11 July 1916, Dugny
4 a.m. I am writing here at the Etain-Moulinville cross-road beside a dead and odoriferous horse. Watching the dawn break and listening to the whining of the shells from both sides passing overhead, and now and then one breaking entirely too near for comfort is, believe me, no place for a nervous child! I'm simply writing this to keep my mind off the crape and "don't-he-look-natural-please- omit-flowers" stuff! It's cold, and it's going to rain, and these blessed "brancardiers" are late with their trench "pousse-pousses." I'm also hungry and I'd give a quarter for a fifteen-cent drink; and I'd as leave have it at the Racquet Club in old Philly as here. Just now the Boches are firing "210's" which are landing in the ravine a hundred yards away. I hope they'll keep perfectly accurate and are not going to give any raw greenhorns practice. I entirely sympathize with the fellow in Bairnsfather's famous cartoon: "There'll be dirty work at the cross-road to-night."
Later: It appears that one of the shells I listened to lit close to "Huts" Townsend's car at the Tavannes cross-road and nearly crowned old Roger. They came up and ordered me to return, as I had stayed over my allotted time. In the afternoon, the Lieutenant, Sponagle, and I went up to Fort Dugny and had the luck to see another attack on Souville. For once it was clear and the sight was marvelous. The whole hill smoked. We also saw the American Escadrille go into action, six of them; but they disappeared in the smoke far back of the German lines. The big bombardment was followed by a gas attack between Vaux and Douaumont, and the fight was fierce all night, around Damloup. We began to get calls around 5 a.m. and, thereafter, ran all day under heavy fire. I saw a bully "155" shell on the road and wanted to pick it up, and had already slowed down, when one burst within thity feet of the car-- I changed my mind and moved on! Nearly all the men we carried were "gassed." They kept coming in all day from the trenches, or rather shell holes, in the Bois Fumant and Froide Terre near Fleury. We alone carried some twelve hundred of them, and believe me, it was some strain.
Many new dead horses along the road. The gas gets them, even the smallest whiff, and, of course, they have no masks. Even at 10 a.m. there was still enough gas to make our eyes smart. The Germans tried a new dodge,-- a sort of "tir de barrage" of "77" shells. They do not make much noise, just about as much as a yacht cannon, but the gas spreads fast. It was about forty feet high and extended for about two hundred meters along the Etain road. The men who were caught by it all admitted they had taken off their masks for one reason or another. Some get sick at their stomachs and that forces them to take off their masks. It is not amusing to talk to men who don't know they're good as dead! One really should have two masks, and switch in such a case, not breathing meantime. We all have had another one issued to us to-day.
The work became exactly like a road race. At our cantonment, after delivering the wounded, we had a table on which were coffee and crackers. There were extra tires, oil, water, and gasoline, and the mechanics all ready to put them in. We made eleven round trips during the day from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Some cars only carry five and some six, so that the total wounded carried would have been over eleven hundred if all had been going perfectly. During the night we necessarily worked slower, but carried some nine hundred, I should judge. I broke a spring clip which detained me a little while, and I lost about a half-hour around noon, but made it up later. Ther doings of the last two days are chronicled more or less in the "official communiques." The bombardement being diginified by the term-- "Extreme violence."
The Germans again got within five hundred yards of Tavannes, by the use of gas. This evening, at 6.30 p.m., without artillery preparation, the French counter-attack was made and was entirely successful. Not only was all lost ground regained, but they captured some one hundred prisoners, several machine guns, etc. The leaving out of the artillery preparation entirely fooled the Boches.
As the hospitals are overflowing, we have had to take in a lot of the gassed men with us in our cantoment. It is pathetic to hear them try to get their breath as if they were drowning; also it's not conducive to sleep. I carried the Commandant who was in the attack. He had a piece of shell in his stomach, but he was a brave beggar. Never said a word, and thanked me when I apologized for the jolting he got. The "Germs" got the Damloup redoubt today.
