"Sweetie has a face like a tadpole;
EASTER SUNDAY, April 23. Nelson, my room-mate and side partner (we ran No. 2 and No. 1 cars respectively), left today to return to Oxford to finish his course. Sorry to lose him. Before he joined the American Ambulance, he worked with the Belgian Commission, distributing food. He says the German Government on the whole acted fairly well, but that the officers tried to work all sorts of graft. He thinks that comparatively few of the Belgians would be satisfied to quit and submit to German rule.
More moving pictures were taken to-day of our Section. The films certainly should boost the American Ambulance. Although they are not faked, of course, only the most thrilling stunts we do were taken. They can't, for instance, depict the endless car-cleaning, the fumigating, and many such dry details. Being Easter, we were treated to eggs, not only at headquarters, but even here at Cappy, where it was just my luck to get planted for twenty-four hours. However, the weather is fine and it is interesting to watch the aeroplanes. There is heavy firing at intervals, especially at the aircraft.
Mlle. Flore Granger, the only woman left at Cappy, made good her promise of last week and wrote out some of the songs she sings to the soldiers. They all love her fondly. She washes their clothes and tends to their wants in the most cheerful manner, though forced to live in a dugout, under constant shell-fire and only a few hundred yards from the Germans. On account of a slight limp, she is known as "La Boiteuse."
Aux abords de Dompierre
Aux environs d'Cappy,
V'la la soupe qui s'achève,
Aux environs d'Cappy,
The Third Division goes into "repos" this week, and it is not certain whether we follow them or remain, connecting up with the replacing division (the Second). The English are gradually spreading eastward. I saw some Indian troops to-day for the first time: very picturesque, but gracious! how those turbans must breed vermin! The Russians are also arriving in considerable quantities together with enormous stores of ammunition. Large numbers of additional trenches and wire entanglements are being built, and altogether it looks as if something big were afoot.
April 27. Lieutenant de Kersauson de Pennendreff, our boss, has had an interesting life. He was with the Boers against the English, and says they subsisted almost entirely on the supplies captured from the English. They had more rifles and munitions than they had men to handle them and they buried large quantities for future use. He says he thinks trench warfare first began in that war. When the Big War broke out, he was selling autos in California. He came back and was made Lieutenant of Automobiles and later took over Section No. 1 of the American Ambulance. He is a marquis and belongs to an old Breton family.
To see a French regiment going to attack is interesting. They are all ordered to put on clean underclothes, as this prevents infection of wounds when the bullets pass through their clothing. The men kiss each other good-bye, send all their little knick-knacks and valuables back, and make their wills. They regard it as practically certain death or disablement.
April 28. All peasants have been ordered out of Méricourt. It looks like something doing. Carson(15) is leaving to join the new auto repair section near Paris, so I get his car, old No. 10, --- an awful lemon, --- said to have been through the battle of the Marne.(16) All gift cars have the names of the donors painted on the side of the seat. It is certainly tough, after spending two weeks tuning up White's car so that it would really run. Now the work has to be done all over again. I had to put in a new rear axle, new high gear, new glass in acetylene lamps, clean and adjust commutator and vibrator and spark plugs; otherwise, "No. 10 was in perfect condition "!
"AMBULANCE NO- 10," DRIVEN BY W. YORKE STEVENSON
IN 1916 ON THE SOMME AND AT VERDUN
One of the ten first Ambulances of the American Field Service.
The gift of Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt, in 1915. Driven by Leslie Boswell in 1915 at Pont-à-Mousson
A Boche aero passed over us to-day and English and French shrapnel pieces fell all around us as they shelled it. The whistling was anything but pleasant. Two German " avions " were brought down to-day. One man was captured, the other was killed. We had an inspection by the head of the Auto Section yesterday. He picked on us a good deal at the time, but told the Lieutenant afterwards that he was much pleased. He couldn't, of course, understand how anything so crudely thrown together as a Ford would run at all. Campbell,(17) Francklyn,(18) and White are back from their six days' furlough and one new man, Culbertson,(19) of Princeton, 1911. The Section is now full. Cunningham(20) is also back with us, having finally been able to tear himself away from the charms of Paris. He's already looking better. Roche, Magoun, Francklyn, and I now occupy the palatial apartment known as the "rat-incubator." Some of the boys have erected a tent --- Underhill, Baylies,(21) and Paul;(22) as they were above us in the Rat Hole, and their feet continually kept coming through the ceiling, carrying plaster and splinters on to us, we are now more comfortable and clean, although Lewis, Lathrop,(23) and Edwards are still up there. "Huts" Townsend, White, and Woodworth(24) have the best rooms in a really well-kept house, while Sponagle, Cunningham, and Winsor sleep next to the repair shop. The Lieutenant and other Frenchmen attached to the Section sleep in the Bureau, a nice little well-kept cottage also. The washing is done by a nice little old woman. She hates to leave and hopes to stay despite orders.
