Javascript styleswitcher changes between stylesheets for different size text.
skip navigation text size: small | medium | large 
MU logoUniversity of Missouri
The Pattrick Family [ Museum Online Home ] [ Historical Collection ] [ Museum Home ]

World War I through the Eyes of a Mid-Missourian

[ Home ] [ Brief Bio ] [ Enlisting ] [ Orders ] [ Daily Life ] [ "I've Seen Enough" ]

J H Pattrick Goes to France
hometown newspaper article

Telegram from Mother and Dad

Dear Mother and Dad
explaining decision

War Diary: with Pershing on the HMS Baltic

Letters from the Baltic

War Diary: London

War Diary: Arriving in France

Dear Mother and Dad
arriving in Paris

Mother and Dad
Mother and Dad
Melissa Whitmore and
William Robert Pattrick

<< back to Enlisting

Letters from the HMS Baltic

Letter #1

from on board H.M.S. Baltic
May 28, 1917

Dear Mother & Dad:
. . .
Now I shall follow this scheme of writing. I will number each one at the top so you can see whether any have gone astray. I may send other precautions later on.
. . .
Well you will want to know to know who "we" are won't you? Well this has been called the first "Expeditionary Force" to France. In other words it is the first of the official American fighting force to France. I should not say "fighting" because very few on board are to do any actual fighting but are to prepare the way for the proper caring for of the fighting later on.
. . .
Then comes the Medical Corps consisting of Col Ireland, his general supervising assistant, who acts as his chief clerk and four of us who are classed as "clerks". The Colonel's assistant is a Mr. Dickinson, and they both came directly from the border to sail. They are both mighty fine men I feel, and I sure am congratulating myself for they are both Shriners - now isn't that luck! I did not mention it myself but they both took occasion to speak of it. One of the other fellows - Bennett, who comes from K.C. and is in the same stateroom with me is a 3rd degree man also.
. . .
The 'Baltic' is one of the larger White Star liners and is certainly a palace. We are going first class in every respect with all that that means.
. . .
There are a couple of six inch guns mounted on either end, the life boats are plentiful and all ready to launch and there is a life belt within an arms reach anywhere you step. However, the greatest protection we are to have is a convoy of three fighting vessels which I understand will join us soon. I have not felt the least bit uneasy except once just after dinner when I was walking on the upper deck to settle a big dinner we had just finished and I thought sure I saw a distant flash - for a moment I caught my breath but soon decided it was either my imagination a distant light-house or reflection off my glasses. I think the latter. . . but I must confess I don't have the least apprehension but what we will reach our destination o.k. I can't think they would not take every possible precaution with General Pershing on board.

This bunch who are on board are every one either a high official or a highly specialized man in his line and if nothing happens it will certainly mean much to be able to say, "Yes, I was with Pershing with the first to reach France from America." To show how much the places were sought in this first bunch we were told two young millionaires from New York are on board going as chauffeurs. I tell you I am about the luckiest guy I every saw, and I sometimes think it is much more than I deserve but I suppose the long hours of running a typewriter after reaching France will partly make it up.

All in all in appears to me to be the chance of life-time and a chance that come but to a very few. If I can live up to it, it will certainly be the making of me and something I believe you will be proud of also. And altho I might not survive, I had courage enough to see and appreciate at least, trying to do my best and if my time should come I shall try my very best to meet it like a man.

However, if I do not return, please never chide or blame yourselves because you are certainly not the cause or influence of my coming and had I wired more fully or had you known I was to leave so early you perhaps would have been more reluctant to tell me to "do as I thought best." I tried to weigh everything in the very short time I had to decide and now I should be the only one to blame if it does not turn out well. Now please let me impress this one thing and if it was the one thing I were permitted to write you in this letter it is this. Should anything happen that I do not return I do do not want you to have all the joy and happiness taken out of your lives. It would be my earnest desire and wish that you enjoy everything in life for the remainder of your days - buy an auto and have a chauffeur to drive you whenever and wherever you wished, visit and have a cook, and have someone to do the washing so you can have a clean sheet to sleep on every night and silk stockings to wear every day in the week. . . .

However, here is the picture I would rather draw - the war can't last much longer, the sub-marines are being stopped and the Germans being forced back every day. Soon we will be returning victorious from France and then won't you be proud and sometimes perhaps someone may say, "I'm proud of my Daddy, he went to France, with those who went first and he didn't get married to keep from going either." - that's some picture, isn't it now!

Your loving son,

Letter #2

from on board R.M.S. Baltic
May 29, 1917

The only thing out of the ordinary today was the second installment of the typhoid inoculation. I got word that it was coming off so I got with the three doctors who have it in charge and made myself useful and soon I had one part of the operation to do. I knew the location of the deltoid muscle from my anatomy course in the university so I applied the antiseptic. It took over two hours and I sure learned a good deal about the process so when it was all over I was able to apply my own. Of course they didn't know me and those captains and colonels would call me doctor when they lined up - some nerve on my part but I learned a great deal. . . .Genl. Pershing was the only one I didn't get a swat at and I was told to go up and apply the antiseptic to him and had gotten half the way up when they found something else for me to do. Next time I hope I'll get him too.

Letter #3

Wednesday, June 6, 1917

. . .Monday we reached the danger zone and extra precautions of all kinds were taken. They threatened to lock everyone in because some smart guys insisted on smoking on the decks after dark. We were instructed to not take our clothes off after reaching this war zone and so since Monday morning at 7 o'clock I have not had mine off and won't until we reach Liverpool, which will likely be on Friday - nearly a week without taking my clothes off is quite a stretch is it not. However, I feel quite as normal and entirely as safe as if we were in a hotel. Altho, we have never been at all frightened about the situation, I and my roommate have followed instructions to the letter and have gone even beyond the caution taken by the average passenger in that we took our little trundle beds right out on deck and there we bunk in the cool fresh air and within three jumps of the life-boats. We find it much more comfortable than the stuffy staterooms.

Everyone is in a much better humor and very much at ease today because of the fact that when we went on deck this morning there on either side, was an American torpedo boat destroyer to convoy us safely the remainder of the trip.
. . .
I have already done considerable private correspondence work for the Colonel - in fact I am the only one of us who he has called on at all. I am going to stay close to the Colonel for I am thinking it will pay. So much for tonight.

Your loving son,

Hezzie signature

[ Home ] [ Brief Bio ] [ Enlisting ] [ Orders ] [ Daily Life ] [ "I've Seen Enough" ]

A Joint Exhibit
of the
University of Missouri
Western Historical Manuscript Collection-Columbia
and the University of Missouri-Columbia
Museum of Anthropology

Acknowledgments and World War I Links