We nearly had a scrap of our own just now. One man implied that another had been running less than the rest. He was sent to call him and found him sleeping while all the others were on the road. We had to pull them apart. It is due to overwork, overexcitement, strain. Every one's nerves are on edge. It's wonderful to see the French artillery in action. Our "poste" at the cabaret is entirely surrounded by batteries; and to see the relief come galloping up, split in fours, and each go dashing out into the fields by the pale light of a clouded moon, is a sight one can never forget. In about two minutes they are unhooked and old Mr. Boche is receiving "billts-doux de soixante-quinze."
We were ordered to move to rejoin the Division which has been "en repos" about a week. The Boches started shelling the railway station with the Skoda "380's" this afternoon; but everybody was too sleepy even to go up to photograph it. They never hit it, anyway, and the old peasant women continue to tend their gardens all around the huge shell holes. All through the valley back of Tillat, Tavannes, the Mort Homme, and so forth, the peasants till their fields under shell-fire. Now and then they lose a horse through asphyxiating gas; but otherwise they don't give a curse for the Germans.
13 July 1916, Dugny, Tannois
We leave in caravan to-day to rejoin our Division "en repos" at a little village outside of Bar-le-Duc. The heavy fighting has died down again and now everything is quiet. We have received quite alot of praise for our work through the gas attack. The new location is Tannois just outside of Bar-le-Duc. We are beautifully situated in a little valley, with a clear mountain spring, ripe cherry trees, and wild strawberries everywhere. We all celebrated the day with champagne, and Pierre got fresh with the Lieutenant and was given twenty-four hours in jail; but to-morrow being the 14th, the sentence really only holds good for a few hours, as all minor offenders are to be released. The Lieutenant knew that before he sent Pierre to jail. The "Loot", as every one calls him, is really one of the best of fellows, and knows just how to handle the men so that they don't feel too much restraint, and yet are kept well in hand. Roche and I go to Paris on our long-delayed "permissions" to-morrow. Winsor is going down on sick-leave. End joins us to-morrow. He leaves for good, after two years' service, partly in Serbia.
We had a mock marriage to-day with a little girl in an "epicerie" shop-- who was tickled to death and got right into the spirit of it,-- and Sam Paul. Sam was so rattled he couldn't say or do anything but blush! Josh Campbell was the Master of Ceremonies and it was a scream! They bathed the old Zouave cook, De Vaux, in champagne.
The "Loot" is tickled to death with the way the Section went through the attack. He received an awfully nice letter from the General of the Division, and he told Roche and me coming down in the train that he believed the whole Section might get cited-- a very unusual thing. It appears that we broke the record for the number of wounded carried during twenty-four hours in that Sector, or something of the sort. Culbertson got off a classic to-day. He was talking of heavy shell-fire coming in, and of being scared, and somebody asked him the size of it. He replied, "Oh, I guess about a '105' or, you know, a '380' Bowman"! (Bowman was a young man in whose eyes things loomed large. Hence the joke.) We speak of the "77's" and "105's" as "380 Bowmans" now.
17 July 1916, Trouville
Trouville and a salt bath. A thing I've forgotten to mention is the staining of the white horses a sort of sorrel. What reminded me of it just now was the way they are fading on account of the months of rain. Here in Trouville they are becoming a sort of pale "baby pink." Some of the dead horses around Verdun also have been washed almost white again by the rain. They are very useful landmarks at night.
I have seen more pathetic sights here than almost anywhere else. The Trouville and Deauville casinos are convalescent hospitals. Most of the big hotels are also. I was driving along the land just back of the beach, past the fine looking private villas, when we came to a series of the same sort which looked like "Little Italy," with the clothes hanging out and the babies all over everything and small chimneys sticking out of the windows, the regular New York tenement look. I asked what on earth it was doing in the middle of Trouville, and was told that it was part of the Belgian refugee camp sections, which are scattered all along the northwest coast. One almost has to apologize for not being a cripple at Trouville. It's terrible to stand the looks of scorn! But one can't stop and explain to each individual that one has been dodging shells at Verdun for two weeks, and is only on a two-days' "permission" here.
