PART II: WITH FAMOUS BRITISH REGIMENTS
JOHN P. POE, OF THE FIRST BLACK WATCH
On the official records of Princeton he was known as John Prentiss Poe, Jr., of Baltimore, of the class of 1895. To his college mates he was known as Johnny Poe. He was eminently a man of deeds, not words. When in his freshman year he was elected president of his class, chiefly for the reason, rival candidates alleged, that he was "the homeliest man in the whole bunch," this was his speech of acceptance:
Fellows, I am proud of the honor you have bestowed upon me. My face can't be ruined much, so I'll go in all the battles with you head first. Nominations are now in order for vice-president.
This was the martial spirit that animated Johnny Poe, not only during his college career, when, like his brothers, he won fame on the football-field, but throughout his whole life. The softness and ease of peace had no attractions for him; his one ambition was to get into the thick of a good fight, "head first."
The army offered the best outlet for his superabundant energies. So in the war with Spain, in 1898, we find him in Cuba with the Fifth Maryland Regiment. But he participated in no fighting. The taste, however, which he had got of army life made him hungry for more, and so, in the hope of seeing some real fighting, he joined the regulars, and in 1899 he was in the Philippines, a private in the 23d United States Infantry. But he was again disappointed; the campaign was tame. He did not give up, however. In 1903 he served with a detachment of Kentucky militia in the suppression of a mountain feud.
Late in the same year, in November, when there was considerable excitement on the isthmus because of the revolt of Panama from Colombia, Poe thought that "the real thing" might be within his grasp, if the United States Government sent troops to the scene. Accordingly he went to Washington and wrote a characteristic letter to the commandant of the Marine Corps, offering to enlist for active service. The letter was as follows:
I understand that the Dixie is to take a battalion of marines to Colon from League Island next week.... I wouldn't mind enlisting except that I might be put to guarding some colony of land crabs 200 or 300 miles from where the fighting was going on, as in the Philippines, where the only thing our company did was to make the Sultan of Sulu sign a receipt for the 125 dollars Uncle Sam gave him. If I were to go there, to Panama, and not see any service, I would feel that if I were to go to Hades for the warmth, the fires would be at least banked, if not altogether extinguished, owing to furnaces being repaired. I was introduced to some cow-punchers in New Mexico by Mike Furness, '91, as "the hero of two wars, whose only wounds are scars from lying on his bunk too much." I must outlive that reputation.
Impressed by the unusual tone of this letter, General George F. Elliott took Poe himself over to John D. Long, then Secretary of the Navy, and laid the case before him. Secretary Long was so amused by the letter and so pleased by the writer's soldierly spirit that he ordered the necessary arrangements to be made for Poe to join the marines. He sailed on the Dixie and was made a sergeant. He refused, however, to accept the position, preferring to remain in the ranks. His reason was that he did not care for authority and disliked responsibility, even the small share that would attach to a non-commissioned office. He wanted to enjoy the pleasure of fighting independently, as an individual, without the care of controlling other men. Again, however, he was thwarted in his desire to get into active service; and Poe regarded active service, according to Captain Frank E. Evans, editor of the Marine Corps Gazette, from which the foregoing facts are taken, as " the acme of adventure, the greatest game in the world." There was no fighting of any consequence on Panama, and he returned to the United States.
Poe had to wait until 1914 for the great opportunity of his life, which the war in Europe presented. At last he saw his chance to get his fill of real fighting in what promised to be the most stupendous war of all time. He went to Canada immediately and volunteered. Reaching England, he was transferred to the heavy artillery. A little experience, however, in this branch of the service was enough for him. Long-range fighting was not to his taste, and he again succeeded in transferring to the First :Black Watch, the Scottish regiment famous in Great Britain's military annals, with a record of more than one hundred and fifty years of service.
Thus in the spring of 1915 Poe was endeavoring to make himself at home among the "Ladies from Hell," as the Germans later dubbed these kilted Scots, whom they found to be fierce fighters---a member of A Company, 3d Platoon, First Black Watch, stationed in the trenches in northern France. Late in the summer of the same year Andrew C. Imbrie, secretary of the Princeton class of '95, received a letter from Poe, dated July 24, in which he acknowledged the receipt of no fewer than one hundred and thirty post-cards, "so far," from his classmates, the suggestion for such a demonstration of the affection and esteem in which Johnny Poe was held by his fellows having been made by Imbrie in the previous spring. Poe wrote: "I am trying to feel more at home in a kilt, and while they are cool, the legs get dirty for quite a way above the knees." He went on as follows:
Of course we are going to win; but the "Limburgers" are putting up a great fight. What business have the "Square Heads" to start on the downward course the Empire which weathered the Spanish Armada, the Dutch under De Ruyter and Von Trump, the "Grand Monarch" and Napoleon?
