[Received January 26, 1918]


London Colney

January 8, 1918

Dear Mother & Father:

Well I have got a big letter job ahead of me. I have not written you since 28 December, ‘17, and I have received four from you, one from Margaret and one from Knud. I will first answer your letters numbers 22, 23, 24 and 27. 25 and 26 have not arrived.

I received a fine Christmas box from Mrs. Millikin (Julia Bates). News of Carroll and Russ’ holiday very interesting. Paskill is the only other one of the 17 at Columbus who is in this squadron. Fry and Stillman are nearby at # 76. The others are scattered all over England. Rox Fleet, Red and Maloney are S. E. of London 55 miles near Faversham. There are 12 American cadets here and about 9 at #76. Tom Herbert was my roommate (with Rob. Palmer) at Oxford. Tom Herbert is here. Frank Read (I don’t know his first name) from Baltimore is here. He enlisted the same Sunday I did. Perhaps Father remembers seeing him at the recruiting station—a tall good looking chap that got sent to Ithaca. No letter from Mr. King yet. I do not wear spurs. I do read a good deal of English war news, am fed up on it, but like to hear you all’s opinions on the situation. I received letters from Rome and the War Dept. Wash. some time ago and acknowledged them I think. I hope Rose is well in love. Of course I should not talk, and I think Barton Harvey is a good chap but Rose might have done more picking. You seem to have been a good judge of Baby Woods’ wedding cake. I sent you all two batches of photos the 2nd and 4th of December. Also two large group pictures from Oxford, and a Christmas cablegram. I remember your allusion to the triangle caps and don’t know whether it was based on the pictures or my remarks about the caps. Glad to hear of Dug and Jack. My uniform cost 7 pounds 17 or about $39.75 which was a very good reasonable bargain. The same thing in London would cost $45 or $50. “Over the Top” has a good reputation here. Needless to say I have not read it. I waded 1/2 way through “Mr. Brittling sees it thru” and thought it ordinary. It would probably interest somebody who was not in intimate contact with its ideas and like, but anything about ordinary English character bores me to death now. I liked Father’s remark—to give a practical demonstration of Allied machine gun superiority to the Huns. Mr. Spalding left us at Liverpool and went to France as an interpreter. Your boxes have not arrived yet, but I know their contents will be fine even though you seem to cast doubts about them. The underwear will be prize enough. I am very late but stuffed dates and sweet raisins is the best kind of goodies for me. I got a wonderful fruit cake from Mrs. McQueen, and a box from Knud. It seems funny but Knud seems to receive and return correspondence with much better luck than mine to you all. He sent me a bunch of fine handkerchiefs, a dozen films, and a big box of nut candy. He also sent some tubes of developer and some hypo but the censor took them out. He writes fine news about the ship yard. He is having wonderful success, and Kent has the job of assistant foreman of the pipe shop. I am glad he is married and has three kids. Will you send my two letters about flying at Northolt (the 1st flight and the 1st solo ones) to Knud. Very interested in Puddy’s profile—think it looks a good deal like her. Glad to hear of Margaret’s planned trip to Atlantic City. If Russ gets drafted now advise him strenuously to get an industrial job because most of the officers are trained now, and he can take my advice and not expect to get much romance out of a private’s life.

Now I have got to go all the way back to Christmas. I went into London in the morning on one of our motor lurries. I boxed around town inquiring at the hotels for Fleet and Bishop but did not locate anyone. I went to the Eagle Hut and got a free Christmas dinner and talked with some of our men. Then I butted into part of a service at St. Paul’s before going up to McLellands. I arrived in time for tea, and a little before the three Canadian soldiers who Mr. McLelland had invited to dinner thru the Y. M. C. A. Jean’s brother-in-law, a British captain, has composed some very good songs, and she sang while Mrs. played them. Then the Canadians arrived. Two of them were plain nice youngsters, and one was a man of about 40 who had been out since the first contingent, wounded twice, and had some military medal. He was a most amusing fellow. He had the gift of the soap box variety of a silvered tongued orator and thought that he was a most noble modest hero and distinguished high brow combined. He used tremendous words crowded into their wrong places and worked his features and tones of his voice like he was addressing a multitude on the 4th of July. I say he was very amusing, but the trouble was we had to try to conceal our laughter. We all tried a bit of singing around the piano, and after dinner our highbrow friend got off some very dramatic, touching, and inspiring recitations. We had a wonderful dinner, a real baked turkey. I left before the rest at about 4 o’clock and took a train for St. Albans. I had a rather chilly and lonely 4½ mile walk back to camp getting here about 2 A. M.

