Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The J.T. Fairall WWI Letters: (7) December 21, 1917

In the seventh letter written, Jack has finally received mail since leaving the U.S.  It took over a month for the mail to get to him at that time.  His satisfaction in receiving mail serves as a reminder for how important it is to all of those in the military overseas to hear from people at home.

John, age 8
Much of his letter focuses on individuals in the family and possibly neighors or friends of the family.  Unfortunately, I do not know who many of the people he references are, so the snippets of information Jack mentions don't tell a clear story since we're missing the other side of the conversations (only letters he sent are available).  However, there are a select few people that I have identified who are family members.  All of the letters he received must have provided him with updates on how people back home were doing.  One person in particular that he mentions is his Uncle Will; he recalled that he had a lot of fun with Will when he was younger (see the photo on right of Jack at a young age).

Jack's days are busy while in training.  He doesn't seem entirely happy with how he's doing, experiencing some difficulty keeping it all together.  Of course, we know based on future letters and his military record, he eventually did figure it out and serve as a reconnaissance pilot.

My Dear Mother

At last I have received some mail.  One from Mrs. Kelly one from Raynor, the one that he mailed to Dayton and 4 from you.  I tell you they made me feel 200% better.  I think that I have read them over at least a dozen times.

Your first letter written 11/4/17 arrived 12/20/17.  One mo. 16 da.  You mention the last Sunday morning breakfast.  I would certainly enjoy another such a one if I could drop in unexpectedly on Xmas morning.  If you remember this will only be the 2 Xmas I have ever been away.

I hope that Emmett* and Mr. Slocomb got together again.  There is a much better chance with an interest in a business than there is managing some other persons.

I am sorry to hear that the baby was sick and surely hope that she is well by now.  She is at the age where she must be watched over very carefully.  I suppose that when her Uncle Jack gets home again she will be quit grown up.  She could talk the last time.  She will be quit accomplished.

The supper that you had with Uncle Will and Aunt J^ and Raynor must have been very pleasant.  I am sure that it lasted 2 hrs.  I would liked to have been there.  Willie was as full of fun as ever or has he gotten over it by now.  Somehow I always enjoyed life more when Willie Raynor and I were together.  I wonder if we will have any of those times over again.  I am sorry that G-ma wasn't home when I left.  If I had known that she would come I would have sent her word.  Tell her to take good care of herself and she will be there when "Johnny comes marching home."  I bought $10,000.00 insurance and sent a signed copy of the application to you which you have received by this time.

Your description of the US club is very interesting.  There will be more than one poor sucker get homesick for such treatment when he gets over on this side especially the infantry men.  They are the boys that have the nasty work.

I haven't receive either the sweater or the box.  They will be along though.  The mail is so heavy that they have to haul it from [censored - maybe Paris?] in trucks a distance of about [censored].  I hope that the fruit cake doesn't go astray as fruit cake are going to be mighty scarce over here.  The tobacco and cigaretts are also needed very much.  I have exactly 4 pcks of 20 cigaretts ea left of the store that I brought along.

My flying is coming along slowly.  I will get it into my head some of these days.  I am in the best of health.  Outside of a little cold in my throat I have been O.K.

I will write to Issy Cath and G-ma in a day or two.  Tell them to write often as my days are all crowed from daylight to dark.  We have a lot to learn besides flying so we are rushed all the time.

If you see anything in the papers send it.  We don't get very much news from the states.  I would enjoy reading the register so you might mail one now and then or better still several together.

With love to all

J.T. Fairall
American Exp. Forces
% B.M.C.

*Emmett's full name is Emmett Mills Howard (b. 6 Apr 1890, d. unknown); he was the husband of John's sister, Bernice Fairall.
^Uncle Will is likely William Henry Kline, Jr., John's maternal uncle (b. 18 Aug 1880, d. unknown); Aunt J. was William's wife Virginia - possibly going by Jennie (maiden name presently unknown).
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Saturday, March 19, 2011

The J.T. Fairall WWI Letters: (6) December 13, 1917

One of the planes flown in WWI
In his sixth letter home to his mother, Jack covers two topics: flying and food.

