History of the
American Field Service in France
"FRIENDS OF FRANCE", 1914-1917, TOLD BY ITS MEMBERS
||WHEN the Service was formed as an adjunct to the French Army, a distinctive and practicable uniform was essential. It was impossible to adopt that of the United States Army while America was still neutral, and on that account special uniforms and insignia had to be provided, which also should not cause confusion among the myriad uniforms of the Allied forces. The color selected was khaki --- that of the American Army --- but the tunics were designed upon a more comfortable and practical model, with an open roll collar and bellows pockets. The French Army authorized as insignia on the coat-collar the grenades of the French Automobile Service, which were to be worn on a buff patch --- this buff being selected as the color of the American Colonial uniform of Revolutionary days. On the left sleeve was sewed an embroidered strip bearing the words "American Field Service." The collar and sleeve insignia were embroidered in red silk for the drivers and in gold for the officers of the Service. Rank was also indicated by galons on the lower sleeve after the manner of the French Army. The headgear was either a khaki visored cap, or a khaki bonnet-de-police, upon the front of which was a bronze device representing the American eagle holding a shield bearing the Stars and Stripes, and crossed by a ribbon with the words "American Field Service." On duty at the front the French blue-gray steel casque was worn with, as a device in bronze, the United States shield encircled by a laurel wreath.|
Device in bronze for the French casque worn on duty at the front
Insignia on the collar of the tunic the grenade of the French Automobile Service
Bronze device for the khaki visored cap
(slightly reduced in size)
||END OF THE WAR SKETCHES AND VERSES|
THE following sketches and verses were written by members of the Field Service during their life at the front. Some of the contributions date back to the early days of the Service; many were written in the summer and fall of 1917, and a number belong to the period of the A.E.F., up to and even after the Armistice. Most of them first appeared in the American Field Service Bulletin --- "a small weekly, published in France by the volunteers of the Field Service for their own and their comrades' amusement." With the rapid growth of the Service in 1917 the happy thought occurred to the Field Service staff to edit and send around to the sections a little paper in order that the sections might keep in better touch with one another and with the Field Service Headquarters. The first copy of this journal came out in mimeographed form on July 4, 1917, a hundred copies being distributed among the sections. The idea of such a periodical proved so popular that with the fourth number it was decided to put it out as a regularly printed weekly. The coöperation of the sections was readily enlisted, and soon appeared original contributions from members of the Service---verses, stories, and sketches as well as regular section notes. The Bulletin, under the editorship of Mrs. Isabella Howard, continued publication in France throughout the war and the early months of the Armistice, the final number appearing in May, 1919, when the last of the old sections sailed for home.
In the more serious contributions the ambulance or camion driver pictures his daily life, and the events and scenes that impressed him. He attempts to bring to life again, to re-create in the reader of his lines, the same mood that was originally created in him, and in so far as this effort succeeds these contributions have worth. The lighter material shows the reverse side of the life at the front --- the inside of the coat, the comic patches on the garments. Yet even where the humor is keenest the effect of the comradeship, long and delightful, with the French soldiery is apparent. The Field Service man came to know their foibles, their endearing, genial failings, their unassuming greatnesses, and their philosophy. He came to laugh with them rather than at them. But more than this, he became able to laugh at himself as well --- to see himself as they must see him --- to be amused at his own idiosyncrasies, no less curious to them than theirs to him. Such relations, after all, form the surest basis for any real understanding between two peoples.
Despite technical and literary faults and often inadequate expression, this matter seems worthy of publication here. Perhaps nothing will recall so sharply to the old drivers the days in France as will these varied pages of rhyme and prose --- these vignettes of the ambulance and camion times that were. Not much of it could be omitted without losing something in expression. It was a life of many colors, and even if some of these variegated patches are not of the most artistic design, still without them the pattern would be incomplete. Within the limits of space, therefore, contributions have been included which were real expressions of life as their writers lived it in the France of "La Grande Guerre."
Qu'ils étaient beaux les jours de France!
IT is difficult for one who has not led the life to appreciate just what his car means to the ambulancier. For periods of weeks, mayhap, it is his only home. He drives it through rain, hail, mud, and dust, at high noon on sunshiny days, and through nights so dark that the radiator cap before him is invisible. Its interior serves him as a bedroom. Its engine furnishes him with hot shaving-water, its guards act as a dresser. He works over, under, and upon it. He paints it and oils it, and knows its every bolt and nut, its every whim and fancy. When shrapnel and shell éclat fall, he dives under it for protection. Not only his own life, but the lives of the helpless wounded entrusted to his care, depend on its smooth and efficient functioning. Small wonder, then, that his car is his pride. You may reflect on an ambulancier's mechanical knowledge, his appearance, morals, religion, or politics, but if you be wise, reflect not on his car. To him, regardless of its vintage or imperfections, it is not only a good car, it is the best car. No millionaire in his $10,000 limousine feels half the complacent pride of the ambulance driver when, perhaps after days of travel, he has at last succeeded in inducing it to "hit on four," and with its wobbly wheel clutched in sympathetic hands he proudly steers its erratic course.