May 1. At Cappy for twenty-four hours, with Imbrie as partner, now that Nelson has gone. New regime here with the Second in charge. We eat with the officers now. They say there will be a French offensive around here soon. Another Army, the Tenth, has come to back up the Sixth. The General of the Sixth is Fayolle; the General of the First Corps, to which we are attached, is Berdoulet. There is much hot air among our men about the chances of getting the Croix de Guerre. They ought to consider themselves well off if they don't get the Croix de Bois!
The English repulsed a Boche attack night before last about a kilometer from here and turned it into a small massacre, only losing six or eight men themselves.. The "Germs" are beginning to show considerable activity against the English, and rumor has it that they are moving their big guns from Verdun toward the western end of the line near the Belgian front and English left. The official rat-catcher was brought down to Méricourt, but as far as results go he only appears to have made them more active by disturbing them. The French are firing about four shells to one of the Germans now, and are using more large shells, "90's," "105's," and "220's." They also have a new "400," said to surpass the German "420," and rumor has it that both the English and French are testing out a new "520"!
Last night at Cappy was some night! Eighteen shells dropped on the town and four hit the hospital while Imbrie and I were in it. Imbrie was reading in the front room and I was in bed snatching a snooze before the expected night call. We heard the incessant whistle and crashes, one right after the other. Being only half-dressed, I figured it would be just as well to stay where I was as to go down to the bomb-proof, as the firing would probably be over before I was ready ---which proved to be the case. One shell came right through the mortuary window and burst, leaving nothing of the room but scraps. Luckily no bodies happened to be there. Two others hit Castellane's wardroom, one about the door and the other at the step, rocking the house, which, if it had not been substantially built of brick as a municipal and school building, would have collapsed. The fourth landed on my side, and I could hear the pieces rattle through the trees. One sliver went slap through the front of my car, and I found it in the back of it this morning. This is the first time one of the cars of this Section has been directly hit, although several have been scarred by flying bits of scenery. After firing the salvo of shots which lasted about ten minutes, although it seemed an hour, the Boches were silenced by heavy shelling from both English and French.
I got a call for Éclusier (the bad canal run) and got two men. Imbrie also got a call, and thereafter we were running until 9 A.M.; the most active session I have had yet. They shelled Cappy again just after I left. Apparently they were either after one of the little gunboats which had just arrived up from Méricourt or the extensive diggings around the hospital, making bomb-proofs for" blessés." From an aeroplane the latter may have looked like entrenchments or emplacements for guns.
May 6. I broke the rear axle yesterday while on "Bureau." "Bureau" is the car that takes extra calls when all the others are busy. There are first and second "Bureau " men who relieve each other. Then there are four replacement cars to take on any route over which a regular has come to grief. The order changes every day so that every one gets a turn at the various runs, replacements, and "repos." It takes about a week before one's turn repeats. I ran all day on "Bureau" calls --- about one hundred miles. The first call was at 7 A.M.; the last at 11 P.M., carrying four "assis" from Faucaucourt (within rifle range of the Germans), on the perfectly level Amiens-St. Quentin route. The engine began to race and the car slipped. Luckily Brooke Edwards was with me as orderly, and he ran a kilometer to Lamotte and 'phoned for an extra car. Imbrie came and took the " blessés" (they had blown themselves up with blasting powder working in a mine tunnel). I slept in the car all night in the rain on a stretcher covered with blood. I guess I'll get "la gale" all right this time. Every now and then somebody would poke his hand in the back (the road was full of passing soldiers) and wiggle my feet and ask if I was dead or " blessé " and deserted by the driver. I had to explain a dozen times to well-meaning " poilus " that I was waiting until daylight to repair the car. At 9 A.M. Sponagle and Francklyn turned up with an extra car and we got it in by 2 --- starving.
