“And so you, too, have ‘signed up’, and Dad is today putting out a service flag, with two stars, infront [sic] of the house. Am I sorry? You are both sound and healthy, readily passing the examinations. Am I proud of you? Would I have you do differently? Does it pull hard? You know all the answers but you have acted on your own initiative. It is not amiss to say that moral strength comes to him who stands up to his duty – men are made that way.”
It is with these words that Clara Laycock Hill began a letter to her son, Stanley Hill, on October 31, 1917, less than six months after he joined the American Field Service and just one month after he enlisted in the American Ambulance Field Service as a driver. The Hill family lived in Lexington, where Stanley and his older brother, Converse, both graduated from high school. Stanley went on to attend Dartmouth College as part of the Class of 1918, where he was known for his positive outlook on life and infectiously cheerful nature.
As recognition for his service during World War I, Stanley received the French Croix de Guerre with palm, which is an honor awarded to those who distinguish themselves by acts of heroism involving combat with enemy forces. He was also awarded the Medaille Militaire, an award of the French Republic given for meritorious service and acts of bravery in action against an enemy force. His military records cite him as being “a driver of remarkable bravery who always greatly distinguished himself at the most exposed first-aid stations. Although seriously wounded while crossing a heavily bombarded village he had the courage to place his ambulance and its occupants under shelter, not leaving them until the arrival of assistance.”
The serious injury cited in this report refers to Stanley being wounded in the forehead by a shell while driving his ambulance in the second battle of the Marne. It was thought that he would make a full recovery, and his brother wrote a letter home stating so. Unfortunately, Stanley contracted meningitis and died on August 14, 1918 at La Veuve Hospital in France. He was the first of eight war casualties from Lexington and was buried at the military cemetery in La Veuve, Marne, France.
In the fall of 2017, Stanley’s niece (Converse Hill’s daughter), Shirley Stolz, made a very generous and precious contribution to the Collections and Archives at the Historical Society: a small collection of photographs and personal papers related to Stanley, as well as his military medals. The Society also retains records related to the Stanley Hill Post, an American Legion Post active between 1934 and 1986. Please click here to visit our online collections and see the Stanley Hill items donated by Shirley Stolz.
On November 11, 2018, Lexington Historical Society will join with other organizations in Lexington to remember the 100th anniversary of World War I and to honor those young men and women from Lexington who fought and died in the Great War. Stanley Hill will be the face of these activities. Please keep an eye out to learn more about the programming and events surrounding this commemoration.
-Elizabeth Mubarek, Archives Manager