R. W. IMBRIE
Pont-à-Mousson, April, 1915
AFTER a few more short delays, inseparable from times and states of war, the Section at last found itself within a mile of one of the most stubbornly contested points of the line. In a little town not far from the front men came in swift progression into hard work, bombardment and appreciation by the army.
The whole country near to the active lines is one great theatre of war. Everywhere are sights and sounds forbidding a moment's forgetfulness of the fact. Yet---and it is one of the most curious and touching things one sees--- the peasant life goes on but little changed. Old men dig in. their gardens, women gather and sell vegetables, girls stand in the evenings at their cottage doors, children run about and play in the streets, while often not more than two miles away, an attack may be in progress, and between the concussions of the cannon throwing their missiles from the hills over the village, can be heard the rattle of rifle-fire and the dull pop-pop-pop of the mitrailleuses. In an hour or two, scores, maybe hundreds, of wounded men, or lines of prisoners, will file through the village, and at any moment shells may burst over the street, killing soldiers or women indifferently; but the old man still digs in his garden and the girl still gossips at the door.
One would like to say a little about the wounded men, of whom we have, by this time, seen some thousands. But it is difficult to separate one's impressions. The wounded come in so fast and in such numbers, and one is so closely concerned with the mechanical part of their transportation, that very soon one ceases to have many human emotions concerning them. And there is a pitiful sameness, in their appearance. They are divided, of course, into the two main classes of "sitting" and "lying." Many of the former have come down on foot from the trenches; one sees them arrive in the street at Montauville looking round, perhaps a little lost, for the poste de secours appointed for this particular regiment or company. Sometimes they help one another; often they walk with an arm thrown around some friendly shoulder. I have seen men come in, where I have stood waiting in the poste de secours, and throw themselves down exhausted, with blood trickling from their loose bandages into the straw. They have all the mud and sunburn of their trench life upon them, a bundle of heavy shapeless clothes, always the faded blue of their current uniform, and a pair of hobnailed boots, very expressive of fatigue. They smell of sweat, camp-fire smoke, leather, and tobacco ---all the same, whether the man be a peasant or a professor of mathematics. Sometimes, perhaps from loss of blood, or nervous shock, their teeth chatter. They are all very subdued in manner. One is struck by their apparent freedom from pain. With the severely wounded, brought in on stretchers, it is occasionally otherwise. If it is difficult to differentiate between man and man among the "sitting" cases it is still more so with the "lying." Here there is a blood-stained shape under a coat or a blanket, a glimpse of waxy skin, a mass of bandage. When the uniform is gray, men say "Boche" and draw round to look. Then one sees the closely-cropped bullet head of the German. One might describe the ghastliness of wounds, but enough has been said. At first they cause a shudder, and I have had gusts of anger at the monstrous folly in man that results in such senseless suffering; but very soon the fatalism which is a prevailing tone of men's thoughts in this war dulls one's perceptions. It is just another blessé --- the word "gravement," spoken by an infirmier, as they bring him out to the ambulance, carries only the idea of a little extra care in driving. The last we see of them is at the hospital. At night we have to wake up the men on duty there. The stretcher is brought into the dimly lighted, close-smelling room where the wounded are received and laid down on the floor. In the hopeless cases there follows the last phase. The man is carried out and lies, with others like himself, apart from human interest, till death claims him. Then a plain, unpainted coffin, the priest, a little procession, a few curious eyes, the salute, and the end. His grave, marked by a small wooden cross on which his name and grade are written, lies unnoticed, the type of thousands, by the roadside or away among the fields. Everywhere in the war zone one passes these graves. A great belt of them runs from Switzerland to the sea across France and Belgium. There are few people living in Europe who have not known one or more of the men who lie within it.
May 2, 1915
I WENT early one morning with one of our men, by invitation of an engineer whose acquaintance we had made, up to the part of the Bois-le-Prêtre known as the Quart-en-Réserve. We started at three, marching up with a party going to identify and bury the dead. The sites of all the trenches, fought over during the winter, were passed on the way, and we went through several encampments made of little log houses and dugouts, such as the most primitive men lived in, where soldiers were still sleeping. It was a gray morning with a nip in the air; the fresh scents of the earth and the young green were stained with the smoke of the wood fires and the mixed smells of a camp. After a spell of dry weather the rough tracks we followed in our course through the wood were passable enough, the deep ruts remaining, while here and there a piece of soft ground gave us some idea of the mud through which the soldiers must have labored a few weeks before. And it is by such tracks that the wounded are brought down from the trenches. Small wonder that when the stretcher is laid down its occupant is occasionally found to be dead. In about half an hour, nearing the top of the hill which the Bois-le-Prêtre covers, we noticed a change both in the scene and in the air. The leafage was thinner, and there was a look, not very definable yet, of blight. The path we were following sank deeper, and became a trench. For some hundreds of yards we walked in single file, seeing nothing but the narrow ditch winding before us, and bushes and trees overhead. With every step our boots grew heavier with thick, sticky mud, and a faint perception of unpleasant smells which had been with us for some minutes became a thing which had to be fought against. Suddenly the walls of our trench ended, and in front of us was an amazing confusion of smashed trees, piles of earth and rock, as though some giant had passed that way, idly kicking up the ground for his amusement. We climbed out of the remains of our trench and looked around. One had read, in official reports of the war, of situations being "prepared" by artillery for attack. We saw before us what that preparation means.