May 7. We have had our heads clipped and we look like a bunch of jailbirds. It feels fine, however, and we have gone the Section 2 bunch one better. Growing beards is certainly poor sanitation. Some of the men left little scalp-locks or tiny points like devil's horns which they waxed. Of course, the French regard us as "bugs." The Lieutenant finally vetoed the extra frills as undignified.
May 8. I was talking to Campbell this morning regarding the beauty of the new run to Rennecourt through the avenue of blossoming apple trees, saying I was glad to draw it this morning. Good joke on me! As I started down the said avenue, two shells fell, about fifty yards ahead. Needless to say the rest of the view became a mere blur, as I opened up all speed and beat it past the shell-holes before any more dropped in. I got a blow-out later, but luckily was out of range.
May 9. The Lieutenant took Cunningham, Winsor, Imbrie, and me to the new "poste de secours" on foot to-day, by the famous sugar-house of Dompierre, which has been destroyed almost entirely, not by shells, but by machine gun and rifle fire, so intense has been the fighting. The village is still held by the Germans to date, but the French hold the outskirts, and expect soon to take the whole thing. Songs have already been written about the sugar-house. We were between the first and second line trenches in plain sight of the Germans and within easy rifle shot (about four hundred yards). It is very interesting to see the trenches from the inside. I saw piles of aerial torpedoes and other munitions, including telephone posts thirty and forty feet underground! One "75" was within five hundred yards of the Boches and they did n't know it! In one of the new posts we have to stop our motors about fifty yards away and turn the cars by hand, as the noise of backing around could be heard and a German mitrailleuse controls the approach. Needless to say we only go there at night. We walked miles through the trenches and could easily have become lost if we had not had a man to accompany us at intervals as we entered new sections. The men seemed comfortable enough, excepting that they never see anything but the sky, as the top of the trench is a couple of feet above their heads. At intervals we passed graves of those killed at times of great activity and who had simply been thrust into the sides and pegged there with basket-work. Rather unpleasant on wet days I should think. Also at times the trenches pass through graveyards, and hen again coffin-heads and bones occasionally stick out of the sides.
May 10. Victor White is cited by the order of the Division "for coolness, efficiency, and bravery under fire." He will get the Croix and everybody is delighted. He was loading two wounded men at Cappy when the Germans turned loose, their shells and all the men who were helping beat it for the cellar. Vic finished the. job by himself, started his car, and drove the men down out of shell-fire to Cérisy.
A funny thing happened to Lathrop. The Boston papers came out with long notices of his death under fire. His family nearly went crazy until the Paris Ambulance wired them that nothing had happened; but since then they have been receiving letters of condolence. No explanation of how the thing started has been given, as no one has even been hurt here, and only one man has been killed in the whole Ambulance so far (Hall). We heard later that one man had died of spinal meningitis in another Section, and it was his death that caused the mix-up.
May 12. We had received word that we were to be inspected yesterday and that White and Campbell would be officially awarded the Croix de Guerre. Everybody slicked up, shaved, and cleaned rooms, yards, and cars, but nothing happened --- the General sending word he would not be able to come.
White and Campbell were awarded the crosses because they were the oldest and most efficient men in the Section, the Third Division General having allotted two crosses to our Section. This seemed to be the fairest way to do. White also got a special mention by the Second Division, so he gets two stars, a very unusual thing. There is also talk of giving the whole Section the Croix; but this is only a rumor.(25)
May 15. The Chasseurs d'Afrique and Senegalese have a uniform practically like the English khaki. They wear red fezes called "kitshia"; but the inside of these is yellow, so that when within range they simply reverse the hats. The Second Colonials have a fine band, --- the first I have heard at the Front, --- and we have concerts almost every day.
I got the old "bus" working again with a new motor, new rear construction, new wheels. The chief re , mains of No. 10 are the frame, body, insects, and radiator. As all the replacing parts are old, anyway, the chariot is no ball of fire at that, but she wheezes along somehow.
