Category Archives: Otter Lake, NY

1942: Awaiting letters from home

Sepia Saturday 699. Fourteenth in a series about letters from my dad’s brother Frederic Mason Charboneau while he was in the US Army during WWII.

Frederic Mason Charboneau c. 1942. Scan by Molly Charboneau

Those in service during WWII eagerly awaited letters from home. Yet the mail was sporadic — especially at the beginning of the war.

My paternal uncle Frederic Mason Charboneau was a diligent correspondent, sending weekly letters to his mother Mary (Owen) Charboneau — and writing to others as well.

But six months into his U.S. Army service, he expressed disappointment at the lack of replies from home. [His writing is in italics below].

Where’s the mail?

Somewhere in England, August 30th, 1942, Dear Mom, Well so far, I haven’t heard from you since I arrived in England, but the mail is slow and so far all that is coming through are airmail, so in the future when you write send it by airmail and then I will get it quicker.

“I have received 2 letters so far, both of them from Jean Bastow [his future wife]. One was mailed on August 5th and the other on August 15th, so you see how well the mail runs. When the regular mail gets here, if it ever does, we all should get quite a lot. I hope so anyway.”

Uncle Fred sends a cablegram

This must have set Uncle Fred wondering whether his letters were arriving back home at all. So on Aug. 26, 1942, he sent a cablegram (below) to let his family know he was okay. He referred to it in his Aug. 30, 1942 letter.

“Did you receive the cablegram I sent? The main reason I sent it was to let you know that I was well and also I knew that it would probably get to you before my other letters that I have written. They tell us that it should be delivered within 24 hours and all they cost is about $.50 which in English money is 2 shillings and six pence. I am getting so that I can keep this English money straight, though for a while I had to figure a little.”

A three-day-pass to London

Aside from requesting letters from home, Uncle Fred wrote what he could about events at his duty station in England.

“Nothing much to write about except that I am well and so far, I haven’t seen any Germans. I am going on a three day pass this afternoon and I’m going to London to take in the sights so the next time I will have a little more to write about. It beats all, now that we are over here, they are giving us passes and when we were back in the states it was like pulling teeth to get a pass but we are all satisfied to get them so that we can take a little time off and relax.”

Hard to imagine what the sights in London may have been like just one year after the Nazi Blitzkrieg bombings of 1940-41 — with streets still full of rubble, as shown below.

WOMEN’S STREET CLEANING BRIGADE: FEMALE DUSTMEN AT WORK, LONDON, 1942 (D 8942) Women of the St Pancras Women’s Street Cleaning Brigade smile for the camera with their dust carts on a London street before setting off for work. Rubble and bomb damage can be seen behind them. Note that the cart on the right hand side of the centre row has a poster on it to encourage people to put kitchen scraps in the pig bins supplied by local authorities. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205199412

Fred’s earlier trans-Atlantic trip

Uncle Fred also gave details about his earlier boat trip across the Atlantic, providing a glimpse of his duties as part of a U.S. Army clerical/communications unit.

“Did I tell you that on the boat coming over that I had a stateroom? There were four others in with me, but we weren’t a bit crowded. How we happened to get one was due to the fact that we were in the advance party and that our Commander was Staff Officer of the ship and we had to get out the Ships Bulletins and the like, though I didn’t have much to do, in fact it was almost like a pleasure cruise although it was under a little trying conditions.”

In closing, Uncle Fred renewed his wish for news from home:

“Well, I guess that is all for now will write again soon and in the meantime so long until I hear from you, or you hear from me. Your loving son, Fred.”

What will Uncle Fred write about next? Please stop back to find out! Meanwhile, please visit the other intrepid bloggers over at Sepia Saturday.

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