Notes on collections at the RIHS
After the war, Miss Bray compiled notes from her diaries and letters home into a typed manuscript now owned by the RIHS (MSS 303). Her letters tell of daily life near the front lines in France, but are more composed and self-conscious than the short, hand-written diary entries. What follows first is taken from a letter home to her parents in Pawtucket; after that are entries from her diary the following month.
The letter, as descriptive as it is, reads more like a tour guide than a candid account of life near the front lines, as it neglects to mention air raids, social events, or anything like the “awful mush” of Captain K., who was not Miss Bray’s first admirer.
Letter excerpt, 1918
“Somewhere in France”
Feb. 8th (Luneville)
I wish I could tell you the name of this town, after the war you must come here, preferably by auto of course.
I’m going to start this letter in good time, tho I may not send it until after several installments, then I won’t have to rush it thru at the last.
I got up at 6 AM the morning I left Paris, had a tiny breakfast, and started for the station. A “Y” man was going part of the way so he helped me with my baggage. IN my compartment were three French officers and one American. The American loaned me his newspapers and that broke the ice and soon we were talking like old friends. He had been fighting with the British and was now trying to locate his regiment, not knowing exactly where it was.
We reached Langres about 2 o’clock. A funicular railway conveys one up to the town. From the bottom of the hill, all one can see are walls and towers. As the town is laid out in funny little streets, I had some difficulty in locating the Y hdq. … There was only one man there, but he got me some lunch, for I was nearly famished, alth’ I was too excited to eat much. He told me that until the director came back to take that time to see the place. I did, taking careful bearings as to where I lived so as not to get Lost. I’ll just give you a few details about Langres, for I never can describe it as it should be done. Its all surrounded by walls built mostly in the time of Caesar and has seen a good many hard old scraps. There is a walk around this wall that I’m going to take sometime, or the view is wonderful. The streets are narrow and crooked and filled with funny old houses. There are quantities of our men here and some French, too. I think it is the hdq of the division, but I don’t know enough about it yet to say.
Mar 31- Sunday Easter
Left (—–ville) at 10:30 for Baccarat with Miss R.
Stormy. Billeted across from W. House. Nice room. After lunch went to Major’s office & mailed Shaw for few minutes. Retired early.
April 1st. Stormy.
Provost Marshall’s office also went with Mr. Pitman to Hospital & Foyer to make my choice. Foyer near station very unattended. Decided to take Foyer.
Apr. 2nd Stormy.
Moved into Foyer. Mostly French & Italians. Do not specially like it.
Mr. A—— to help me. Lots of French. American beginning to come. Went to general mess.
Apr. 4 Pleasant.
Boys beginning to come. Worked hard.
Apr. 5th Lots of (vapor?)
Old friends coming in. Sergeant Henry Dobbes & Private Smith invited me to go to movies with them. Enjoyed it and they stayed a while in my billet.
Apr. 6th Pleasant
Air raid Worked hard. More men all the time.
Apr. 7—Air raid near us. Services in hut. Trees and flowers beginning to bloom. Party at our billet. Miss R, Mr. Pettus, Rilie Chaut, Harrington, Hughes & myself. Good time.
Apr 8th Pleasant.
Dobbs & Smith leave for front. Move into new billet 17 Rue de la chapelle. Bedroom and sitting room. Still eat at old place.
Apr. 9th Pleasant
Went to Hospital with Miss R. Party at billet. Capts. Riley & [Kennedy or Kennerly], Miss R and myself. Good times- Capt. K. awful mush. Both 165 Inf.
Apr. 10th Warmer
Worked hard stay at hut for supper.
Apr 11th Pleasant
Air raids- (illegible)
Lt. __________ in (one I had mess in stable with.)
150th Field Artillery Band played at hut every morning for practice. Very busy.
–Kirsten Hammerstrom, former RIHS Director of Collections.
Images from the Library of Congress Photographs & Prints Collection