May 18. We are here at Harbonnières on the new twenty-four hour service, with the Third Division --- four of us; quiet nights --- but this morning an aeroplane fight took place right over us. Two French machines brought down a German who was reconnoitering over our lines. He landed about three kilometers within our lines.
I talked to an old French farmer who seemed very well up on late events. He said he believed Wilson would surely be defeated at the next election, and that Roosevelt would again be President. In common with most French landowners I have talked to, he felt that the aftermath of the war would be very serious. He was afraid of internal troubles over the partitioning of the spoils. He invited me to his farmhouse and gave me a glass of cider. He thinks the Boches are by no means done, but that they are on the wane. He looks for a second battle like Verdun here on the Somme, as this is a naturally weak position, being a junction of the two armies. On the other hand, the enormous amount of effort to make it impregnable is obvious. Rows and rows of second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth line trenches; acres of barbed wire; fields sown with mines, and every tree and bush a mask for a cannon or mitrailleuse show that nothing is being neglected, while additional railways are being built to bring up supplies and the roads. (thank God!) are being overhauled and repaired. The winter and spring have put them in a frightful state and our cars certainly reflect it.
May 22. A German flyer played a clever, trick on being chased by four French planes to-day. He pretended to be driven to earth, stopped his engine, and prepared to alight. The French ceased firing, came planing down near him, and stopped; he then quickly started his motor again, veered off to the right over some woods, and got back to his lines before the French, who had actually grounded, could get up again.
I am back again at Cappy, for the first time since I broke my rear axle in a shellhole. End and Magoun did the same thing. We have to sleep in the cave now! --- very annoying. It's damp and stuffy. Loads of more guns up here. The French are using a new "270," and the fields are full of ammunition, covered with branches of canvas painted like scenery. We went up to one of the new "postes de secours" where we are under mitrailleuse fire. We have to turn the car around by hand so that the Germans won't hear the noise of the reverse gear. On coming back we found the road blocked by a newly fallen tree hit by a shell. It took an hour, with the help of the " brancardier," to jack it up and shove it around.
Certainly I got a thrill on the second run coming back from Cérisy by moonlight about 2 A.M. Just before crossing the Somme, I noticed low-lying wisps of misty vapor. Having already been stopped twice by sentries and as the cannonading was heavy, it suddenly struck me that an attack might be going on and that this was gas. It looked pale blue in the moonlight. I stopped my motor and got my gas mask out, but as there seemed to be no general movement of troops, I decided to go ahead. I hurried through, and was greatly relieved to smell the good old fog smell. The two sentries, French and English, on the Somme bridge must certainly have a bad time. Shelled continually, and being at the lowest point in the valley, they are more apt to get the gas than the troops quartered on the higher ground.
White and Campbell finally received the decorations to-day. An amusing incident occurred when the General took White (who had been told to stand out in front of the line) to be a mere onlooker and ordered him back. It had to be explained to him that this was the hero who was to be decorated! He apologized, of course, but it got every one giggling and somewhat marred the solemnity of the occasion.
May 26. Culbertson came back from Cappy with a long tale of experiences this morning. He had not been to the Sucrerie of Dompierre Poste before, and got a call at 2 A.M. He took a " brancardier " to show him the way. They got out in the open road on the top of the hill and could n't find the "poste"; so the "brancardier" went on to look for it and Culbertson stopped his motor and waited. He says it seemed about a year before the man came back. Meantime every time the mitrailleuse would start in, old Culby would try to find some place to hide, and he says there was n't the vestige of anything within sight. Finally they got down to the "poste," and he tried to turn, with the result that he backed off the road into a trench. He had to get a lot of soldiers to lift the car out. They pushed it out amid cheers, everybody forgetting the Boches, and, incidentally, the"blessé." Then, they heard a yell from the "blessé" whom they had nearly run over with the car as he lay in the road. Culby says the Germans seemed so close that he felt as if the front wheels were in the German trenches and the back wheels in the French. Finally, coming back, he says he was so glad that he started to beat it fast, when the "brancardier" put his foot on the electric lightswitch by mistake, and suddenly the lights flared up, and a moment later the Boches started shelling. He says he thought he hit every- shell-hole back to Cérisy, and once he ran over a ball of barbed wire left to be stretched at the side of the road, but he did n't care so long as he got there. The, marvelous part of the whole thing was that the car was scarcely hit at all; only a few bolts loosened.
