Christmas 1944 per Ernest Valliere
Now I guess I had better tell you about my Christmas. The day before Christmas being Sunday I went to Church in the morning and again that night I went to midnight mass During that same evening I wrote several letters, so you can see, that all in all I had a pretty quiet Christmas eve.
The next morning I pulled myself out of bed about 8:30, ate breakfast and then went to work. At 1 P.M. we had a fine turkey dinner and the rest of the afternoon I just lazed around.
That evening we put on a fine party for the children in a small town near by. The children were brought here by their parents and if I’m not mistaken, most of the town eventually was seated in our mess hall. Believe me the place was really crowded. The children put on a few acts on the stage for us and everyone had a fine time watching them perform.
After their show was completed, one of our officers disguised as Santa Claus, made an appearance at the back of the hall with a large basket of gifts strapped on his back. (It seems that Santa uses a basket instead of a bag in this country). Well-when he showed up the kids went wild-You should have seen the looks on their faces and then heard them when they fully comprehended what was happening.
Santa meanwhile walked down thru the crowd and onto the stage. Everybody in the hall rose as soon as he passed by them and by the time he had reached the stage anyone in the back of the hall could only see the top of the basket.
I don’t believe I ever saw so many people get so happy in such a short time as those people did. After all it was about the first Christmas party they have had for five years.
Well-after the gifts were given out refreshments were served, and then in a short time the party broke up and everyone went home. It sure was an exceptional time and everyone really enjoyed themselves.
From Somewhere in England
United States Army (letterhead)
Somewhere in England
Sept. 20 1943
Dear Mrs. Bickford,
I’m not much of a hand at writing letters ,but I will try my best at telling you a few things about England. Well first of all the buildings are all of stone, brick, or concrete, I guess they have used up all their lumber years ago. It really seemed sunny & odd to me to see so many of them this way, because we have so many wooden structures back home. They also have thatched roofs, I think they are wheat straws tied in bundles & laid one on top of the other. It really makes a nice looking roof & they say the last from fifteen to twenty years.
The people themselves are very nice, they talk just a little different then we do & have different words such as lorries for trucks, prams for baby carriages, etc. Sometimes one gets a little mixed up in just what they are talking about but after a while you can understand what they mean.
What seemed the strangest to me was their and pounds over here, not dollars & cents. A shilling is about 20 cents in American money, a pence is worth about 2 cents, and a pound note is worth about 4 dollars. It took me awhile to get used to this money but I know it well now.
My trip to London wasn’t by bicycle but I do ride around on my bike a lot. The country side is really beautiful. The roads are narrow & very winding I can’t tell you where I am but I have really seen some beautiful sights which I would never had seen if they hadn’t been a war. I would have much rather not seen England though then to have come over here with the world the way it is. They have a shortage of gas (petrol over here) so you can’t hire a car to go anywhere. The trains and buses are so packed that its really a job to travel. That is one reason why I bought me a bike so I could get somewhere & look around.
I’ve seen quite a bit of London already but I do want to get in again to see what I’ve missed. I’ve seen Hyde Park, Big Ben, Westminister Abbey, and the House of Parliament. We tried to see Buckinham Palace but we just didn’t have much time. The American Red Cross has a couple of places there where we can get a bed & something to eat pretty cheap. It really makes it easy for a G.I. to go to town and look around. They also have tours of the town so as you can really see everything. I haven’t been on one of these tours as yet but I want to if I can ever get into London again.
Well I must close now & go get something to eat and then come back & fix a flat tire that I have on my bike. Thanks a lot for writing to me, a fellow on this side of the pond likes to hear from people back home. I hope I have helped you out a little in trying to understand England. I have really enjoyed my stay over here, but I’m ready to come back. This isn’t like traveling in peace time. Goodbye now & thanks again for your very interesting letter. 4.00 Pm over there would be about 10:00 or 11:00 oclock over here.
Normand Valliere to Pauline Valliere
May 7, 1945
Well it’s over. One half of this darn conflict. The radio said tonight that V-E Day tomorrow. Guess there was quite a few celebrations back home. This afternoon it came out that we can write that we are in Austria, so this is another country to add to my list of travels. I hope that we don’t have to go to the Pacific now. From what we know no one seems to know what is in the future for us. Maybe we’ll get home anyway. I doubt if any of us other will for some time.
I have sent you a money order a couple of days ago. So you should get that before you get this letter. Then too the way mail has been going home you may get this first.
Things were pretty dull here. It seemed odd to me that the fellows didn’t do a little celebrating when we got the news. Guess we all are to busy “sweating out the Pacific” to celebrate the Victory. Maybe to it’s because we are in a position where there is very little spirits around. If there was some you could be sure come, if not most of the fellows would be feeling a little happy.
Have you sent the writing paper to me yet? I wonder where I’ll be when I receive that? I hope it will be N.Y. but I am damn sure that I won’t. I’ll probably be here for some time yet.
Well, Sis, guess I’ll close for tonight.
Somewhere in England
April 17, 1944
Dear Mrs. Bickford,
I believe it’s been a real long time since I last wrote you. Well I guess it’s been really my fault. I haven’t done much writing lately and when I did write I really couldn’t find much to write about. I will try to write a few lines anyhow so you will know I’m still alive anyhow.
