The Life and Letters of World War I Aerial Observer Lt. Mortimer M. Lawrence – November 1917


Nov. 27, 1917


Dear Mother:-

Yesterday’s letter was intended to take the place of the one I didn’t have a chance to write Sunday.

Jack Bainbridge’s brother, wife and family are mighty fine people and were certainly nice to me.  The brother is about forty-one or so and his wife is about thirty-seven.  He is very English and she is decidedly American.  They have three sons, Billy Jr., Kenneth & Donald.  Junior is 15 and a big strapping fellow, senior in High.  He is wild to enlist but we tried to talk him out of it.  He looks about 17 and feels as though he was being taken for a slacker every time he goes down street.  Kenneth is 12 & Donald 8.  Altogether they are a fine family and I hope I will be able to go there for Thanksgiving.

I had a dandy time at Uncle Al’s.  It was a pleasure just to sit around in a civilized place where it was warm and talk things over.  Uncle sure has a dandy place and he showed it all to me from the garden & garage to the cellarette (where he whitewashed & scrubbed the floor).

The boys are mighty nice chaps but regular boys.  Saturday morning we had reveille & Billy had to come in and get me out of bed.  He brought along two bears, a rabbit and a dog.

They seemed to enjoy having me there & I am going again if I have the chance.

You asked about our duties here.  We are doing nothing in the way of flying.  The bunch have a certain amount of infantry drill every day to keep them in condition but that is all.  Evidently we are just waiting orders.  Of course I do nothing but cook.  I work from noon one day till noon the next and then am off till noon the day after and don’t even have to get up for reveille.

There are no planes at this camp but there is a flying school at Mineola only a short distance away.

The Commanding Officer here is doing his best to find out about us and our commissions and the chances are he will before we leave.  I hope so because I want mine now for I think I have it coming.  So here’s hoping.

I don’t know about underwear.  I am afraid I’ll find out too late to have Will get me any.  You see if we go without commissions the Q.M. Dept. will no doubt issue heavy underwear.  We have requisitions in now in case we need it.

Uncle Al took me to the Army & Navy Co-operative Store of which he is a stock holder and as a member of his family I get a 10% discount on all I buy.  Of course I will try to get everything there but that I am afraid will be impossible because I may have to buy ready made uniforms and have them tailored on account of the time.

If we get our back pay to Sept 7th at $100.00 per all I will need is just enough for my equipment as that will give me money with which to go across.  Everything is so high I am afraid an outfit will cost about $350.00 but I hope to get by for less.  Maybe I won’t have a chance to buy anything here.  I would rather get it all overseas because everything is cheaper over there especially leather goods & woolens.

Must stop now to get this away this A.M.

Love to all of you




Detachment Aerial Observers

Signal Corps Concentration Camp,

Garden City, L.I.

Nov. 20th, 1917

Dear Folks:-

Talk about hard luck.  This morning I had it all fixed up to get a 48 hr. leave and then went down for the fifth time to try and phone Uncle Al and finally succeeded in getting him.  I told him I would be out to see them tomorrow morning.  Then the Commanding Officer refused to sign any passes for us today.  So I had to wire Uncle Al that it was all off.

It is the hardest job in the world to get at a phone here.  There is only one in camp and there is always a line about a mile long waiting.  I tried 5 times before I finally got Uncle Al.  Last night I waited 1 ½ hrs and then got a “line busy” signal.  That is why I wired this P.M. instead of phoning.

This morning I received your letter of Saturday inclosing Father’s V.  Thank him for me for it sure comes in handy especially around here where everything is so high.  Why it cost me 45¢ to phone Uncle Al this morning.

Now I don’t want you to give me a watch (or anything else) for a Christmas present.  This old Ingersoll of mine is plenty good enough.  You are doing so much for me now that I am ashamed of myself for accepting everything you send.  I know that all the other fellows are getting help from home but it is different with them, their parents are all very well off while you folks always have to give up something you need when you send things to me, and I don’t want you to do that any more.

None of the mail you send to Fort Sill has reached me yet but other mail has been forwarded from there to some of the fellows.  I am going to write today to one of the fellows who stayed and see about it.

