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The history of Thecla Richter – life of a West Bend nurse during WWI. “It is quite a relief when the nights are dark. The moon has lost all of its charm for us.”

April 1, 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 Oct. 8, 1917, Oct. 14, 1917, Oct. 19, 2017 and Oct. 23, 1917.

Oct. 8, 1917

……  We are very busy at the present time.  Have practically every bed in the house occupied and everyone is jumping.

The matron or chief nurse is off duty and has been transferred to another hospital which means that I have her work to attend to.  Hope she comes back soon.  I hate the responsibility but will do my very best.

Thank you so very much for sending the candy…..


Oct. 14, 1917       (received Nov. 7)

Our chief nurse is still at the Sick Sisters Hospital together with three other nurses of our unit.  We have about 10 nurses off duty. Most of them have colds or bad infections.  Four nurses have had their hands frozen, that is, they have chill blains on their fingers and their hands are badly swollen.  I have been most fortunate.  Haven’t suffered at all from the cold.


You asked me to tell you full particulars about the bombing. I am sorry but that will have to wait until I return home.  I’ll admit that we all feel at the present time that we very much prefer a dark night to bright moonlight nights because aeroplanes don’t pester us as much on dark nights.


Fritz dropped one bomb in our camp but it did practically no damage except to put a big hole in ground.   It was just a miracle that it didn’t hit a tent or hut.  I was outdoors at the time and saw it all.  Went over to the other hospital and saw the results which were awful.


We had a very nice dance in the Men’s Mess Hall last week Friday.  Our officers gave it to the nurses.  We had a great many Americans belonging to the Machine Gun Corps as guests.  All had such a good time.  It is quite necessary to have these parties occasionally just to get away from the horrors and sadness of the war.


Yesterday we received the grandest gift from the Red Cross. Each nurse received a little iron bed in place of board bunks.  Also received a pillow and bolster (?).  Such comfort.  I know that I will never want to get out of bed now.


Oct. 19, 1917  (received Nov. 9)


Almost three weeks since we have had much American mail.  I know that you are writing.  It is evidently being held somewhere.


I suppose that you think I am getting to be a regular beggar but there is one more thing I would like to have.  Please send me a self-filling fountain pen. ….   Louis can buy it for you and be sure it is self-filling.  We cannot get a good one over here.  You must take my money to pay for these numerous things I order.


We were all very glad to see the American boys.  There are quite a few at a machine gun school near our camp.  Have heard that many more would come around this place.  They all look good to us and we have the greatest confidence in them to terminate this horrible war.


I am doing well.  I couldn’t get any sympathy from anyone because I am looking so fat and plump.  Climate and work seem to agree with me because I am working awfully hard.


Our chief nurse is still away and I am acting chief nurse. That is some position especially when the majority of the nurses are older and have had much more experience than I have had.  But everything has been running very smoothly and that is a great satisfaction.


Even, though we have not had much cold weather we have received quite a few cases of trench feet.  The hospitals are all much busier this year than they were last year at the same time.


You ask what the O.A.S. meant on my letters.  It means On Active Service.

Oct. 23, 1917  (received Nov. 12)


Really the Red Cross does something for us continually.  Now we are all receiving gray dresses instead of white ones.  Our white dresses look quite hapless walking about in the mud and there is no laundry.  The poor old French peasants wash our dresses by hand and they look it.  We are also receiving woolen mittens and woolen knickers.


Fritz was here again last night but no damage done.  It is quite a relief when the nights are dark.  As I have said before the moon has lost all of its charm for us.


Click HERE to read the entire series on Thecla Richter


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