A Veteran's Letters
Odds and Ends From The MUSEUM!
By Trudy Wyman, Curator, Millinocket Historical Society Museum
Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11, was originally called Armistice Day and marked the end of World War I. Millinocket had men who fought in that war. One was Murray Morgan who joined a Canadian infantry company and fought in France and Belgium. He was a student at Colby College when he enlisted and was one of a number of Maine men who joined the Canadian army before the U. S. entered the war. While in Europe, Morgan sent several letters to an acquaintance in Waterville, a Captain Harold Pepper. Copies of these have been received by the museum recently. The originals will be part of a show of WWI letters at the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine in Augusta. MHS was contacted for photos or possible contact with Morgan relatives.
Morgan was killed in action in France in June of 1916. Following are a few excerpts two of his long letters. “Jan. 13, 1915, the trenches in Belgium. First the scene, a valley just below our trenches which are on the crest of a ridge and which have cost many a life to take.” He talks of the Germans being 400 yards away, firing howitzers called ‘lazy Eliza’ for the sound their shells made. “Next imagine a great hole in the ground, in the side of a hill, reinforced by numerous sand bags, the hole inhabited by numerous rats, more numerous lice and a couple dozen men grouped around a few braziers filled with burning coke and you have a dim picture of my habitation tonight.”
“Jan. 27,1915, somewhere in Belgium. Am still on the firing line, but will be out in a few days for a short rest. Had a close call today, a shell dropped about 25 ft. from me. I don’t mind the rifle fire when iron foundry is hurled at you it gets on one’s nerves a bit. It was pretty cold last night, was on guard just before daybreak, gazing over the parapet trying to get a look at Fritz at that time in the morning is enough excitement for most anyone.” He mentions standing in the mud watching for the enemy, smelling for gas, no feeling in his feet due to cold and being sleepy. “A new sentry takes your place, you cook and eat enough for a dozen and retire to your dugout and hit the flea nest for a few hours.” He describes it as one of the joys of a soldier’s life that must be experienced to be appreciated.
This is only a tiny part from the eight letters and some post cards. Morgan and many others left Millinocket to fight in WW1. Another was Henry Michaud. He left a small black diary…the subject of next week’s Odds and Ends. Others also served in that war…if you have stories of these veterans, considering sharing them with the museum.