WWI Era Letter Has Local Connection
The careful preservation of family letters and photographs has led to the sharing of a World War I era letter, in time for the anniversary of Armistice Day. Approximately 100 years ago, F.W. Parsons wrote a letter to the Wetzel Democrat. F.W. Parsons noted his son, Roy C. Parsons, had written a letter home. The letter was dated November 11, 1918 – Armistice Day.
Although it is uncertain if this letter was published, the Wetzel Chronicle felt it was very fitting that this letter be shared now – at the 100-year anniversary of Armistice Day.
Just a few short months ago, Ms. Beth Pantone stopped by the Wetzel Chronicle office. She possessed a scrapbook of the letters and pictures of her grandfather Roy C. Parsons’ military service. Parsons was a soldier of the 319th Ambulance Service, 305th Sanitary Train, and 80th Division in WWI. He served in France from 1918-1919.
Pantone had a copy of the letter written by Roy C. Parsons, as well as a copy of the letter his father, F.W. Parsons, had written to the Wetzel Democrat.
Pantone is the daughter of the late Henry Parsons, who served for decades as surveyor of Wetzel County. Henry was the son of Roy C.
The following is the letter from Roy C., to his brother, Robert Parsons.
Our company just got back from the front. Nearly all of us came out safe and sound. While up this time I saw some things of war and got a few impressions of its terribleness. I saw whole hillsides and forests torn to pieces by shellfire. Trees are standing that have only the blackened trunks and large limbs remaining. Valleys are filled with barbed wire stretching in every direction. I pity the boys who had to fight in it. Fields look as if they have been plowed. When near the front we stay under cover as much as possible so as to avoid shellfire. Cellar dugouts and hillsides are used for cover. At night if he has time the soldier digs a shallow hole in the ground so as to avoid all shells except those that make a direct hit.
There are some things that a soldier will always remember. One of these is the first time he has shell to burst near him, another is to wake up at night as he hears the whirr: whirr of an enemy airplane. If he is sleeping in the open he rushes for shelter hurried up by the explosion of aerial bombs.
There are times that we live for a day or two in villages recently occupied by German troops. The Germans had things fixed ups these villages as though they were going to stay in them a hundred years. In one place that we had an advanced dressing station we made use of his nicely cut wood to prepare a few meals from potatoes and turnips that we found in one of his big kitchens. They tasted fine after so much canned food. Tell mamma and the girls I wish they could see some of the Germany kitchens in the captured towns. They consist mostly of large iron soup kettles set in brick fireplaces. I saw one kitchen that had 15 of these kettles. Just imagine the amount of vegetable soup that could be made at one cooking. French civilians who have been under German dominance for three or four years are found in most towns. They consist mostly of old women and children. Only the Germans know what has really become of the remainder. These civilians are moved back out of the war zone so they can be taken care of more easily. We hauled some of them back in our ambulances to join the refugees in another town. One of our boys can understand some French and some of the tales they told him only served to make one more bitter against the Hun. I don’t suppose I know as much of the war as you do at home because you have more opportunity to hear from all parts of the war zone but I have more than one reason to think I will never be in anymore danger even if peace does not come as quickly as expected.
Some of us boys found a couple of German rifles the other day and took them up on the hill and fired them forty or fifty times a piece. I wish I could send you one for a souvenier.
It has been rainy here for the last few days and on some of our journeys we have had opportunity to tramp in some of the army mud you have heard so much about. I wish you could see some of the roads when an army is on them. There is every kind of motive power from little mule hauling ammunition carts to the famous Holt tractor ahead of the big guns.
I had quite a ride in an ambulance the other night while we were going up to a town to establish a dressing station. Every few minutes the ambulance would get stuck in the mud. Then it was all hands out in the dark and ankle deep mud for a push. If the driver was lucky he found a place in the middle of the road between the transport wagons if not he stayed on the side of the road where every few minutes we got a jolt that bounced us from our seats and made the car feel as though it was in for a turnover.
319th Ambulance Co.
30th Sanitary Train
Records reflect that Roy C. later married Frances Eckenrode. The two resided in Pine Grove and had twins boys – James H. and Roy C., along with Henry.