Allons, enfants de nos alliés,
Man that makes new chaos out of fire and rending steel and
masters and emerges from it....
August 15. At last! We move to-day: Just about time. We go to Landrecourt near Verdun; a little to the west of Dugny, where we were stationed before. We either do the Mort Homme or Bras-Souville work, they say, but we won't know for certain till we get there. Little Hélène offered to do my laundry yesterday. I was quite surprised as she is n't much that sort. She did it very well, too. She had no soap, so I gave her a piece and she would n't accept any pay; said she'd keep the soap. I told her not to use it as a souvenir, but for what it was made for, at which she got sore. Considering that her father beats her if she talks to us, she ran a big chance doing my clothes, and it was certainly sporting of her. Her old man knows he can't lick us, so he beats her instead, and it naturally keeps us from chatting with her except when he is away. As a matter of fact, not a man in the squad would even think of doing her any harm.
August 16. I could find no good place to camp at Landrecourt, so came on past to a beautiful old farm-chateau called Billemont right outside Verdun. Great, big, beautiful place with fountains, splendid gardens, and park. The only reason it was empty was that the officers of the "Genie," who occupied it until a week ago, got shelled out. The place itself was hit only three or four times, but a good many shells landed all around the house, showing the Boches had the range, When the "Genie" moved out, the shelling ceased. Now we can test the oft-mooted question whether the Germans shell ambulances on purpose. Personally, I have always held that they do not; but that, if an ambulance happens to be in the way or in line with something they are after, they don't pay any attention to it one way or the other, --- hence the many stories from rattled drivers that they personally were being shot at. The price of shells is too high.
Of course we only enter or leave the place at two-minute intervals and are careful not to stand in groups. Also we do not open the shutters, and we screen the windows with blankets at night. We are not only in plain sight of the Boche "saucisses," but also from Fort Douaumont which they hold. The cars are scattered all over, --- under bushes so that not only they won't attract attention, but also, if a shell does come in, only one or two will be smashed at a time.
Paul Kurtz, of Philadelphia, joined the Section to-day. He used to be with it up at Dunkerque, but went back to America last winter and has only just returned.
The last people here certainly fled in a hurry. Contents of closets and drawers are scattered all over the place; everything is topsy-turvy. Some of the closets have been nailed up. Probably books and other articles of value are in them. The owner, whoever he was, must have been quite a faddist besides being an up-to-date farmer. He has all the latest implements and quite a chemical laboratory. He was also apparently interested in electricity and hypnotism, judging from his pamphlets and books. The caretaker says he was arrested as a German spy. It appears that a German company owns the land and quarry across the road. To allay suspicion they placed a number of Frenchmen on the directorate, and also had a French overseer who lived in this château. The company went into receivership at the beginning of the war, but suspicion did not attach to it until the receivers began to investigate. Oddly enough, the place was n't shelled until the overseer, who still lived in the château, was removed a few months ago. Then, when the "Génie " Staff moved in, the shelling soon followed. For some time since the place has been vacant and, as we eased in very carefully, we hope to get away with it.
August 18. Off on twenty-four-hour "poste" duty with Lathrop, at a sad dump near Souilly, named Hôpital Fontaine de Bouton. We stay here and have a run of less than a half-mile taking treated "blessés" to the train. The worst of it is that they keep us going at short intervals all night.
August 19. Heavy shelling and some sort of an attack last night on Thiaumont, so we were kept busy. Many Boche prisoners are here working on the hospital grounds. They are a healthy-looking lot. Their own officers are allowed to command them and they are very well treated. One of them with spectacles, who is an electrician by trade, told me that on the whole he would rather be on this side of the line than the other, but when I asked him for details, he shut up. I told a German "blessé" whom I carried what his compatriot said, and he nodded his head, agreeing; but he asserted that they would take Verdun if they never did another thing. It looks just now as if they were going to do it. Another violent attack (counter) is on.
The French got one half of Fleury, up to the church, last night. The Germans are counter-attacking now. The fighting is going on in cellars and what's left of houses: the rottenest kind of work. One sometimes doesn't know for a day or two whether the town is captured or not. Some of the Boche "blessés," who have been coming in during the last few hours, can't be more than sixteen or seventeen. We worked hard all night. The hospitals all around are jammed and men are lying even outdoors.
I had a curious experience. A Harjes car came up, and in the dim light of a smoky lantern a familiar face appeared. I stared at it for a moment and then a muffled figure remarked, "Is n't your name Stevenson?" It was Charley Clark, of Philadelphia!(30) I had n't seen him 'for ten years. It appears he lived in Chicago for a while and then moved to Boston. He came over to France in May and joined Harjes. We chatted for quite a while. He is at Dugny doing evacuating work. It is almost impossible to get any real account of how the fights go from the "blessés"; each has his own particular little local in mind, and also much depends upon the time when the individual was wounded. One Senegalese, for instance, claimed all the officers had run away when the word came to charge. Another man later told me they were all killed. Some say they advanced a considerable distance; but most of the wounded are pessimistic. The fact is, however, that many German prisoners, both wounded and unwounded, were taken, and that usually indicates a victory.
August 20. We started in the new Souville "poste" service, called Caserne Marceau. We handled the men fighting for Fleury. The village hag changed hands almost daily during the past week. Three cars were on duty twenty-four hours. Some fight! When I got up there, the first thing I saw was a wrecked car and four bodies lined up beside it, --- three of them Lieutenants. The Caserne Marceau is absolutely shot to pieces. The doctors live in deep dug-outs. The road is simply pockmarked with shell holes. I picked up a dozen fusées just walking about near by.
The English Section we are relieving has had three cars wrecked and several men wounded. Thank Heaven, we have "shed" at last the other little dinky service of the past three or four days. We drive from Château Billemont, through Verdun, and then up toward Souville, much .closer to the lines even than at Tavannes. Squad A (Nos. I1to 10) started in at noon and worked till 8 P.M.
A counter-attack (German) on Fleury started around 5 P.M. We had hardly got to bed after dinner when we were all called out again. Squad B had been hoodooed from the start and we had to help out. Roche, White, Lathrop, and I had not had any sleep for two nights. Wilson we found down with a broken axle in a big "380" marmite hole right in the road, new since he had gone up to the "poste." Baylies was broken down in Verdun town with tire trouble. Jones got lost and landed in a muddy ravine which enjoys the cheerful title of "Le Ravin de la Mort " (it was pouring rain), and he could n't get out. Some of the others also got temporarily lost or had tire trouble. No wonder Squad A had to go in. We got through about 4 A.M. The Landrecourt Hospital was filled up quickly, and we had to take our last few loads away back to the Fontaine-Bouton Hospital. The machinegun division of the 143d was practically wiped out. We carried several of the men with whom we played football at Triaucourt, poor fellows! One man said all the officers had been killed, and that just ordinary soldiers took command. As I said above, we saw three of the dead Lieutenants at our "poste."
The ground over which the men fight is simply indescribable, --- nothing but twisted and splintered stumps of trees (the place around here was formerly a wood). The ground looks as though a huge plough had furrowed and turned it over.
Empty shells everywhere, arms and accouterments of all sorts strewing the land, unexploded grenades, and fusées that threaten one every step. Bastions of bags and bits of trenches, hastily made, connect up a few of the larger and most useful shell holes --- dismounted "75's," bloody rags and clothes, mouldy food and half-empty tins. And the most pathetic of all, numberless graves simply made by covering up a body in a shell hole, with a bit of wood stuck in it, or a bottle with the man's number on it. These, in turn, have been blown up again and again. Over all prevailed a smell of rotting flesh and the acrid, damp odor of burned clothes and wood, such as one gets after a city fire when the ruins have been soaked in water. Not a sign of life except the myriads of gnats and flies which darken the air when disturbed, and the rats that scurry from under one's feet.
One of the "Génie" told us that the job of trench-digging through this land fought over for two years is about the most horrible imaginable, as they constantly have to dig through rotting bodies which render the trench, once dug, almost uninhabitable. And steadily, at almost regular intervals, the shells come whistling in, bursting with a frightful crash, only once more to hurl skyward the whole dreadful rotting mass of filth that was once the Bois Chapitre and the Froide-Terre.
August 21. We have worked three days and nights without any sleep except naps snatched in the cars or "postes." Several of the fellows have had pretty close calls. Rice got his initiation with a vengeance on his first time out, when a "150" dropped in the road within a few feet of him while he was loading "blessés." Walker got spattered with mud by another which fell beside the road.
There was the usual comic scene with Baylies. Bowman was coming down the road when he found it blocked by a mass of dead and wounded horses and men all tangled up with harness and wagons, and beside them one of our cars. It turned out to be Baylies, who came running up to Bowman, exclaiming, "There's been an awful mess, Bob!" and Bowman perfectly unthinkingly ejaculated, "Good Lord, what have you done now, Baylies?" Baylies was as sore as two sticks and growled, " Ah, where'd you get that stuff ?" His conventional answer to all gibes. The word " to Baylies" (French "Bayliser") has been standardized in Section 1 and is even spreading to the other Sections.
The thing that gets on one's nerves in this service is watching the shells burst along the road ahead, while one is loading, and knowing that one will have to pass right there in a minute or two. Once on the way, the road is so steep and bad that it requires all one's attention, and the bursting marmites don't loom so large. Souville is certainly the home of the souvenir hunter. If we could ever carry away all that we collect, the steamer would be laden down to the gunwales. Ned Townsend evidently thinks he can move half the remains of the battle with him, --- at least he goes about collecting as if he expected to have a "camion" of the largest size to cart his things down to Paris for him.
August 22. Our greatest difficulty is to snatch a chance to sleep. I have run every night since we've been here so far, and I snatch naps at the "poste" or in Verdun where we have established a secondary headquarters in the big military clubhouse, now deserted and partially wrecked. Five cars got to the caserne, ten are lined up by the river in the town of Verdun, and five remain "en repos." So five men get one night's sleep in three. I take my hat off to Roche. He can curl up anywhere and sleep peacefully. Last night he got a very bloody " brancard," laid it under the bench where the " blessés " sit awaiting their turn to be patched up, and was sound asleep for four hours, while the Boches dropped "220" marmites around the "poste," and the groans of the wounded and chatter of the doctors and "brancardiers" kept up a continual disturbance. I've given up trying to sleep in the "abris" and take a chance in the car outside. At least it is cool, and the air is foul only with the odor of burned wood and rotting flesh. In the daytime we have less to do and only operate five cars except in cases of emergency.