An enlarged photograph of the mountains on the moon gives some idea of the appearance of shell-holes. Little wonder that attacks are usually successful. The wonder is, that any of the defenders are left alive. The difficulty is to hold the position when captured, for the enemy can and does turn the tables. The scene we looked round upon might be fittingly described by the Biblical words "abomination of desolation." Down in the woods we had come through, the trees were lovely with spring, and early wild flowers peeped prettily from between the rocks. Here it was still winter --- a monstrous winter where the winds were gunpowder and the rain bullets. Trees were stripped of their smaller branches, of their bark, there was scarcely a leaf. And before us lay the dead. One of the horrible features in this war, in which there is no armistice and the Red Cross is fired upon as a matter of course, is that it is often impossible to bury the dead till long after they are fallen. Only when a disputed piece of ground has at last been captured and the enemy is driven well back, can burial take place. It is then that companies of men are sent out to pick up and identify. Of all the tasks forced upon men by war, this must be the worst. Enough to say that the bodies, which were laid in rows on the ground, awaiting their turn to rest in the sweetness of the earth, were those of men who fought close on two months before. I pass over the details of this awful spectacle, leaving only two things --- one of a ghastly incongruity, the other very moving. Out of a pocket of a cadavre near to me I saw protruding a common picture post-card, a thing of tinsel, strange possession for one passed into the ages; and between two bodies, a poppy, startlingly vivid, making yet blacker the blackened shapes before us.
Montauville, May 4
THE main street of this little town gives, perhaps, a characteristic glimpse of the life of the soldier on active service, but who is not actually taking his turn in the trenches. He is under the shade of every wall, lounges in every doorway, stands in groups talking and laughing. His hands and face and neck are brown from exposure,. his heavy boots, baggy trousers, and rough coat are stained with mud from bad weather. He laughs easily; is interested in any trifle, but underneath his surface gayety one may see the fatigue, the bored, the cynical indifference caused by a year of war, torn from every human relationship. What can be done to humanize his lot, he does with great skill. He can cook. Every cottage is full of soldiers, and through open doors and windows one sees them eating and drinking, talking, playing cards, and sometimes, though rarely, they sing. In the evening they stand in the street in great numbers, and what with that, the difficulty of making ears accustomed to shrapnel take the sound of a motor horn seriously, and the trains of baggage wagons, ammunition for the guns, carts loaded with hay, etc., it is not too easy to thread one's way along. In our early days here curiosity as to who and what we were added to the difficulty, crowds surrounding us whenever we appeared; but by this time they are used to us, and not more than a dozen at once want to come and talk and shake hands.
Perhaps the most interesting time to see Montauville is when, after a successful attack by the French, the German prisoners are marched through the village. These, of course without weapons, and with hands hanging empty, walk with a dogged step between guards with fixed bayonets, and, as they pass, all crowd near to see them. Almost invariably the prisoners are bareheaded, having lost their caps --- these being greatly valued souvenirs --- on their way down from the trenches. They are housed temporarily, for interrogation, in a schoolhouse in the main street, and when they are lined up in the school-yard there is a large crowd of French soldiers looking at them through the railings. Afterwards they may be seen in villages behind the lines, fixing the roads, or doing similar work, in any old hats or caps charity may have bestowed upon them.