24 July 1916, Tannois
Old End finally left. He was a good fellow. I remember the time when he forgot the password for the bridge at Cappy, which the Germans were diligently trying for with "77s" and "105s". The sentry stopped him, of course, asking the word, and in his slow, drawling, vague way George said in English, which, of course, the sentry could n't understand, "I don't remember exactly, but it seems to me it sounded something like 'Motor Boat.'" The word was "Montauban." What with the noise of the bursting shells and the rest, the sentry simply gave it up and let him pass. He woke me up at 4 a.m. to say good-bye and to give him a cocktail. I ran into Waldo Peirce in the chateau, with Foster, who is going to Serbia with the Rockefeller "Foundation". Peirce had a close call at Nouvelle Fleury. A piece of shrapnel got him in the chest, but was deflected by his heavy leather pocket-book which was filled with papers and money. Peirce says he's never going to be without money hereafter -- he doesn't care whose! He shaved his beard and lost about twenty pounds. I hardly recognized him.
Cartier tells me that when Waldo's wife wrote asking him when he was coming back, he didn't answer; then she cabled requesting a reply; so he wired back -- "Apres la guerre."
Bonne nouvelle! The Section has been cited by the Order of the Division for the work before Verdun. They will have to solder the Cross on an oil can, I suppose, as we carry no pennant. A thing that is worthy of record, but which as we all know it so thoroughly I had forgotten to mention in the part of this diary written at Dugny, is that "Huts" --otherwise called "Herbert" -- Townsend, of New York, our leader, has all kinds of nerve. When I went up to the cabaret the night of the final gas attack on Souville, I thought, each time, that his calm manner and perfectly casual talk only acted on me personally. I was scared so that I did n't know whether I was coming or going, although, of course, I did not show it; but every man of our Section with whom I have since talked said the same thing. Old "Huts" steadied us down, whereas if he had shown signs of getting rattled, some of us might have become nervous. As a matter of record we all rolled thirty-two hours without a serious hitch of any kind -- except when C-- and B-- suddenly declared a personal war of their own. "Huts" will wear the Croix, I suppose, and he deserves to wear a dozen of them.
26 July 1916, Tannois, Montmirail
Off at last in the Hotchkiss. I made the trip without a hitch. The boys were all glad to see us. We brought much mail, and cakes, and so forth. On our way we stopped at Montmirail for lunch. There we ran into a Mrs Squiers, of New York, who had become a Sister of St. Vincent de Paul and is located at a hospital there. She told us that one of her sons was in the English Ambulance Service and the other in a motor battery. She was glad to talk with English-speaking people again, she said, after so long; but as she did all the talking I couldn't see that we did her much good.
27 July 1916, Triaucourt
We were decorated to-day by the Divisionnaire. He was unusually complimentary,-- said we were cool, brave, drove where we were told and showed "an elan most commendable," and so forth: and finally pinned the Croix on Edward's car, representing the Section. Sponagle also got one for repairing a car under heavy fire. He is our head mechanician and an awfully good fellow. His citation was signed by Joffre himself. Brooke also received his Croix and got a bully citation from Nivelle. Altogether it was a gala occasion. The Section's "Croix" will be framed with the "Citation" and a copy given to each of us. That also comes from Nivelle.
28 July 1916, Tannois(?)
For some reason or other the boys nicknamed me "The Judge" almost from the first moment I joined the squad on the Somme. Pete Avard was the first to pick the name, and I never could find out why except that I tried to be even-tempered and pleasant to all of them -- which is hard enough at times. Pete used to be in the Fourth U.S. Cavalry -- "Galloping I" troop. -- We are still in the Argonne. Of the new men Walker and Wallace are exceptionally good fellows.
There is going to be a big celebration to-night. "Very Good Eddy" and Brooke are going to christen their Croix and that of the Section.
29 July 1916, Triaucourt
Tardieu has designed an Indian head as the "Convoi's" emblem for the squad, taking his lines from the regular Indian on the $5 gold-piece. This lends a real "ton" to the cars, the head being stenciled life-size in red, black, and white on the sides, and, as one might say, it puts Section "One" on the map.
The cobbler's daughter in this village is quite pretty and intelligent. She showed us the hole in her arm where a German high explosive hit her. It killed her grandmother beside her, disemboweling her. She says that the Germans took care of her, however, and acted decently enough, except that they set fire to a group of stores in the town when they left. The woods hereabouts are dotted thick with graves, German and French; hundreds of them. They are about a year old.