To date we still hold Fleury despite repeated German counter-attacks --- eight took place on the night before last, and three last night.
There are some curious sights in Verdun. The gendarmes are everywhere and have prevented all looting, so one peers through shell holes into placid-looking interiors --- some with the table set for dinner; others, sitting-rooms with all the furniture left, just as when the owners fled from the town. In one, you see that the shell burst right on a rosewood piano and the rest of the room is not much disturbed. In another, there is a bully library, the side of which is torn out, but rows on rows of handsomely bound books are left untouched, neatly arranged on their shelves, and a table on which are writing materials, papers, and the rest.
August 23. Some of the men we carry certainly have had weird experiences. Culbertson had "blessés" who told him that, at one time during the fight around Fleury, the French batteries were firing a trifle short and were landing on their own men.
A big "155" hit just back of this fellow, went deep in the mud, and then exploded. It blew him ten feet in the air; and, while he was up, a Boche mitrailleuse got him "on the wing," so to speak. He was as sore as a crab, as he figured he wouldn't have been touched if it had not been for his own guns blowing him out into the open like the ball in the fountain at a shooting gallery! Two men were killed at our "poste" to-day and one wounded.
To-night, as we sit here waiting our turns to roll, the "big marmites" are dropping all around us and the "poste" is rocked by the explosions. It is not as good as the one at Cappy, being above ground. It is made of big arched metal sections set in the side of the hill, and sandbags and logs piled above it. The theory of the logs is to cause the shell to explode before it penetrates. The ends are also protected by sandbags. The Staff "abri" is thirty feet under ground and practically safe except from being completely blocked --- which occurs occasionally. The latest figures regarding the 143d show only 247 men left uninjured out of 2000! --- and they were in the front line just three days.
A little added touch to the general difficulties was a nice, heavy fog that we had last night. One couldn't see more than ten or fifteen yards ahead, but luckily there was n't any great rush of work, so each of us made only two or three runs. I carried a "poilu" who had been in the Fleury bickering, and who complained that the shell holes and attempts at trenches were continually being filled up by the dirt tumbling in as the ground got shaken by new explosions, so that when one thought one had a three- or four-foot hole to hide in, it gradually would work up shallower and shallower until one had to beat it to a fresh hole.
Our club at Verdun is certainly a snappy place: a big four-story building filled with banquet-halls, card-rooms, a billiard-room, and a fencing-hall; fully as large as the Racquet Club at home. The only trouble with it is that the roof has been blown off , and many of the rooms have been wrecked by high explosives which came in from two sides --- over the Meuse from the direction of the Mort Homme and directly back from Douaumont and Vaux. However, the lower floor is in pretty good condition, and we use the fencing-hall. Sponagle went to Bar-le-Duc to-day with "Huts" to see the aviators of the American Squad drill, and came back by aeroplane. Norman Prince just dropped in with him, as it were!
August 24. Last night, Squad A was to get its first full night's sleep in five days, but we got fooled. The French attacked at 5 P.M. and the entire Section was called out. Sponagle had to take the place of one of the new men. The latter had gone to pieces under the strain, and was given veronal and ordered by "Huts" to rest. Being a new man he could hardly be blamed, so nobody thinks any the worse of him. He should be all right again after twenty-four hours' rest.
The Germans began throwing real "380's" into Belleray in the afternoon --- nothing unreal about those! They were trying for the canal. Some of us walked over and took some pictures. The reserve cars went out at dusk and we headed down to our club. The Boches were trying for a "270" battery concealed near the river just at the edge of the town, and the shells came whistling over us, landing in and along the river. The reverberations and echoes caused by the houses on either side amplified the explosions until the whole valley seemed to be in one continuous roar. Some day a musician will set those rising and falling, ever-changing cadenzas to a great song, the "Song of the Guns." They ring in rhythm like chimes, louder and fainter, as the ebb and flow of sound goes up and down the river.
Around midnight, word came that the attack had been successful and eight hundred yards gained to the west of Fleury in the Froide-Terre; also that three counter-attacks had been repulsed. The reserve cars had to make only one trip each, as the casualties were remarkably light, considering. The 342d and the 17th did the trick, taking a couple of hundred prisoners. They had previously relieved a regiment that got all cut up because the men failed to carry their charge home. They hesitated right in the open and were practically annihilated, of course.
Francklyn and Walker had a close call: they were sitting in front of the dug-out reading a paper, when a "105" high explosive hit a tree not five yards from them. Pieces of the shell smashed into Francklyn's car and a shower of stones knocked the paper out of Walker's hand and both men were thrown to the ground. Walker says all he remembers was that some one seemed to snatch his paper away and knock him down at the same time, and he found himself crawling under his car, while Gyles made one long slide for the dug-out entrance.
August 25. They threw the hook into our batteries all day yesterday, and several of the "brethren" nearly got done for. "Huts" and I were standing outside the" poste," when a "130" Austrian dropped right back of it and blew earth and "éclats" all around. Also, several have fallen on the road, which is very annoying when driving at night, thinking one knows all its various convolutions and corrugations, and finding they have been quite altered since the last time one ran over it. We stopped and filled up a couple of fresh ones that were really too deep to leave. From all the shelling we supposed there would be an attack; but nothing happened, and our squad, which was "first reserve," slept in the club at Verdun peacefully, lulled to sleep by the rhythmic boom of the guns. Squad A2 still has to get its first night's sleep in our own château, however. To-night we are on duty at the "poste" again. A French aeroplane was brought down by three Boches to-day. It fell in a field near our "poste." The German machines swooped down from behind and fairly riddled the Frenchman, who managed none the less to navigate his plane to the ground, though badly wounded.
I carried a crazy man this morning. I found him wandering aimlessly around Verdun with a nasty hole in his head, and tried to get him into the car, but he kept insisting he was too heavy. Finally, with the aid of a couple of soldiers we made him get aboard. He murmured all the time, "Je suis trop lourd. Je suis trop lourd." I held him with one hand while I steered him to the hospital in the town. The poor devil was so weak from the loss of blood and from the bang on his head that it was n't difficult. Then, when he got to the hospital he refused to leave the car. He seemed to have become attached to it, so we had to drag him out.
August 26. They brought a real, raving maniac into the "poste" to-day. He was the only one left of a squad of eight --- all killed in a shell hole by one marmite. He lived with the dead bodies for three days! When they dragged him into the tunnel he shouted, "You're going to kill me! You're going to kill me!" The place is rather gruesome, being dark except for the acetylene lamp over the operating-table. They sent him down with two "brancardiers" sitting on him. At Landrecourt he attacked the Médecin Chef, so they put him in a straight-jacket. He thought every one wished to kill him. He was absolutely unscratched.
Vic White and Kurtz cleaned out the fountain to-day, and we will now have a fine bathing-pool. Crane, of Section E, dropped in to see Roche and me; first time we've run across him since the "Rochambeau" and the days of waiting in Paris. He says they have had considerable work around Toul and that he has become quite expert at ducking shells and sliding for dug-outs, like an enthusiastic base-runner trying to stretch a three-bagger. They are now stationed at Ipecourt and have a long run to Fort Glorieux, their "poste."
August 27. I shan't forget last evening in a hurry. To begin with, as the historic tale commences, "It was a dark and stormy night and the rain was pouring in torrents." Well, we could n't see the road a yard ahead of us, and, of course, the Boches took it into their heads to attack. The men we parried later said they had never seen the Germans come on with greater fury; but finally they were beaten back. The French "tir de barrage" was fearful; just like the night of the big attack on Souville; and the Boches kept shelling the road all night. In addition to the shells, the danger of being run into by some one of our amateur speed kings was very great, as the road is merely a narrow, muddy lane winding up the side of the steep slope to Fort St. Michel and Souville. The batteries around Fort St. Michel were getting hot on our left also. Well, first, I nearly collided with one of the "brethren" as he came tearing up the hill while I was coming down slowly with a load of "couchés." He drove me clean off the road, but luckily I was on the inside against the hill, and not going the other way, or I'd have been in the ravine a couple of hundred feet below. On my next trip up I found that Townsend had collided with Walker and both machines were "Bayliesed" beyond immediate redemption. The fronts of both looked like concertinas. I asked Walker privately how it happened, and he said, "I was coming along slowly and tooting my whistle when Ned came tearing down, hell bent, on the wrong side of the road." I then took Ned aside and asked for his version, and he said, "I was coming along slowly, and tooting my whistle, when Sam came tearing down, hell-bent, on the wrong side of the road!" So there you are.
As a matter of fact, they merely proved beyond doubt that two "Flivvers" cannot occupy the same place at the same time, wonderful as they are! White took Townsend's "blessés," who were luckily uninjured by the accident. He had n't gone a half-mile when he blew out a tire; so the unfortunate passengers were again transferred, this time to Roche. They must have had a very unneutral opinion of the American Ambulance. Meantime I went on my way up to the "poste." As I got within about a quarter of a mile of it, I heard the whine of a big shell, and a moment later saw it burst about a hundred yards ahead of me right beside the road. Visions of "Please omit flowers" came to Willie all right, so I opened her up as much as I dared in the dark, in the hope that I'd get by the bad corner before the next one came along. I just did it by a half. The second shell was almost right beside the road again and, believe me, the flying pieces seemed to whistle all around the car. It was the closest call yet --- or at least so it seemed with the various accompaniments of rough weather, pitch darkness, awful roads, and speed-mad "brethren." Dawn was certainly welcome, when it finally came as I finished my third trip.
On the last round I carried a well-educated "poilu" of about forty years of age, who paid the American Ambulance many compliments; he said that no matter how our Government had acted the soldiers of France who had had the privilege of seeing our work would never forget the debt they owed us, and more to the same effect. This man had rifle bullets through both hands. He said he and another soldier got the drop on four Boches, who put up their rifles and yelled "Kamerad" in token of surrender. Then, when the Frenchmen beckoned them to come in, and let down their sighted guns, the Boches suddenly opened fire, wounding my man; but his partner and a machine-gun squad wiped out the four dirty curs before they could play any more of their foul tricks.