The name of the " poste " is "l'Arbre-en-Boule," because there is a large stump of a tree there which the French hollowed out and used as an observation point. The Germans got onto it and shelled it down and, having the exact range, kept the French from using it. They also employed it as a range-finder for other things, such as batteries. The French, then, moved it one night about ten yards and set it up again. Ever since, the Germans have been shelling it and missing not only the tree, but the other objectives.
At Harbonnières to-day with Imbrie, Francklyn, and Woodworth. There is a steady drizzle, and nothing to do for twenty-four hours. Imbrie is an interesting bird. He has traveled all through Africa with a professor who went there to study monkey talk; --- locked himself up in a cage with gorillas, and such! and claims to have discovered twenty words. Imbrie says "it's all rot"; but that the shooting was fine and the trip most interesting. He says that after he made up his mind that the monkeys knew more than the professor, he left him and got some splendid elephant hunting.
I went over to the English lines this afternoon and saw a series of impromptu boxing-matches. There was a new Sergeant-Major in one company who was being watched to see how he would turn out, and he organized the matches, starting in himself in the first bout. The best of feeling prevailed, and when the men threatened to become too rough, they were cautioned by the Lieutenant who kept time. Many French soldiers came over to see the bouts and both armies fraternized in the most cheerful manner. They daily play soccer football also.
La vie est brève;
La vie est vaine;
June 1. Big doings to-day; the order came at 10 A.M. to move the whole encampment from Méricourt to Lamotte-Santerre, and we were ready by 2.30. Then, just before we left, we were told to go to Bayonvillers instead; and here we are! It is not such a bad billet. The town is more modern and in better repair than Méricourt. We are sleeping in our cars to-night, but will find quarters to-morrow, which does not do Imbrie and me any good, as we go to Cappy for twenty-four hours and so get "stung" out of any decent pickings for sleeping accommodations. The Section remains with the Third Division. The Twentieth Corps, which withstood the first shock at Verdun and thereby earned its place in the Hall of Immortals, is to straddle the Somme, having had a month "en repos." When the "Régiment de Fer " came in with its flags ---or what was left of them --- flying, everybody saluted. They are said to have saved the day in the first German rush, the critical. period at Verdun. The Sixth (ours) won its spurs in the Champagne, and is next to the Twentieth, and we continue to handle the front line as before, but from a different base.
The English have moved a kilometer to the west, so that the conflicting orders bound to occur at the Somme are eliminated. A lot of new rail lines have been put through in the last few days, and the supply of ammunition in the fields is something beyond belief. Word has been given that everything in the way of preparation must be finished by the 20th. The French had arranged to be ready by the 15th, but the English asked for five more days. The battle of the Somme should be some battle. The fields are full of poppies, yellow daisies, and cornflowers, and the country is beautiful. The poppies remind one of Omar's
I sometimes think that never blows so red
The rose as where some buried Cæsar bled."
At Verdun, so far, they say, the German losses amount to 450,000 and the French to 200,000 -even the poppies grow no thicker!
Big mortar batteries are arriving along the Front. I saw several here, at Cappy, this afternoon, hidden near the cemetery. Even when a man gets killed he is not permitted to rest in peace nowadays. The Germans are bound to blow hell out of the cemetery, trying to reach these new mortars.
June 2. Bayonvillers is not a bad town, but our quarters are awful; all of us bunk together in a big loft, with the cars and the eating-place about two squares away. The reason for the crowding is the piling-up of new troops in all these districts. I had fun with Francklyn this morning. It appears that he used Imbrie's "paillasse" last night, and when Imbrie and I returned from Cappy it was nowhere to be found. Francklyn was still asleep, so we carried him bunk and all, out into the main street and placed him on the sidewalk. A large crowd immediately gathered, thinking he was a "blessé," as he had nothing on but a blanket. He woke up just as a Division Staff was passing, and he certainly did make a quick jump for the yard with the blanket flapping like the tail of a kite behind his long, bare legs, as he beat it.
