[Feb 3, 1918 to Mabel] Monty’s letter to Mabel is more open and revealing than the content of the letters to his mother, an apparent greater honesty between siblings and maybe trying to protect mother from details, though since both Mabel and her mother live in the same household, there is no doubt mother will expect to read the letter.

Monty starts with thanks to the Marion Service League for their Christmas package which contained candy for which he asks Mabel to convey his thanks. He is responding to her “long letter with family news.”

Apparently she has asked for detail. Rather than giving the earlier censorship excuse—while nevertheless explaining that he erred on the side of caution when he didn’t know how much one could say and get away with it—he launches into detail describing his first stop as “an old French military school” where the one story stone barracks “were usually cold particularly in the morning when reveille sounded.” He then goes into detail about his three day trip in November 1917 when he was “at Marseilles overnight and part of one morning and at Nice two days.” On the first day, “five of us took a machine and went over to Monte Carlo and Menton, driving in half a mile of the Italian border, stopped at Monte Carlo for lunch and had a look at the Casino.”

He then describes “the big event of the past week” which was “the Bosche air raid.” He supposes she has gotten details from the papers but he goes on to tell his tale: It was a beautiful moonlight night and I was returning from a call on some friends about 11:15 when the alarm was sounded.

Walked on to the Place de l’Opera and stopped there with quite a crowd to watch the French defending planes which were up all over the city. You could see them only when they showed their signal lights. After watching them for some ten or fifteen minutes, I began to think it was another false alarm—there was such a one just before Xmas—and walked over a couple of blocks down the Boulevard des Italiens toward my hotel. Stopped again on the corner of my street to have another look and then heard for the first time the anti-aircraft guns going on the outskirts of the city. Still didn’t think much about it until that time the first bomb dropped in about 200 yards of where I was standing, luckily around a corner. A second later another one dropped about a quarter of a mile the other side and I heard others in other parts of the city. About this time I decided along with the rest of the crowd that a house was a better place than the street and went on to my hotel.

In the safety of his hotel, he describes “nearly everybody in the lobby in various states of deshabille.” Apparently the lobby was considered the safest place during an air raid though curiosity provoked “occasional excursions into the street to see how things were going.” The excitement was over by 1:15. “Went over next morning to look at this place where the bomb had dropped so close and was surprised it didn’t make a bigger hole. The hole was only about four feet across and 18 inches deep. It certainly took out all the glass in the neighborhood, however, and twisted up to a considerable extent the iron shutters of a bank building opposite where it hit. Saw another place where a bomb just took off clean the fifth and sixth stories of a house.”

His interest then turns to tobacco. “Was glad to hear that more cigars have been on their way since the first of December and hope they’ll come in soon as have been out for several days and a decent cigar here costs a franc to a franc and a half.” The commissary carries them “at a reasonable price” but the supply is unreliable. “Now they’ve had none for three weeks.” He’s still expecting his mother’s shipment of pecans to show up, probably a Christmas gift from her own orchard.

As he closes he slips in a social note: “Met a whole flock of Counts and Countesses at a reception this past week.” He is looking forward to “two more such affairs this week.” The “affairs” are a “pleasant diversion” though there is no dancing, “the amusement being conversation, music and sometimes bridge.” His entrée into this world of royalty is through “an American lady who has lived over here for thirty years, knows the real French people and is very interested in having American officers meet these people.”

 

Transcribed Letter:

[first typed letter from TCM]

APO 702 AEF February 3, 1918 Dear Mabel:- Got some more mail from home the early part of this week, the last letter being, I believe, about Dec. 10th. Also received a small package of candy from the Marion Service League. Don’t know who was responsible for the latter but wish you would convey my thanks for same; it was promptly eaten with a great deal of pleasure. Particularly enjoyed your long letter with all the family news.

As to my not telling enough about what I am doing, hope you’ve found my letters more interesting since I came here. I didn’t know when I first came over exactly how much one could say and get by with it and preferred to err on the side of safety. As a matter of fact I was at an infantry camp which was an old French military school and we were quartered in the French barracks, one story stone buildings which were usually cold particularly in the morning when reveille sounded. Believe I wrote you in one of my letters from there about the trip and made to Marseilles, Nice and Monte Carlo in the middle of November. It was most pleasant but of course hurried as I had only three and a half days leave. was in Marseilles overnight and part of one morning and at Nice two days. The first day five of us took a machine and went over to Monte Carlo and Menton, driving in half a mile of the Italian border, stopped at Monte Carlo for lunch and had a look at the Casino. It’s the prettiest country I ever saw, I imagine a good deal like Southern California. That was my only trip of any interest while at this camp and, as you should have known a month ago, I have now been at the same station for a little over two months.

The big event of the past week was the Bosche air raid. Suppose you got the particulars the next day in the home papers. It was a beautiful moonlight night and I was returning from a call on some friends about 11:15 when the alarm was sounded. Walked onto the Place de l’Opera and stopped there with quite a crowd to watch the French defending planes which were up all over the city. You could see them only when they show their signal lights. After watching them for some ten or fifteen minutes I begin to think it was another false alarm – there was such a one just before Xmas – and walked on over a couple of blocks down the Boulevard des Italiens toward my hotel. Stopped again on the corner of my street to have another look and then I heard for the first time the anti-aircraft guns going on the outskirts of the city. Still didn’t think much of it until about that time the first bomb dropped in about 200 yards of where I was standing, luckily around the corner. A second later another one dropped about a quarter of a mile the other side and I heard others in other parts of the city. About this time I decided along with all the rest of the crowd that a house was a better place than the street and went on to my hotel. It was funny in a way to see how the crowd cleared off the Boulevard just to soon as those two bombs dropped. In my hotel I found a nearly everybody in the lobby in various states of deshabille, it being considered healthier around the ground floor, and there we remained with occasional excursions into the street to see how things were going until things quieted down about 1:15. I hadn’t heard enough to think there was near as much damage as there was as shown by the official communiqe [sic] and was surprised to learn the whole story. Went over next morning to look at the place where this bomb had dropped so close and was surprised it didn’t make a bigger hole. The hole was only about four feet across and 18 inches deep. It certainly took out all the glass in the neighborhood, however, and twisted up to a considerable extent the iron shutters of a bank building just opposite where it hit. Saw another place where a bomb just took off clean the fifth and six stories of a house.

The weather here has been great for the last three weeks, an overcoat being comfortable during the morning and at night but usually unnecessary doing the middle of the day.

Was glad to hear more cigars have been on their way since the first of December and hope they’ll come in soon as have been out several days and a decent cigar here costs a franc to a franc and a half. The commissary has them at a reasonable price occasionally but they can’t be depended on at all. Now they’ve had none for three weeks. Also am watching the mail for those pecans mother says she sent me – they too should be showing up by this time.

Went to a reception this past week that you would have been interested in where I met a whole flock of Counts and Countesses and such. Got my invitation through an American lady who has been living over here for 30 years, knows the real French people and is very interested in having American officers meet these people. Was quite interested in coming in contact with these people and found them very pleasant on the whole. Am to take two more such affairs this week and they form a pleasant diversion though there is no dancing , the amusement being conversation, music and sometimes bridge.

Love to all the family,

Carl

O.K.

Thomas C Montgomery

2nd Lt. Inf. U.S.R.

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