"Huts" came back this evening and announced that there were some new and deep shell holes in the road, and to look out for them. So I suggested that some of us go ahead of time and fill them up. Baylies volunteered to go with me, and we worked till the light gave out; we did about six or eight. It helped the road a lot. We expect a big bunch of "blessés" to-night, as a more or less general attack was made by various regiments, including the Senegalese. Vic White went up with the "Loot" to the artillery observation post and said it was an awful sight: bodies blown high in the air and falling down in little pieces. He said the attack was scheduled for five o'clock, and the minutes of suspense just before it occurred were frightful. At the stroke of five, little blue manikins appeared out of the earth and began to move forward all along the line. The whole field was dotted with explosions and, clouds of smoke, and now and then a manikin would suddenly drop or jump up in the air. The Boches were hardly discernible in the distance, except when they were blown bodily out of their shell holes. There were no trenches to speak of, naturally. The attack was only partially successful. As far as we know, to date, some of the regiments were checked by hand-grenades; others advanced a hundred yards or so; but they got quite a bunch of prisoners. Vic says there's nothing to be seen of Fleury but a white and red smear on the brown earth --- the bricks and mortar; not a house, not a wall standing. He described how one Boche was blown in three pieces high up above the treetops and two of the pieces fell rapidly, but the third came drifting down slowly: it was his overcoat which had been ripped right off him by the explosion.
August 28. Last night was a repetition of the previous one. The whole squad was out all night, including even the "camion" which was used to carry "assis." Nobody was smashed, however. The returning cars were ordered to make a part of the run by the road through Belleray, which eliminated at least a modicum of the chances of accidents between our zealous "brethren." It was pitch black, and rained intermittently, and the roads were frightfully slippery. In addition, new shell holes appeared in the road to make up for the ones we had filled in. I got a blow-out, and so did Vic White. Yesterday's attack was, as I feared, a failure and a costly one. One can tell, by the general attitude of the men we carry, how things have gone. They, of course, only know of their own immediate surroundings; but the feeling of victory or defeat quickly spreads, even though no definite information is forthcoming for days afterwards.
August 29. It poured last night, but our squad was "en repos," and for the first time since I've been here, I slept in my own blankets and "brancard" in the château. Bowman had a narrow escape from a shell which burst right beside him and wounded one of his " blessés" in the leg. He'll probably be cited. Wilson fell into a ditch, the road being entirely covered with water, and he had to stay there till daylight, when he got out. Culbertson and Bowman collided near the Verdun Gate, but no damage was done. Little had tire trouble, and had to transfer his "blessés" twice.
Lathrop and Paul left to-day. Every one was awfully sorry. They are hard workers, good drivers, and Paul an expert mechanic besides. The Groupement E Chef has been so pleased with our work that we have been permitted to shed the Thirty-second Division which went out to-day for "repos." We are dreadfully sorry to lose the old Catholic priest, Abbé Lauras, who was with the Thirty-second: a fine man, always on the job night and day. He knows just about as much of the handling of troops as do the officers; and many of them consulted him as to the disposition of their men in the "abris." He certainly was worked to death during the two weeks he was here, and looked very haggard and about "all in" when he was replaced. The new priest seems to be a good sort too --- in fact, all the priests at the Front are an exceptional class of men and many carry the Croix de Guerre.
We're to remain another fortnight with the Sixty-eighth Division. The other Sections will be as sore as crabs when they hear we are to stay. Section 2 has been pulling all the wires it can to get our job; and so have the Harjes and the English Section 1, which we displaced. We are to do the same work, and a French Section of Pugeots will take the evacuating from Landrecourt. It took some jollying on the part of our "Loot" to let us supersede them, as they were the normal ones to take the Souville job, being the regular Section with the Sixty-eighth Division. With Paul and Lathrop gone, and Imbrie still absent in Paris owing to family and business affairs, we are short two men, but Wallace and Ned Townsend's cars are smashed, and they are taking the released cars; hence all that can roll are doing so. "Huts" has telegraphed and written to Paris again for more cars, but so far has received no satisfaction.
August 30. It is astonishing how news carries in the trenches. On the night of the 28th, I carried "poilus" who told me that Roumania had gone in with the Allies. There was not a word about it in the papers of the 29th and I thought it was idle gossip. Yet this morning it proves to be true! I had fun with the Protestant "Aumônier" of the new Division, who had never been under fire before. I carried him from the hospital at Landrecourt to this new "poste" at the Caserne Marceau, below Souville. As we neared Verdun he was much interested in the view, the Mort Homme, Hill 304, Tavannes, Souville, St. Michel, and so on; but as we passed through the ruined city and began to get close to the guns, he got more and more nervous, especially as he could n't differentiate between the outgoing and incoming shells. Finally he asked where the "poste" was and, as luck would have it, a big shell burst right over it, up the hill, and I pointed it out to him. The new "100" marine guns were barking like mad, nearly jumping him out of his seat; and the finishing touch occurred just as we arrived at the "poste," when a "105"shrapnel burst above us. He was almost incoherent. But when he saw some of the old Division still there, for a moment he had a ray of hope that he had got to the wrong place. This was quickly dispelled, however, and when I left to go down again, the old Catholic priest was kindly explaining to him that he would take him to his dug-out a hundred yards up the road, just as soon as the Boches stopped shelling it for a moment. Poor fellow, I felt sorry for him. I doubt if he will be of much spiritual benefit to his flock for a while, at least.
Potter and Francklyn collided last night and both bent front axles. That puts four cars out of business and makes the work all the harder for the rest of us. However, old Sponagle --- "Eddy" --- has suddenly developed a fit of energy, and is hard on the job, so he should get a couple of them in commission again soon.
August 31. Last night it rained and blew hard. Wilson thought it was Sunday, and ran into a church at Landrecourt, and ruined his front assembly. While I was dozing in my car at Verdun, I was awakened to find it running down the street: the wind blew it. Such a surprise! This morning, a shell hit the "poste," but out of pure luck no one was hurt; only two cars. Francklyn's and White's got "éclats" through the radiators. White had just been filling his radiator a moment before and would have been hit, surely. As luck would have it, Paris sent two radiators up by "camion" just in time and "Very good Eddy" was able to replace them without delay.
This afternoon it looked as if we'd have to leave our happy home at Château Billemont. The Boches took it into their heads to throw a few "150's" into it. We had grown careless, lately, about leaving the cars in the open and not close-shuttering the windows; hence they had probably noticed signs of life about the supposedly empty place. Luckily the shells landed back in the garden and the shooting stopped after a few minutes.
I nearly broke my wrist cranking the car to-day. The claw slipped and let me down with my whole weight, but it's only sprained; an awful nuisance, as I can't use it, and have to crank the motor left-handed.
September 1. The scene is laid before Verdun. It is raining like the devil; shells are falling; a voice is heard outside the cave in the middle of the night. --- "I'd. just like to meet de guy what started this G---- d---- war, anyway!" -in plain American Bowery accents. And in splashed a blue-clad Franco-American, boss of Senegalese trench-diggers. He had lived in New York for ten years; now a "sous-officier " and glad to find friends.
The "Germs" shelled out the "poste" and the road to-day, when we were on day duty. Generally everybody looks forward to that because it means photos and souvenirs. But, to-day, one felt more like home and mother! Wallace coming to relieve us for lunch had an awfully tight squeeze making the hill while we watched him. The road there takes a big S -turn, and the Boches were dropping "130's" all along the lower half, trying to get the marine "100's" batteries. One dropped right ahead of Wallace, and a second ten feet behind him. I don't know whether he or we were scared the worst. It was new to him, whereas we'd been getting Hades since 11 A.M., but each time we ducked into the "abri" just in time.
Nobody cared to ease down to lunch, although we'd previously all agreed that we were ravenously hungry around eleven o'clock. Those appetites faded away somehow. Believe me, nobody cared for that little lofty spot, although they tell me "it 's quite safe, because they're not shooting at it, but at a battery." Of course, I know that; we all do. But the same thrill gets one's spine when that nasty "ziss-bang" comes by, whether they're shooting at one or not, especially when the difference can't 'be more than a millimeter on the sight and is only a couple of meters at our end, seeing that we are on the edge of the ravine and our batteries are below us. If they hit us, they miss the batteries; and if they hit the batteries, they miss us. I'm (personally) quite unpatriotic when they're firing!
Our squad was called out again at 2 A.M. There had been two Boche attacks on Fleury. Incidentally, they'd landed on the magazine at Belrupt and the thing was going off like a set of fireworks. It kept up all night, as the fire could not be controlled and spread from one store of shells and powder to another. The attacks were stopped none the less; but "Peter" distinguished himself by pulling a brand-new kind of bonehead trick. In pushing his car from the stand behind the "abri" to the door to take on "blessés," he let it get away from him, and instead of grabbing the steering-wheel or the brake he tried to hold it back by hand. The thing quietly but firmly toppled over the bank into the ravine below. Luckily no one was in it or under it, as the spot it landed on was just on the edge of a cemetery and, mirabile dictu, the car was uninjured, but "Huts" Townsend was so provoked that he threatened to have "Peter" recalled to Paris. I don't blame him, as we need every car badly. How we got it up on the road again, I don't yet know. It took about half of Joffre's army and most of the American Ambulance to do it, by lifting and hauling with the aid of many expletives both French and English. This morning we were all set to washing cars, as there is a rumor that the head of the Auto Service is coming to inspect us. A2 Squad has therefore had no sleep now for twenty-four hours and is on duty again to-night and tomorrow night. Cheerful outlook. If some more "bones" are n't pulled during the next forty-eight hours it will certainly be surprising.
September 4. The last entry in my diary proved only too correct. For three days there has been heavy fighting around Fleury and the French got over a thousand prisoners. We have been going steadily. First of all, Jack McFadden turned up convoying two new men (Lindsay and Darden, both Southerners), two new cars, and a big White truck and kitchen trailer. They used the truck at once to carry "assis" ---eighteen at a time ---a great help, as it takes the place of more than three cars.