June 3. An amusing afternoon. Being second "Bureau," I had nothing to do, and it so happened that a bunch of kids from Harbonnières came down to be confirmed; the girls in their little white dresses and the boys in their best Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes. Bowman, who was just back from Paris, brought out the Victrola with a lot of the latest records (I don't know what we'd do without that Christmas-gift Victrola from Miss Caroline Sinkler), and we had a regular raft of children all over us all afternoon, as the school let out at the same time. One girl, a little older, who serves the store at Harbonnières and who had come down with the diminutive brides in all their white gear, appeared to have fallen desperately in love with Duffy Lewis.(26) She had his picture and looked us all over, but couldn't find Duffy. Then she spotted Paul's back (Paul being about the same size as Lewis) and rushed over to him, only to return disappointed. "Ce n'est pas lui! " Then Woody, twisting his mustache, came over to ease her mind, telling her Lewis would be here, but unfortunately he was "soused," and sleeping it off! (Lewis never touched a drop in his life.) We got a lot of pictures of the priest and others and shortly afterward Duffy turned up, and what he did n't get in the way of chaffing, --- some fun!
After dinner I got a call to go in a hurry for a "blessé" at the "Ravin" de Morcourt, nobody knew what "ravin" was meant, so I spent from 8 P.M. until 2 A.M. going up and down ravines all over the map. One time I struck a road which appeared to be taking me slap into the German lines, which was anything but pleasant. I returned twice to get further instructions, but no one knew anything, so finally I was told to turn in. Roche, Edwards, Imbrie, and Campbell all had the same experience that night. The trouble was that all the Divisions were being shifted and nobody knew where any of the "postes" were. Campbell did n't get back till nearly breakfast time. He had been called to Chuignes and Chuignelles to get three "blessés" and had found no one. I suppose that things will be straightened out in a day or two. I am off on the new Lamotte twenty-four hours' service to-day with Imbrie.
June 6. Culbertson, Imbrie, and I went over to Méricourt to our old campingground and brought over the body of No. 19 which we had left there. All the natives were delighted to see us and expressed sorrow that we were not to return. Especially cordial were the two old ladies. We then crossed the canal and paid a visit to an English Captain (Duffy), who gave us tea and toast served on a table by an orderly, with napkins and real china! Those English certainly go to war in great style! He even had his two-room portable cabin decorated with pictures. I returned to find Vic White and Campbell in serious discussion. It appears White's mother consulted some sort of palmist or medium, who told her her son would be in great danger in the latter part of June, which was easy enough to guess, as the big offensive is likely to start then. She had written to him to come home. Vic does n't want to worry her, so Campbell and I suggested his merely giving her the idea that he was not right at the Front, which after all is more or less true, as we only run up to the lines on certain routes, and are living about two miles back. Campbell then said he lately had been growing superstitious and that he had a feeling he was going to be killed. Odd for a man who has been in the war since the beginning! He argued it all out on the doctrine of chances; he says that it's just for the very reason that he has been in the field longer than any of us that he is therefore more likely to get it in the neck than the newer men. He says if he pulls through the big offensive of this summer, he is going home, and White says he will go with him. Pete (who has no feelings of any kind) says he dreamed several times lately that some of the Section are going to be killed or wounded. Altogether the bunch are certainly pessimistic --- but I fancy the cold, wet weather and the lack of work just now have most to do with it.
June 8. Big train of great " 220 " mortars came by on their way to Chuignes this morning, eight of them drawn by huge Renault & Jeffery (American) trucks, whose wheels in front, as well as rear, were tractors --- the couplings of these to the carriages carrying the trails and "camion" were the same as those on railways, and the carriages were made in Troy, Ohio. They shoot a shell five feet high weighing three hundred kilos, and carry about ten kilometers. They are meant only to reduce fortifications.
I hear that the new Section (No. 8), sent out under Mason as chief, ran right into a gas attack at the very first crack. They are stationed in Champagne, and are said to have done remarkably well, especially as they were all new men.