So Frank Rowell is married again.  Well maybe Fannie can support him if he can’t her.

Too bad Orrin Hofferbert was rejected.  It would have done him good to go to the camp at least.

There are 51 of us who came from Fort Sill.  All of my bunch are here except Davisson who was only 19 and was rejected on account of age the week before we left.  However he was to go to a pilot’s school.

The loose leaves are O.K.  Thank you.  I am sorry you had to take so many but I can use them all right.

Now about the pictures.  I’ll have some taken if I can get to New York but they will have to be in a private’s uniform for I don’t expect to receive any commission here.  I’ll let you know what luck I have.

I will probably know my address before I leave and will let you know as soon as I find out.

There isn’t a thing to write because nothing has happened not even a rumor.

Love to all,




Uncle Al was surprised to hear I was here.  He said all were well.

A photo postcard from Garden City, Long Island, where Mortimer was stationed when he wrote this letter.

A photo postcard from Garden City, Long Island, where Mortimer was stationed when he wrote this letter.

Nov. 13, 1917

Dear Folks:-

Well at last we are here.  We landed at Jersey City at 10:30 after a rather tedious trip as we came a round about way.

We left Fort Sill at four Saturday P.M. and traveled via Rock Island stopping at Oklahoma City at 9:30 P.M., breakfasting at Booneville, Ark. Sunday, dinner at Little Rock and supper at Memphis.

At Memphis we transferred to the Southern Ry and from there on we had a diner.  We passed through Chattanooga (in the early morning) Knoxville and Bristol (half in Virginia and half in Tennessee) where we were shifted to the Norfolk & Western.  At Lynchburg, Va. we were again put on the Southern Ry and headed for Washington.  We landed in Washington about 2:00 this morning, so I didn’t get up.  There we transferred to the B&O and came through Baltimore Phila & to Jersey City and then ferried to the 23rd St. terminal.

Now we are near the Penn. R.R. station at 33rd St. from where we leave at 2:00 P.M. for Garden City, Long Island.  As far as I can find out my address will be School of Aerial Observers, c/o Aviation Supply Depot & Concentration Camp, Garden City, L.I.

Of course the two pullmans we occupied from Fort Sill were ours all the way so all the transfer was was just hitching us on another train.

By the way just before I left Fort Sill I was told that I was among the men recommended for 1st Lieutenancies.  I hope the commission comes before we leave here.  Will wire.

How long we will be here I can’t say.  Hope we stay long enough after our commissions come to enable us to buy an outfit.

This morning as we came up the river we saw the old “Vaterland” in her gray warpaint waiting at her dock.  When she goes she will carry about 10,000 men.  Of course no one knows how, when, and where we go, but we are going.

Will write again when we are settled.

Love to all,



Friday A.M.

November 9, 1917

Dear Folks:-

Well our travel orders came yesterday noon and we are off for Garden City, Long Island at noon today.  Just what my address will be I cannot say but I will wire as soon as I reach there.

We will probably be there not longer than two weeks waiting for a transport and then go across where we will be trained further in some foreign school.

Please don’t say anything to anyone about our destination, time of leaving, routes etc that I may write you, because while this information has not been given out as confidential, still it may be better not to say anything.  You know if anything confidential got out through me it would ruin me absolutely.

Of course we are a happy bunch and we will have a glorious time on the train.  We reach New York probably Monday.

If you have a chance please have a scarf knitted for me and send it with my helmet.  It needn’t match the latter, but should be gray.

Lots of love to all,




I applied for $10,000.00 war risk (government) insurance yesterday.  It only cost me $6.70 per mo. & nets me $57.50 per mo. for life in case of disability or my beneficiaries the same for 20 years.

Mortimer sent this telegram the previous day to alert his parents to his pending move.

Lawton Okla Nov 3rd,

TD Lawrence

Beaver Dam, Wisc.

School of Observers ordered to report Newyork the eighth as far as I know now I am to stay at FtSill as assistant instructor in mapping probably will be commissioned but am not sure of course I am very much disappointed not to go across will try to write tomorrow but am very busy love to all –



921 AM.