On the night of September 2, coming down with a load, a shell burst right ahead of me, just as I was passing a convoy of "75's" ammunition caissons, the horses of which were standing, while the drivers had ducked for the roadside "abris." The shock and flash of the explosion, which pasted mud and stones all over the car, made the unattended horses wild. It seemed for a minute as if I was in the center of a sea of crazy animals. In avoiding them I nearly ditched the car and broke the front springs, but got away all right. Barring a wrecked side box, and a couple of rock holes in the side of the car, I was able to make two more trips before the front construction gave way altogether. Luckily this occurred near our cantonment.
The next night, the 3d of September, was a "bird." Pitch black --- a fine drizzle of rain --- heavy attacks by the French, which not only caused us to be all ordered out again, but even stimulated the Médecin Chef into ordering six additional French cars to be placed at our disposition in case of need. This, of course, got our back up, and we just managed to pull through without using them; but at the cost of the following accidents: Bowman, stranded by a pile of rocks; Jones, ditched; Walker, bunkered in a shell hole; the little "camion" broken down; Rice and the little ammunition steam train amalgamated together; the new White "camion," ditched completely and lying on its side. Culbertson and Stevenson again proved that two Fords cannot occupy the same spot at the same time: result, smashed front construction and thumb for me, and a ruined radiator and steering-gear for Culby.
This occurred at "dead-man's turn" as we call it; Culby coming up empty and I going down with a load --- absolutely so dark that the road was scarcely visible. Luckily we both were going slowly; but we were unable to fix up No. 10, and so transferred the "blessés" to Little. Culby ran back to the " poste " to get him. After that we set about fixing up the cars --- and maybe we did n't hate each other! Each was polite enough to say nothing, after the first cursing-out at the time of the smash, but we worked in monosyllables.
In trying to straighten the startingcrank of No. 8, Tyng bent the biggest monkey wrench into the shape of a fishhook. It then slipped off, and six feet three or more of American Ambulance driver hit the road with a shock that must have disturbed the aim of the French battery near by. That broke the tension and we both just sat back and roared with laughter. After that we worked together amicably enough; and finally we agreed the blame of the collision lay about fifty-fifty. We pushed No. 8 around, after vainly trying to straighten the starting-crank, and got her going by coasting. We certainly worked in a hurry, as dawn was due to break in a few minutes, and with it would come the customary Boche bombardment of the road. As it was, several marmites lit unpleasantly near. I knocked my thumb out of joint on the throttle lever when we hit, and it quickly swelled up to the size of a turnip. This, in addition to the swelled wrist, made my right "mit" pretty nearly useless. We found it impossible to straighten the front triangle of No. 10 sufficiently to steer it, so pushed it to the side of the road and went down with No. 8 zigzagging in so weird a fashion that we must have been taken for a couple of drunkards. Culby got her back safely, however. We had some breakfast and a couple of hours' sleep, and then went up again with Roger to put in new front constructions.
The car was in plain view of the Boches, but they contented themselves with lobbing "150's " over our heads at the battery behind us. It was none the less nervous work, as we could n't be sure when they'd decide to hand us one for luck. I think we established a speed record for the reparation in question.
Baylies came back from a run to-night and remarked that he couldn't understand why it was so dark. Vic White rubbed his chin thoughtfully and said, "Well, you see, Baylies, I think it was four --- no, let me see, yes --- possibly five hours ago that the sun set, and you know it's really apt to get dark at such times."
September 5. Vic had a regular "meller-drammer, father-save-the-cheild" time last night. He had three "blessés graves" in his car, and, in crossing the railway track, got his rear wheel caught and had to stop. He went to his tool-box and found that somebody had "borrowed" his jack, and as all his "blessés" were "couchés," they could n't help him. Just then a man with a lantern came running up --- "Allez vite! allez vite!" he cried; "le train arrive!" Just in the nick of time --- as is ever the "mellerdrammer's" way ---Little came by. They got busy with his jack and the train passed as the car got off the track. The way Vic tells the story is a scream.
The Senegalese retook the ground lost in the Bois Vaux-Chapitre last night, but went on farther than they were told to go and were annihilated. Of one whole battalion only six survived; but luckily the reinforcements were rushed up in time to hold and consolidate the ground gained. They say the charge was frightful. They bayoneted every Boche and cut off his head with their big knives --- a cross between a machete and a cutlass. Sometimes they did both; and when they stick the bayonet in, they usually pull the trigger at the same time, so there are few Boches wounded. In fact, I am told the white officers give instructions just before the final rush to kill every white man, as some of the negroes are so stupid that they can't tell- the difference between a Boche and any one else, especially in the dark. Naturally the French officers do not lead these charges.
My hand hurts like the dickens; but I am rolling. I only hope I don't have to replace a tire, as I have no strength in the right grip. Walker was so careful to avoid the shell hole he fell into last night, on the right side of the road, that to-night he eased into one exactly opposite it on the left side! He got rolling again with the aid of a large part of Joffre's army. The "camion" was also dug out of the ditch with cheers and is working again, thank goodness. It saves us many trips with "assis," and lets us take care of the really urgent cases much better. They say that when it toppled over the bank, there were seven French wounded sitting on one side and eight Boches on the other, and as the French were on the up side they fell on the Boches, who thought they were being attacked again. It was quite a job to get them all extricated; but apparently the mix-up did little harm to any one.
I carried a regular "pousse-café" of a load this afternoon: a Boche, an Englishman, a Senegalese, a Martiniquan, and a Frenchman, with an American driving.
I slipped down to the "75" battery last night with an artillery corporal, and he let me pull the string. I hope I landed a couple. Anyway, it is some satisfaction to have handed the "Germs" one, for all they've "wished" on us. This afternoon, as we have expected all along, they started in to shell our perfectly good château. One shell dropped right close to Roche, who was covered with fine stones and mud. For some time after he was even picking bits out of his hair. Culbertson, who also was near, dived under his car. Nearly all the machines were more or less sprinkled, but the house was not touched. They dropped about five or six in all, I understand, although some of the "brethren" insisted upon it that at least twenty came our way. I was out at the " poste " at the time.
Culby remarked that if one wanted to be safe now, one might just as well go up to the "poste" as anywhere else. They were shelling the road around there, too, this afternoon, and also Verdun itself. Altogether the "Hymn of Hate" rang loud to-day.
One of the worst local disasters of the Verdun battle has just occurred. The railroad tunnel at Fort Tavannes caught fire last night. One end was blocked against the Germans and the tunnel used for storing supplies, powders, chemicals, and ammunition. Also the Division "brancardiers " and staff of doctors, some six hundred in all, lived there, and it was used as a "poste de secours." The entire crowd were wiped out. Nobody could help them and we could only watch helplessly as the smoke kept pouring out of the tunnel all day. It was purely an accident, not due to Boche efforts.
September 6. They shelled us again last night, but most of the shells were squibs. They did n't explode because of landing in soft mud. The house was n't touched even. Somebody remarked at breakfast that these Austrian Skoda guns certainly could shell a long way. "Yes, they can," was the reply, "right across Switzerland." Those which were really handed us, however, were about "155's" or "210's" marine shells, as they had the soft-metal point covering for armor penetrating, instead of the ordinary time or contact fuse. They came from down the river in the direction of Bras; but of course the shellee always feels that he is receiving the largest missiles in captivity.
I ran across a funny "brancardier" to-day --- a new hand --- who insisted on swabbing out the blood before putting "blessés" in the car. He said the sight was bad for them. The delay is a nuisance, as often the cars fairly run blood, but he'll learn better after a while. As for the "blessés" they're generally too dazed to notice anything. There was heavy fighting in the Vaux --- Chapitre Wood, to-day; also on both sides of Fleury. The French are nearly at Thiaumont now. The smoke of the battle almost hid the moon for a time last night. We received a gas warning, but it did n't materialize. One man I carried, by the way, asked me where I came from; and when I answered, "America," he said: "I know, but what city." I said, "Philadelphia ... .. Thought so," he said; "I lived for years at 13th and Pine Streets and taught in the Berlitz School there"!
He described the fighting now going on as the worst of the war. The relieving parties have to throw the bits of human bodies out of the shell holes, in order to occupy them. When a shell falls near, one is spattered with bits of flesh, sometimes fresh and more often rotten. It may be a comrade or a part of a disinterred body. Battalions and divisions melt away in three or four days, and have to be replaced. He said that he walked over a veritable carpet of Senegalese and Martiniquans. General Aimée, of the Sixtyseventh, was killed near our "poste" today. Bowman carried the body down.
One fellow I brought down told me that he had captured a Boche and was taking him in when he himself was wounded; but the Boche, instead of turning around and capturing him, helped him back to the French lines and then surrendered. The last lot of prisoners are very young, --- sixteen and seventeen years old, --- and are easily taken. They say the Germans, instead of distributing the latest class of recruits among the seasoned regiments, as do the French, form new units of them and these prove weak.
Stories of fraternal aid between the opponents are mingled with others of a bloodcurdling kind. One man prided himself upon having waited until a Boche came right up to him, surrendering, and then he blew his head off with a hand-grenade. Another story is to the effect that the Boches kill off the French wounded lying in the shell holes in the same manner. This, however, is doubtless in retaliation for the Senegalese atrocities. The latter carry ears, teeth, fingers, as charms, and believe they can't be killed if they wear them.
Bowman ran into a battery of "75's" galloping into action last night, but only broke his lamps and mudguards. Pretty lucky. I nearly got crowned by one of our "speed kings" who was chasing around the country in a sort of "Fireman-save-the-cheild" style.
September 7. We rolled all night and took care of a tremendous number of "blessés" (later, I found the exact number to be 472, with only fifteen cars and the "camion" working). I picked up three on the road who had been hit by a marmite, and had had only first-aid care. I rushed them to the emergency hospital in the famous Vauban Citadel of Verdun. It was the first time that I'd had occasion to enter it. It is a wonderful labyrinth --- a city in itself, cut out of the solid rock, such, I imagine, as Gibraltar must be: endless tunnels, rooms, and corridors --- even a theater and auditorium.
It certainly is a satisfaction to note the contrast in the comments concerning the American Ambulance, at the Front, from those to which one is forced to listen in Paris and other cities far from the lines. Here the soldiers can't praise us enough and the same is true of the officers and even of the priests. Many soldiers make it a point to salute the ambulances when they catch sight of the now familiar cars and uniforms, because they have heard of the quickness and comfortable springs --- so different from the ordinary type of "camion" ambulance.