The big-gun train is camping here temporarily until the emplacements are finished. Everywhere house barracks and log protections are being erected and the country is simply alive with working men. One hundred "camions" turned up here to-day, of the largest size. They are just the, ordinary service wagons for the "8-270's"! Another train of "220's" passed later. The gunners had amused themselves by naming them "Le Bourdon," "Le Gueuleur," and so on. All their guns and their accessories are in the multi-colored tones of paint, green, ochre, black, and brown, and look like maps. One "camion" drags the base and turntable, another the gun itself; the rest, gasoline and ammunition.
June 10. Dr. Maine and Peter Kemp turned up from Paris with two new cars. I went back to Cappy to-day. The roads are jammed, and we have to run for miles on the low gear behind the heavy artillery and ammunition trains. I had to tighten the low gear band twice yesterday and it is practically worn out. I will put in a new one in a day or two. Life in the barracks is amusing. Some of the men insist on talking half the night, while others try to sleep, and still others keep their lamps lit late trying to read and write. The chief annoyance in fact is the utter lack of privacy. Roche and I came to a compromise with Cunningham and Campbell on the light question. They want all lights out at ten o'clock, so we said if they would stop talking at nine, we would "douse the glim "at eleven.
Francklyn and Avard have an amusing arrangement to wake each other up in the morning. If one cannot arouse the other by quarter to seven, he has the privilege of tumbling him out of bed! The result is each watches the other like a cat when the alarm goes off and there is generally a regular wrestling-bout. Yesterday morning Gyles broke Peter's bed, so Pete said he'd tumble Gyles out at 2 A.M., the next night.
Gyles in self-protection built a barricade of bags and saw-horses around himself and slept on the floor on a stretcher. The great connecting link is "Vic," the fox terrier pup. The dog is sick just now, and they have been taking him to a veterinary and are nursing him like a baby. It's Pete's dog, but to devil him we all call it Francklyn's, which jars Pete extremely. Pete, who is considerably older than Gyles and has had a very varied career, roughing it all over the world, at first used to beat up Gyles pretty regularly and browbeat and bully him; but lately Gyles has discovered that he can lick Pete wrestling, so he has taken to issuing official communiqués every morning as to the state of their bed war! Latimer took them both in at checkers the other day and beat them easily, as they soon got squabbling over the proper moves to make. It certainly is better than a circus. Little Woodworth is the life of the party with his continual good humor, his songs and dances, and general liveliness, and we will be sorry to see him go in July when he returns to America.
The place will be a gloom without him, as no one else in the squad is quite such a natural comedian.(27) Pete is also going.
June 12. I have just finished lunch with a party of unusually jovial Frenchmen. One used to be first violin at the Carlton in London, and having borrowed the piano from Mlle. Granger, he played accompaniments to a couple of others who sang war songs, etc. They were all much impressed with Peter Kemp's appearance. He is six feet five, as tall as Walter Wheeler, of Philadelphia, and heavier. We explained to them that that was the reason that America does n't go to war --- the average men are all about as big as Peter and it takes too long to dig trenches to fit 'em!
In addition to the customary bombardment we are in the midst of a violent thunder and hail storm; the crashes of thunder and lightning mingling with the roar of the guns certainly is creating a real pandemonium. This makes one week so far of solid rain and the roads are almost impassable from mud and traffic combined. Everywhere are bogged autos and dead horses. The soldiers skin the latter for rugs and coats. "Rosalie" is the affectionate term the "poilus" apply to the new, long, four-cornered bayonet which makes a wound almost impossible to heal, as it cuts like a cross. "Rosalie" is also the name of the new paper method of smoking a pipe; a round-cut piece about the size of a tail light lens with a small hole in the center. The advantage is a cool and easy smoke without effort of drawing and good in a wind.
The roads are so blocked that the food is slow to reach the Front just now. Today, for instance, we were on half-rations here at Cappy. As we sat at our coffee, however, the "ravitaillement camions" turned up and there was great rejoicing. I saw "La Boiteuse" later to-day. She's a great old girl; still as cheerful as ever and glad to have her piano in capable hands. She gave me some postcards of Cappy and a luck piece. She sent her love to Nelson.
