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WWI Soldier Writes Home From French Front Lines

Archie Richardson serving in France during WWI, wrote home to his mother who was living with his older brother, describing the battle scenes and conditions. The front of the envelope is stampled "Passed Censor". Archie died in the late 1920's from after effects of German poison gas.

Archie L. Richardson
Co. B, 312th Machine Gun Battalion, France

Oct 7, 1918

Letter addressed to:

Mr. Chas. M. Richardson, c/o Newport News Furniture Co., Newport News, VA, USA

Dear Mother,

It is with great pleasure that I answer your most welcome letter. I was very glad to hear from you and was thoroughly in accord with all your views expressed therin. I was very much surprised to learn that you have not received any of my letters. I know the mail service is very bad, but surely, you must have received some of them by this time. When I read your letter I could imagine your state of mind when you were writing it. At the time you were writing I was preparing to enter the biggest battle the world has every known. When I received your letter the battle was all over as far as we were concerned.

Our division took part for seven days and then was relieved. I will try and give you a little description of what I saw of it. Our Bri. had been in the trenches about two weeks before the drive started. The first two platoons of our company were in the front lines and the platoon I was in was in reserve about three miles back. We left our positions at seven o'clock in the eve. to join the rest of the company. It was a beautiful moonlight night and everything was quiet when we started. I don't mean quiet as it is in Salisbury but very quiet for this part of the world. The only noise we could hear was the rattle of our carts. We were not advancing very fast after coming out of a woods as we had to cross a field filled with hell holes and trenches and we frequently had to stop and fill up the trenches before we could cross. Suddenly there was "a loud report" directly in front of us. Then off to our right we saw long sheets of fire shoot off just like rockets being held at arms length and fired. The guns being so far away we could see the flame before we could hear the report. Some of the boys thought they were signal lights but they soon found out what they were as they cut loose on all sides. There must have been a gun every ten feet. I never heard such an ungodly noise in all my life. There were guns of every caliber throwing shells as fast as they could get theirs in the breech. The bombardment continued all that night and the next day until about 12 o'clock without a pause.

We advanced all night and morning found us just in back of the German front line trenches which were evacuated the night before. We were lying in trenches under the protection of a hill waiting the word to go forward when one of the boys stuck his head up and caught sight of his first prisoner of war coming back. There was a long line of them coming across the field with a Soldier at each end of the line and when they saw all those Am. soldiers jump up out of the trenches they must have thought they were being led to their death as they all threw up their hands. They were scared almost to death. After that we saw so many of them we didn't pay any attention to them. Marion Tubener captured three with a shovel for a weapon.

When we got the word to go forward again we started through a thick woods or at least what had once been a woods. The only way one could tell that it had been a woods was by a few skeleton trees left standing.

After going through the woods a short way we could see our 1st days objective. A town standing upon a hill with the infantry swarming over the hill toward it in endless numbers. I will not try to explain the rest of the action as it would be impossible. I will say this much I would not take a million dollars for the experience and I would not give two cents for the chance to see it again unless it was compulsory.

I am back in a rest camp now. I am enjoying perfect health but am pretty tired after several days of hiking. I have not had my name on the sic report since I have been in the Army. I received a letter from Bob some time ago and answered it promptly. I suppose he has received it by this time. I guess there is some excitement around home over the prospects of an early peace. It looks to me like the time is ripe now for it. Bulgaria has dropped out and Turkey is about finished and Austria and Germany are asking for peace. Believe me there was some excitement here when news was brought that Germany was asking for an armistice so as to start negotiations for peace. But I don't know if the Allies will grant it or not. I surely hope they fix it up some way for I would not like to spend a winter in the trenches. I received a letter from a silly little girl the other day. I am enclosing it for you to read. Note the poetry. What do you think of it? I was the not going to answer it at first but decided to do so. I told her that if she had seen what I have seen in the last few weeks she would consider herself damn lucky to be a woman, which I am quite sure shocked here religious modesty. I cannot write any more now as my candle is getting low. So I will close.
With much love to you and all who ask for me, I am your Ever Loving Son.

Private Archie Richardson, 312 MGBn American E. F.

September 1998 from collection of web page author, George E. Richardson, III