Aren't you sorry I'm such a shark on history ?
The Black Watch carried a German trench on May 9th after several regiments had tried and failed. It was taken with the piper playing the "Hieland Laddie."
A month after this letter was written Johnny Poe was killed in a charge of the Black Watch before Hullock, in northern France, eight or ten miles east of Bethune, a part of the great drive of the Allies in the last week of September. A letter to Poe's brother, Edgar Allan Poe, from the captain, D. Lumsden, of Poe's company, dated November 25, 1915, and reproduced in the Princeton Alumni Weekly, gave some details as to how Poe met his end:
In reply to your letter of the 11th of November, I have made inquiries ,about your brother's death. He was killed on September 25 in the big engagement, while he was working with brigade bombers. He was advancing with bombs to another regiment when he was hit by a bullet and killed instantly. This happened roughly at 7 a.m., soon after the great advance began, and he is buried with several of his comrades on the left of the place called "Lone Tree," and a mound marks the grave.
I was greatly grieved to hear that he had been killed, as he was all that a good man and soldier could be. He was the most willing worker in my company and was in my platoon before I took command of the company when our captain was killed.
I offer you and all his relatives and friends my deepest sympathies on your great loss. But it is a comfort to think that he had lived a fine life in the finest way a man can.
The evidence of another officer is quoted that Poe "was the most popular fellow in the company, having been offered promotion, but he refused it," preferring as always to fight in the ranks. Poe Field at Princeton, with its memorial flagstaff, from which the national colors always fly, attests Poe's popularity among his college mates. His relation to football was such that there was a peculiar appropriateness in the Memorial Football Cup which in 1916 his mother presented to Princeton, to be given each year to that member of the team who exemplified in the highest degree the traits which were conspicuous in Poe himself---(1) loyalty and devotion to Princeton's football interests; (2) courage, manliness, self-control, and modesty; (3) perseverance and determination under discouraging conditions, and (4) observance of the rules of the game and fairness toward opponents.
DILLWYN P. STARR, OF THE COLDSTREAM GUARDS
It is doubtful if any one of the American youths who entered the war in its early stages in behalf of the Allies saw more varied service than did Dillwyn Parrish Starr, of Philadelphia, whose father, Dr. Louis Starr, has had printed for private circulation a memorial volume, "The War Story of Dillwyn Parrish Starr." For at first Starr drove an ambulance in Richard Norton's corps in northern France and in Flanders; then he served with an English armored motor-car squadron, under the command of the Duke of Westminster, in Flanders; then, from early in the summer of 1915 until November, he was in charge of a motor-car squadron in Gallipoli; finally on his return he joined the Coldstream Guards, accepted a commission as second lieutenant, and was killed while gallantly leading two platoons in a charge on September 15, 1916, having seen two years of varied service. At the time of his death he had reached the rank of first lieutenant.
Starr's desire at the outset was, as he expressed it, "to see the war," and so great was his eagerness to get to the field of operations that he shipped as a sailor on the liner Hamburg, which the American Red Cross sent abroad the middle of September, 1914. By the end of October he was driving an ambulance, a powerful Mercedes, on the Belgian frontier. Starr's experience in the ambulance service opened his eyes to the nature of the struggle upon which the Allies had entered and to the real character of their enemy, and made him long, as he said later, "to get at them with cold steel."
When, therefore, an opportunity came to effect a transfer to the British Armored Car Division, he grasped it eagerly. Early in March, 1915, Starr was near the British front lines in northern France, as one of the crew of a heavy armored car carrying a three-pound gun, in the squadron under the Duke of Westminster. An entry in his diary, with its amusing anticlimax in the last sentence, describes the work of his car in a fight near Neuve Chapelle, southeast of Armentières:
March 13. Hot day! Up at 3 A. M. and on guard. Shells still passing over and falling in town [Laventie]. The Duke came at 9 o'clock to take us out. Went in same direction as yesterday afternoon but to more advanced post. Heavy fighting going on. Took up position 200 yards south of cross-roads at Fauquissart, behind some buildings that were half battered down. Got range of house occupied by Germans who were holding up our advance and fired forty-two shells, all telling and driving them out. They were shot down by our infantry, who occupied what was left of the building a short time afterward. Enemy artillery found us, and their shells began dropping all about us; also under rifle fire and had to keep cover. Shells were striking ten yards away in the mud, and one splashed water into the car. Finally obliged to back away, as road too cramped to turn; moved very slowly and it seemed we were going to get it sure---close squeeze ! Got back to Laventie at 11 o'clock, and in afternoon painted car and had my hair cut.
