The stories of life at the 106th American Army Hospital on the Kingston Lacy Estate (see post ‘we only get three candy bars…) started with an e-mail enquiry from Ted Applegate’s daughter Grace about a place in England they had read about in letters he wrote to his wife and family back home in America in the 1940s.
Maj. Ted Applegate was at the hospital working as an attending surgeon, surveying officer, Unit claims officer and admissions/disposition officer, he seems to have had the most ‘hats’ but still found time to write to his family most days.
His family has been very generous in providing transcripts of Ted’s letters, as his daughter says his writing is typical of all Dr’s, illegible! I have picked out a few interesting snippets, I hope will give a flavour of what life was like for the guys so far away from home.
19 July 1944
After supper I made my bed and put my clothes in my rough board hand-made box like cupboard. I have a nice big English desk in the room which is quite lovely size. Senior officers have a room to themselves.
We are quite near to that very lovely estate I told you about some days ago and we are among these great old trees; rolling hillocks abound, and much green, green grass is everywhere. It is lovely.
14 August 1944
Send me some cashews! Or send me some peanuts ‑ in tin cans preferably and be sure to pack very securely. The box with this lovely writing pad in it was wide open on one side and I could see it had been well packed. I guess you had better send me some more writing paper by the time you get this. This first tablet is almost gone. I don’t want to run out. The paper is hard to get here at all. Even for army use.
How I would love to sit down and eat some ice‑cream with you. There is no such thing as ice‑cream! We eat well but many of our foods are rebuilt dehydrated‑ applesauce, sweet potatoes, etc. Most of it is good enough.
Friday, 20 October 1944
I don’t like or wear the under-drawers but I do like and need the chest protection. In the ablution building where we shave and bathe you can see your breath! Two nights a week only now we have a fire for showers. During these nights the temperature gets up to 50 degrees in the shower room (the stove is in the adjoining room to the showers).
We had a tree fall on the x-ray building yesterday – came right through the roof and for a wonder did no damage except a few minor abrasions to a few patients and men. It has been quite windy lately and these trees are nearly all more than a hundred years old.
Saturday, 28 October 1944 (1250)
I live only from day to day, my dear, and they are passing. As an English woman said who talked to us a night or two ago we had our yesterdays, we will have our tomorrows so why worry about today! This lady is a cultured lady from Lime Regis in this county who has three youngsters. She is in British Intelligence. She escaped the Nazis in Belgium, in France by the skin of her teeth in 1940 and has been working as liaison between the British and the underground movements in those countries the last four years. She told us some of her experiences how they had a more or less regular courier service between them all the time.
1735 Thursday 7 September 1944
I’m telling you, the spit and polish in the U. S. A. is nothing to what it is over here. I might almost say care of the patient is secondary. They know we will do that work no matter what else we have to do so they really bear down on our housekeeping. No man can find any dirt in my building anywhere, anytime. A patient walks through or is carried through, he is followed by one of my boys with a dry mop, who wipes up his footprints. We scrub and wax and polish our floor twice weekly. Three privates have a police roster which they sign alternately every hour all day long. During that hour he cleans, dusts, shines the brass faucets, polishes windows, empties wastebasket’s, picks up leaves, etc. Every idle moment I have I walk about trying to see something wrong. That is the way the Colonel wants it and that’s the way the STO wants it and that’s the way it shall be. My two T/4S wouldn’t come up to my expectations so I had a buck sergeant put in over them and he is making them keep at it. I was spending all my time or too much of it supervising them. It runs better now and we shine.
25 September (1944)
Dearest, My Darling ‑
We had officers’ call tonight until 800 and then a meeting of the board of governors which makes me quite late in getting to you. I had to shave and now have on my pajamas ready for bed. While I was at the club the fuse blew out in our quarters and it may precipitate doing without our electric heaters. I hope not. We won’t be able to sit in our rooms at night if that happens!! I am torn between two fires! I really should go to London and see the points of interest being so close but with you being hard put to it to pay your necessary bills I am sorely tempted to send you a money order of my spare cash. I hope you can really relax after all these years but I am inclined to say, “show me!” No, my dearest, please don’t worry about bills. Do the best you can and from there the Lord will provide. That is the only certain thing in my life. My love for you and ours is all there is in my life. Always, your sweetheart who is in love with you more every day he lives. Goodnight, my dear Margie.