Pont-à-Mousson, July 24, 1915
ON Thursday, the 22d, we had a quiet day. In the evening several of us stepped across to the house where two of our men live to have a little bread and cheese before turning in. They had brought some fresh bread and butter from Toul, where duty had taken one of them, and these being our special luxuries, we were having a good time. Coiquaud was at the bureau and two or three of our men were in or about the caserne. There were nine of us at the house at the fork of the road. Suddenly as we sat round the table there came the shriek of a shell and a tremendous explosion. The windows were blown in, the table thrown over, and all of us for a second were in a heap on the floor. The room was full of smoke and dust. None of us was hurt, happily, except Holt, who had a cut over the right eye, and who is now going about bandaged like one of our blessés. We made a scramble for the cellar, the entrance to which is in a courtyard behind the house. As we were going down the stairs there followed another shell, and quickly on top of that one or two more, all very near and pretty heavy. We stayed in the cellar, perhaps ten minutes, and then, as I was anxious to know how things were at the caserne, I went up and, letting myself out into the street, ran for it, seeing vaguely as I passed fallen masonry and débris. The moon was shining through the dust and smoke which still hung a little thick. When I got to the caserne, the first thing I heard was Coiquaud crying, "Oh, pauvre Mignot!" and I was told that the poor fellow had been standing, as was his wont, in the street, smoking a pipe before going to bed, and chatting with two women. Lieutenant Kullmann's orderly (I think they call him Grassetié) was not far away. The same shell which blew in our windows killed Mignot and the two women, and severely wounded Grassetié, who, however, was able to walk to the caserne to seek help, though he was bleeding a good deal from several wounds, had one arm broken and his tongue partly severed by a fragment which went through his cheek. He will probably recover. A boy, the son of our blanchisseuse, who was wounded at the same time, will, it is feared, die. As I was told that Mignot still lay in the street, I went out again and saw him being examined by gendarmes on the pavement. He seems to have been killed instantaneously. The contents of his pocket and his ring were taken from the body by Coiquaud and handed to me; they will, of course, be sent to his wife. He leaves two children. Poor Coiquaud, who had shown great courage, became a little hysterical, and I took his arm and led him back to the caserne. When we collected at the bureau, our good luck at our own escape --- if the shell had travelled three yards farther it would have killed us all --- was marred by the death of Mignot, for whom we all had a great affection. He served us well, cheerfully from the beginning, honestly and indefatigably. He was a good fellow, possessing the fine qualities of the French workman to a very high degree. You would have been very moved if you could have been present at poor Mignot's funeral. We did what we could for him to show our respect, and I concluded I was only carrying out what would be the wishes of the Field Service by authorizing the expense of a better coffin and cross than he was entitled to by his grade in the army. At eight in the evening as many men as were off duty went to Pont-à-Mousson to attend the funeral. A short service was read in the chapel of the Nativité. There were four coffins, --- Mignot's, covered with a flag and with many flowers, and those of three civilians, killed on the same evening. It was a simple and impressive ceremony. The dimly lighted chapel, the dark forms of some twenty or thirty people of Pont-à-Mousson, our men together on one side, and the sonorous voice of the priest, made a scene which none of us can forget. The little procession was formed and we followed, bareheaded, the dead through the darkened streets and across the Place Duroc. We crossed the river and mounted the lower slope of the Mousson hill, where, under the trees in the cemetery, we saw as we passed the shattered tombs and broken graves left from the bombardments, which even here have made their terrible marks. In a far corner, well up on the hillside, the coffin of Mignot was laid down, to be interred in the early morning. We walked quietly back and were at last free to rest after so many hours of unbroken strain.
August 1, 1915
DURING the months of May, June, and July the Section, increased in number to twenty cars, broke all records of the Field Service. The work was so organized and men brought such devotion to their duties that it may be said that, of all the wounded carried down from daily and nightly fighting, not one was kept waiting so much as ten minutes for an ambulance to take him to the hospital. Where, before the coming of the American cars, ambulances came up to the poste de secours only when called, and at night came after a delay occasioned by waking a driver sleeping some miles away, who thereupon drove his car to the place where he was needed, the American section established a service on the spot, so that the waiting was done by the driver of the ambulance and not the wounded. The effect of this service was immediate in winning confidence and liking, of which the members of the Section were justly proud. Their swift, light, easy-running cars were a great improvement on the old and clumsy ambulances which had served before them. In the early days, when these old ambulances were working side by side with ours, wounded men being brought from the trenches would ask to be carried by the Americans. That the latter should have come so far to help them, should be so willing to lose sleep and food, that they should be saved from pain, and should take the daily risks of the soldiers without necessity or recompense seemed to touch them greatly. It was not long before the words "Ambulance américaine" would pass a man by any sentry post. The mot, or password, was never demanded. And in their times of leisure, when others were on duty, our men would eat with the soldiers in their popotes and become their friends. Many of them have become known and welcomed in places miles apart and have formed friendships which will last long after the war.
J. HALCOTT GLOVER*
*Of London; Sous-Chef of the Section, who was in the Service throughout 1915; subsequently a Captain in the British Royal Air Force.
ONCE an American ambulance was really pressed into service as a hearse in a very touching funeral. A young lieutenant, the son of a prominent and influential official, had been killed in a gallant action. The family had been granted permission to enter the lines and attend the funeral. The young officer, who but a few days before his death had won his commission, was held in the deepest affection by his company, and they arranged that, as something very special, he should have a hearse. A car from Section Two was offered, and went to the church in the hamlet back of the trenches. The soldiers literally covered the ambulance with flowers and branches, and then stood waiting with the great wreaths they had brought in their hands. The little group emerged from the partly wrecked church, and the flag-covered coffin was slid into the car. The cortège, headed by a white-robed priest and two censer boys, wound slowly down the tortuous path that the troops follow on their way to the trenches.
