[Received November 16, 1917]

Exeter College

October 27, 1917

Dear Mother:

I guess that the only way for me to give you any sort of an idea of my doings is to write a little each day, and mail it on when it gets enough to make a letter. The last time I wrote I was at Christ Church College. Well one afternoon the authorities announced that all the Americans would be quartered by themselves in Exeter College and that we were to move that afternoon. There was a great squirring [sic] around getting our stuff packed up and carried out to the gate for loading onto the motor trucks. It all had to be done before the 4 o’clock classes. We Americans think that the English regulations and orders are much of a nuisance, and there was a lot of growling about this move. I had an engagement that night to go see a girl I met at Lady Osler’s tea and was a bit worried about not being able to get a pass out of Exeter. We did not get assigned to rooms until that night. After dinner the assistant commanding officer gave us a talk about how he realized that we found the English regulations very irksome and tried to explain that the commanding officer was not as bad as we thought he was. He really made a very good spiel and we all like him. He is a real soldier who has seen some hard service. His talk and the distribution of the rooms made my going out very late. I got out and slid in late without being asked any questions.

I had a very short and pleasant visit with the Wright family. We sat in the study around a coal fire, Miss Wright, her sister a few years younger, her sister-in-law and her mother, and bickered about the school, the war and generalities. They are very nice people. The father is evidently dead. Their home was in Ottawa. One (19 yrs.) brother was killed in the Canadian Infantry, one brother is still at the front in artillery and one is a doctor returned from the front and now working in a hospital in England. Then there is a nephew a captain in the flying corps with one leg shot off when he landed behind the lines in Boche-land, but got away again. The two sisters here are working in a hospital and another sister is a manager in a hospital in France.

Last Sunday morning we were given an announcement that the commandant ordered us all to run in a 4-mile cross country race that afternoon. No one was fit for such a thing but about half of us were foolish enough to make a stab at it. The course was entirely over hard pavements and streets and I ruined my toes to get third place. Some officer, a so-called champion runner who is running all the time, got first about 2 blocks ahead and a cadet passed me near the finish and trimmed me by a block. I have been limping around all week and cannot get my toes to heal up. Now tonight they announce that there is to be another race tomorrow, but I will not be in it. After last Sunday’s race I got a cold sponge and went up to Lady Osler’s tea. Last week I rowed most every afternoon on the Thames. I have gotten as far as venturing out in a real single shell and enjoy it a lot. Tomorrow afternoon, Stillman, and Stratton and I are going to take out shells and row as far down the Thames as we dare, get dinner at some inn down there and then row back by the light of the full moon. If it works out as I expect, it will be a fine trip. Some of us (the Americans) may be sent to flying squadrons this week. We have taken oral exams and are sort of finishing up our class work. We have to buy a lot of expensive officers’ equipment. We get $100 per month now and are paid promptly, but it does not hardly cover the expenses.

I have the same two roommates here that I had at Christ Church and we get along very well. We drew a convenient room on the second floor. There is no heat and we wash in cold water in basins in a little yard outside the court. We are supposed to be allowed one hot bath a week, but I believe we will arrange to get it whenever we want it.

Last week the cadets had a boxing tournament. The Americans made a very good showing. Most every one in it got beaten up pretty badly and no one seemed to know much about the game.

Thursday we got our first batch of mail from Italy. I was very fortunate. I got several letters from you and Father written to Mineola, and a letter from Mary, Margaret and Mrs. Milikin, all of which were greatly enjoyed.

We expect to be trained ready for the front by January. They are not taking any one over 23 years old for the scout fighters, so I probably will do bombing, photos or artillery work. Everybody put fighting down as first choice and there was great disappointment and surprise when they heard there was an age and weight limit.

The entry for October 22, 1917, in War Birds begins: “We have moved to Exeter College. And why? Thereby hangs a tale.” And goes on to recount a bibulous celebration when cadets of the first Oxford detachment (the group of 53 American cadets who had arrived in Oxford September 2, 1917) completed their ground school course and exams with “the highest marks in the examinations on record.” A British colonel (probably the “commanding officer” Parr mentions) whom they encountered as they assisted one another home was roughly pushed aside and evaded; said colonel, after unavailing efforts to get someone to identify the person who pushed him, “moved us over here to Exeter where we can’t corrupt any of his cadets.” Another second Oxford cadet, William Ludwig Deetjen, in charge of a group of cadets housed at Queen’s College, wrote in his diary for October 21, 1917: “Last night hell just naturally broke loose. ‘A’ Flight celebrated their last night in Oxford. Two men were halted down town without passes. . . . At 11:30 we were all formed, and rolls were called. “A” Flight was present, I had 3 men absent in “B” Flight. . . . It seems the Colonel sent Major Adeley thru the streets with a search light to catch all cadets. Honorable method, I think NOT.” Two days later he notes that “we got orders to pack up and move to Exeter where Springs’s detachment met us. ”

The assistant commanding officer at the Oxford School of Military Aeronautics was Major Gerald Graham Adeley.92 The commanding officer was Colonel Bertram Richard White Beor.93

The Wright family was the family of Dr. Henry Pulteney Wright (1851–1898), a classmate of William Osler at McGill and founder of St. Luke’s Hospital in Ottawa.94 Presumably to be near her children, most or all of whom were in England or at the front, his widow, Marion Grahame Wright, moved to Oxford, not far from the Oslers, in 1915.95

There were four Wright daughters. The oldest, Phoebe Marion Wright, was probably the one Parr refers to as “manager of a hospital in France.”96 The second daughter, Ottilie Frances Wright, who was Parr’s age, had in 1911 married one of Osler’s students, Campbell Palmer Howard.97 The third daughter, Jean Grahame Wright, was born in 1894, and the youngest, Marion Gertrude Wright, in 1896.98 Parr never uses the first name of his “Miss Wright,” but she was presumably Jean.

