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The Lavigne Letters
TRAVELING OVERSEAS TO PREPARE FOR THE D DAY INVASION
There seems to be a period of silence between my father’s letter of December 19, 1943 and his next letter undated but I am assuming it was some time after January 8 of 1944 because on the 8th of January Lt. C.T. McEniry wrote that the Queen Elizabeth dropped anchor in the Firth of Clyde, Scotland.
Undated, January 1944
Arrived at our new destination, am fit and well. I am now somewhere in England.
I know its foolish for me to say not to worry, cause I know very well how you folks feel. I’ll be a good soldier, no damm German can scare me. I would tell you a lot of things but the darn censors just won’t let us.
All I saw throughout the trip was women and children. I never saw so many kids in all my life. I guess they must have been evacuated from the bombed areas, the poor little fellas look half starved. I had some candy wafers and gum so I tossed it out to them, you should have seen them dive for that.
I hope I get a chance to visit London, the people seem very friendly, but very difficult to understand their language. For instance, instead of bowling alleys they say skittle alleys.
I received your airplane book during the trip across and also some Daily Records from Ralph. Thanks a lot.
Please keep sending lots of toilet articles, such as shaving cream, blades, shaving lotion, try to get Mennens, and especially soap and plenty of it, it is mighty scarce over here, also send some gum and candy. We all had to have our money changed into British currency. I had fifty one dollars on me and I understand that their paper money is a lot larger than ours, I am going to have quite a fat wallet.
You ought to see the mattresses we’ve got, they don’t remind me of the white cross perfect sleeper or Innersprings, when you lay down on this one, you just got to stay in that certain spot. I sure get cramp up. Send my bed by airmail will you. Ha ha
The girls are not bad looking but they can’t beat the USA gals.
Have you heard from Calvin or the Plourde boy lately?
I always did want to see the Atlantic Ocean, and boy did it make me sea sick! I threw up once , I thought I would heave my heart out. I was sick only one day though. That was enough. I lost a little bit of weight, hope I gain it back.
I sure hope I can get at least one Coca Cola, every gosh darn thing is ration, you can’t even get a handkerchief unless you’ve got a coupon, will have to let the old nose run I guess.
Have you seen any good movies lately? Please send me a lot of reading material. Where is Leonard located now? What weather they’ve got here, rain, mud, fog, mist, etc. What a country.
Well, I guess that’s all for today, keep your fingers crossed, wish you all the best of luck. And here’s a big kiss for you. Good bye, Valmore
Lt. C.T. McEniry writings fills in the gap from my fathers last letter in December of 1943 to the first letter of January 1944:
“New Years Day 1944 found the battalion once again moving to Pier 90, where this time it boarded the world's largest ship, Britain's Queen Elizabeth. And at noon the following day, the Queen Elizabeth -- bearing 15,000 passengers -- sailed past the Statue of Liberty and out into the Atlantic.
Life aboard ship was new to all, and interesting in spite of extreme congestion. Two meals a day and daily lifeboat drills broke the monotony. Except for one day of heavy seas, the weather was cold but good for the entire crossing. In mid-ocean the ship's course was changed because of reports of enemy submarines in the area. A detour north of several hundred miles added about 24 hours to the crossing. But there were no attacks.
About dusk on 8 January, after a voyage of six days, the Queen Elizabeth dropped anchor in the Firth of Clyde, Scotland. The next morning, British and American officials came aboard to welcome the troops, and ship's officers remarked that the debarkation was a "first" in two ways: for the first time there had been no enemy bombing during the unloading; and for the first time there had been no rain.
Unloading by tenders to Gourock, Scotland, the battalion boarded troop trains to the strains of Bing Crosby singing "The Funny Old Hills," emanating from the loudspeakers of a nearby Red Cross establishment. Red Cross girls served coffee, doughnuts, cigarettes and candy; and then, during the night, the trains moved through Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle, York, and Reading to the south of England. The battalion's new station was Upton Lovell Camp, Codford, Wiltshire.