New Year’s eve I got off just before supper and went to town. I met Chas. E. Brown (of Chicago), my present roommate, at the Pic Hotel at 6:30. I was due at 6. He had been unable to secure a room in any hotel so we decided to hustle up to McLelland’s for 7 o’clock dinner and try and telephone for rooms from there. We stopped at the Pic’s American Bar (it hardly warrants the name) on our way out and there we met a very affable 1st Lieut. Med. Corp. U. S. A. from Richmond who paid for our refreshments and ordered us a room at the hotel Curzon. He was a very amusing fellow, a Dr. Cauffman. He introduced us to two Englishmen, ordered them drinks and then introduced himself to them. I tried to find out where this Curzon hotel was but all the satisfaction I could get was that any taxi driver would take us to it. Well we eventually got to McLellands at 7:20 and luckily found everybody, but Mr. & Mrs. were much later getting ready for dinner than we were.

Perhaps I had better explain that this dinner party and dance that was to follow was a prearranged and invited affair. At dinner there were Mr. & Mrs., their daughter and son-in-law Mr. & Mrs. Ransom, two younger daughters Jean and Mary, and Ted and I. Mr. Ransom was in mufti as his experiences in France gave him a bad dose of shell shock, which deranged his upper story. He has gotten entirely alright now and is on 18 months parole to brace up entirely. There was also Miss Goodwin, Jean’s chum. We had a very jolly dinner. Another full fledged turkey. As we were finishing a young Canadian lieut. appeared and after the usual fluttering, we proceeded in two taxies to the dance leaving Mr. & Mrs. McLelland at home. We had a good time at the dance. It was at a hotel. Ted and I confined most of our efforts to our own party. The married sister was very jolly and a fine dancer. Jean and Miss Goodwin were very good, and Mary likewise. The music was a piano and violin. We met some other girls, but did not follow it up. We all went home at 12:30 on the subway and then by the aid of my guide book found the Curzon hotel. Luckily it was within ½ hour’s walk as all transport facilities were about nix. As we walked towards it we hailed every taxi and finally got one to take us the last half of the journey. Sure enough it was a hotel and our room was engaged. I slept late and Ted slept until dinner. I walked down town the next morning, got a room at a more real and cheaper hotel, the Regent Palace, bought two theater tickets, boxed around at the Over Seas Club and fooled around generally. I met a Canadian I knew who took me to tea at the Over Seas Club. Then I went to a concert at the Club that I enjoyed very much, Tempest, my tea mate having left town. Then as I was alone I went to the Y.M. for dinner and then took Jean to the theater. It was a pretty good show. A musical play Pamela. However I don’t seem to enjoy the English shows much. I returned here to camp the next morning

Flying has been very dud, and therefore life in general has dragged. It is too cold everywhere to write or sketch and all of us are disgusted, but we will get over it. I hope America does not think as much of Lloyd George’s peace speech as these English papers say we do. I could not see that he said anything new or important. He merely said we are ready to call the war a draw and fix up the geography in a logical even manner. He does not seem to think that we are fighting for victory and the elimination of the military caste and the Kaiser of Germany. The idea of using nice general smooth talk about establishing relationships that would insure the sanctity of treaties and eliminate the possibility of another world war, when he does not seem to think that it is first necessary to eliminate the Kaiser and his tribe. [censored]

Wilson’s idea of making peace with the German people after the Kaiser has been licked is the only idea and I hope he will stick to it even if it takes ten more years and America has to go it alone,


I am not pessimistic but I hope you all do not think (as I did when I was in the States) that Germany is almost beaten and ready to accept our terms. She has really the military advantage yet and any peace in the near future would be on a call it a draw and divide up evenly and start over. She is far from licked, but she can be licked [censored] and she has got to be licked before decent peace terms can be dealt out to her.



As becomes apparent in Parr’s post card of February 25, 1918, and his letter of March 2, 1918, there is some confusion regarding who sent what. See the commentary on the March letter regarding Julia Bates and Mrs. Bates Millikin.

Russ” may refer to James Russell McQueen, husband of Parr’s sister Margaret. Or the reference may be to Russell Dutton Welsh and Carroll Henshaw Hendrickson, both in Parr’s class at Cornell, and both fellow members of the Cornell Maryland Club.211 On Russ Welsh, see Parr’s letter of February 18, 1918.