Like Johnny Poe of the Black Watch, Dill Starr, as he was called by his classmates at Harvard, where he was graduated in 1908, was a football player of note, having won a place on the university team. A far-away echo of his gridiron days is heard occasionally in his diary. Thus he notes, in anticipation of immediate active service:
In afternoon were told to get some sleep and I did, sitting in chair. At four o'clock had tea. Thinking of going out gives me the same feeling as before a football match.
Nearly a year and a half later, when he was a lieutenant in the Coldstream Guards, in France, a match game of soccer, of which Starr knew little or nothing, was arranged with a team from the crack rival regiment in the British service, the Grenadier Guards. Starr was persuaded, much against his will, to play with his fellow Coldstreamers, with this result:
The match with the Grenadiers came out a tie. I was lucky enough to make a goal for our side in the last thirty seconds. The score was three all.
In May Starr was gazetted sublieutenant in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserves, and in June, after a period of further study in gunnery, he sailed, with another officer and twenty-five men, for Gallipoli. The evidence of Starr's letters and diary will be valuable to the historian who seeks the causes for the ghastly failure of that campaign. They were, in a sentence, according to Starr, bad organization, bad management, lack of foresight and lack of energy.
Having landed, the middle of July, 1915, at Cape Helles, he outlined the situation as it appeared to him a week later:
This is the most wonderful looking place I ever saw, the whole ground is covered with dugouts, and even the mules have their little shelters. The hill, Achi Baba, is only about three miles away, so you can imagine how far we have advanced. On the first day of the landing we were further advanced than we are now; the troops, you see, had no food, water, etc., so they had to fall back after the first rush. The Turks shell the Peninsula very often, but don't do an awful lot of damage.
Of the costly and futile attack by the British on the hill of Achi Baba, early in the following August, Starr wrote:
Well, the attack has been made and was a complete failure here. Almost four thousand men went out and very few came back. Some monitors and ships bombarded Achi Baba for two hours. The Turks during this moved down into a gully and came back after it to their second line and massed four deep to meet our men. I was on higher ground with four guns and could clearly see our charges of the 6th and the morning of the 7th. The men went out in a hail of bullets and it was a wonderful sight to see them. Many of them fell close to our parapets, though a good number reached the Turkish trenches, there to be killed. On the morning of the 7th the Turks made a counter attack and drove our men out of the lightly-held trenches they had taken. Our guns fortunately took a lot of them; my two guns fired a thousand rounds into their closely formed mass.
Under orders Starr returned to England late in November, to find that the Armored Car Division had been disbanded. At the suggestion of his college mate, Walter G. Oakman, Jr., who had been with him in both the ambulance service and the Armored Car Division, and who was then in the Coldstream Guards, Starr decided to accept a commission, which had been offered to him, as second lieutenant in the same regiment, one of the most famous in the British Army. He thereupon went into strict training which lasted six months, until midsummer, 1916. Having similar tastes, especially in sports, he fraternized cordially with his fellow officers, fell in easily with the traditions of the regiment, and looked forward with eagerness to the time when he could lead his men in a charge. To do this was the highest point which his ambition as a soldier touched.
The regiment saw some trench work in August and early in September, but was in no serious engagement until the middle of the month. Under date of September 11, four days before he was killed, Starr wrote a letter to his friend, Harold S. Vanderbilt, in the course of which he said:
I came out to France on the 11th day of July and am now in the 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards. We expect to have a very hot time within the next few days. I believe we are going to hop the parapet, so there is a good chance of my getting back to England with a "blighty" within the next week. There is a lot of hell popping about here and the artillery fire is something stupendous.
Things are looking a little better for the Allies now, although it is not over yet by a long shot.
The last letter from him was written the following day, September 12. In it Starr said:
They hope here that we shall break through the German lines, but I have my doubts. There is a chance, however, and if we do it will make all the difference in the world.