The mother was supported by the father, a venerable soldier of 1870, who limped haltingly on his wooden leg. Back of the two came the lieutenant's sister, a beautiful girl just entering her twenties. The captain of the company was at her side, then followed other officers, and the silent, trench-worn soldiers behind. The funeral halted on the hillside near a grave dug beneath the branches of a budding apple tree. The coffin was pulled from the ambulance and lowered into the grave. And the mother knelt at its side, sobbing. The old father, who struggled to suppress his emotion, began a little oration. His voice trembled, and when at intervals he tried to say, "Vive la France!" it broke and great tears ran down his face. The soldiers, too, were crying, and the Americans' eyes were damp. Behind, a battery of "75's" was firing --- for on no account must the grim details of the war be halted --- and at every deafening shot and swish of the shell tearing overhead the girl shivered, huddled close to the captain, and looked in a frightened way at the soldiers around her. In her small, thin shoes and black wavy dress she seemed strangely out of place in those military surroundings.
J. R. McCONNELL
I SPENT the winter in Haute Alsace --- around a certain old nubbin --- "a protuberance of terra firma," à la Dr. Johnson --- called Hartmannsweilerkopf. I wish to God I were still there. When I was there I usually wished I were anywhere else in the world. The bottom of a sewer to the armpits and over in liquid manure would have seemed a wholesome and savory situation --- provided the sewer were profound enough and the manure resistant enough to defy obus, and all their kind.
Lieut. Duboin - Mr. Andrew - Mr. Bacon - Dr. Gros - Mr. Hill
To see the old nubbin itself --- spur of the Vosges, concealed between the parallel spurs --- one must grind up the old mule paths --- since broadened into fair wood roads --- quite close. Leave the main arteries, go out toward a battery or observation poste, crawl into an old shell-hole, and where the trees have snapped like straws to the obus, take a good look through. Below you are still trees, but as the ground rises en face, they dwindle and disappear, as disappears all vegetation in great altitudes, or diminishes toward the north --- quietly, quietly toward the ice-fields. Here, however, no great altitude, nor any ice-fields. First come the maimed trees, then the skeletons of those dead with their boots on, then a bare stump or two --- a few ankle bones --- then nothing. Before the war all was forest --- and a damned thick one at that. Then, all this timber, grown to its prime, lulled into a false security, sun-basking en beau temps, buffeting and jostling their neighbors in the wind --- crash one day out of a clear sky! . . . The nubbin, the old ridge, the spur, the razor-back, whatever you call it, loses its pelt; after its pelt, its hide; after that, its whole scorched anatomy is drubbed, hammered, ploughed, furrowed, ripped, scoured, torn, shattered --- consult dictionary of synonyms --- and beplastered with every calibre of obus that whines. For they whine, the bastards, they whine to tell you of their coming, and give the flesh a moment to goose itself in, and damned pagans like some of us to find a religion. No Moslem ever curved his vertebrae with a quicker parabola at the sight of Mecca --- or the antics of the sun. No armadillo or ant-eater ever entrenched his proboscis in the ground with the despatch of our hero at the whine of an obus, to all intents and purposes about to land between the eyes. Mud, manure, . . . down into it, nose first, and make thy world therein, while she whines and whines overhead! Sometimes the whining becomes a drone, feebler and feebler --- perhaps she is n't going to make the grade. You help her on her way with .every muscle in your prostrate form. Once I dove into an abri, side of the road, and stuck at the entrance --- a damned narrow passage, not for maternity girdles --leaving two friends outside, alternately pushing and pulling in vain. I was known as the human bouchon (stopper) thereafter ---another man, the human "magnet," attracting always tons of metal. . . . Another man is called the human "earthworm," always to be found in a cellar or gutter. . . . I have hit cellars too, consoling good nuns --- sisters of charity of German stock, that is Alsatians --- who gave me underclothes of the dead, gratefully received, for my sympathetic attitude. One was killed one day of bombardment in the valley. I wear still a good khaki jersey she gave me. I've forgotten her name --- probably Ursula.
I started out to give you a description of our mountain. I left you peering through the gap in the trees --- n'est-ce pas? --- Eh bien ---before you, the old scalped nubbin --- the most awful monument of war I have seen. It's inhabited, this mass of terra infirma---muy, muy inferma --- as the Spaniard would say (this being Cervantes' tricentenary, have to heave in a bit of old Castilian). There are small ants of men who crawl about amid its boils, ruptures, and gaping sores. Some are French, some Boches. The lines are about a yard apart at the top, for no one side can hold it against the other, though taken and retaken many times. Thus they live together --- only in the fear of killing one's own lies their security. It's a sort of terrific altar of war, against the sky, drenched with a thousand sacrifices, rising grim and naked, and scarred alive --- the valley and her slopes tree-covered. It was always a spectacle that chased the red corpuscles in my veins down into my heels, and brought every white one to the surface. The last time I looked at it, perhaps we were seen --- we were there --- the obus began whining at us from somewhere in Bocheland --- I measured my length . . . as I will measure it again. Somewhere on the Vosgean steep . . . there must be a perfect mould --- the life-mask of one Peirce, conducteur d'ambulance. I have not seen the old nubbin since.
*From a letter to Professor C. T. Copeland, of Harvard. This letter is republished from The Book of Harvard Volunteers. 1916. Harvard University Press.