"Ah, c'est les volontaires! Bon!" is a common phrase from a wounded man. This, however, does not apply to the Senegalese, who very often take us for Boches, and it gives one an uncomfortable feeling of doubt about their intentions. They have often been known to jump at Boche prisoners or "blessés," and they have to be watched carefully by their officers.
September 8. A touch of autumn in the air. These are great days. The weather is better and the Allies are advancing. Even here at Verdun we are making tiny gains. The Boches attacked in the Bois Vaux-Chapitre again this morning, with gas and a terrific "tir de barrage"; but they were stopped without much effort. We carried only 169 wounded. My last drive down the Souville hill, called the Côte de Meuse, brought a wonderful sight. The sun rose blood-red through the clouds of smoke and gas. Then a little wind sprang up and cleared the mists of battle away in just one spot, and a shaft of bright, golden light fell full on the great cathedral of Verdun towering above the town, still in semi-darkness. All hailed it as a good omen. In the low places men were wearing masks and the smell of gas was very strong --- a sweetish odor as from a candy-factory.
September 9. The Commander of the 214th arrived with his regiment last night to relieve the 67th. We carried his body down this morning. He had n't been at the Front three hours before a shell got him!
Ned Townsend --- our archæologist --- brought in the biggest find yet to-day: the whole barrel of a wrecked "soixante-quinze." First he went after it with a wheelbarrow and couldn't manage it, and then came back and got a Ford. He explained that the difference between a Ford and a wheelbarrow was that the latter had only one wheel. He set it up in the front "lawn," but the "Loot" had a fit. He said it was bad enough to have the Boche "saucisses" and planes see all the cars about; but if they saw a gun emplaced, they'd simply shell the tar out of us. So Ned had to disassemble his masterpiece. He is a crank! --- trophy-hunting all the time. He goes around with a trench shovel, a hammer, and a chisel. The Frenchmen around the "poste " derive no end of amusement out of him. He is so keen on getting hold of all the junk there is. How he expects to get it all away from here without a corps of "camions" and a special freight ship is beyond me.
September 10. Well, we go "en repos" to-morrow. To-day we are loafing and packing up. Oddly enough , this is the date of the end of my enlistment in the Field Service. I'm already a month over my enlistment with the Ambulance, but I think I'll hang on a little longer. We tried hard to get transferred to still another Division, and to hold on to the Front Service and our bully cantonment, --- the best the Section ever had; but as we have been on the Souville job longer than any Section has been since the beginning of the attack on Verdun last February, they told us we must take a rest. Also we must go back to the Thirty-second Division again, which has been re-formed (it lost some fifty per cent of its strength in four days), and is now at Thiaucourt. They were all extremely sorry to see us go, and we have heard nothing but pretty speeches from both officers and men.
September 12. The fact that our Division had been pretty well hammered, turned out luckily for us. Naturally, when a Division is cut to pieces, the "Service de Santé " gets more than the ordinary work. Hence, when it came to distributing the war crosses, the "brancardiers," doctors, and others came in for more than their usual share. "Huts" Townsend was cited by Order of the Army Corps and everybody was happy about it. Bowman and Francklyn were also cited. The former got a shell hole through his car which wounded one of his "blessés" a second time, while Francklyn got knocked down by the concussion of a shell as he was loading his car. The ceremony occurred here at Thiaucourt when we arrived this afternoon. We are quartered on the grounds of the château of President Poincaré's brother. The "blonde" was glad to see us, as were all the natives, including Francklyn's washerwoman. We had fun with "Gillies," who was exceedingly nervous. We told him that he should wear gloves at the ceremony, so he chased all over the place to get a pair, and actually appeared with them! He surely got a laugh.
September 13. Section No. I1cited by Order of the Army Corps! This puts us "top dog" of all the foreign Sections. The citation originated from the Sixty-eighth Division for which we worked during the last ten days of our stay at Verdun. Culbertson and Bowman left on their "permission" this morning. The "Loot" made a dandy speech last night, telling us what he thought of us and eulogizing "Huts." Then the Croix men produced champagne. Culby's evening was somewhat marred by the "Loot" happening to discover a large canvas bag of his, full of trophies, and, of course, he had to make him open it. He only abstracted some bayonets, though, and left him his casings, and other things. The "Loot" hates to do this, but has to according to the Regulations, and he frequently warns us when he is about to make an inspection; so it was entirely Culby's fault he was stung. I shipped a big box of junk to Paris as soon as the warning came. The Lieutenant came back from headquarters this morning with the news that the Section that replaced us at Souville had had four men killed and three wounded, while six "brancardiers" were also wounded at the "poste" the very day we left. A shell burst among them while they were loading the cars. One man lost both legs and another one is not expected to live. One car was completely wrecked. We certainly were lucky. That's the second time a replacing Section has had men injured following us. At Tavannes a car was lost and two men badly hurt.
Copy of letter dated:--
"Grand Quartier, le 1 Septembre 1916
État-Major 32me Division.
Le Général Bouchez, Commandant la 32me Div. d'Infantrie.
Le Général commandant la 32me division adresse tous ses remerciements à la Section Sanitaire Américaine No. 1. Pendant la période du 20 au 30 août la Section sous les ordres du Lieutenant de Kersauson et du sous-Lieutenant Townsend, a assuré, dans le secteur le plus bombardé de Verdun, l'évacuation des blessés. Tous les conducteurs ont en maintes circonstances fait preuve de courage et de sang-froid. Ils ont fait l'admiration de tous ceux qui les ont vu accomplir leur devoir. Toute la Division leur est reconnaissante de leur dévouement pour les blessés et est fière d'avoir compté dans ses rangs des volontaires Américains dignes descendants de Franklin et de Washington.
Copy of letter dated :--
"Grand Quartier " État-Major --- Service de Santé
Le Médecin principal de 1re classe de Casaubon -Médecin Divisionnaire
à la Section Sanitaire Américaine No. 1.
Aux félicitations et aux remerciements adressés par le Général commandant la 32me Division à la S.S.A.A. No. 1, le Médecin Divisionnaire ajoute ses félicitations et ses remerciements personnels.
Il a vu la S.S.A.A. No. 1 à l'uvre. Il a pu s'assurer qu'elle avait réalisé ce qu'il attendait d'elle; de son courage calme et souriant, de son dévouement absolu, de son ardeur à faire le mieux possible pour le plus grand avantage de nos blessés.
Le Médecin Divisionnaire conservera des jours de Verdun un souvenir inoubliable dans lequel tiendront une belle place les distingués officiers qui commandent la section et leurs vaillants conducteurs volontaires.
September 14. I certainly did n't expect to continue this diary after September 10, when my enlistment expired, but I have agreed to stick along for another three months. The big push is gaining in intensity and it's hardly the time to quit, although I'm afraid that we are sidetracked in the Argonne again. However, I hope for the best.
September 15. To-day the Section moved to the so-called "Front" again, but in the Argonne this time. A little place, named La Grange-au-Bois, near Ste. Menehould, where Louis XVI was kept by the Revolutionists when he was caught. I saw the room in the Town Hall where he was prisoner. The "Loot" announced at dinner last night that two cars would have to remain for a couple of days with the État-Major. He said he wanted two men who would talk French and dress decently, and then picked Roche and me! I took the Commandant all around northern France to-day, and Roche had to run to Bar-le-Duc. To-morrow, at 5 A.M., I've got to be on the job again to take the Commandant to the advance posts. The warfare on the Argonne line is rather different from other parts, being almost entirely confined to vast mining operations; and the "Génie" are therefore the main thing. Of course, there is also the usual artillery hammering, but little infantry fighting. They say this mining is very hard on the morale of the men, as they are blown up by regiments instead of companies; but of course the explosions are relatively few and far between, as compared to the regular "tir de barrage" work.
September 16. I lunched with officers at their quarters back of the château, in a little cottage fitted with old furniture which made one's mouth water. There was a chest of drawers and a grandfather's clock that any collector would have given several hundred dollars to have; and I suppose they could have been bought for a song if only we had the means of getting them away and of packing them properly.
A swanking young officer who has been "embusquéing" in the Automobile Department, wearing fancy khaki clothes, got caught to-day, and has been sent into the regular line work. The army is gradually sifting out the "embusqués" (young men of military age who are hiding in soft jobs), and replacing them with older men whose term of service is ended --- a good thing.
Old Roger has been fired by the "Loot" for impertinence. I was sorry to see him go, he was so typical of the soldier of Napoleon's time. Big, broad-shouldered, with the bristling mustache and imperial. I fancy he did n't mind going much, as he was a regular soldier and not an automechanic. Perhaps we'll get a really good "mec " this time to help out "Very good Eddy" and Rapp.
September 17. We have arrived at La Grange-aux-Bois on the main Government road between Paris and Metz. We are camped here in a somewhat leaky barn about seven or eight kilometers from the Front. The customary rain has been falling ever since. The "postes," to which we go are unusually close to the lines. There's nothing doing, however, except intermittent bombardment. I was asked to-day by an apparently intelligent-looking Frenchman if I was American, and when I said "Yes," he said he supposed I came from Buenos Aires! It seemed to be the only town in the Western Hemisphere he'd ever heard of. He also asked if America was a Republic. Of course, there followed the customary inquiries, if we were volunteers, and how much we were paid; and when I said, on the contrary it cost us money, he became very much offended and walked himself off as if I was trying to make a fool of him!
September 18. Crowds of Russians are here. We thought the Champagne attack had started at last, according to what we heard from them and also judging from the increasing activity of the guns to our left. This proved not to be the case, although everybody thought so at the time. We are doing our best to get transferred back to the Colonials who are working with the Russians only a few kilometers from here. I did the customary chauffeur taxi work to-day. I took three joy-riding officers into Ste. Menehould, where they stayed for a couple of hours and came back with two live chickens, which I was told to carry over to the car, just like "Jimes in the ply" because it looked "odd" for them to do it. However, it's amusing and I don't give a hang anyway, as we are here to help the French!!
