WWI Letters from the Front

January 8, 2018

One of the current projects being undertaken at the Wellesley Historical Society is the processing and updating of the Early Family Papers. The papers contain much correspondence relating to World War I as John “Jack” Early served as a Lieutenant in the United States Army during the Great War. One letter, to Jack from his close friend Herbert “Bert” E. Bancroft, has many interesting features. Bancroft’s eight-page letter, written on Cunard Steamship company letterhead and dated August 4, 1917, is a riveting account of transatlantic travel during World War I. Bancroft writes, “We are now one of a fleet which is nosing cautiously nearer and nearer the dreaded war zone. Safety, however, is given by a suitable convoy.”

The letter was mailed from London, the envelope bearing the Strand Hotel monogram and three Penny Post stamps featuring the likeness of King George V; at the time, Bancroft was on his way to join Army forces in France. Early was not the only one to have read the letter, however. A tag on the envelope notes that it was “Opened by censor 3392,” and the letter shows clear signs of censorship: content has been excised with a pair of scissors or a knife. Soon after receiving this letter, Jack Early would follow Bancroft to France to join U.S. military forces in the war. During his time overseas Early wrote frequently to his family in Wellesley about his experiences.

This collection is being processed with generous grant support from the Wellesley Community Preservation Commission (CPC) and the Massachusetts’s State Historical Records Advisory Board (SHRAB).

To learn more about the Early family of Wellesley, check out our archival finding aid here.

Alden Ludlow, grant-funded Archivist