A FEW more hours and the steady line of ambulances began its journey downward to crawl up again for an other load, always waiting. We deposited our wounded at the first hospital in the valley ---there the British ambulance section took them and moved them on toward the interior. During that first night and day the wounded men could not filter through the hospital fast enough to let the new ones enter. Always there were three or four Fords lined up before the door, filled with men, perhaps dying, who could not be given even a place of shelter out of the cold. And it was bitterly cold. The mountain roads were frozen; our cars slipped and twisted and skidded from cliff to precipice, avoiding great ammunition wagons, frightened, sliding horses and pack-mules, and hundreds of men, who, in the great rush, were considered able to drag themselves to the hospitals unaided.
I was on my way to the poste nearest to the lines on the afternoon of the 27th when I was ordered to stop. Shells were falling on the road ahead and a tree was down across it. I waited a reasonable time for its removal and then insisted on going on. At that time I had never been under fire. For two kilometres I passed under what seemed like an archway of screaming shells. Branches fell on the car. At one time, half stunned, half merely scared, I fell forward on the wheel, stalled my engine, and had to get out and crank up, with pandemonium around me. Then I found the tree still down. For an hour I lay beside my car in the road --- the safest place, for there was no shelter. We were covered with débris. Then dusk came, and as we must return from that road before dark, I tried to turn. The road was narrow, jammed with deserted carts and cars, and with a bank on one side, a sheer drop on the other. I jerked and stalled and shivered and finally turned, only to discover a new tree down behind. There could be no hesitating or waiting for help --- we simply went through it and over it, in a sickening crash. And then our ordinary adventures began.
JOHN W. CLARK*
*Of Flushing, New York; Yale, '13; joined the Field Service in November, 1915; served with Section Three until August, 1917; subsequently a Sous-Lieutenant in French Artillery.
"WHO the blazes are you? Shut the door!!" It was a cavalier greeting, but a glance around the bare dormitory, gloomy and forbidding in the cold chill of the February evening, afforded ample explanation: a "party" was in progress among the "old birds" who happened to be off duty --- a losing fight against the vicissitudes of French war weather --- and the icy draught from the entry apparently called for more than mere amenities. We bore up, then, Forbes, Dayton, and myself, and cheerfully joined the group around the feebly inadequate wood stove. Were we downhearted after our three-thousand-mile journey? No! a thousand times, no! But as for stomachs, ah! that was a different proposition! --- and it was with joy that we welcomed Delaserre's hail from below, and followed him out across the yard to a supper hastily thrown together by the inimitable Marcel. Apparently life at the front was not so serious after all.
From first to last, our journey had, to now, shown a France much less war-worn than we had been led to expect. Bordeaux had appeared busy and prosperous, a little subdued in tone, perhaps, and there were more uniforms than one usually sees in peace-time ---and more black. But, on the whole, nothing particularly noticeable. Paris was much more changed; there the horizon-blue was everywhere, and ever appeared the mourning and half-mourning of the women. But the shops seemed gay and attractive, loaded with the best and latest of everything, and the streets were full of taxis --- madly scurrying taxis --- and motors of all kinds. And then, suddenly, one realized that the taxis were all driven by elderly men, that most of the other motors were of army gray, and that the red cross appeared on a large percentage of them.
And at night the streets were dark and forbidding ---lights heavily hooded or not burning at all, no strong motor headlights allowed; blinds drawn; theatre marquise lights reduced to a faint blue glimmer; many of the theatres not open at all; restaurants fairly full, but quiet, and closing early. A very different Paris from the gay and brilliant city of peace-times; no longer a cosmopolitan Paris --- there are few foreigners in evidence --- but a sober Paris of the French. A changed Paris --- but not war-worn, in spite of the closed museums and showplaces; in spite of the women conductors of tram and Métro; in spite of the wounded in all stages of convalescence; in spite of the poilu fresh from the front on leave, caked still with the mud of Somme, of Champagne, or of Vosges, helmet on head, stick in hand, just as he caught the permissionnaires' train, hot-foot from the trenches.
A quiet Paris, a serious, kindly, determined Paris, that takes you in for what you are, not for what it can get out of you --- a Paris that has awakened once more to the best of its old traditions, to its duties, to its latent powers --- a Paris that one can love as never before.
And then, after getting the necessary papers from the Field Service office at Neuilly and from the Préfecture, etc., after a helter-skelter of outfitting, we found ourselves at last on the long, heavy express for Toul. On we rolled, through town and field and wood, along river and valley; smoothly and comfortably as in any pre-Armageddon journey, till at last we began to pass through the region of the miracle, the Battle of the Marne. But even here the hand of war lay lightly, the scars of trench and shell were healing, and another summer's growth would soften them to romantic tones and outlines; villages once torn by gun-fire were already rebuilding, and had in no case suffered the withering blast that had since devastated the North; and the simple wooden crosses, dotted thickly along the line of the final victorious stand of France in arms, were quietly eloquent, not so much of suffering and of death as of the great accomplishment: "Here stood, here struck, the soul of France."