Now assigned to the First U.S. Army, members of the battalion began to familiarize themselves with things typically British, i.e. Nissen huts, the blackout, pounds and shillings, "honey buckets", driving on the left side of the road, and British weather. Numerous recreational convoys afforded opportunity to visit nearby cities, such as Salisbury, Warminster and Bournemouth.”
Undated, sometime in February 1944
( First V- mail letter)
I’m in the hospital writing this letter, I’ve been in here three weeks now. I had an attack of rheumatism in both legs and arms, don’t worry, I feel all right now. Their still trying to find out what caused it. I think it is the weather. I’ve been in bed all this while. I doubt very much I will be with the 197th any more. I think I will be transferred to some other outfit until further notice. Use my same address, I am going to miss those boys, to think I have been with them for fourteen months. God I don’t know what is the matter. I haven’t received a letter from you since I left the states, don’t go worrying now. I’ll be ok in a few days. Good Bye, Valmore
In February, my father was in the hospital so it was unlikely he was with his battalion when they were moved to the Practice Camp at Agnes Head.
Lt. C.T. McEniry writes : “On 20 February, the battalion moved by convoy to the 10th Light AA Training and Practice Camp at Agnes Head, Cornwall, on the southwest coast of England. Here, for 10 days under British tutelage, the batteries fired at sleeve targets with all basic weapons. The British staff was pleased with the state or training of the unit and efficiency of the weapons, and firing results were highly satisfactory.
At the conclusion of firing, the battalion was ordered to another station, and moved on 1 March to Weston-Super-Mare, Somerset, 20 miles southwest of Bristol. A rather large resort city, Weston afforded ample facilities for amusement, and members of the battalion will long remember the amusement pier, the Winter Garden Pavilion, the Odeon cinema and many restaurants and hotel bars.”
March 23, 1944
Dear Claudia, Today I received a load of letters from you, haven’t got the packages yet. Boy I sure would love to see Woodrow in his sailor uniforms, why is he so shy?
Say, what is this I hear of you folks getting and envelope containing pictures of myself? Someone must have sent them cause I sure didn’t. What do they look like anyways? Looks like Leonard will always stay in Boston, the lucky stiff. How is Muriel enjoying married life?
Every letter I get from you mentions snow, gosh, there must be piles of it back home.
Please tell Yolanda the next time she writes V mail not to write in pig Latin, boy, I needed a magnifying glass to be able to read it. Ha ha
I’ve seen some pretty good shows lately . I saw Mr. Big, Lucky Jordan and the More The Merrier.
I see that Julien is going to sell some more ice this year, how in the world can he manage to do both? Good bye, lots of luck, Valmore
Lt. C.T. McEniry writes: “ON 27 March, came the "baptism of fire." German bombers attacked the city during the night and, although the battalion suffered no casualties, it began to realize with greater force that the war was close at hand.
Two days later, two composite batteries of the battalion moved to the Assault Training Center at Woolacombe, Devon, for seven days amphibious and waterproofing training. Following this came preparations for actual channel operations. During April, the battalion was divided into an Assault Group (32 officers and about 500 enlisted men) and a Residue Group (5 officers and about 175 enlisted men). Many conferences were held with officers of the 16th Infantry Regiment of the First Division, to which the battalion had been attached for the channel movement.”
April 22, 1944
Here I am again, Glad to hear that everything is fine. I am out of the hospital now. I’ve been out for about a month and I feel fine and I am back on a gun crew.
I’ve made my Easter duties so don’t worry about that! I received Holy Communion Thursday, the mission lasted two hours every night, it consisted of the Rosary, a sermon by our chaplain and the benediction of the most blessed sacrament. On Good Friday we had off so we could attend the Way of the Cross.
Received another box from you, thanks for everything.
I also got my first subscription of the Brunswick Record, it had the picture of the firebug on it. Boy Woody looks nice in Navy blue. Thanks ever so much for sending those pictures, gee I wish he was here with me. The snapshots you sent of me, Ginger and little Marilyn are very nice but I’m sure a sight for sore eyes and look like hell.
