France, 1918. Near Fine.
France: 1918. Collection of 38 autograph letters in ink and pencil on various types of paper, many with original envelopes included, bearing the stamps and stickers of the Armed Forces Censor. Included with the group is a miscellany of handwritten and typed copies of letters. A near fine collection with the usual creases and some light thumbsoiling. This wartime archive contains 38 letters sent from Robert Henderson to his girlfriend, Lucy Gregory, his mother, Mary (Bosworth) Henderson, and a few other friends. His letters to Lucy are the most detailed, providing her with as much information as he can about their movements and activities without being censored. He describes their various camps - sometimes hiding behind rocks at a quarry, other times able to enjoy the comforts of staying in a nearby town - and delves into his feelings about the war: "What a strange, abnormal, and meaningless life we live here. There is a little village, or rather the ruins of a village, on our line forward. One sunny day you may pass through there. There is absolute silence, a few soldiers around perhaps, magpies and ravens in plenty. The next day the same place will be a noisy hell that you avoid, with the ripping of shells and the falling of masonry. There's really no sense in it at all." His letters to his mother are more reassuring than descriptive: "It's a pretty good war when you can get strawberries and cream whenever you like." Overall, the letters provide a robust picture of a soldier's life, in the excitement of gunfire, the monotony of manual labor, and the camaraderie of spending day after day with a team of service members having the same experience. Robert Henderson, a graduate of Harvard University, spent the years following his graduation in 1910 working for the Boston and Albany Railroad. In June of 1917, he joined the Armed Forces as a Commissioned Captain of the Engineers, and in July was deployed to France as a member of the 14th Engingeers. Stationed in several different parts of France over the following 15 months, Henderson worked with the engineers to build roads and railways. He was promoted to the rank of Major in March of 1918. After the war, he returned to Cambridge, Massachusetts, and in August of 1919 was married to Lucy Gregory, the recipient of many of these letters.