And rolling on --- more slowly now, for troop trains, ammunition trains, hospital and supply trains were thick as we approached the front --- we passed out of the older battle area and through the untouched fields and villages around Châlons and Bar-le-Duc --- switched back and away from and around the guns of Saint-Mihiel, and some three hours late, and in inky blackness, rumbled into Toul. Here was no one to meet us --- the telegram announcing our coming arrived later --- and for some time we could find no one who knew anything about la Section Sanitaire Américaine; but going ever higher in our canvass of authorities, we reached the Commissaire --- the military officer in charge of the entire railway situation at Toul, who not only knew, but considerately supplied an orderly to show us the way to our quarters. And splashing through the mile or more of mud, to the tune now of the sullen pounding of the guns to the north, we reached the Caserne Fabrier, the big artillery barracks of Toul.
We had a chance to see them next morning --- half a dozen great four-story dormitories of brick and concrete; simple, but not unattractive in architecture --- long, bare, concrete-floored, plaster-walled rooms, with one washroom for each entry on the lower floor --- the water running only at stated times during the day. Behind, and across the yard in front, the stable and gun-sheds of the now long-absent batteries, with battery-kitchens and refectories located more or less conveniently to the dormitories; on the far side, beside the gates, the pump-house and tank, and the ever-popular canteen; and in front, the great yard dotted with horse-chestnut trees --- very gorgeous later on when in full bloom, and filled from end to end with serried ranks of army wagons, converted Paris busses, great camions or auto trucks, and the long line of our own little ambulances, trig and rakish amid their bigger and clumsier fellows.
Later, in the long evenings, we learned of the doings of the Section since its formation on the 20th of November preceding: of the famous dinner prior to its departure from Paris; of its leisurely progress through the winter-swept country, always expecting orders to the front --- always disappointed; of the long stay at Vaucouleurs doing evacuation work among the hospitals of the adjoining towns, and incidentally learning much about the swimming powers of their cars ---their "Fording abilities" --- over the deeply flooded roads along the Meuse; of the short stay at Lay Saint-Rémy, where some slept in leaky, draught-swept barns, while others elected to live in half-sunk canal-boats, frozen in the ice close by; and of their ultimate and recent arrival at Toul and the beginning of front-line work.
And, of course, being new arrivals, we were regaled with harrowing and hair-raising tales of adventure and hair-breadth escapes --- what is the use of being an old hand --- or, as our "elders" in the Section called it, an "old bird" --- otherwise?
The first few days we were sent out as orderlies to learn the ropes, and then the Chef de Section assigned us our cars and our work began.
RICHARD C. WARE
FIVE-THIRTY in the dormitory, of an April morning, and ho! for a fine young dawn: the sky, blue behind the occasional flying clouds, shows through the window at my left; the wind, fresh and cold after its all-night sweep across slumbering France, whistles softly through the opened transoms and rustles the cardboard substitutes for broken panes below.
Five-thirty and another day: Rantoul, on the bed next mine, opens his eyes and gazes reflectively at the ceiling; but failing to find there the inspiration sought, he reaches for a cigarette; a leisurely match-stroke, a contented puffing, and the blue clouds drift over me. Why is cigarette smoke---even that of good cigarettes---so particularly nasty to the other fellow when administered early in the morning to one not fully awake? I know not; but, hugely disgusted, I turn over and address myself to yet more slumber.
Six-thirty. Silent as a wraith, Toms slips from his bed and begins his toilet --- still no sound save for the faint, musical note of the busy razor.
Silently still, Rantoul finishes his -nth cigarette and rises portentously to a new day's duty.
Six forty-five. And as Toms turns on the Pathéphone, the quick-step strains of the "Sambre et Meuse" march, favorite of the army, flood the bare-walled room.
"Cut it out!" A sleepy moan from Allen at the other end. "As a matter of fact," observes Perry philosophically, as he dutifully crawls from his coverings --- "as a matter of fact, there is a lack of the true artistic effect. We should waken to soft and dulcet strains ---'Träumerei,' for instance."
"Why waken at all, at such an ungodly hour?" comes in Mac's heavy drawl; "breakfast is n't till seven-thirty. "
"Or," suggests Dayton, "why not hitch an alarm movement to Davis?"
"Oh, I'm so sorry" ---mildly from Davis --- "was I snoring again?"
This is too much for Schoonmaker. "Perish and die! Were you? Perish and die! --- Take a look around your bed at the things we heaved at you! "
"Don't ask me," murmurs Dayton apologetically. "The last thing I remember was Forbes saying, 'Who'll have a noggin of rum?' "
"See here, feller!" --- an explosive from Rockwell. "Don't ask us to believe that that was the last thing! --- Who got the noggin?"
McCall takes up the tale. "Well, you see, it's like this," he begins in his leisurely murmur.
"Well, I don't know about that," interrupts Cogswell argumentatively --- "you were asleep yourself, so I don't see ---" His shirt, just now passing over his head drowns the rest of the remark.
Rantoul comes to the rescue. "Well, that passed off pleasantly!" --- and he slips the "Chant du Départ" into the machine.
