One of the most interesting artifacts I found in my father’s genealogy papers is a copy of a letter from King George V to James Leslie Johnston, my great-great-great uncle. (a,f)

James Leslie Johnston was the oldest child of James J. Johnston (a,f) and Martha Melissa Jacobson Johnston (a,f). He was inducted into the U.S. Army on June 24, 1918 in Unita County, Wyoming. He served in Company C of the 159th Infantry and Company A of the 307th Infantry. The latter regiment participated in the Oise-Aisne, Meuse-Argonne, Champagne, and Lorraine Campaigns.

When American soldiers arrived in England in 1918, they were given a copy of a special message from King George V. It came in an envelope that said “A Message to You from His Majesty King George.”

World War I letter from King George V

Inside was a copy of a message, printed on paper with the royal arms engraved. The message read:

“Soldiers of the United States, the people of the British Isles welcome you on your way to take your stand beside the Armies of many Nations now fighting in the Old World the great battle for human freedom.

The Allies will gain new heart & spirit in you company.

I wish that I could shake the hand of each one of you & bid you God speed on your mission.

George R. I.”

Over a million of these letters were distributed.

James Johnston appears to have sent his letter onto his mother in Randolph, Utah. She kept it with a photo of him, and a scanned copy of that survives.


Ancestry.com, U.S., Headstone Applications for Military Veterans, 1925-1963 (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012), Ancestry.com, http://www.Ancestry.com.

Ancestry.com, Utah, Military Records, 1861-1970 (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011), Ancestry.com, http://www.Ancestry.com, 3,137,153.

Gjenvick-Gjønvik Archives. “King George V: Letter to Soldiers of the United States – April 1918.” Gjenvick.com https://www.gjenvick.com/Military/WorldWarOne/Correspondence/KingGeorgeV/1918-04-LetterToSoldiersOfTheUnitedStates.html#axzz3OXFnWwDg (accessed November 9, 2018).

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