They didn't break through, but they attained their immediate objective, making possible the capture of Les-Boeufs the next day.
On the 15th the three battalions of the Coldstream Guards attacked the enemy near Ginchy, a few miles east of Albert. They drove the Germans out of their three lines of trenches, but at heavy cost, a nest of machine-guns, which the British tanks had failed to silence, taking a frightful toll of lives. Lieutenant Starr, leading his two platoons, was caught by this enfilading fire and killed as he sprang upon the parapet of the first German trench.
In a letter written from the hospital to Dr. Starr, Corporal Philip Andrews, of Starr's platoon, described this charge:
The order then came to charge the trench; in that he got hit while leading us in the charge.
I did not see him fall, but was told while in the captured trench that he had been shot through the heart. We all knew we had lost a splendid leader who knew no fear. He knew, and so did I, that we should have a terrible fight to gain the trench, but he was cool and cheered up all his men, and I am sorry he did not live to see the spirit he had put into them in the final charge. He died a hero, always in front of us.
Colonel Drummond-Hay, commanding the Coldstream Guards, wrote to Dr. Starr:
Previously to the War we had ties which kept the Regiment in very friendly touch with the U. S. A., but now we are bound to you by a very much closer bond, your son, and others like him, who never rested till they were able to give us their active assistance in upholding the honor of the Regiment in this tremendous War, and this will never be forgotten in the Regiment, as long as its name endures.
To have voluntarily given his life as your son has done for the cause of right and in support of an abstract principle, is quite the noblest thing a man can do. It is far higher than giving it in fighting to safeguard one's own Hearth and Home, and for the maintenance of the Empire of which one is one's self a unit. And, believe me, we greatly appreciate this spirit in which so many Americans are fighting on our side.
PART III: THE AMERICAN RED CROSS IN SERVIA
DR. RYAN UNDER FIRE AT BELGRADE
The young American volunteers in the trenches held no monopoly of the quality of high courage in the face of great danger. The surgeons and nurses of the American Red Cross possessed this trait also. They had occasion to show it in Servia when, at the outbreak of the war, the Austrians fell upon that unfortunate little country, which sent out a cry for help that the American Red Cross was quick to answer. Early in September, 1914, the first of three Servian units sailed from New York and, reaching Greece, went direct to Belgrade. The surgeon in charge was Dr. Edward W. Ryan, of Scranton, a graduate of the Fordham University Medical School and a man of wide experience in administrative as well as in hospital work. Dr. Ryan's two assistants, also graduates of the same medical school, were Dr. James C. Donovan and Dr. William P. Ahern. They were accompanied by twelve trained nurses and carried abundant hospital supplies.
Under date of October 20, four days after the arrival of the unit in Belgrade, Dr. Ryan wrote to the Red Cross headquarters in Washington as follows of the conditions as he found them:
We arrived at this place on October 16 and were immediately put in charge of the big hospital here. Since starting we have had no time for anything but work and sleep. Many of the wounded had not been dressed for several days, and as we have about 150 and it is necessary to dress them every day, it is 11 o'clock before we get through and some nights later.... The cases turned over to us are in many instances of long standing and require constant attention. New cases are arriving steadily and we will be overrun in a very short time. Surgeons are scarce here, and as we have about 50,000 wounded scattered about the country, you can readily see what the conditions are.
Belgrade contained about 120,000 inhabitants. In the early months of the war the city,, which lies on the south bank of the Danube, changed hands several times before the Servians evacuated it finally, being subjected to three bombardments. The military hospital, of which Dr. Ryan took charge on his arrival, was on a high hill overlooking the city and was frequently under fire.
The following weeks were full of exciting experiences for the American surgeons and their nurses. In a letter written from Nish, under date of December 26, and published in the Red Cross Magazine, Dr. Ryan described what had occurred. Since November 25, he said, he had had under his care in Belgrade five hospitals with about forty buildings, being assisted by about nine Servian doctors and one hundred and fifty nurses, and having about one thousand two hundred patients. He was also in charge of the insane hospital and the civil, surgical, and medical hospitals in the city. He continued:
When the Servians evacuated Belgrade they turned everything over to me. When you think that they came to me at 2 o'clock in the morning and said they were all going away and I was supposed to remain and take charge of all the hospitals, you can imagine my feelings. I did the best I could for and with them. When the Austrians came in, the non-combatant Servians all came to me for food. I had to get bread for about 6,000 poor people every day, some of which I bought, but the greater part of which was given to me by the Austrians.