First I want to thank you for remembering me on Easter. And also sending along the news from home. It’s real nice to hear about the rest of the town’s people. You folks must be having a real fight, or war, at home there. Maybe I should say did have, by this time, maybe it would be better if we all stayed inside after all.
Yes! We get a lot of propaganda here to. We have our own picture magazine and paper here, put out by the armed forces. Perhaps you have heard about them. The “Yank” and “The Stars and Stripes.” They are real good and they make good reading to. Of course they are strictly G.I. I just filled my pen again & it doesn’t write very well. I dropped it on the cement floor, point down, the other day & I tried to fix it with a pair of pliers. I can write with it though. I’m waiting for the P.X. to get in some new.
We had some very important people here for a visit a short time ago. You have heard of them I’m sure. Generals “Eisenhower,” “Spaatz,” and General “Brereton.” I didn’t get to see them up close but I did see them ride bye. In most of the towns and cities where there is apt to be American soldiers stationed there is a American Red Cross club. They have beds to sleep in & they have meals that they serve cheap too. They also have tours of the city etc. It’s real nice to go there to visit. It was at one of these clubs that I meet Junior Pynn & Clyde Young. We had planned a meeting there & when I got in I left a note for him & told him where I was. That night he received the note & knew just where to meet me.
We have a building, here on the post, set aside for movies. The Motion Picture Industry send over a lot of pictures which we have here. We get them fairly early to, I’ve already seen “Thousands Cheer” “Johnny Come Lately” and a few others. We have anywhere from two to four different show’s a week. Boy! believe me it really help to spend the time.
Well I must close now and get to bed it’s getting late and in the army you have to get up early. I ran into trouble with the army here and I got reduced to the grade of Private. Otherwise everything else is OK. Thanks again for the card.
P.S. I’ve changed my APO numbers too
its 140 now.
Listen to excerpts from one of Perley Valliere’s letters.
Somewhere in England
August 15th 1944
My Dear Mrs. Bickford,
It has been a long time since I wrote to you last, so I thought I had better sit right down and write a few lines. Right now one of the fellows here wants me to go out and ride around the countryside on our bikes. Right now its really beautiful here. Every little farmhouse has it’s wheat, rye, or oat fields cut down and they are all shocked up waiting to be thrashed. Boy! they are really beautiful all stacked up row by row of them just getting good and brown and ripe. I guess it’s more like our mid-western states although I haven’t seen them. I wasn’t quite as lucky as Leo in seeing the West.
Speaking of Leo he is now down in India. It’s just as Henry told me Leo (crossed out) in his last letter, Leo really has seen the country. He traveled all over the states while he was in training there and now he went the long way going to India. If he goes back the other way he will have almost traveled around the world.
Well the other fellow is almost ready to take that ride now so I’ll close and finish out this letter tomorrow. It’s like this every night. I have to catch up on my letter writing whenever I can get a few minutes in between.
Here it is another evening and I’m back again trying to write a few more lines. We where out last evening for about two hours riding around. We went over just about all the same road as we usually ride over so I didn’t get to see any new country.
I guess, seeing your last letter, that the old town is really going to the dog’s. Well it always has been a real nice quiet town & I suppose even it has to let its hair down now & then. I wouldn’t worry too much about it though, it will quiet down again one of these days and be the same old peaceful town. Believe me I like to the way it was. As yet I haven’t seen anyplace I like better and I’ve seen some pretty nice places to.
Well the bad new’s come’s now I couldn’t get to see Normand while he was here in England. You probably know by now he is over on the continent. Yep! his address now is “Somewhere in France.” We had our D-Day picked out OK only the big D-Day came a short time before our’s so we had to pospone it. Right now we are planning on maybe meeting in Paris. And by the way it look’s now we won’t have to wait long. With the new landing on the southern coast and with the boy’s in Brittany doing so well. It doesn’t look like it had ought to last to long.
Just sitting here and gazing out the open door and thinking, ou know I can just here the old linen mill whistle blowing and the church bells ringing out that the invasion had been started back there on June the 6th. I guess right now I’m getting a little homesick.
The raido is playing now and we have some Scottish program on and the are playing some bagpipes. I sounds a little funny but its good. I just got back from the show we have here on the field. “Shine on Harvest Moon” with “Ann Sheridan” and “Dennis Morgan” I believe. It was a pretty good picture but not as as some I’ve seen here. You see we get a lot of the (crossed out) latest picture’s through the courtesy of the “American Motion Picture Industry.” They are real good and really help to spend away a evening. Right now my head aches a little from seeing the show. I guess that explains why I just can’t make the pen write right, I’m dotting e’s instead of I’s and my spelling is way off.
I’ve seen some of them Robot plane’s (doddle bugs) over here. That is I’ve seen them fly over and have seen where they have landed. It’s really a wicked instrument and it sounds it too when it goes tearing across the sky at such a terrific speed that it travels. Take my word for it thought it will never win this war for old Jerry. I guess old Hitler is really sweating in his boots right now and that his doddle bug, the great (crossed out) secreat weapon of his, is far from his mind.
Well I’ll close now and see if I can’t get some sleep. I’m really getting lazy now. We did used to fight with each other when we where all back home there but now I think we all have a different look on it. Well, as I said before, I’ll say bye now and will you say hello to everybody back there for me.
(Many thanks to Barry Frechette for producing the audio/video excerpts above.)