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The Letters of Florence Hemphill

Joe Crookston
Lingua: Inglese


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La canzone nasce da una collaborazione con il National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri; Florence Hemphill fu una crocerossina che servì durante la prima guerra mondiale, e nel museo sono raccolte circa 100 sue lettere.

Lettera


With the United States entry into the First World War on April 16, 1917, the demand for nurses was immediate. Only a small cadre of U.S. Army Nurse Corps (ANC) personnel was available, thus the call went out. Florence Edith Hemphill answered. When she left for France in 1918, nurse Hemphill, who had brown hair and gray eyes, and stood fi ve feet, seven inches and weighed 130 pounds, was embarking on the greatest adventure of her life. To share this experience with the folks at home, she wrote letters, many of which survive today.
Born on February 28, 1887, in Wilson County, Florence Hemphill grew up in Chanute, the sixth of nine children. She completed her nurse’s training at Christ’s Hospital Training School in Topeka and went on to work as a private duty nurse prior to her wartime service.
Although Hemphill joined from private practice, American Red Cross nurses were the principal ANC reserve force, so when the call went out for nurses, it was aimed especially at them. In wartime Red Cross nurses could, by their consent, be assigned to active duty.
They became subject to government regulations and also received the pay of a regular army nurse. The fi rst few hundred nurses slated for overseas service, during the formative period of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF), were assigned to service with the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). They were to serve at six base hospital units. By March 31, 1918, 2,088 American nurses had arrived in France, with more than 700 in British hospitals. On June 30, 1918, ANC nurses were distributed as follows: 755 with British forces, 3,323 with American forces, and 1,258 awaiting transportation or en route. Nurse Hemphill was in a supplementary group assigned to the British general hospitals in the Rouen area. Casual Group A, consisting of ninety-nine nurses, arrived in France in February 1918.2 In her letters, Hemphill told her mother and sisters Olivia (called Olive in many letters) and May, and brother Clyde, himself in the army, her perspective of the war. She described life in a British hospital, foreign not only to her, but to most Americans. Her missives illustrate not only her war, but they offer insights to other women’s service as well. The letters do not give the entire picture of her experiences, however, as letters to home from American service personnel were censored by higher-ranking offi cers or supervisors. Editing of the letters consisted primarily of deleting most salutations, questions about the weather and home folks, comments about numbers of letters received, and similar passages. These edits are indicated by ellipses.
kshs.org
I came back home to Wilson County
In the gold Kansas Plains
From the gutted hills of France
And the cold muddy rain

I still think about the sisters
Cigarettes and English tea
And the barbed wire and trenches
Things we never thought we'd see

And in the rumbling battle noise
We took care of the boys
So they wouldn't die alone
And we could send them back home
When the midnight whistle blew
I donned my boots and navy blue
But anyhow
That's all over now

Jimmy Clellan was a piper
They brought him in from No Man's Land
And I fed him the ripest berries
And I saved his one good hand
And that red-head with the photograph
As I wrapped up his eyes
If he got home to West Virginia
I knew he'd never see his bride

And in the rumbling battle noise
We took care of the boys
So they wouldn't die alone
And we could send them back home
When the midnight whistle blew
I donned my boots and navy blue
But anyhow
That's all over now

All the sleepless nights we spent
And all the letters came and went
And all the British girls and I
We lost some but we tried

We lay down in the bracken fern
To make it through we had to learn
About the broken and the torn
Mending lives and staying warm

Coming home to the prairie gold
With a story that I told
In the rumbling battle noise
We took care of the boys

I came back home to Wilson County
In the gold Kansas Plains
From the gutted hills of France
And the cold muddy rain

inviata da Dq82 - 19/1/2018 - 11:43



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