September 21. The only advance "postes" we have which are really worth while evacuate the "Four de Paris" and "La Fille Morte." There Germans are in sight and the "camoufleurs" have been busy screening the road. There are some fine trenches, and redoubts beautifully fixed up and electrified around here; but the fighting is only sporadic. The Boches attacked the other night, but were easily repulsed, and one car was able to handle the "blessés." Nobody pays any attention to the fact that the Boches are so close; and every one walks around unconcernedly, not thinking of entering the dugouts except for meals or when it rains. Culbertson and Bowman are back from their "permissions." The first casualty for Section No. I occurred to-day when Kurtz ran a bayonet through his hand while using it to sling apples. He was treated at the hospital.
A lot of the men are down with bad colds and grippe, however, as it has rained nearly all the time since we have been here, and the barracks are simply soaking wet. I sleep on a cot with a rubber sheet over my blankets and the rain pours through the leaky roof, splashing dismally all night. Sponagle left his boots carelessly out from under his cot last night, and in the morning they were full of water which he poured into a basin for washing, thereby saving a trip to the spring! The stove, which we stole from another barrack, only works at intervals and usually chokes and fills the place with smoke. The rats crawl all over the place, too; but the twenty cots Christine sent us save those who have them from this particular annoyance. Half the squad was taken in the "camion" to Ste. Menehould yesterday for a hot bath, the first I'd had in over two months, when I was last in Paris! Our clothes did n't fit us when we came out --- just hung limply over our thinned-down figures. Kurtz gave a birthday party night before last. He had the "eats" sent from Châlons.--- It was great! ---mushroom omelet, real peas, chops, tomato soup, fresh fromage à la crème, and champagne.
September 22. This is real life. I learn a new trade every day. I've just been putting a new roof on the barracks; tar paper and laths. Two sets of us tried rival methods -up-and-down strips or shingles effect, and we're now hoping for rain (having had only this one clear day in three weeks) in order to test the two theories. "Jack" McFadden turned up to-day to take one of the old cars down. He tells us there's a chance for Salonika. Section 3 has come out of the Vosges and is at Versailles, and they may go right off . It should be quite a trip. If they do put that through, we should try for Egypt -a nice soft place to spend the winter.
September 23. Culby had some funny times in Paris. He met X, whose wife had just threatened to come over to see him. He cabled, "I love you, I love you, but stay where you are!" The censor read this effusion, studied it, shook his head, and decided it was a new sort of code that he did n't understand and refused to pass it. Culby also met "Tommy" Holt and "Bill" Hoovler, of Section 2, who are going home.
Culby tried to climb over the Gare de l'Est fence, one night, in a search for food, and got caught on a spike and hung dangling by the seat of his pants, until a gendarme came along and unhooked him as he would a ham! It must have been a weird sight to come across a six-foot-three-inch soldier hanging on a fence doubled like a sack in that casual manner.
Culby ran into the American Flying Squad in Paris. They were in process of being transferred from Verdun to the Vosges and were celebrating. They had somewhere purchased a young lion cub, which they dragged around from hotel to hotel for five days, much to the consternation of the inhabitants and to the annoyance of the lion, which kept up a steady stream of growls and snarls. He had only just been weaned and liked to have a finger to suck; but if the owner wished to withdraw it, there was nothing doing until the lion wanted him to. Culby had to sit perfectly still with his finger in its mouth for an hour, and he said it was the worst experience he'd had since Verdun.
The balance of Christine's cots arrived this afternoon amid loud cheers.
September 24. A telegram arrived from Andrew, calling for volunteers for Salonika. I wish I could go; but one has to engage for seven months; also Section 3 is being used as a nucleus. If we could only go under Townsend and our "Loot" I think the whole Section would jump at the chance. Francklyn, Bowman, Imbrie, Baylies, Culbertson, and Roche said they could go; but it is understood that only three or four from each of the Field Sections will be picked according to length of service. We have a new decoration now: the order of the Golden Baylies with fig leaves and moons instead of palms and stars. Jones was the first to receive it last night for revoking at bridge. Rice pulled a new method of getting the men up this morning. Instead of the customary evacuation by upsetting the bed, he threatened to write a poem about the men who were still in their blankets. That was sufficient to bring all out.standing.
September 26. I went over to Edward Kelly's funeral with "Huts," Vic, and Roche. The ceremony was impressive; of course, Catholic. It was held at Blercourt, near the Mort Homme. Section 2 took over Section 4's job for the day, so that all of them could attend. Section 4 is at Ipecourt and 9. at Rampont. A few Section 2 men are also there and a couple of Section 3, as well as one of Section 7 (Norton). Sections 8 and 9 being in the Vosges could n't send any one nor did the Paris Squad. Andrew came up, of course. In all, there were about thirty-five Americans who filled the left side of the little church at Blercourt. The other half was filled with high French officers including the Médecin Directeur, who carries the rank of a two-star General. Andrew sat with them. "Huts" and the other American Lieutenants were grouped together. The choir, made up of good French singers picked from the Division, sang "La Mort" --- a singularly fitting tribute as the accident occurred near the famous hill of that name.
The coffin was surrounded with funeral wreaths sent by the various officers, the "brancardiers," the hospitals, and the various Sections. Over it was the French flag and a heap of the little purple crocuses which have come up so strangely for the second time this autumn. They looked like a heap of orchids. On a pillow carried by Section 4's American Lieutenant was a little American flag, such as the ambulances carry, and on it was pinned the Croix de Guerre with a gold star.
After the coffin had been carried from the church to the grave by six French "poilus" in full accouterments as a mark of honor, and the priest was through, the General stepped up and paid a wonderful tribute to the American volunteers, addressing Andrew, who was crying. In fact, even some of the Frenchmen cried. It was a speech one could never forget. Some of us afterwards went over to the hospital to see Sanders; but he was in a state of coma and couldn't recognize any one. He had been already trepanned twice, and they were waiting until he could get a little strength, to extract the bad piece in the back of his head. The danger lies in the possibility of infection before he gets enough strength to stand the operation.
William W. Wallace, who washed Kelly's brains out of Sanders's car, told Roche and me the story of the accident. Kelly was new. He had been at the Section only five or six days and had not even been assigned a car. Indeed, one of the most pathetic things about it was that his mates did n't know his first name, even, and I had to get it from their Lieutenant. He was taken by Sanders as orderly to see the advance post at Esnes, on the side of Hill 304, near the Mort Homme.
There had been nothing doing there for a month or more. In fact all the fighting was on the right bank, around Fleury and the Froide-Terre. So that, barring the customary shelling, it was practically a quiet Sector. Well, they got within a hundred yards of the "abri," when the shell burst on the road about ten feet in front of the car. It blew in the radiator, but otherwise did not injure the car. Kelly received the charge full in the head. Sanders was only hit by three small "éclats," two of which cut his cheeks and neck. The third entered his mouth, and breaking his left teeth lodged in the left side of his skull, where it still is. The force had been checked by the steering wheel which was first hit by all three "éclats." Sanders was able to stop the car and walk about halfway to the "abri" calling, before he fell. Gooch, who had arrived a few minutes before, heard a "brancardier" shouting for a stretcher and got one out of his car. Not until he actually got a lantern and saw Sanders, did he know that any of our men had been hurt.
He asked Sanders about Kelly and Sanders gasped out, "Kelly's dead," and then fainted.
September 27."Huts" and I, after the funeral, went over to Bar-le-Duc and fetched up Tison,(31) who came across about the same time I did, and was sent to Section 3. When Section 3 was picked for Salonika, Tison could n't go., as he had to get back to the States by the first of the year. So he comes to us to take the place of one of our three who are going to Salonika. They leave shortly. We gave Imbrie and Francklyn a sort of farewell supper last night. They are going to be a great loss. Tison is a good fellow, however. Only about six feet four inches high. When he, Culby, and Roche come into a café, the whole conversation stops. Everybody turns to see the giants. Pity we have n't still got Lathrop. There'd be twenty-five feet of America represented by four men.
September 28.On twenty-four hour poste " duty at " Le Chalet," the evacuating post for the "Four de Paris" and "La Fille Morte." I went up to the front lines to have a look at the Boches. In one "poste d'écoute" we were within four or five yards of the Germans, they told me; but there was nothing to hear or see, so we came away. Except for a few rifle shots, scattered through the woods, and an occasional aerial torpedo, fired from the little trench mortars called "crapouillots," which throw about a hundred pounds of dynamite some eight hundred yards, everything was quiet. The battle-line, however, was very definitely marked by the blasting away of every trace of vegetation. The thick woods and undergrowth stop suddenly, and one comes to nothing but bare rocks, and earth, and stumps of trees. It looks as if some great flood or fire had swept along a perfectly defined line across the country, in a path about a mile wide. Last night I was awakened by the car shaking as if some one was rocking it. I thought at first that they had a call for me, but looked out and found nothing. This morning I was told that the Boches had exploded a big mine up the ravine. Mines make practically no noise --- just a sort of muffled detonation; but the earth shakes for miles.
The "Génie " are certainly sincere liquor artists. We eat with them at the Chalet Poste, and they do their best to entertain us. Most of the men have been in this one place for a year or more burrowing like moles. They say their little motto is, "Mangez beaucoup, buvez beaucoup, dormez beaucoup, et travaillez peu!" We have their keg of pinard filled for them at La Grange every day.
Old "Wilkins" Wilson, who has a perfectly good sense of humor, has doped out a schedule of simple phrases with their English translation for use at the "postes." He is going to hang up a copy in each "poste," and they run something like this: --
Will you come to lunch?
Have you had enough?
Will you have a drink?
Will you have another?
Will you take the Pinard barrel to be filled?
Is the Pinard barrel empty?
Yes, the Pinard barrel is empty.
September 30. The Salonikans left to-day and Francklyn took little "Vic" with him, which I think almost peeved Section 1 as much as the loss of the men. Fond as they were of "Gillies" and Bob, "Vic" had come to be considered our mascot and knew us all well. He would associate with no one else. Peter Avard picked him up at Vic-sur-Aisne, about a year ago, when he was only a few weeks old, and some one always took the pup up to the firing-lines in a car, riding cheerfully on the front seat or on the hood. The "poilus" and "brancardiers" all knew him and patted and fed him. I believe "Vic" has been under fire more often than any one of us excepting possibly "Huts" and the "Loot." When Pete left the Section he left the dog under Francklyn's care, so that he got to be regarded as Gyles's pup. We have lost most of our menagerie. Only the brown mutt, who looks like the result of a mesalliance between a cockroach and a seal, remains. The "Loot " calls him "Flip" and claims he is a pointer! Ned Townsend is down with, diphtheria and left to-day for the Bar-le-Duc Hospital. This leaves us four men shy, but as there is nothing to do, except the two "poste" runs and an occasional "bureau" call, we can afford to lie low and look over the new men carefully before picking any.
