Diaries (1917)

Some of the most valuable historical documents are letters and diary entries. Through these personal accounts, we can watch history unfold through another’s eyes. We are thankful to have several letters from a West Boylston soldier who served in World War I. George Buck, who was stationed in France in 1917, wrote to his parents about his first impressions of France. Two of his letters were featured in the Oakdale column of the Telegram & Gazette. Below, we’ve written out the full text of George’s letters so you can read them more easily. Attached are the original newspaper clippings which featured George’s letters. Thank you, George Buck, for your service and for letting us see history through your eyes.

George writes: “There are many things I would like to write that I can’t, but I can tell my first impressions of France, that is, as I saw it from the deck [of the ship which carried him to Europe]. I saw a number of towns and villages, which are, or seem to be, built so as to cover as small a piece of ground as possible. But it is hard to say just what I will think when I have seen it at close range. When the ship had come into dock, a large crowd of people was there to see us, and it was really touching. They threw peaches and cigarettes aboard. Believe me, when I say they are glad to see us.”

In another letter, George writes, “Dear mother and dad—Tomorrow is my birthday. I wonder if you will think of it. I bet you will; you have never forgotten it yet. I have been here just a week, and from what I have seen of the country, it doesn’t appeal to me a great deal, altho I am feeling fine, and am in the best of spirits. We are getting plenty of good food to eat, and a dry place to sleep. The people say that it never snows here. It rains often enough, because it rains every day. Everything is very strange to us here. The houses are all built of stone and in the town. Every house is a wine plaster. I haven’t seen a wooden house shop, and everyone drinks wine because the water supply is poor, and the quality of the water is not very good. Everyone is old-fashioned here. It seems funny not to see electric cars and automobiles, but we see plenty of army trucks. I heard this morning that Warren Churchill’s [another W. Boylston soldier] company has come in, but I don’t know whether it is so or not. I hope so, for I would like to see him again. We had a good trip across, as I wrote in my last letter. We are camping about two miles from the town, which is about as big as Clinton, but all in a bunch. Believe me, Worcester is good enough for me. I suppose it will be a long time before I get answers to my letters, but I will write every week, and if I have time will drop a line to the rest of the neighborhood. Your loving son, George. Somewhere in France, Oct. 12.”

Diaries, three diary excerpts