We received our good conduct ribbon the other day and I am sending my certificate home for you to take care of. Guess that is all for today, goodbye and good luck, Valmore
April ? 1944
Well today is Saturday the big day in stores back home. Last night I went to the Stations Of The Cross, they have a nice little chapel here. I just come back from chow, I didn’t eat much, wasn’t very hungry. Ice cream is something of the past for me now, I walked into a soda fountain a month ago and asked a waitress if they had any ice cream, sure she said, come in after the war and we’ll have some. Incidentally, a soda fountain is a milk bar for them. I’m feeling better every day. Please tell Dad and Ralph to write as often as they can. I got a letter from Nellie the other day. Good bye. Valmore
April 29, 1944 (V MAIL Letter)
In three days I will be twenty two years old, I’m still wondering where I will be on that day. I’m always thinking about Raymond Lavigne and I wonder what the future holds for me. Remember the very first letter I wrote in the Army, I promised to do my best, well that promise still holds. If something should happen to me, I want you to remember that for a sister you have always been my best girl and always will be. We had our quarrels, but that’s only natural, you were like a mother after mama’s death and you did a splendid job for me. I don’t think I ever did much for you and did so much for me, as I told you before, everything I do is for you and Daddy. Please send packages often and tell Dad to write more often too, if only a postcard. As long as I hear from him that’s all I care.
Does Yolande still hear from Henry very often? I sure miss him too. I sure wish Woodrow lots of luck in his radio work, he sure looks swell in his Navy uniform.
Tell Dad not to work too hard, to take a good vacation once in a while. Well, kid, got to leave you now, good bye and good luck, keep your fingers crossed. Valmore
In May of 1944 Dad wrote several letters home, most were V MAIL and heavily censored so nothing much of great interest in them. During this time I imagine they were preparing for the D Day invasion so no one could say much of anything about where they were or what they were doing. A letter dated May 21,1944 from Capt. T.C. Chappell to Albert Lavigne, my dad’s father, came a couple of weeks prior to the invasion.
Sunday, May 21st
My Dear Mr. Lavigne,
My I express how proud I am to have your son, Valmore, serving with me. He is doing a fine job and in him we both have something to be proud of.
Perhaps he has hinted although none of us can be too sure about our present task, that there will be times when he will not be able to write as often as he would like and that mail will be slower. This is all too true. Take it in stride, keep the letters he treasures so highly flowing steadily.
Kindest Regards, T.C. Chappell
Lt. C.T. McEniry writes:
The units returned to the marshalling area on 7 May and occupied Camp D-12A. Here life reverted to a semi-garrison status. All vehicles were waterproofed and there was limited familiarization with the new Peca sight. The Residue Group moved from Weston to Bournemouth, Hampshire, on the Channe1 coast, on 26 May. where it remained until about three weeks after D-Day.
Then things began to happen. Field Orders were published. Troops were briefed regarding the Channel crossing and landing operations. Assault units were separated into craft loads; life preservers and other special equipment were issued. The battalion Assault Group moved out to Portland Hards and loaded on LCT's. Operation NEPTUNE was coming up!
I will end Chapter 4 with my dad’s last letter home before the D Day Invasion, dated May 27, 1944, his battalion had to have been preparing for the invasion at that time yet not a hint as to what was happening appeared in the letter. And it was not a V MAIL.
May 27, 1944
Todays Sunday, I attended mass and received holy communion this was Pentecost Sunday too.
I finally got a letter from Ginger, he said he sent me a whole carton of gum and some candy. I ought to be getting his pack soon cause he mailed it May the 5th. He says the twins are getting along fine. He says little Shirley doesn’t mind getting on the pot chair in the morning but little Johnnie is afraid of his, he cries when they set him on it.
The movie today is “Lets Face It” Bod Hope and Betty Hutton, I’m not going to see it cause I saw it in Richmond, Virginia.
Are they still enlarging the airport? How’s Yolanda these days, she sure does miss her Henry.
It’s pretty hard for me to write long letters, every day is the same old routine. Boy, won’t it be swell to get back to civilian life again.
The fellers on the other side of the street have a phonograph and boy, they sure have some pretty good records. And that reminds me, have you bought any new records yet?
Here’s what you can send me, a scapular medal and a chain and a pocket knife. Have the medal blessed for me.
Well, guess that’s all for today, good bye and good luck. Valmore.