October 1. Vic White left to-day; the worst loss since "Woody." We gave him a dinner last night, but it was not a particularly cheerful function. The squad is certainly being shot to pieces. Since I joined last March it has lost some half-dozen men and has only three left from the days of Dunkerque and Ypres, a year and a half ago.
I went over to La Controllerie with Eddy Sponagle in the "camion" to-day, to carry a load of gas masks to Rarecourt, just beyond the two ruined towns of Les Islettes and Clermont. The church spire at the former was just touched by a shell and leans over in a drunken sort of way like a child's broken toy. Clermont is beautiful in its desolation, and nature is already busy covering the ruins with ivy and other creepers, although the shelling only occurred last February at the opening of the Boche drive on Verdun, both towns being on one of the "ravitaillement" roads leading there. Now the ruins are toned down and the autumn foliage is very beautiful. By the time the ubiquitous American tourist comes camera-snapping and souvenir-hunting, however, nature will have hidden much of the stark harshness still to be seen. The handsome church on the top of the hill, reached by a long flight of some hundred or more wide stone steps, is completely gutted; and the fine stucco work and stained-glass windows litter the floor. From there we could easily see the lines five miles away and the shells bursting.
October 3. Bowman changed his mind about Salonika, and Baylies gets his chance to go. Everybody is sorry to lose him -- a good boy, good-tempered, standing all the chaffing in a really fine way.
We were inspected for contagious and infectious diseases to-day.
Some of the fellows had an amusing time up -at La Chalade Poste the other day. They got to swapping hunting yarns with the doctors and "brancardiers." Little told them of a wonderful animal in the States. Its habitat was the Rocky Mountains and it was called the "Flipodoodle." It has two of its legs on one side shorter than the others, so that it could walk on the sides of mountains, but it could, of course, go only one way. He told it so solemnly that the Frenchmen believed it, until Vic, later, overdid the story. They asked him if it were true, and he said "yes" he had seen the animal; that the male always had two females because they could only give birth to one and a half offspring apiece and the halves had to be joined together afterwards. He added that it was the only animal known to man which was larger at birth than at any other time. This offended the medical sense of the doctors and they got sore. Vic saw that and added, "Well, I guess you won't believe I saw the devil once?" "When?" they exclaimed. "Thirty-five years ago," said Vic. " How old are you? " they queried incredulously. "Just twenty-four," replied Vic. "You can believe one tale as much as the other." Then they all laughed and said the drinks were on them.
October 5. I went to Châlons with Sponagle, De Mare, and Bonat, in the camion, for "ravitaillement." Bonat bought lunch and it sure was a good one. We had a bath and altogether a fine day. A "sous-officier" up at the "poste" tells me he has been playing chess with the Boches. They call the moves across the few intervening feet, and they have a perfectly good time, mutually cutting out the hand-grenades.
We got a letter to-day addressed from one of the "nuts" on "permission" down in Paris to Section "Solitaire" Américaine, and nothing else. Strange as it may seem, the postal authorities saw the point and delivered it! As old "Doc" Wilkins would say, "Rauther good, eh, wot? I should say so, don't ye know! Yes, bah Jove!"
October 6. I was passing along the road when I heard some "kids" singing an air which seemed familiar. I stopped and listened, and sure enough! they were singing: --
Yip hayaddi, hayah hyo Yip hayaddi hayay,
I don't care what becomes of me," etc.
They evidently learned it from some passing British troops or some itinerant American "Ambulancier."
October 7. On "poste" duty at La Chalade. The "poste" is in the old abbey; a fine historic building of large size. The men have been finding old coins of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in odd comers of the place. The Boches shell it occasionally, and it has been hit a number of times, but is still in fair shape.
Pons, the little one-stripe doctor, tried to pull one on the two priests at dinner. He produced two bottles labeled "Pommard." One was just plain pinard, the other Château Margaut. The pinard was served first, but the priests were polite and said it was very nice, but not a "grand cru." Then he opened the Bordeaux, which was real, and they told the difference at once. One can't fool those old fellows. They declared it promptly not even Burgundy, but Bordeaux.
October 8. Two new men turned up today. One is the son of former Mayor Gaynor, the other Newberry, also of New York. They seem pretty good fellows, but they certainly did n't expect much rough living. Both are accustomed to the simple New York life, and they don't know how to make a camp bed or even wind their putties. However, they look as if they'd turn out all right.
October 9. Wandering through the cemetery here at La Grange aux Bois, the name Du Pont caught my eye on one of the new war crosses. No less then three were buried here in the last year --- Joseph, Joseph Henry, and Ernest. I wonder if they are any relation to our Du Ponts. Also Louis Martin was buried there --- it sounds like the old New York restaurateur. The soldiers have made ingenious crosses out of. "75" cases; and the central cemetery cross is made of wood wrought in a gigantic replica of the Croix de Guerre.
October 11. Culby got shot at up at the Fille Morte Poste this morning by a sniper in a tree. The bullet hit quite close to him while he was standing on the little bridge looking up the ravine. This, and the shelling of "Doc" Keenan's car (Section 4), near where Kelly was killed, are the first definite instances I know of where the Boches deliberately have fired on the American Ambulance. Of course they often shell places where we happen to be, but they are not after such small fry as a rule. News came to-day, by the way, that our old Caserne Marceau Poste de Secours, under Souville, had been destroyed by shells. We had a hunch it would be, if they kept piling sand bags on top of it, as it was beginning to assume the aspect of a regular redoubt. The "poste" has been moved about a half-mile down the hill to the railway crossing.
Mrs. Vanderbilt's sheepskin coats arrived to-day and were hailed with grateful hurrahs! They can start fighting in the Arctic now, as far as the American Ambulance is concerned.
October 13. For some strange reason the sun came out yesterday, so the "brethren" jumped at the chance to dry out blankets, shoes, and bags. Darden got so energetic that he set to work making a rattrap --- a most elaborate affair which would require quite a high order of intelligence on the part of the rat to manage to get into. He explained, in his funny Southern drawl, that he was "gitten tiahd of havin' dem dawg-goned animals conductin' their love affairs on mah baid!" The trap, however, failed to work, which was explained by Darden by their "bein' French, they probably did n't understand an American trap!" Culbertson then went to Ste. Menehould and purchased a gigantic wire structure which he carried all around town with him, and was asked at least a dozen times what it was for. At last he grew tired and replied to another polite inquiry on the part of a French officer that it was "pour mon canary oiseau!" The rats had a fine time feeding in it, but refused to remain within its handsome portals.
October 14. Lines came to-day. He used to be with this Section at Dunkerque. He got sick, then joined Section 8, and got transferred back here.(32) Jones., Wallace, and Walker left on "permission." Campbell is made "sous-chef" in place of White.
October 17. The "Génie" crowd, up at Le Chalet, certainly are screams. One engineer was complaining at dinner last night that the "poilus" hogged everything. He said he had only just completed an "abri" for a water reservoir and had come up that morning to install the tank, when he found two infantrymen asleep in it with the place converted into a regular home --- lamps, flooring, and beds. He went to where he was to install his 3 H.P. gas engine and pumps, and here were two more completely at home, and also sleeping. He said he didn't disturb them until he was ready to put his stuff in place.
The regular Le Chalet cook has gone on "permission" and the meals are attended to by a chemist, who knows nothing whatever about cooking. They are something fierce. However, I bought some eggs and tomatoes, when I had a run down to Les Islettes, and cooked them for myself.
They threw torpedoes at each other all day yesterday and the earth continually trembled. Some of them hold as much as a hundred kilos of dynamite and other high explosives. One doesn't hear them coming and the firing of the little "crapouillots" is scarcely more than a yacht cannon; but one can occasionally see them in the air, as they fly comparatively slowly. "Éclats" fell all around the "poste" continually, yet the things were landing two or three hundred yards away.
October 21. The Boches have been trying out a new type of shell around La Chalade lately. Kurtz saw one explode near the road. It blew a hole in the earth about twenty feet across and from that came dozens of smaller shells which exploded over a radius of thirty or forty yards --- a sort of huge shrapnel.
Four of the famous tanks came in near here the other day, and are to be used in a new offensive at Verdun, so it is said. They look like huge eggs with the caterpillar strips going all the way round them, and they carry two "soixante-quinzes" as well as mitrailleuses. The French also have developed several types of air guns firing small torpedoes, varying from about the size of a hand-grenade to that of a good-sized bomb. They fool the Boches as to the direction from which they are coming and can therefore be operated almost without interference.
October 22. The Boches dropped a number of shells on La Chalade Poste when I was there yesterday morning. A pane of glass above me, hit by an "éclat," fell on my head while I sat outside writing a letter. I don't know whether it is lucky or not to have that happen. For a moment I felt as if I were in one of those kaleidoscopes of childhood's happy days. About a bucketful of colored glass came scattering all around. It is like getting religion thrust upon one, so to speak. Two shells came very close to the car, and a man standing near got an "éclat" in the casque which just saved his "nut." The casque was all crushed. Another fellow had a small bit cut his hand. It was rather nervous work for the half-hour they kept coming in, as there was no cave worthy of the name, so we just stood around and joked and hoped for the best. In the afternoon came a warning of a coming gas attack. The French had been giving the Boches hot work all day after the episode of the shelling of the abbey, and as the wind was right, the expectation was that the "Germs" would retaliate with gas. So we got out our masks and waited up until about 10 P.M., and as nothing happened we all went to bed.
October 24. I arrived in Paris on "permission" with Roche. I got a "jolt" the moment I struck Rue Raynouard. The authorities had confiscated all souvenirs, dozens of different kinds of shells, shrapnel, and the rest; and a complete set of Boche casques I got for father. Hard luck.