The talk now is that another big offensive by the Allies is brewing in the Champagne. The Russians are nearly all concentrated there. It should break out pretty soon, if there is anything in the reports we hear.
I saw a lot of French troops from Indo-China, the Anamites. "Tirailleurs Tonquinois" is their official title. They are little fellows dressed in pale yellow, but wearing the dull blue casque. It was a beautiful sight watching the long yellow and blue worm, winding for miles along the distant road in the hazy sunlight. We have now had nearly two weeks of good weather; the longest period of the sort since Mericourt. A farmer tells us it came just in the nick of time to save the crops, which were beginning to rot. He says the grape and wine crops are going to be the best in years, especially in Burgundy. He says the Chambertin of this year will be a wonder in time.
Beside us here is a machine-gun section -- air-cooled.
31 July 1916, Triaucourt
The big vaudeville went off with great eclat. It couldn't have been pulled off in a more beautiful or suitable spot. A little clearing in the forest with a tiny stage flanked with French flags, and the general lighting furnished by M. Rapp, of S.S.U. No. 1: all the acetylene lamps we had. Jimmy Sponagle was the only one of us that could produce a stunt, and the Frenchmen in the kindness and politeness of their hearts put him last. Of course, old Sponny did the best he could, considering that he followed some of the greatest comedians and singers on the professional stage; nevertheless, I wished for Woody. He and Sponny could have put over something pretty good. Then they asked -- no, really begged, us to sing "Tipperary." Well, we sang it, of course. Nobody really knew it and it was a frost. The "mise en scene" was wonderful -- all green surroundings. It reminded me of Robin Hood stories and the revelries in Sherwood Forest: by luck, a clear night and the stars thickly spangled over the opening in the woods. The trees were filled with men and whenever one lighted a cigarette his face shone through the foliage like the pumpkin heads at Hollow-e'en. It was marvelous. That and Trois Fontaines stand out as the two most beautiful, peaceful things I have ever seen. Of course, nothing compared with Verdun at night. That, like the Penseur before the Pantheon, is all alone in its glory.
We have a lot of fun evacuating the late sleepers. Some of the men lie in bed after eight o'clock, and so the fellows sneak up, surround their cars, and quickly grab the stretchers, pull them out, and dump them on the grass. Some of them get mad, and then there is a rough-and-tumble fight. One time at Veel they started my car and drove me all around the country. To-day, we put Francklyn in the middle of the main street, and the village girls had a great time kidding him. We carried him out to the tune of the "Dead March" from "Saul!"
1 August 1916, Triaucourt
We have found a swimming-pool at last. The discovery was made by Baylies in a peculiar way. He was called out to get a man who had been drowned. We couldn't believe it, as the streams all around here are so shallow, but he was taken to a little dam about ten minutes from here that we had entirely missed. So henceforth we are all right.
2 August 1916, Triaucourt
I got a shock this morning. I awoke to find my face had turned quite green. I thought for a nimute gangrene or something had set in. The explanation came quickly. It had rained a little in the night and Mrs Charles M. Lea's beautiful geen silk pneumatic pillow had got a trifle damp -- that pillow, hitherto, has been a joy!
I had to laugh at Imbrie. Like Cunningham he's always growling and kicking and calling this a h--l of a life. Just before I went to Paris he said his time would be up the 1st of August and he was "fed up" and going to quit and go back -- and all that. Well, I asked him to-day what boat he was sailing on, and he grinned sheepishly and said that he'd just signed up for another three months! As a matter of fact he loves it. All his life has been spent traveling around the globe, including a long stay hunting in Africa, and he could no more leave this than fly.
We had a scream of a cross-country hare-and-hounds run this evening. "Huts" Townsend, as Section Chief, opened champagne at dinner in honor of the "Citation." There was one bottle extra and much argument arose between the two tables as to which should have it. Culbertson went over and grabbed it and they all fell upon him. Finally Roche got away with it and supported by a couple of others ran off. After a littel interval we all decided to hunt for them and there ensued a regular chase across country. We must have covered several miles. But they were foxy. They hid the bottle and then led us a long run. Then they sneaked back and drank it up, while we were still hunting in the woods. the Frenchmen thought we were all "nutty," but we explained it was a regular American game!