For the past ten days, Jack and others have been training in "scout machines" which presumably were for reconnaissance missions.  If someone wasn't fit for flying the scouts, they'd instead fly bombing machines.  Jack shows an obvious preference for the faster scout machine, which is what he ended up flying throughout the war.

The dominant topic of his letter was about food, though!  He eats well and there is a variety of hot food, though this shouldn't be a surprise since he wasn't that close to the war front yet.  I personally take an interest in Jack's use of the words dinner and supper.  Many people, like myself, use the two words interchangeably.  But often in other cultures, dinner is a late afternoon meal while supper is a late evening meal.  The latter perspective is how Jack views these meals.  Also, he mentions Karo syrup which I've never heard of before, but their web site shows they have a wide presence in the U.S. today and have been around 1902.

On a side note, Jack may have written this letter in a hurry, due to some spelling mistakes and missing or repetitive words.  That is generally not the norm for his letters.  Perhaps training was taking up more of his time.  He also was getting anxious to receive more mail from his family, as he wasn't really getting any letters at the time.


My Dear Mother

No mail but still have hopes.  We have been here since 12/3 and have started our training for the scout machines which are the fastest machines.  If we break a machine we will be sent to another field and put on a bombing machine which is much slower.  Of course we don't care for this although there have been quite a number apply for these machines of their own accord.

This camp is much more comfortable than other that we have been to.  We have very warm barrack heated by the large coal heater which do except when some fresh air friend opens the windows.  Our food is very good.  We had turkey one day since our arrival this doesn't happen often but every day it is good.  For breakfast we have oatmeal with milk and sugar or molasses which goes very good try it some time.  Don't put any milk on the oats but use a little Karo syrup.  We always have bacon or some other meat and coffee along with this.  For dinner we potatoes and tomatoes or beans also coffee and meat.  I forgot mention that we quite frequently have hot biscuits or hot cakes for breakfast.  Supper is usually about the same as dinner.  From the above you can see that I am far from starvation.  I am really in fine health.  I haven't ever had a cold this winter, which is out of the ordinary.

The next time you write I wish you would tell me weather Raynor has ever sold the oboe and the amount so I can send the balance to him.  I would like get that matter out of the way.  Tell Peck* I would like to hear from him also.

For this time I am
Your affect. son

John T. Fairall
American Exp. Forces
American Air Service
Via B M C

*Peck is the nickname of Jack's younger brother Milton Lee Fairall.

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Sunday, March 6, 2011

The J.T. Fairall WWI Letters: (5) December 1 & 4, 1917

Tours, France - Jack is on the far left smoking a cigarette!
A month long journey from the States lands J.T. Fairall in Tours, France at the 2nd Aviation Instruction Center for the beginning of his military training with the French.  In his fifth letter, Jack writes to his mother.  The short but rough boat trip across the channel from England to France brought about seasickness for many; apparently, it was worse than the trek across the Atlantic.

Jack's initial impressions of the French are very positive.  His thoughts on the available "rank" cigarettes are a different matter.  But he seems so happy to be flying again.  The 2nd Aviation Instruction Center is fairly new, and the airfield is still being completed.  Jack and his fellow aviators are finally preparing for the war on the front.

Supplementing Jack's letter, check out this film clip found at Criticalpast.com showing some excellent footage of the aviation center in 1918.

France 12/1/17

Dear Mother

I have been on the go since my last letter at Southhampton.  The worst part of the trip was that across the channel.  I don't believe that there was a person on board that didn't get sick.  I had to sleep standing in a corner to keep me from rolling around the floor.  We came over on a small fast steamer that bobed around like a cork.  We didn't see any submarines 

[section of page missing]

the remains of the fire - Revolutionary times.  The people of France are exceedingly polite and will often forget themselves out to help you.  The other night we were having dinner in a cafe down town and one of our fellows took too much wine.  He was making a fool of himself by trying to talk to every one in the place.  He didn't know any French but was using one of the French-English phrase books.  All of the Frenchmen were doing their best to help him but had he been in the U.S. he would surely have been arrested as a nuisance.