Reuben Lee Paskill was born in Ohio (April 6, 1893) and attended high school in Hastings, Michigan; as Parr indicates, he graduated with Parr from ground school at Ohio State University in August, 1917.212 He became a civil engineer with a significant side interest in baseball, playing for the team of the Armour Institute in Chicago (predecessor to the Illinois Institute of Technology), where he was a student. Prior to joining the Aviation Signal Corps, he worked for the Virginia State Highway Commission.213

“nearby at # 76” should almost certainly be “nearby at # 74,” the London Colney training squadron where Parr had originally tried to park his plane after becoming lost in the fog in December (see his letter of December 10, 1917).214 No. 74 Training Squadron was formed at Northolt on July 1, 1917, but almost immediately moved to London Colney.215 In addition to the American cadets Parr names, Grider and his friend Lawrence Callahan were at London Colney, and were soon joined by Springs.216 From Parr’s next letter it appears that Thomas Cushman Nathan was also there. Additionally, Parr’s photos (5.11–5.13) indicate that Rutledge Bermingham Barry of the first Oxford detachment and Marvin Kent Curtis, Robert Alexander Anderson, and Edward Frank Hollander of the second Oxford detachment trained at or at least passed through London Colney.

Parr’s same day enlistee was Francis Kinloch Read, exactly three years younger than Parr, and born in Towson, Maryland. He studied at Johns Hopkins and went on to graduate from ground school at Cornell (“Ithaca”) on the same day (August 25, 1917) that Parr graduated in Ohio.217

Rose Lindsay Hopkins, five years younger than Parr, grew up in Catonsville, an area west of Baltimore and east of Ellicott City, where many wealthy Baltimore families had summer homes. Rose may be one of the “Catonsville girls” whose dancing Parr felt qualified to judge (see his letter of February 10, 1918, as well as his mention of Catonsville in his letter of April 19, 1918). Frederick Barton Harvey was born the year before Parr; he studied at Harvard and joined the Maryland National Guard prior to becoming an officer in the field artillery.218

Baby Woods may be Helen Chase Woods of Baltimore, youngest child of Hiram and Laura Woods, who married Johns Hopkins graduate Arthur W. Machen, Jr. on December 1, 1917.219

Dug is unidentified; Jack may be another reference to Montgomery Johns Slingluff.

Over the Top, published in 1917 by American Arthur Guy Empey, recounts his experiences in the trenches in World War I as a volunteer in the British army.220

Mr Britling Sees it Through by H. G. Wells was published in 1916.221

I assume Mrs McQueen is Annie Jennie McQueen (née Russell), James Russell McQueen’s mother.

Kent is unidentified.

Puddy is unidentified.

Jean’s brother-in-law was Henry Bayly Ransom, who had married Helen Grace McLelland early in 1917.222 Ransom had attended Eastbourne College (1908–1911); he joined the army shortly before the war broke out, serving in the 3rd Battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment (infantry). The Eastbourne College Roll of War Service indicates he suffered severe shell shock at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle in the spring of 1915. However, he was still serving and promoted to captain in mid-1916, and not until the spring of 1917 was he “placed on the ret. list on account of ill-health contracted on active service.”223 The online British Library catalogue lists six compositions by Bayly Ransom (also identified there as H. B. Ransom) from this era—three credited solely to him, three in collaboration with H. J. Brandon or Edward Teschemacher. Some of these may be the ones Parr heard.

Parr’s friendly Virginian may have been Milton Buell Coffman, who had received his M.D. in 1906 from Hahneman Medical College of Chicago before returning to Virginia to set up a medical practice in Richmond.224 At some point he was commissioned as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Medical Officer Reserve Corps and in the autumn of 1917 was elected to the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States.225 That same autumn he was “loaned” to the British.226

Miss Goodwin was probably Alice Dorothea Goodwin, daughter of Professor William Lawton Goodwin of Queen’s College, Kingston, Ontario.227

The Over-Seas Club was the original name of the Royal Over-Seas League, founded by Sir Evelyn Wrench in 1910.228

Tempest is unidentified.

Pamela, by Arthur Wimperis, with music by Frederic Norton, opened at the Palace Theater in December 1917.229

Parr is probably referring to Prime Minister David Lloyd George’s speech of January 5, 1918, to the British Trade Unions regarding Britain’s war aims.

censored: Strips about 3/4 inch high (about 3 lines) and 1/4 inch (one line) from one side of the text to the other have been cut from the letter, followed by another 1/4 inch high strip that cuts out about half of a line of writing.