"Huts" heard from our old Division, the Third Colonials. It appears General Gaddel lost his hand in the attack on the Somme: and poor little Abbe Souri, the chaplain, is not expected to live.
5 August 1916, Triaucourt
I hear that W.M. Barber, of Toledo, Ohio, the Section 3 man who was shot in the stomach, is out and around again: quite a resurrection. He completely fooled the French authorities who gave him the Medaille Militaire, in addition to the Croix de Guerre, which is generally considered as about guaranteeing the "Corix de bois." Now he's going back to the Front again.
I had a nasty nightmare last night. I dreamed I was dressing to go to a formal dinner-party at home. It certainly was a relief to wake up here.
They put a large yellow flea-bitten mongrel dog and a live chicken in Bowman's "bus" where he was sleeping last night. There was a jolly riot, as may be imagined.
7 August 1916, Vaulecourt
I broke a ligament in my leg playing ball. Rough Luck! Will be out of business for about a week, I suppose, if it's anything like as bad as the last time. I can't walk at present. Lucky we are still "en repos," so somebody can take my runs for me temporarily.
Mrs. W.K. Vanderbilt came up to see us last night with the Duc de Clermont-Tonnerre and Andrew. She gave us all cigarettes. Their car had a close call near Pont-a-Mousson when a shell exploded close to them.
We moved this afternoon to a new camp: only about ten kilometers. Vaulecourt is the town nearest us. The place is partially wrecked; the church destroyed. The bells, by the way, were presented by an ancestor of Cermont-Tonnerre. It is a pretty spot in the woods. There is a little thatched hut where a peasant and his daughters live. They have a pet pig, and the oldest daughter is a most self-possessed young woman, considering her age, about fifteen. She is n't a bit rattled at the jollying we give her.
Andrew told us that the Field Department of the American Ambulance was now officially separated from the Paris Hospital and had secured new quarters near the Trocadero -- 21 Rue Raynouard.
8 August 1916, Valecourt
We went wild-boar hunting last night. Nothing doing. They say they are quite thick around here; also deer, but they are protected. I saw two young boars a farmer caught, -- pretty little animals, very fast on their feet. A fine stream to wash clothes in is the Aisne, but hardly deep enough for swimming around here. However, we wade out and duck under. I took a "malade" over to Revigny and a couple of big boars came between the road and the railway as we got there.
I stopped in the main cafe and found "Winny" O'Connor and "Doc" Ryan's names carved on one of the tables, dated 1915. Section 4 used to be up there. The town is badly shot up; in fact all the towns hereabout are half-ruins. The little peasant girl says her father used to own a farm here, but it was burned down. The French had to bombard the place, as the Germans were in these woods. In fact one of their old trenches runs right beside our cantonment.
The little peasant girls are remarkably strong for their age; they can lift big logs, hoe the fields, and do men's work; but are terribly dirty. It is rather pathetic. When we started to jolly the older one, she went into the hut and in a few minutes came out in a different calico smock: her best, I suppose, and she had done up her hair; but her hands and face were as dirty as ever. She has a sense of humor, though. She came out this morning with two potato hoes and a basket. Edwards promptly rushed forward and asked if he might go over and dig the potatoes. So she gravely thanked him, handed him the basket, and the hoes, and said, "Go ahead; I will sit here and talk to these gentlemen." Of course, we all cheered and Edwards was much crestfallen. Then Culbertson, who stands six feet, offered to carry a basket of beans for her, and she looked at him a moment, then shook her head; "Non, non, pauvre petit Americain, j'ai peur que ca ne te fasse du mal." And all this from an imp of fifteen, brought up in a hovel in the back woods! "Vic," the club dog, is utterly nonplussed at the tame pig, which is just about his size. It is a scream to see them together. They call the pig "Guillaume II."
