“Somewhere in France”

This is a recent discovery from my own “archives”.

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A bit of back story – I knew that my grandfather Raymond Everett Bence served in World War I. There is a picture in a family album of him standing in uniform in the snow labeled “Camp Devens Feb. 1918” and a story my mother told of his being gassed. But that was the extent of my knowledge. Archive searches only turned up his draft registration with no unit information.

This summer I tackled a box of files that I believed consisted of my mother’s tax records (she died in 2011). One of the folders was labeled “Raymond E. Bence”. At first I thought  it was tax info for my father, but no…

Among the items in the folder were my grandfather’s honorable discharge – in addition to listing his unit it also listed all engagements he fought in including dates and the two times he was injured in the same engagement – once being shot in the arm and the other being “slightly” gassed.

Also in the folder was a small memo pad. The first few pages are a record of his first few weeks in France. The entries end about the time he first sees combat. I’ve attached an image of the front page showing his changing locations, ending with the note “somewhere in France”.

My next archival visit will be to learn more about his unit, Company L, 102nd U. S. Infantry.

Home at Last


Bertha Alice (Ratcliffe) Bence and her son Staff Sergeant Raymond Everett Bence Jr.

In World War II Raymond served in the 445th Bomber Group, 8th Air Force as a nose-gunner in a B-24 Liberator. He was shot down over Germany on September 27, 1944 during the infamous “Kassel Mission”. He spent the remainder of the war as a prisoner-of-war, first in Stalag Luft IV and then on “The Black March”.

This photograph accompanied an article in the Quincy Patriot Ledger on Raymond’s first visit home to Braintree, Massachusetts. At the time of his liberation in May of 1945 he weighed less than 100 pounds. A few months later he still appears to be very gaunt.

My First Camera

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I recently had some 2000+ family 35mm color slides scanned. These were photos that my father took over a 30 period starting in the early 50s as well as pictures I took in high school, college, and beyond.

Many of the photos were taken with an Argus C3, similar to the one pictured here. My father purchased the camera in the mid-50s and handed it off to me in the late 60s. I carried that camera to a peace rally in Boston in 1968, to summer school in 1969 at Syracuse, on a 3 month solo backpacking trip to Europe after college, and on a  trip to England with my mother 2 years later. All the settings were manual, it was small but heavy (its nickname was “The Brick”), and it stood up to a lot of rugged handling.

I really loved that camera.