When the Servian troops left they took with them about 200 of our patients, leaving 100 behind. Five days after the Austrians arrived I had 8,000 patients, all very seriously wounded and many with frozen hands and feet that necessitated amputation. Many of them had been on the road six or seven days before we got them, and many did not even have the first dressing.
Before the Servians retook Belgrade 6,000 wounded passed through my hands. As it was impossible to handle them, I told the Austrians they would have to send them into the interior of Hungary, which they did. When they left they took with them all of their wounded with the exception of 514 which I still have.
In addition to these men, Dr. Ryan had in his care when he wrote about 250 Servian wounded. "The Servians," he added, "are very grateful, and when you remember that they have about 60,000 wounded of their own, every little helps."
FIGHTING TYPHUS AT GEVGELIA
In view of the conditions in Servia two more units of the American Red Cross were despatched the middle of November to the assistance of Dr. Ryan. They were under the charge of Dr. Ethan Flagg Butler and of Dr. Ernest P. Magruder, both of Washington, D. C., Dr. Butler having general control of the force. Assisting them were Drs. James F. Donnelly, of Brooklyn, Clapham P. King, of Annapolis, and Morton P. Lane, of New Orleans, with twelve trained nurses. As the Servian Government had established itself at Nish, it was decided that these two new surgical units should make their headquarters at Gevgelia, a town of about 7,000 inhabitants on the railway running south from Nish to Saloniki on the Greek coast.
Dr. Butler and his staff reached Gevgelia in December, and found themselves face to face with a difficult situation. The following extract from a private letter from Dr. Butler, dated Christmas day, which was published in the Princeton Alumni Weekly---Dr. Butler was graduated at Princeton in 1906---defined the situation:
Now we have on our hands some thousand or so wounded, both Servian and Austrian, in a large tobacco factory. There is no need to say more than that Sherman must just have come from a military hospital when he uttered his trite description of war. We are, however, taking over an old storage house wherein there have been no patients and which, therefore, comes into our hands sweet and clean. In this we hope to establish a couple of operating rooms, and ward space for 175 patients, choosing for this building the more severely wounded.
The greatest need that confronted Dr. Butler was for an abundant supply of pure water. Even the surgeons and nurses were under the necessity of making "an occasional run for a hot bath and a glass of water" to Saloniki, a morning's ride on the railway-train. At this time no infectious or contagious disease had made its appearance, but Dr. Butler saw clearly that the conditions were such as to breed a veritable pestilence. In a second letter he wrote:
Yet we are going to stick to the game and beat them in spite of themselves. We will just hammer, hammer at the local authorities and at the Government in Nish, until they let us make a clean place of this and keep it clean.
Not many weeks passed after this before the situation became desperate, owing to the outbreak and rapid spread of the dreaded typhus and typhoid fevers in and around Gevgelia, where the sanitary conditions were about as bad as they could be. The pestilence attacked the members of the two American units. Dr. Butler himself was the only one of the American surgeons who escaped an attack, more or less severe, of typhus, and at one time no fewer than nine of his twelve nurses were typhus patients at Gevgelia. Although he was authorized by cable to transfer his entire staff to Saloniki, Dr. Butler stuck resolutely and courageously to his post in Gevgelia, and, with four of his party in the delirium that accompanies typhus, could write in this admirably restrained temper to the home office of the American Red Cross:
In regard to the present personnel of the units, I do not advise withdrawal or even change of location within Servia, but I feel that before other members are sent to this country your office should weigh seriously the risks that everyone will have to run---risks from disease that are considered rightfully preventable in our home country---and decide whether or not the units are to be kept up to their full quota or allowed to gradually decrease in number as one after another the original members become sick and are invalided home. I am sure, from the events of the past two weeks, that it is only a question of time before each member contracts some sickness of sufficient gravity to make his or her return to America necessary.
Two of the American surgeons succumbed to the disease. Dr. Donnelly died on February 22, and Dr. Magruder, who had been transferred to Belgrade to assist Dr. Ryan, died early in April. It was the privilege of Sir Thomas Lipton, who saw Dr. Donnelly when he was ill, to carry out his last wishes. One of these was that if he did not pull through he should be buried with the American and Red Cross flags wrapped around his body. A recent financial report of the American Red Cross records a substantial sum as set aside for pensions to the widows of these two surgeons who gave their lives to the cause of humanity.
