The history of Thecla Richter – life of a West Bend nurse during WWI. “Poor men … but they must go back and fight to a finish.”

April 10, 2017 – West Bend, WI – Resident historian Lee Krueger is looking to highlight his great aunt Thecla Richter, who served as a nurse during WWI. Below are letters home from Richter dated Dec. 6, 1917 and Dec. 9, 1917.

 

Dec 6, 1917  (Received on Dec 27)

 

Only a few more weeks and Christmas will be here, it is rather difficult to feel the Christmas spirit over here…….  The French peasants do not celebrate Christmas nearly as much as they celebrate New Year’s Eve.

 

Many of us have been receiving packages already, I have not opened all of mine, will try and keep some until Christmas Eve…..  Two large fruit cakes from Evanston, an immense Plum Pudding from Winnetka, four boxes of candy and several other packages….  According to the papers you are also beginning to feel the shortages of food.  I feel selfish accepting as much as I have, now. Don’t send me anything more for a long time……

 

We have been having frightfully cold weather, probably not any colder than you have at home only we have no warm place to go to, the tents are really warmer than the huts, probably because of the cracks between the boards but it sure is a good experience although I never think so at 6:30 a.m. when I have to get dressed in the cold room.  I never mind the weather or anything the rest of the day. Never have I felt better than I do out here, haven’t even had a cold and am knocking on wood while writing this letter.

Hospital is crowded at the present time and as appearances would suggest we will continue to be for sometime.  Living in trenches and shell holes does not aid one to keep well and that is what a great many of the men have to do up on the line.

 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  Your daughter, Thecla

Dec 9, 1917  (received Dec. 27)

Dearest Folks,

Cold and wet day and everything looks dismal yet we are all quite happy…. are very busy at the hospital. In fact it is doubtful if they will allow the nurses to go on their leaves for sometime because everyone works just as hard as they can and there are always some off duty sick which means that the ones on duty have to work just a bit harder.  It sure is a busy life and occasionally you can’t help but wonder how it is all going to end.

Poor men, I feel so sorry for them and how they hate to go back up the line but they must go back and fight to a finish. The cases we get at the present time are so very much more serious than they were in the summer… largely due to the exposure to the cold and wet.

 

I am getting to be quite a fireman-really can build a fire in a short time…. nothing like practice to make a master, rather then freeze I would learn how to build a good fire and of course we must also learn how to economize in coal.

 

Today I received the package containing my shoes. Was sure glad to get them because shoes are frightfully expensive over here.  We certainly wear out the soles of our shoes. Continually walking on county roads or cinder paths is death on shoes to say the least.

 

We have received quite a few portable huts which they are putting up in place of tents. I am sure they will be much more satisfactory. They are no warmer than the tents but are a little more stationary. You don’t have the continuous flapping of the sides of the tents. Occasionally, with tents, one feels as though the cover would be blown off,

 

We are located at the foot of a large hill.  Looking down from the hill at our camp, it looks as though you were looking down upon a village of tents and it is difficult to realize that it is all just temporary……  that all this land was just bare farmlands a few years ago.

 

I suppose I must not brag but I sure am delighted to be able to say that I haven’t had a cold since I’ve been over here. One is especially fortunate when everybody about you has a severe cold.

 

We see many Americans over here now.  I hope there will be many more by spring and that they together with the allies will deal the final blow.

 

I wish you much happiness and the best of health for the New Year.  Devotedly, Thecla

 

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