Tuesday, 30 August 1916, Billemont
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 "Aumonier" of the new Divison, who had never been under fire before. I carried him from the hospital at Landrecourt to this new "poste" at the Caserne Marceau, beloow Souville. As we neared Verdun he was much more 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.
Thursday, 31 August 1916, Billemont
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 "eclats" 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 Chateau Billemont. The Boches took it into their heads to throw a few "150s" 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.
Friday, 1 September 1916, Billemont
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 souveniers. 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 "130s" all along the lower half, trying to get the marine "100s" 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 "blesses," 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 to-morrow night. Cheerful outlook. If some more "bones" are n't pulled during the next forty-eight hours it will certainly be surprising.
Monday, 4 September 1916, Billemont
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 "75s" 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 3rd of Septmeber, 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 Medecin 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 "blesses" 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 starting-crank of No. 8, Tyng bent the biggest monkey wrench into the shape of a fish-hook. 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 straghten 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 upleasantly 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 "130s" 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 could n'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."
Tuesday, 5 September 1916, Billemont
Vic had a regular "mellerdrammer, father-save-the-child" time last night. He had three "blesses 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 "blesses" were "couches," 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 just 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 there 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-cafe" 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 chateau. 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.
Wednesday, 6 September 1916, Billemont
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 "155s" or 210s" 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 "blesses" 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 "blesses" 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, 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. Ther 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 Aimee, of the Sixty-seventh, 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 blood-curdling 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 "75s" 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.
Thursday, 7 September 1916, Billemont
We rolled all night and took care of a tremendous number of "blesses" (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 laybrinth -- a city in itself, cut out of the solid rock, such, I imagine, as Gibalter must be: endless tunnels, rooms, and corridors -- even a theatre 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, e'est les volontairs! 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 "blesses," and they have to be watched carefully by their officers.
( Two years later, when the American 2nd Division fought alongside Senegalese at Soissons, if was reported that the U.S. Marines not infrequently had to restrain the Senegalese from killing German prisoners. B. Omanson.)
Friday, 8 September 1916, Billemont
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 Cote 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 cathdreal of Verdun towering above the town, still in semi-darkness. All hailed it as a good omen. In the low places men were wearing maskes and the smell of gas was very strong -- a sweetish odor as from a candy-factory.
Saturday, 9 September 1916, Billemont
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 archaeologist -- brought in the biggest find yet to-day: the whole barrel of a wrecked "soixante-quinze." First he went after it with a wheel-barrow and could n'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.
10 September 1916, Billemont
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.
Friday, 22 September 1916, La Grange-aux-Bois
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.
Saturday, 23 September 1916, La Grange-aux-Bois
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.
Sunday, 24 September 1916, La Grange-aux-Bois
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.
Tuesday, 26 September 1916, La Grange-aux-Bois, Blercourt
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 2 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 Medecin 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, sant "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 accoutrements 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 state of coma and could n'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 Sander'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 "eclats," 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 "eclats." 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.
6 October 1916, La Grange-aux-Bois
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."
There are three verses as follows:
Young Herman Von Bellow, a musical fellow,
Played on a big cello each night;
Sweet melodies rare, in a dance garden where
Dancers danced 'round and 'round with delight.
One night he saw dancing, a maid so entrancing,
His heart caught on fire inside,
And music so mellow he sawed on his cello,
She waltzed up to him and she cried:
I don't care what becomes of me,
When you play me that sweet melody.
E-Yip-I Addy -I Ay-I-Ay!
My heart wants to holler "hurray!"
Sing of joy, sing of bliss,
Home was never like this,
Now, some kind of music makes me and you sick,
And some kind is "puffickly" grand;
But that tune that Von Bellow tore off on his cello,
Was that "I'd leave home for you" brand.
So look not Spring Valley, to welcome home Sally,
Who went to New York for the ride;
For the night that Von Bellow cut loose on his cello,
She tore up her ticket and cried:
Now, music, it's known, has a charm all its own,
And Von Bellow he gurgled with glee;
"Here's where I win a wife and a partner for life,"
As he coaxed out a chord up in G.