The nineteen year old brother (and youngest child) was William Richard Wright, a student at the University of Toronto before he joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force early in 1917; he died May 13, 1917.99 Palmer Howard Wright, the third child and second son, was a civil servant when he joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force on January 22, 1915, shortly after his marriage to Hilda Alberta Sherwood.100 The Wrights’ oldest child, Henry (“Harry”) Pulteney Grahame Wright, was already a physician when he joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force on November 14, 1914, shortly before his marriage to Norah Hume Blake. A Major, he served in the No 6 Field Ambulance battalion of the Canadian Army Medical Corps.101

The “nephew a captain in the flying corps” may have been Captain Arthur Banks Wright, a pilot in No. 23 Squadron who was wounded in the foot on June 17, 1917.102

Lynn Lemuel Stratton, like Stillman, was in Parr’s ground school class at Ohio State University School. He had received his A.B. from Hamilton College in 1913 and an A.M. from Harvard in 1914.103

Parr’s roommates at Oxford, as becomes clear in subsequent letters, were Thomas J. Herbert and Robert T. Palmer.

Parr apparently had received letters from his sisters Mary Bowen Hooper, whom he sometimes refers to and addresses as “Mary B,” and Margaret Hooper McQueen, who were four and two years older than Parr respectively.

Monday afternoon, October 30, 1917

Well, the boat trip was not pulled off. Sunday afternoon they had a great deal of trouble getting the necessary team of eight Americans to run in the cross country race, so I had to run. I was the only man who survived the last week’s race enough to try it again. The other seven were all new ones. After I had raced the first block my calves got tight and like there was a big nut in the center of each one. I tried to run them out but they got worse and worse and at the finish they were hard all over and after changing my clothes I could not walk. (There were about 65 in the race. I got 4th place.) One of them is 2″ greater in circumference than it was, but is softening up a bit. My puttees will not meet at the last hole. But we did have the luxury of a hot bath when we got back to Exeter and I went to a tea, a Mrs. Anderson, American from Cincinnati. Met a very stunning Canadian girl who drives a motor ambulance in France. She surely looked class in her Canadian uniform. She was visiting my friends the Wrights.

By virtue of running cross country I got a pass out last night (We are only allowed out Sunday and Thursday) and spent a very pleasant evening with Miss Wright.

October 30, 1917, was a Tuesday. Here and elsewhere Parr’s dates are sometimes off. Perhaps he was misled by glancing at a European calendar on which the days of the week ran Monday to Sunday.

David K. Vaughan, in his edition of Elliott White Springs’s letters, is able to identify the hostess as Clara (Mrs. Robert) Anderson. Springs, in a letter to his step-mother of November 1, 1917, recounts with considerable embarrassment how he (in charge of the detachment since their arrival at Oxford and MacDill’s departure for France) had mistaken the date when they had all been invited to tea. Parr’s casual reference suggests that the event came off well regardless.104 Mrs. Anderson (née Clara Mitchell Ellis), a widow, spent the war years in England, where her children were being educated.105 She was a distant relation by marriage of the better known Mrs. Larz Anderson, who was also in Europe, doing Red Cross work.

 Parr’s fellow cadet, Fremont Cutler Foss, wrote in his diary for October 29, 1917, that he “went to Mrs. Anderson’s tea 50 Woodstock road where we met some fine Canadian girls. One Miss Brown dressed in an officer’s uniform. She drives a Canadian colonel at the front. . . . Met her mother who goes to France Wednesday. Miss Brown is going to France to drive an ambulance.” Parr and Foss may have met Evelyn Gordon Brown of Ottawa who, along with her widowed mother, left Canada for England in 1916. She drove a staff car for Colonel Gilbert Godson Godson before becoming an ambulance driver in France. Her mother, Ethel Brown, became a commandant of Canadian V.A.D.s in France.106

Monday night

We (meaning the Americans) are supposed to have done all that is required of us at this school and we are very anxious to get away. There have been all sorts of good rumors but none seems to pan out. The latest dope was that our Lieutenant tried to get permission from London to give us all indefinite leave until we could be posted to flying squadrons but I overheard him in telephone communication with London, and I don’t think we will get it. The classes are a terrible bore. We could see some of England and do ourselves a lot of good if we could once get away from this blooming school.

We expect to be paid next Thursday. Believe me, I could take my 100 bucks and have a look at London if they would let me. I plan to buy or hire a row boat and Stratton and I go down the Thames in it to London. Then spend my time in the British and South Kensington museums. First, however, there are a lot of interesting sights here in Oxford that I should see first. I will try to arrange to get Miss Wright to take me around.

This afternoon “Strat” and I had a good row. I was in a very light shell. It was almost paper and surely did go thru the water like nothing.

Tell Mary and Margaret to write to me. Continue to address me c/o American Embassy, London. I am not a part of the Rainbow Division.

Lots of love to you all,


The 42nd Infantry Division, which came into being in the fall of 1917 and arrived in France in November of that year, came to be known as the Rainbow Division. “Amidst the rush by America to mobilize, individual states competed with each other for the honor to be the first to send their National Guard units to fight in the trenches of Europe. To check the negative implications of this competition and to minimize the impact the mobilization could have upon any one state, the government decided to create a division composed of hand picked National Guard units from 26 states and the District of Columbia.”107 Douglas MacArthur, a major at the time and in time the division’s Chief of Staff, is reported to have remarked: “Fine, that will stretch over the whole country like a rainbow.”108

Part of the Rainbow Division crossed the Atlantic on the Kroonland in the same convoy that included the Carmania, and this may have led to Parr’s family wondering whether he was a member.109