FIRST LETTER TO HIS FATHER, WILLIAM HILLS
Dear Father-: This is what you might call an original unabridged edition. Things that I
couldn’t quite write to mother for fear that she might worry but things which I think you would be interested in and like to hear about.
We are just today finished with what you might call a very active two weeks and have gone on “repos” for two days to get rested and fix things up a little. As I told you, you remember we are attached now to the oldest of the sections and one which sees probably as much life as is going on. During the past two weeks our division, that is the division whose wounded we take care of was holding a particularly hot sector of the trenches and we consequently had our work cut out. Two of the men in the section were wounded and nine of the cars hit and there is some mention made of decorating the whole section for bravery. Just a few words as to what it was all like:
Our forward relief post at which there are the ten cars being used that day was in a little town which was a couple of miles behind the lines but which the Bosches seemed to take a particular delight in “strafing” with large shells at irregular intervals during the day and night. This however was comparatively tame as you could always hear them coming in time to get below ground . Usually, however, there was vastly more danger from four or five people trying to get thru the narrow door of the abri or dugout at one time than there could possibly be from the effect of the largest shell in existence.
Then our posts of secours, as they call the places to which the men are carried for us to come and get. There were three of them practically in the trenches, little or big underground caves into which we scuttled after leaving our cars behind a nearby bank or wall. All the roads leading to these posts were under fire pretty continuously and getting thru was a game the thrills in which you can’t imagine. One of them the Bosche could see perfectly and the other two he just kept shooting at for fun and very well, naturally since he had just left that part of the country two weeks before. By the end of the time we were so blasé to shells that unless they were particularly near no one even noticed them.
As you can well imagine, tho, there were a great many very disagreeable features as well as the thrills and the fun of driving. Sitting practically alone in a very wet cellar just before dawn with the smell of the old dead not buried and the new blood of the freshly killed and wounded nearly suffocating you isn’t particularly pleasant. Add to that a noise so loud, of both the shells coming in and going out, that you have to shout to be heard across the room, and you have the idea of the way we spent a good deal of the time. Other times were once in a while quite the opposite but these were short, when there was nothing to do and things were quiet for a while. Then we sat around on top of the dugout and watched aeroplanes fight or walked around in the wreckage hunting for relics. I have found a couple of good ones that I hope to bring home some day. I forgot to tell you that the first place we tried to camp the German avions chased us out of having raided that locality two evenings in succession and made it decidedly unpleasant.
Now we have moved back as I said before for a slight rest. As far as I can see, it is going to be a fearful bore. Nothing doing but to but to sit around all day and fix automobiles and write and talk. I drive a large Packard and as yet have had no trouble.
This is all now. Nannoo (Paul’s grandmother) would probably be interested in this letter and mother, if you think she would not worry. I am a little afraid but use your judgment. Love to everybody and best wishes to Day’s birthday. Paul