Letters Home - Carl Arthur Simmons

(From "In the World War")

Trail End

 State Historic Site

FOR THE DURATION of the war, Carl Arthur Simmons served with the Army Air Service (he enlisted in May 1917 and was discharged in January 1919). He started out as a flying cadet with the 172nd Signal Corps Squadron and went on to be stationed in England, where he instructed British, Scottish and American flyers in the use of machine guns. 

A native of Monroe County, Wisconsin, Simmons arrived in Sheridan sometime around 1915. Before the war, he worked for Sheridan's San-I-Dairy; afterwards he was an automobile machinist in both Sheridan and Casper.

In July 1918, Simmons wrote a letter to Sheridan resident C. J. Oviatt, in which he describes - as much as he could due to censorship rules - the life of an American soldier in England. The letter, which discussed everything from weather to money (plus a shout-out to the Red Cross and Y.M.C.A.) was published in The Sheridan Post on August 13, 1918.

Dear Oviatt - I have been here in England about five months, and I am getting "fed up" with it (that is what the English say when they get tired of anything). We are all anxious to get to France where we can get our Huns. I don't know when we will get there; I think my work will hold me here for awhile.

I am an instructor in aerial machine guns. I have English officers to instruct and some Americans and Scotchmen as well. In fact men from all over. I like the work fine. The English officers like to have us tell them about the good old U.S.A. They treat us very nice over here. ... ​It was hard for the boys to get used to tea over here instead of coffee, but we are getting coffee now and everyone is happy.

I suppose you wonder why I took up aerial machine guns, but if you stop to think of it that is your only show with Fritz - your machine gun. No matter how well you can fly, if you can't shoot your gun, and know it like a book, you had better stay away from Fritz, for he might get rough with you. It isn't like going out deer hunting in Wyoming where you can shoot at a deer, and if you don't get him he won't hurt you - Fritz might take to playing rough with you. As soon as I had finished my course in machine guns they put me to instructing and I have been at it ever since.

I would like to tell you about our trip over here on the boat but I cannot write anything in my letters about it. Anyway we had some trip and some excitement. The last two days we had company or visitors. It reminded me of good hunting in some big woods where there was only one rabbit and trying to get it.

We have plenty of excitement here. Your hair will stand on end every now and then. But I cannot tell you in my letter what the excitement is. ...

We have been living in tents ever since we got in England. It was quite hard when we would get a snow storm for we had only one stove in camp, and it was outside. It was the cook stove so you could only get within ten feet of it. But now the cold weather is over for awhile and we are sure glad. ... We have had some bad winds over here. One night I awoke and found that the wind had carried my tent away and the rain was trying to see how long it would take to drown me. But I beat it to it and found another tent for the night. When I first awoke I thought Fritz had made us a visit - but it was only the wind. ...

The American boys are doing wonderful work over here. They are going into their work with heart and soul. But one thing we must do: that is to thank the folks at home for standing back of the Red Cross and the Y.M.C.A., for they are doing wonders here - making everything as happy as possible for us. I think every man over here has got some of the Red Cross knitted goods and they sure do come in handy. I was in a hospital for 18 days when I first got in England and I can't tell you how good the Red Cross and Y.M.C.A. were. The Red Cross sent us candy and cigarettes and a number of other things. And the Y.M.C.A. took good care of us all. The first warm day, when we could get out the Y.M.C.A. had us all playing and otherwise showing us a good time. 

When we landed here and got our American money changed into English money we did not know how much money we had - for we had pounds, ten shilling notes, crowns, half crowns, florins, shillings, sixpence, threepence, pennies, halfpennies, farthings - all different coins. And when an English clerk would tell us how much we owed her for something we thought she was trying to sing something to us. And then it was funny to try to figure out how much it was. We would always lay a handful of money down and let her pick out what she wanted, so we never knew whether she took more than her share or not. But now we have got it down so we can count it faster than the English. 

​It was hard for the boys to get used to tea over here instead of coffee, but we are getting coffe now and everyone is happy.