Meanwhile help was being sent to Dr. Butler by the American Red Cross. In response to a call for volunteers Dr. Reynold M. Kirby-Smith, of Sewanee, Tennessee, and three nurses left their station at Pau, France, and hastened to Gevgelia. In February Dr. Earl B. Downer, of Lansing, Michigan, left the United States, also under Red Cross auspices, to go to the aid of Dr. Butler, and in March more trained nurses were despatched on the same mission. Typhus, however, had become too virulent and too wide-spread to be combated successfully by so small a force, and steps were at once taken to organize and to send to Servia a sanitary commission for the express purpose of stamping out the plague from which thousands had already died.
Dr. Kirby-Smith, Dr. Butler, and Dr. Downer, leaving Gevgelia to be taken care of by the Sanitary Commission, went to Belgrade to the assistance of Dr. Ryan, who meanwhile had fallen ill with typhus. Summarizing later the work of the American Red Cross in Belgrade, Dr. Downer stated that in little over a year 20,000 sick and wounded, including all nationalities, had been cared for. "During the recent German invasion," he said, "we cared for 4,000 wounded in a period of thirty days." Describing the daily routine of himself and Dr. Butler, he said:
In the month of April Dr. Ethan F. Butler and myself did all the surgical and medical work of the hospital. We operated each day from 8 A. M. to 2 P. M., and after that visited 800 patients. This was our daily routine. Each day we made a rigid search of the wards for new typhus cases, which were promptly sent to the isolation hospital. At this time most of our nurses and doctors, including the director, Dr. Ryan, were ill from typhus. Dr. Reynold M. Kirby-Smith, who was in charge at this time, took care of the executive work of the hospital.
With the Servians Dr. Ryan had become a popular hero. To him they gave the credit for saving the city of Belgrade from being pillaged and burned by the Austrian troops. The London Times confirmed this view, saying that it was due to his "fearless, determined intervention that the city was not destroyed and that an even greater number of women and children were not carried off into captivity." He kept on good terms, moreover, with the invaders, who sent him no fewer than 8,000 wounded soldiers in one day for treatment !
CONQUERING THE PLAGUE OF TYPHUS
The story of how the plague of typhus in Servia was conquered by American scientific knowledge, organization, and energy, the cost of practically the whole undertaking being met by American money, forms one of the most dramatic chapters in the history of modern sanitary science. The disease became epidemic in January, 1915, in the northwestern part of Servia among the Austrian prisoners of war, who were greatly crowded together and who were compelled to live under the most insanitary conditions. As these prisoners were sent and as infected native Servians travelled to other parts of the country, the disease spread rapidly, reaching its height in April, when no fewer than nine thousand new cases a day were reported.
In this emergency the American Red Cross organized a sanitary commission, for the leadership of which Dr. Richard P. Strong, professor of tropical diseases in the Medical School of Harvard University, was selected. Dr. Strong, who was a graduate of Yale of the class of 1893, had proved, in the Philippines and in Manchuria, his capacity for just this sort of work. The commission was financed by contributions from the Rockefeller Foundation, the American Red Cross, and private sources, chiefly at Harvard and at Yale. The membership consisted of twelve physicians and sanitary experts, who sailed for Naples early in April, Dr. Strong having preceded them by several weeks.
Doctor Richard P. Strong
All sorts of supplies were taken, one item in the list being fifty-four tons of sulphur for disinfecting purposes. Later, in May, in response to appeals from Dr. Strong for more assistance, a supplementary force of twenty-five sanitary experts under Dr. Edward Stuart, of Oklahoma, was despatched to Servia, and by July the total American membership of the commission had been increased to forty-three. A great mass of additional supplies was also forwarded, including 125 tons of sulphur and fifteen tons of artesian-well apparatus.
England, France, and Russia were as keenly alive as was America to the danger to all Europe which lay in the dreaded typhus epidemic and had sent sanitary experts and physicians to Servia. Reaching Nish, Dr. Strong, with the co-operation of the medical men from these countries and of such Servian doctors---more than a hundred native physicians succumbed to the disease before it was conquered---as could be spared for the work, organized an International Health Board, of which he became the medical director. With full authority from the Servian Government to take any measures necessary to stamp out the plague, Dr. Strong divided the country for sanitary purposes into fourteen districts. The French, English, and Russian physicians took charge of seven of these districts; the Americans the remainder.