October 26. I ran into Neilson Warden; also into "Bob" Glendinning and "Doc" McCloskey. The two last are over here arranging for the graduates of "Bob's" aviation school to be taken into the French army, without having to pass the long preliminary wait. He tells me they turned down Antelo Devereux and some others, who were fully competent. I also ran across Carson(33) who used to be in Section 1 and then went to the Paris Squad. He returned to Chicago and tells the same old story of not being able to stand the banalities at home. He says he was passing along the street one day and his eye caught the sign "S.S. Rochambeau, sails September 2d." He went in and bought his ticket right off the reel. He is in the Paris Squad now, but wants to shift back to the Field Service.
October 27. I spent a solid hour last evening trying to get a taxi to get to Ewell's. Everything was busy. Paris is certainly livening up. Finally, about 8.15 I got hold of a fool Hollander or Belgian who got me entirely lost. So I never reached there. I had to write him a long apology which, of course, he won't believe. I ran into Parsons, all "dolled up" in his new aviation uniform. He's at Pau. The last time I saw him he was ditched with the old Daimler "camion," and Fenton and I went out to fix him up. I also saw Ayton, who has gone into the Aviation Service, just lately. I called to see Sanders. He's wonderfully cheerful, considering his face is going to be somewhat disfigured. They took forty small pieces of "éclat" out of his head in all; only three large ones, the rest dust.
October 31. "Woody" and George End turned up to-day, and "Huts" came down from our place on his "permission." We had quite a reunion. Both "Woody" and End are going to rejoin, which helps. I had feared Woodworth would go into the Aviation Service.
November 3. I am back at La Grange aux Bois, with a nasty cold. It's lucky there is nothing to do, anyway. I have just discovered that one of the members of the English Ambulance Corps, operating in the Sector next to ours, is no less a person than Jerome K. Jerome, of "Three Men in a Boat" fame.
An epidemic of boils and carbuncles seems to have struck Section 1. Old "Doc" Wilson had one cut out of his arm: "Awfully awkward, don't ye know." Culby had a sort of Cæsarian operation on his stomach; and Townsend has several where he sits. Tison has chronic indigestion, and the rest with varying degrees of colds and dysentery. A fine line of warriors we all are just now!
November 4. We have moved from the barracks into rooms in the village where we can have at least dry feet and a modicum of warmth. The only trouble is that the rooms are relatively small, and one has to listen all day long to a lot of drivel from our war tacticians. A new man, Tyson, from Philadelphia, arrived to-day to take Newberry's place who is sick and going home.
November 7. It is certainly interesting to hear the "Génie" discussing their work. One fellow told me what a bawling-out he got, when he was putting a temporary bridge on the Somme and let the water out of the canal-draw, to facilitate the driving of piles on the canal bottom. An irate Fusilier de Marine Captain and a lot of his men came up cursing like madmen. It appeared that his action had dropped the level of the canal all the way along a foot or more and the gun bores had entirely lost their aim, all elevations having thus been altered. He said a madder lot of men he never saw. Talking of their work here at Le Chalet, he said they often suddenly found themselves in the Boche diggings, but that both sides took good care not to start anything. He predicts, however, that there will be something doing here before long; all telephone wires are being buried and deep "abris" are being dug. He also says the Eightieth have been ordered to take certain positions near La Chalade.
November 10. Nobody seems to know who is elected President and nobody cares very much here. The two candidates are regarded as about fifty-fifty . I had a funny experience this morning. I was taking the Médecin Major to Rarecourt, when the sentry at Les Islettes asked. for the password. We yelled "Jena," but did n't stop altogether --- just slowed up. The sentry did n't like that , and slammed his bayonet straight at the "Doc," who was sitting beside me. The thing went clean through the woodwork of the car and wrenched out a piece the size of one's hand. The "Doc" got out and "laid into" that sentry in great style, took his name and number and turned it in to the Captain. Every now and then one hits up against some fool like that.
Mrs. Audenried sent us up a complete outfit of fine fur-lined leather gauntlets; "bonne nouvelle," as it's getting mighty cold. They shelled La Chalade again to-day; Kurtz was on "poste" and everybody had to go to the cellar.
November 12. The apotheosis of the futility of human endeavor seems to me to be the work of the Sappers and "Génie" around here. A couple of days ago a French tunnel broke through into a Boche tunnel. Both were completely taken by surprise and simply withdrew and each blocked up his own tunnel. Then yesterday, the Boches thought they'd pull a stunt, so they opened up a small hole in the temporary walls, sneaked in, and nabbed two French miners who were quietly sitting eating breakfast, and made them prisoners. The French got sore, and by way of retaliation to-day blew up the whole bloody business. So now both sides have to start digging all over again. I suppose the main idea is to keep the men busy, to prevent their dying of ennui.
November 13. Letters from Baylies and Imbrie. They must have had an awful time getting to Salonika. They were put in the hold with eight hundred Annamites, nearly all of whom were seasick. Sortwell was killed by a truck when they reached there; and George End, who was coming back to us, has sailed to take his place.
November 14. I certainly take my hat off to the women of France. Nothing fazes them. Kurtz and I walked into Ste. Menehould yesterday and stopped in the "pâtisserie" for some cakes and port. While we were there the Boches began tossing "380's" into the town, trying for the railway station. The huge craters and terrific explosions shook the whole place; yet the little girl serving us cakes merely laughed and said, "The Boches are hating us very much to-day, n'est ce pas, Messieurs!" The newspapers mentioned the incident this morning. The gun (an Austrian Skoda) was no less than thirty-six kilometers away! They luckily did n't hurt anything, most of them landing in the field just about a hundred yards away from the station. One lit in the courtyard of the barracks on the hill and it looked like a sort of volcano in eruption, but that did no damage either.
November 15. They shelled Ste. Menehould again to-day. One big fellow fell right in the center of the road in front of the station, knocking out all the windows for a block and wounding two soldiers. The hospital has been closed and we now take the wounded to Villers-Deaucourt.
November 18. Gaynor left to-day: nerves in bad shape. The new men keep piling in --- about ten of them now, and more coming. Everybody was sorry to see Sam Jones go. He is entering the Aviation Service. Heavy ice everywhere to-day and a light fall of snow. Starting the car is some job these days.
November 20. I took a walk with Sam Walker, and saw the great cemetery of , the "Defenders of the Argonne" ---a place on the side of the hill back of Ste. Menehould as large as Laurel Hill with most of the little wooden crosses marking trenches of bodies, not single mounds; next to it was a small graveyard with crosses over the mounds, but no names. These were what was left of those caught and shot as spies or as deserters or for self-mutilation in order to get away from the fighting.
November 22. Some one is constantly having fun at the expense of P. and R., neither of whom knows much about cars. The other day R. had a miss in one of his cylinders and could n't fix it. He went to Sponagle, who gravely asked him if he'd greased his fan belt. R. bit and spent an hour doing that! P. is very proud of a brass radiator, which, instead of painting the usual gray, he polishes assiduously with regular brass polish. Yesterday Wallace painted "Nuts" in large letters on it which nearly broke P.'s heart when he noticed it. Ever since he has been scraping and polishing away to reinstate it in its pristine glory. This morning somebody had hung the "Feuillée" sign on R.'s car while he was sitting in it writing, and he couldn't understand why every passerby roared with laughter at him.
November 27. My last day in the War Zone, and I happened to draw the Fille Morte Poste! Sort of hard luck. The "Loot" offered to replace me, but it wouldn't have looked well before the new men, so here I am planted for twenty-four hours, and now I may miss the morning train to Paris, going down with Tison, Wallace, and Walker, all of whom are leaving for home. Culby is waiting for us in Paris. Roche leaves next week, so that poor old "Huts" will have practically a new Section to break in. The Boches are shooting "77" shrapnel over us and trying for the little railway back of us. General Bouchez came up in his car to the "poste." His chauffeur tells me that he just missed being killed yesterday and the glass in the car was broken by an "éclat." Great excitement was caused by a cavalry officer trying to cross a swamp down below us. He got bogged, and they spent an hour trying to get the horse out. The Boches, seeing the group of men, started shelling again, but failed to come within fifty yards of them.
It's astonishing how everybody trusts everybody else. The Frenchmen give us money to buy them wine, tobacco, send telegrams, and so on; whereas we leave all our belongings lying around loose and they never touch them. Of course, it wouldn't be safe with the Senegalese, or on a highway where troops keep passing, but up in the lines, nobody touches any one else's things.
November 28. Poor old "Huts" is still sick; but he got up out of bed to see us off.
December 2. We had a great time in Paris. Andrew came to see us off at the train.
December 3. The Chicago did n't start, of course, so that there was no movement of machinery and water to drown any noise, no matter how trifling. Most of the women on board are overworked Red Cross nurses and are in a pretty nervous state. C. started the ball rolling by copying in his sleep the sound of the guns at Verdun. He did it so well that it sent one woman into hysterics and they had to wake him up. Then an aviator on twenty-one days' leave proceeded to have a nightmare. Then they tell me I called out in my sleep, "What, four new men up and only one going? For Heaven's sake!" They say it was quite distinct. Then a woman began copying the guns, entirely unconsciously. As the steward remarked, " C'était rigolo."
December 7. Three perfectly clear days, calm as a lake: no warships in sight. We have a marine "100" on the afterdeck for Mr. Submarine. I met Vic White's sister: awfully jolly girl.
December 8. Wireless warning received that another Boche cruiser is loose on the Atlantic. We saw what looked like a submarine in the distance., It may have been the Deutschland. We kept a gun trained on her, but we distanced her. Weather still perfect: wonderful sunsets and full moon; more like yachting in the South Seas than on the Atlantic in midwinter. 'T is so warm we don't wear coats or hats. I won ship hat-pool.
December 9. Miss White won pool. Sea rough for first time. Our latest citation is before the Army and reads: --
Copy of "Ordre général No 189 "
Groupement D.E. État-Major, au Quartier général.
S.C. No. 6611. Le 1 novembre, 1916.
Le Général Commandant le Groupement D.E. cite à l'ordre du Corps d'Armée:
Section Sanitaire Américaine No 1, sous le commandement du Lieutenant Robert de Kersauson de Pennendreff et de l'officier américain Herbert Townsend, en août et septembre, 1916, a assuré l'évacuation des blessés de trois Divisions successivement dans un secteur particulièrement dangereux; a demandé comme une faveur de conserver ce service, où officiers et conducteurs on fait preuve du plus brillant courage et du plus complet dévouement.
Le Général Commandant le Groupement D.E.
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