Isaac, Janet and their family had left the United Kingdom for the United States in 1906, settling near family in Rock Springs, Wyoming. When the U.S. entered World War I a decade later, the community responded patriotically, celebrating its men who entered service.
I’ve written before about the youngest of the three Robertses in the war. Tap or click here to read about James H. Roberts, who enlisted in the U.S. Army and trained at the Student Army Training Corps at Colorado College.
Hugh Roberts (a,f) was a member of the supply company for the 361st Infantry in the 91st Division. He trained at Camp Lewis near Tacoma, Washington, and his son Gilbert Arthur Roberts was born during that training. His wife, Faye Susan Jacobson was able to bring the boy to Washington to meet his father before he went “over there.”
Hugh’s 91st Division was part of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in September 1918, which is still the largest offensive and the bloodiest battle in U.S. military history. They were part of the final drive in the fall of 1918 that smashed the German army in France. The Rock Springs Miner has details of what the Wyoming boys in that division did during the war.
After the war ended, Hugh was kept in France for several months. He sent his wife several souvenirs; a German helmet, German trench cap and two pairs of painted wooden shoes. (one for her and one for the baby) He did not arrive in Rock Springs again until May, about a year and a half after he enlisted.
Percival Roberts (a,f) also served in the 91st Division, but in the 108th Ammunition Train in the 33rd Infantry. He trained in the U.S., sailed to Liverpool, then was shipped to France. He trained with the artillery in Vuilafani for about two months. He enjoyed his time in the pretty town, saying he took baths twice a week and was able to drive automobiles.
In a letter, Percy briefly described taking part in “three big drives.” In one, he waited in the woods at the St. Mihtel front for a week before being used as a shock troop to open up the front.
After St. Mihtel, he was sent to the Verdun front. He then went to the front again at the Argonne forest, where he stayed on the front for a few weeks. The armistice was signed while he was in action.
“I can call myself lucky for pulling through three drives without a scratch,” he wrote. He was then one of seven men drawn at random to go on a furlough at a summer resort in La Bourboule. “The way they feed us, you would think we were millionaires,” he wrote.
At home in Wyoming, people anxiously awaited letters like these from their boys overseas. Many of the letters were printed in the Rock Springs Miner. My cousin, Janet Lott, compiled several of them. (Excerpts from Percy’s letters)
One of the more remarkable events was when Hugh and Pervical met while at the Verdun front. This letter, published in the local paper in October 1918, tells of that happy event:
PERCY ROBERTS SEES ROCK SPRINGS BOYS
“Mrs. Isaac Roberts has had two letters from her son, Percy, in one of which he tells of meeting his brother, Hugh, and several of the Rock Springs boys in France. We can well believe it was a happy reunion. He says:
“We came into this camp a few days ago and I saw an outfit that came a day behind us. They had 361st Inf. on their collars, so I asked them about the 361st supply. They told me that they were out of town, about a mile. I got permission to go out of town to look up Hugh. I walked for about an hour and I ran across Hugh’s outfit. The first man I saw from Rock Springs was Harry Still. He showed me where Hugh was sleeping in a tent. I woke Hugh up and he didn’t know who I was until he got a good look at me. He sure was tickled to see me. He took me around to Earl Sprowells and Alex Stafford’s company. We talked about Rock Springs. The three were sure glad to see me. I stayed and had dinner with them and left them about 3 p.m. They were packing up to move when I left.
John Yedinak was to see Hugh just a few minutes after I left, so I was out of luck to see him. But I will see him before long as the outfit that they are in is just a little way from us. Hugh was down to see me today. He came for water, so he just dropped around to see me. We talked for about an hour together. I am going to the next town tonight to see the rest of the bunch. I sure was glad to see them all as they are the first ones that I have run across since I left home.”
In a second letter he said that the Rock Springs boys had been moved again but he hoped to run across them again before long. He has had considerable trouble in loss of mail and has not received letters and papers from home.”
Lott, Janet. “Roberts Roots & Branches.” Apr. 2015.
“Percy Roberts In Three Big Drives.” Rock Springs Miner, 03 Jan. 1919, p. 4. Accessed November 5, 2018.
“Percy Roberts Sees Rock Springs Boys.” Rock Springs Miner, 25 Oct. 1918, p. 3. Accessed November 5, 2018. http://pluto.wyo.gov/