[section of page missing]

war isn't nearly over and the people of the U.S. will have to get that idea out of their heads and go at the proposition in a more business like manner.  I think that our government will be a big factor in settling the matter but the people will have to do a lot more towards helping out in the matter, than they are doing at present.


I was interrupted the other day and I have been unable to write more until today.

I am now located at the training school and hope to get busy flying very shortly.  This field like all of the rest is new and a little unsettled but the work is going on with good speed and will soon be as complete field as there is in the world. The flying is great. You can see the same tactics here that are used on the front.

I believe that I have caught up with all of the fellows that went ahead except Bob Kelly. He will turn up sooner or later they all do.

I am sending a carbon copy of my insurance. If I were you I would file it in case of any mixup. There is no telling. Of the 47 R.M.A.*, about 9 have gotten their commissions and the rest of us are waiting. If by any chance mine is sent home please forward at once. For I anticipate some little trouble from this mixup.

When you get this I wish that you would mail me some American cigarettes.  The ones that we get here are rank.  Be sure and pack them well.

Tell everyone to write but not to wait for an answer.  The mail is very slow in finding us.  I expect to be reading letters for a week when it does come in.

Goodby for this time.

* R.M.A. is an abbreviation for Reserve Military Aviator.

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Thursday, March 3, 2011

The J.T. Fairall WWI Letters: (4) November 22, 1917

Winchester Cathedral, a few miles
north of Southampton
In the fourth letter written by J.T. Fairall during WWI, Jack has finally made it back on land.  Currently in Southampton (southern coast of England), he is taking in the scenery and the people of the United Kingdom.  The British accent is a bit challenging for Jack to understand, particularly of those in Liverpool where he had just come from, and anyone from a Scottish or Irish descent.  

Jack relates to his mother a comparison of prices of goods between the States and England.  It gives the reader an idea of the currency exchange rate - in 1917, an American got a better deal in England; while in 2011, the opposite is generally true.  

Jack seems relaxed, appreciating the holly trees and parks, as well as the local restaurants and cafes.  He also believes he came across a familiar name to the family, a K.E. Rockey.  None of Jack's letters confirms whether it was indeed the Keller Rockey he thought.  Jack's letter (among several others to follow) is written on a YMCA paper, printed especially for the U.S. military.  The YMCA played a major supporting role for the military during World War I.      


Dear Mother

We are now in Southampton waiting to be sent across.  We have quarters in an English rest camp just at the edge of town in what was evidently a park, a very pretty location.  It is filled with trees, some of the prettiest holly trees I ever saw much prettier than the holly that we have at home.

This is a very small world.  I don't believe I ever went anyplace that I didn't meet someone that I know.  The first name that I saw when I landed in camp was Capt. K.E. Rockey on a headquarters door of the American marines.  I inquired of some of the marines and I am sure that he is Keller Rockey that we know.

Southampton is a very pretty town.  It is very neat and clean with several parks scattered around.  The dwelling houses are very quaint.  There are some that are set back in yards but most of them set on the sidewalks with no porches.  The majority have [illegible - four words?].

The people here are much easier to understand than in Liverpool.  The night before we left L[iverpool] we had leave several of us went sightseeing.  We had dinner in a cafe and I left a cap.  I was lucky when I remembered it.  It was about 11 P.M.  I just got back in time to the waitresses going home.  The manageress a very pretty little woman opened up and got my cap.  I talked with her for a while but surely had a time [illegible - three words?] for everyone here talks very fast especially the people of Scotch or Irish decent.

I have been very interested in the store windows.  About 80% of the mndse here is much cheaper than at home shoes that we would pay $10.00 for sell at about $7.00 all other stuff is as cheap a suit of cloths that we would pay $35.00 for sells at $25.00.  The people here cannot complain of the high cost of living.

As it is dinner time I will close as ever

Your affectionate son 

address J.T. Fairall R.M.A.
Aviation Section Sig Corps
American Expeditionary Forces
via New York

* 19 is date stamped on the top of the page, but the year is not further specified.  Based on the known timeline, the letter was likely written in 1917.

Envelope (back is blank)
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