Tuesday, July 31, 2007

7. Bryan and King George V

I usually put a link to the great documents available at Footnote.com at the beginning of each post in this series. I try to find something pertinent to link to, such as collections from World War I. Today I was stunned (happily) to find that the folks at Footnote have placed documents of the US Expeditionary Forces to Russia online! Where did these come from? I hadn't seen them yesterday! How exciting! So after you read this latest post, I hope you'll join me in reading about the ANREF at Footnote!

The letter to Bryan's parents below and Robbins oral history hint that the troops of the 339th Infantry may have enjoyed some time in London to see the sights before heading north to Newcastle-on-Tyne for their ship to Russia during WWI. While in England, it seems that every American soldier received the following letter of greeting from King George V. Obviously, he would not have personally hand-written thousands of letters, although the greeting most assuredly was dictated by him. The reason there is a portion of the letter image missing is that in the original scan which my aunt sent me, there was a clipping next to and slightly on top of it from a history or nostalgia magazine which showed another copy of this letter and an inquiry by someone as to the history behind these letters. I have "whited" this out, so as not to detract from the letter itself:


Soldiers of the United States, the people of the British Isles welcome you on your way to take your stand beside the Armies of many Nations now fighting in the Old World the great battle for human freedom.

The Allies will gain new heart & spirit in your company.

I wish that I could shake the hand of each one of you & bid you God speed on your mission.

George R.I.
April 1918

On the reverse of this letter, Bryan scribbled a note to his family:

Somewhere in England
Dear Mother and all,

We are all feeling fine. This is a greeting from his Majesty King George. This sure beats everything that I ever took in. There is no end of new and queer sights. I would like to write the name of the cities that we see but can not. It would be censured. This is sure some city believe me. The band is playing american pieces it makes a fellow lonesome for America.

Will write the next chance. Bryan

Co I 339 Inf
American Expeditionary Forces

We settle and move so often that we hardly know where we are But write according to my address above. Every thing looks favorable. That is all I can say. Now mother do not worry. For we get plenty to eat and feel good. Will have worlds to tell you some day.

With love

The signature in the bottom left corner is "Dwight Fistler, 2nd Lieut". It also appears on the front of the envelope's face, seen below. Unfortunately, this envelope was scanned with part of the magazine article sitting on top of it. All these pieces were being stored in sleeves, and that is how they were scanned.

You can see in lieu of postage, the words "Soldiers [sic] Letter" appear in the upper right corner of the envelope's face. I suppose the return address probably said something along the lines of "A Message to You from His Majesty King George Vth." Directly below Bryan has written once again his address. The addressee is "A[ngelo] M[errick] Robbins, 1612 Mystic Ave, Muskegon Hts, Mich, USA," Bryan's father.

Bryan's comment that "this is sure some city" makes me wonder if this was written from London. A family story has been handed down through the generations, from Bryan to my grandfather Bob, to my dad (also named Bryan) who told it to me: Apparently Bryan and a buddy were out and about seeing the sights of the city when a commotion was heard. "The King is coming!" "Bow, the King is coming!" Down the street came the King (was he in a carriage or a motorcar?). Bryan and his friend knew that Americans bow to no king; however, they wished to be respectful and were in uniform, so as the regent approached, they saluted. King George V leaned out his window and returned the salute to the young men!

Truth or legend? While we'll probably never know for sure, I'm fairly certain there was some sort of truth at the base of it. There usually are in family stories.

Other posts in this series:
1. A Polar Bear in North Russia
2. The Family of Angelo and Lula Robbins
3. Bryan and Marie - A WWI Romance
4. Bryan Gets Drafted
5. Basic Training at Camp Custer
6. Getting "Over There"
8. To Russia, With Influenza
9. A Letter from Mother - 25 Sep 1918
10. A Letter from Father - 7 Oct 1918


Janice said...


What a wonderful story. I have no doubt that Bryan's story about George V was true! Thank you for sharing it.


Miriam Robbins said...

Janice, thank you for your kind words!

Anonymous said...

I have the same letter but mine is to a Mr. Claude B. Flowers from Kenton, TN. Do you have any idea what the value of such an item would be?
LD from Kentucky

Miriam Robbins said...

While I don't have any idea what the value of such a letter would be, it is possible to write an antiques expert such as those you find in Reminisce magazine. In fact, included in the scan that my aunt made of this letter was a clipping from either Reminisce or a similar magazine, in which a reader had written in asking if other readers knew anything about such letters from the king.

You could also probably take it to a local antiques dealer, or search E-bay to find the current going rate. Happy Hunting!

Anonymous said...

Wow. I have been carrying around the same letter with me for over 20 years now. I thought it was an original, but now it makes sense as to why she got it. My copy was sent to A Mildred Cozine (the soon to be mother of my late step-father). I found it in an old trunk in my step-father's basement. I also have the envelope. The upper right hand corner says "A Message To You From His Majesty King George Vth."

Anonymous said...

I too have the same letter and until now did not know that it was a form letter and now makes sense as to how it got into my hands. My copy was sent to a Mildred Cozine the soon to be mother of my late step-father. I found the letter in a trunk in his basement. I also have the envelope showing the upper right side and the postmark. The words that are missing from your envelope is "A Message To You From His Majesty King George Vth."