By November 25, Monty has made it into “this city near our camp” for a “film from the States.” This is otherwise a turning point because he is “under orders to move this next week though I don’t know where as yet—guess I’ll get definite orders in a day or two.” He’s an infantry lieutenant, so the possibilities are clear. All he says is that he doesn’t “know if the change will be for better or worse.” He’s also calculating the time it takes for mail to move around. “Hope you got my letter about sending me some cigars and that I’ll soon receive them.” He is also contemplating an ideal delivery cycle for the cigars that he imagines en route to him. “Guess it will be a better idea to send a box a week instead of four boxes a month as if any get lost it will be only one week’s supply.”
Doubtless written during his foray into town, or on stationery he picked up while there, the letterhead above his sepia cursive identifies its origin as Le Grand Hotel, a perfectly generic hotel name beneath which he has carefully snipped out the city name. However, the rampant lion and the three gold fleur-de-lis of the coat of arms reveal the city—Lyon. This would seem to confirm that he was at the training center at La Valbonne, twenty miles from Lyon. His military records agree that he attended an infantry school at La Valbonne from October 8 through November 27, 1917.
[Letterhead: Le Grand Hotel (coat of arms – Lyon) Téléphone: 16-33_63-72 Télégr: GRANOTEL (Monty has snipped out a small rectangle probably Lyon in order to keep with his interpretation of the censor’s constraint on divulging locations.)]
November 25, 1917
Dear Mother –
It’s a rainy Sunday afternoon and I am enjoying sitting in front of an open fire in my hotel in this city near our camp after having been to a movie. The best part of the movie was a film from the states and you may be sure all Americans in the theater enjoyed it thoroughly.
Last night when I came in, I ran into a Doctor, a captain in the Hospital Corps, who was loafing here on a few days leave and we have been knocking around together since. He came over with the first troops in June – is, by the way, from the staff at Johns Hopkins – and had a number of interesting things to tell me about the first expedition etc.,
I am now under orders to move this next week though I don’t know where as yet – guess I’ll get definite orders in a day or two. Don’t know whether the change will be for better or worse but I am hopeful as usual. It will at least be a change from what I have been doing since reaching France.
Still have heard nothing further from home. Had a letter last Monday from my girl in Mississippi written Oct. 21st in which she said she got my cable on the 19th or two weeks after you received yours. Don’t understand the difference as both were sent at the same time. You both should have received some of my letters at least a month ago. Hope you got my letter about sending me some cigars and that I’ll soon receive them. Guess it will be a better idea to send a box a week instead of four boxes a month as if any get lost it will be only one week’s supply.
This letter should reach you before Xmas so a Merry Xmas to everybody & don’t worry about me as I am getting along all right.
Love to all,
4 thoughts on “November 25, 1917–“definite orders in a day or two””
Very interesting letter and project. I live not more than 250 meters from that hotel in Lyon. It was built in the mid-19th century and survives today not too far from the Place des Jacobins and the Place Bellecour, and within a very short stroll of the Rhone and Saone rivers.
Thank you for your kind comments. I appreciate the additional information; maybe one day I can visit Lyon with this in mind. It is early to know whether the insouciance of his letters reflects the war, the era or just his personality. The idea of warming by a fire in a grand hotel with combat not too distant in time and space has a curious effect.
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