He played and she tarried, that night they "got" married,
But even before break of day,
Poor sleepy Von Bellow heard his new wife yell-o,
"For goodness sake, wake up and play!"
There is a wonderful recording of this song on the CD "After the Ball:A Treasury of Turn-of-the-Century Popular Songs, Plus Highlights from Vaudeville"--by Joan Morris, soprano and William Bolcom, piano, on Elektra/Nonesuch Records, # 79148-2
Saturday, 7 October 1916, La Chalade
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 corners 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 the two priests at dinner. He produced two bottles lableed "Pommard." One was just plain Pinard, the other Chateau 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.
Sunday, 8 October 1916, La Grange-aux-Bois
Two new men turned up to-day. 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 [sic]. However, they look as if they'd turn out all right.
Monday, 9 October 1916, La Grange aux Bois
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 than 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 restauranteur. 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.
Wednesday, 11 October 1916, La Grange aux Bois
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.
Friday, 13 October 1916, La Grange aux Boix
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 rat-trap -- 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' thier 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.
Saturday, 14 October 1916, La Grange aux Bois
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. Jones, Wallace, and Walker left on "permission." Campbell is made "sous-chef" in place of White.
Tuesday, 17 October 1916, Le Chalet, La Grange aux Bois
The "Genie" crowd, up at the 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 did n'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 tomat.ioes, 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 does n'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. "Eclats" fell all around the "poste" continually, yet the things were landing two or three hundred yards away.
Saturday, 21 October 1916, La Grange aux Bois
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.
Sunday, 22 October 1916, La Grange aux Bois
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 "eclat," 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 "eclat" 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.
Tuesday, 24 October 1916, Paris
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.
Thursday, 26 October 1916, Paris
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, 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.
27 October 1916, Paris
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 "eclat" out of his head in all; only three large ones, the rest dust.
Tuesday, 31 October 1916, La Grange aux Bois
"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.
Friday, 3 November 1916, La Grange aux Bois
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 Caesarian operation 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!
Saturday, 4 November 1916, La Grange aux Boix
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.
Tuesday, 7 November 1916, La Grange aux Bois
It is certainly interesting to hear the "Genie" 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.
Friday, 10 November 1916, La Grange aux Bois
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 Medecin Major to Rarecourt, when the sentry at Les Islettes asked for the password. We yelled "Jena," but didn'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 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.
12 November 1916, La Grange aux Boix
The apotheosis of the futility of human endeavor seems to me to be the work of the Sappers and "Genie" around here. A couple of days ago a French tunnel broke through into a Boche tunnel. Both were taken 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.
Monday, 13 November 1916, La Grange aux Boix
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.
Tuesday, 14 November 1916, La Grange aux Bois
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 "patisserie" for some cakes and port. While we were there the Boches began tossing "380s" into the town, trying for the railway station. The huge craters and terrific explosions shook the whole place; yet the litte girl serving us cakes merely laughed and said, "The Boches are hating us very much to-day, n'est 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.
Wednesday, 15 November 1916, La Grange aux Bois
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.
Saturday, 18 November 1916, La Grange aux Bois
Gaynor left to-day: nerves in bad shape. The new men keep piling in -- abgout 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.
Monday, 20 November 1916, La Grange aux Bois
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.
Wednesday, 22 November 1916, La Grange aux Bois
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 "Feuillee" sign on R.'s car while he was sitting in it writing, and he could n't understand why every passerby roared with laughter at him.
Monday, 27 November 1916, La Grange aux Bois
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 would n't have looked well before the new men, so here I am planted for twen.ety-four hours, and now I may miss the morning train to Paris, going down with Tison, Wallace, and Walder, 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 "eclat." 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 would n'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.
Tuesday, 28 November 1916, La Grange aux Bois
Poor old "Huts" is still sick; but he got up out of bed to see us off.
Saturday, 2 December 1916, somewhere on the French coast
We had a great time in Paris. Andrew came to see us off at the train.
3 December 1916, aboard ship
The Chicago didn 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 is was quite distinct. Then a woman began copying the guns, entirely unconsciously. As the steward remarked, "C'etait rigolo."
Thursday, 7 December 1916, aboard ship in the Atlantic
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!