand in line today for our pay. I am willing to stand in line for that though for I am so nearly broke I am bent. They try to make things pleasant for us though. We can take trips to the towns around here and then there are about three dances every evening and moving pictures, etc. A rumor just came in that we are to leave here the 5th. I hope so but I have just quit believing all I hear. I am just about to freeze to death. It is so cold here we sometimes have to wear our heavy coats and I have three blankets doubled on my bed and then sometimes am cold. I hope you haven‟t had your vacation yet. I hope to be home by August anyway. ______________ The following letter was from Nurse Langley to Olive, dated July 2, 1918 ...So you have done it. You have joined the forces and against all the wise advice of these two old nurses you have gone ahead. Seems to be the distinction of the Hemphills to become trained nurses. However, the profession does not suffer from it. I did so hate to see you do it for it means you giving up so much, but when you feel you are serving our great U.S.A. in that way, why, I am resigned. I am glad everyday that I came and know full well that the sacrifice, if there was one, was small compared to the amount of work there is to do. I don‟t believe I will ever be able again to cater to one patient and spend 24 hours on one patient where here we have any number of sick boys and somehow we take care of them all. I‟ll never forget when we first came I thought it could never be done - impossible to stand up and say it could be down, but never the less we do it. I used to squirm if I had to take out a few stitches from a wound, but my dear, you get used to wounds you never dreamed you could look at. You dress them with the patient yelling at the top of his voice or biting the corner out of his pillow and it is not because you are unfeeling it is because it must be done and you must do it. There is no one else.... _______________ The following postcard came to Florence Hemphill at 1101 N. Kansas Avenue, Chanute, Kansas Dear Miss, Do you remember of the German prisoner in Ward 27 in Tours? I‟m that [man] and send you best greetings for Christmas and New Year. Yours, Julius Seibt Berlin. Following her duty “over there,” Florence Edith Hemphill returned to private nurse work for a time. According to family records, she eventually settled in Kansas City, Kansas, where she shared a house with five of her siblings and their widowed mother. Retired in 1963, Florence moved to Overland Park, Kansas. She died on April 16, 1979 and was buried in the Elmwood Cemetery in Chanute, Kansas.