June 13. I got a call to Éclusier village at 2.30 A.M. The road along the canal was six inches deep in water and could hardly be told from the canal itself, except for the yellow color. The result was that it was quite daylight when I got there, and the Boches, could see us loading the car (three "couchés ") plainly, but they did n't fire. In fact they have been very quiet of late. The church at Éclusier is but an empty shell with great holes down through the sides and no roof to speak of --- birds flit through the broken windows and the rain drops dismally on the floor. Most of the images are smashed, but the big stone font is still intact. The old graveyard beside it is just a tangled mass of stones and weeds, while the new soldiers' graveyard was placed in two huge shell holes the sides of which have been graded like steps, and neat little crosses bear the records of the dead. Some fifty or more found places in the two holes, and yet there was respectable space between each grave and around the edges. Back to Villers-Bretonneux with the wounded and back at Cappy by 8 A.M.; the slowness due to weather and congested roads.
Shoals of Senegalese are passing toward the Front, and it certainly looks as if the offensive was coming soon. The Russian victory in Galicia is said to be merely a diversion to help Italy just now and the real offensive has not even begun.
I got stopped by what looked like the whole General Staff on the road to-day. They all had so many stripes it looked like a flock of zebras. A trooper had fallen off his horse and hit his head and they ordered me to carry the unconscious man to Villers-Bretonneux. The car was already full, but I piled him in and took him along to save argument. Of course I had a hideous time at the hospital at Villers, not having a ticket for him. Nobody could take him in for an hour or so --- the usual red-tape.
The "brancardiers," tell me they have great difficulty with the wounded negroes, as they cannot explain how they feel; also the climate is very hard on them.
The French "camion" drivers tell me that their well-known makes, such as Panhard, Fiat, Berliet, Renault, etc., are unable to put in the same high-grade material in their cars as before the war, and that the American cars are regarded as quite as good if not better --- especially the Pierce-Arrow, which is making quite a name for itself both here and in Russia. Five hundred of them passed here in long trains yesterday.
I hear we are going to be shifted again; headquarters to be at Proyart and evacuate to the new hospital at Marcel Cave. This will be just before the big attack. At Marcel Cave the French have erected an enormous hospital oh the railway. To illustrate what is expected, they have purchased from the town an additional site for a graveyard to accommodate five thousand dead, expected to be the casualties from this hospital alone --- not from the trenches, but those who cannot survive treatment. This gives more of an inkling as to the preparation in our Sector than anything else I have seen. And our Sector only covers some three or four miles of the Front.
June 14. I had an interesting talk with a Lieutenant to-day as we watched a regiment of Zouaves go up to the Front. He said that now that they were here together with the Colonials, the Senegalese, the Chasseurs, d'Afrique, and the Twentieth Corps, the advance would not be long in coming. He says the Senegalese are awfully hard to handle. They won't stand shell fire, but don't mind machine guns, so they put Frenchmen on either side of them, fifteen hundred Senegalese in each Division. They have strings of Boche ears which they keep as trophies. On the other hand, the "Germs" always kill the black wounded and prisoners, so it's about fifty-fifty. This same officer says the big attack now depends entirely on the English. If they can only manage Champagne and Neuve Chapelle, stalemates will not be repeated.
June 17. Red-Letter Day! The first hot bath in a tub since I've been at the Front! "Huts" Townsend, our Section Chief, took "Gimp" Cunningham and me in to Amiens. We simply wallowed in baths which only cost a franc. We did a little shopping and brought the boys back some cherry tarts for supper, for which we received loud cheers. Good old Pete Avard left to-day and took back an old car which, as usual, was stripped to the bone before it was allowed to go. The boys always attack a car going down, like a bunch of ghouls. A new man turned up with Magoun, Little, by name, from Andover, and seems a decent sort. The fellows that sleep in the tent are not having such a pleasant time of it now. A whole regiment of artillery ("270's") has camped all around them, and the noise of men and horses keeps them awake all night long, and naturally they are afraid of thefts, particularly from the Senegalese; although the loft in which the rest of us sleep is dark and dirty, it is, at least, fairly safe from that sort of thing. The blacks love anything bright and shiny, like radiator caps or nickle-plated tools. With the advance of the hour we all now have to get up at 5.30 instead of 6.30 and already several have been caught on the "no breakfast after 6.30" order. As we go to bed an hour earlier we'll work into it all right soon, I suppose.
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