The methods that modern sanitary science employs when it becomes necessary to save not a community but a whole people from the ravages of a pestilence, are well illustrated by Dr. Strong's report to the American Red Cross:
As typhus is conveyed from man to man by vermin (the bite of the body louse) the bathing and disinfection of very large numbers of people and immediate disinfection of their clothing in a short period of time was an important problem in combating the disease. For this purpose sanitary trains consisting each of three converted railroad cars were fitted up. One car contained a huge boiler which supplied the steam for disinfection of the clothing. In a second car fifteen shower baths were constructed. A third car was converted into a huge autoclave (disinfector), into which steam could be turned under automatic pressure. In this manner the vermin were immediately destroyed and the clothes thoroughly disinfected.
Large tents were erected beside the railroad sidings on which the cars were placed. The people were marched by the thousands to these tents, their hair was clipped, and a limited number undressed themselves, carried their clothes to the disinfecting car, and then passed to the car containing the shower baths. After a thorough scrubbing with soap and water they were sprayed with petroleum as an extra precaution for destroying the vermin. They then received their disinfected clothing. In many instances in which the clothing was very badly soiled fresh clothing was supplied. Many of these people stated that they had not bathed for ten months or longer. Their faces in some instances betrayed surprise and in others fear when the water touched their bodies.
In the larger cities and in those situated away from the railway, disinfecting and bathing plants were established and separate hours were arranged for bathing women and men in large numbers.
In many towns the clothes were disinfected by baking them in ovens, either specially constructed for this purpose or those which had been built previously for the baking of bricks or for other purposes. As all the hospitals were infected, it was necessary to systematically disinfect these and the inmates.
As cholera threatened to develop, vaccination against cholera and typhoid fever was made compulsory in Servia, and vaccination trains and parties travelled all over the country for this purpose. Dr. Strong's activity during this campaign was prodigious. Here is a letter in which he describes his experiences one night late in May, while returning, with several companions and a guard, from a visit by horseback and carriage to a hospital in Pech, in Montenegro, the carriages having been sent on ahead of the party:
I forgot to mention that I had an escort of six gendarmes with me because we were passing through a territory which is on the Albanian border, and the Albanians are very unfriendly to the Montenegrins. The gendarme in command begged me not to camp in the open, saying it was very dangerous to do so. However, as I had not slept for twenty-eight hours, I did not feel like going on at that hour of the night and spending it at an infected hotel. We therefore insisted on remaining that night in the open. A camp-fire was started and Mr. Brink made some coffee and fried some bacon. This we ate, together with a tin of salmon and some biscuits.
Our meal had hardly been finished before a curious incident happened. A man, screaming with all his lung-power, came running into our; vicinity, chased by an Albanian with a rifle in his hands. This man claimed, as we found out later, that the Albanian was trying to kill him. It seems the Albanian had seen our camp fire and had crossed the border to find out what it meant. We gave him something to eat and he at once became very friendly. By signs he intimated to us we should put the camp fire out and lie down and go to sleep. In fact he several times tried to put the fire out himself, and kept pointing to the Albanian frontier, every once in a while raising his rifle as if about to fire, indicating, we presumed, that we were in danger.
As the rain was now pouring down we decided to go to bed. We had no tents with us, but had the canvas covers for our hammocks. We spread our bedding on the ground and then climbed under the canvas. The rain fell heavily all night long. I was wet through, and found next morning that my pocketbook had been so badly soaked that my passport which it contained was damaged and that the pigment on the red seal had smeared on the paper. We heard some shooting in the night, but no shots were exchanged. A little before 4 A. M. we crawled out of our beds. It was still raining. We rolled up the water-soaked bedding and left it there on the plain to be sent for and started on our walk to the town of Djakovitza, which we reached about 5.45 o'clock. The commanding officer in the town was scandalized to hear that we had camped in the open on the Albanian border. He said it not only was very unsafe but that no one had done such a thing for many years; that our experience would go down in history. We, however, preferred to take the risk of being shot to sleeping in a typhus-infected hotel.
The battle lasted fully six months before the scourge was finally conquered. Dr. Strong's estimate was that from 135,000 to 150,000 persons died in Servia from the disease. In the end science won. On his return to the United States in the autumn Dr. Strong announced that in the last three weeks of his stay in Servia not a single new case of typhus had been reported.
Chapter XIII. Richard Norton's Motor Ambulance Corps.
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