2 Replies Latest reply on Sep 1, 2017 12:45 PM by Aimie Runyan

    Telephone Group No. 1, WW1


      I'm looking to find as much information on Telephone Group No 1 from WW1 as possible. They served with Grace Banker, Chief Operator. I am led to believe Grace's diaries are kept in the archives. I'm specifically looking for diaries, personal correspondence, and a personnel list. They sailed from New Jersey to England on March 6, 1918 and trained in New York City. Any information would be exceedingly helpful! Thank you in advance!

        • Re: Telephone Group No. 1, WW1

          Ms. Runyan,

          Thank you for your inquiry to History Hub.  There was actually a recent book regarding the subject of your request more broadly which might provide a great deal of insight into the information you seek.

          Scanning the author’s footnotes reveals significant material related to the service of these telephone operators both within and outside of NARA’s holdings.  For example, the author made extensive use of RG 111 (Records of the Signal Corps), specifically entry PI-55 number 45, entitled “Correspondence,” located at Archives II in College Park, MD.  Boxes 396-400 within that entry contain relevant correspondence related to the activities of the telephone operators in question.  Our holdings in College Park also contain a digitized photograph of the group before they left for France and a motion picture showing their activities in France as part of a Signal Corps propaganda film.  A detailed search of finding aids in both RG 111 and RG 120 (Records of the American Expeditionary Forces) revealed no other relevant entries, but there may be more material available than could be found in this search.  If you would like to receive a consultation from reference staff more familiar with these materials, they can be reached at archives2reference@nara.gov.  Reference consultations relating to additional photographic or motion picture holdings from RG 111 related to these women may be requested from the Still Pictures unit in College Park via stillpix@nara.gov and the Motion Picture unit at mopix@nara.gov.

          More NARA holdings related to this subject are housed at the National Archives in St. Louis. They house all military and civilian personnel records after approximately WWI. This will include the telephone operators of WWI. While personnel records do sometimes have personal correspondence, they rarely to never hold personal artifacts, such as diaries.  If you have not been in contact with them before, they can be reached a stlarr.archives@nara.gov

          An additional entry of interest also exists at the NARA annex in Kansas City, Missouri.  If you are interested in inquiring with them about these records, they can be reached at Kansascity.archives@nara.gov.

          Related to your specific request for Grace Banker’s personal materials, they have been confirmed as not located in the holdings of the National Archives, but were located by the author of the book referenced above in the private collection of her son-in-law, Robert Timbie of Exeter, New Hampshire.  Banker’s diary is used extensively in the publication, so many of the insights it holds into the activities of Telephone Group no. 1 might be gleaned from reading the book.  The Library of Congress collection “Chronicling America” also contains a number of historic newspaper stories published about the women, including a Philadelphian named Ethel Elkins, a New York feature story, and a Washington Times story related to a group some of these women joined after the war called the Washington Overseas Service League.

          Hope this helps you continue your search for details into this fascinating and (until recently) overlooked aspect of American involvement in World War I.  Thanks again for your question!


          This response was compiled with assistance from Rachael Salyer and Cara Moore Lebonick.

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