"She sure functions beautifully," sighs Doty regretfully. "It's enough to raise the dead" --- and he disentangles himself from a variegated mass of blankets.
"Not enough to raise this corpse," returns Adamson. "Get up, Stanton!"
"Mais oui! Mais oui! Mais oui!"
"Hell!" from White, who is trying to slumber on peaceably between the two.
Rantoul, in front of the quite inadequate mirror, looks at his glistening chin. "Clean as mice!" he murmurs busily as he puts away his shaving-tools.
By now most of the sleepers have been routed out, and the dormitory empties slowly. Prickett suddenly comes to life. "Barge along out of the way!" he calls, making a sudden dive for his bathtub, and a busy splashing proclaims that breakfast-time is indeed come.
So begins our day, with much of cheer and pleasantry, brought to a focus, naturally, at meal-time. Here, in the cement-floored réfectoire, whose plaster walls are adorned with masterpieces by members of batteries quartered here in peace-time --- a picture of the big Toul Butte, Mont Saint-Michel, and a spirited rendering of France urging her batteries to action --- here those not on detached duty meet at meal-time, together with Lieutenant de Turckheim, Delaunoy (the Maréchal des Logis) and Delaserre, the Lieutenant's secretary. And here are circulated the latest news from our front, the most recent canards --- usually sufficiently astounding --- and here are recounted the latest escapes and escapades of our own fellows. But of the last-named there is little, for it is with a serious purpose of service that the ambulanciers have come to France, and we long since agreed that nothing should be tolerated that would in any way interfere with the efficiency of that service. Close shaves and accidents were to be expected in the line of duty, but it would not look well if at some time a wounded soldier could not be brought in because the ambulancier himself had been killed or wounded while strolling where he had no business to be. And so we "played the game" pretty straight, and as a result were trusted and treated as a recognized part of the Army.
From breakfast we went to the cars, cleaning, adjusting, greasing, and replenishing in readiness for work. The squad on call "pulled out" on its day's rounds, the relief squads left for the front postes, and the rest, as their duties allowed, returned to the dormitory to read, write, or chat; or, getting special permits, went shopping in Toul, winding up usually, for chocolate and "goodies," at one of the many pâtisseries of the town. And oh! the luxury of a hot bath after the four days' duty at the front-line postes! And on Sundays there were movies---the latest New York serial thrillers, and Charlie Chaplin, known here as "Charlot," and very popular ---but too crowded for comfort and we did n't haunt them much.
Rather, we preferred, as occasion served, to go for long companionable walks over the Toul hills, along the inviting broad canals, across country, stopping for a glass of beer at convenient little inns and canal cafés.
And in the evening we gathered, sometimes in the bureau, more often in the dormitory, reading, writing, playing cards or chess, some around the central lamp, others on their beds, each with his small pigeon, or gasoline lamp, throwing its feeble, uncertain flicker on his work. It was not till well into April that the dormitory became comfortable; all brick, cement, and plaster, it did not keep out the cold, and our only source of heat was a small cylindrical wood stove in one end of the long room. And a limited supply of wood, intensely green and almost impossible. to light, did not go far to make the quarters pleasant.
But we made up in vivacity, perhaps, what we lacked in the good things of civilization; long chats and arguments, stories, songs --- Stanton had a guitar, Toms a flute, and I a mandolin, not to mention the ever-present Pathéphone --- helped to make the time pass pleasantly; and finally there came that ever-to-be-remembered night, the six-months "anniversary" of the formation of the Section, when "an unexpected guest --- a lady " was announced to the festal and startled gathering. And to the unsuspecting throng entered a radiant being, in dark, neatly fitting jacket, and fine-checked skirt --dainty and complete from the chic little toque and creamy veil to the glistening, well-shaped little shoes --- "Jiggleoh" --- Lieutenant Harry Adamson, of the Massachusetts Militia, in the best bib and tucker of Madame Roux, our good bath-lady. There was nearly a scandal the next morning, when, dressing him again for his photograph, we took him into the canteen. A Captain, gorgeous in blue and stripes, started over to investigate, but fortunately --- or unfortunately --- "smelt a rat" in time, and directed his course other whither.
Such was our life in Toul --- much of it pretty real and serious, much of it routine --- with interludes of pleasant doings, and always with good comradeship on all sides. Now there was a trainload of Verdun blessés to be evacuated, and for several hours the entire Section would work at full pressure; then would come a period of comparative inactivity, brightened in one case by the memorable visit of Sarah Bernhardt to Toul, where she gave to the Army those truly wonderful renderings, "The Cathedral" and "A Prayer for Our Enemies" --- a literal and tremendous giving of herself to France. We shall always feel privileged to have heard her there.
But always the great battle raged before Verdun, and when the wind was right we could hear the diabolical, incessant rumbling and muttering of the bombardment -like the noise of a great, distant mill, grinding ---grinding --- grinding ---
And so it was with a feeling of relief that we at last heard that we were to go en repos; to be sure, we regretted in some measure the pleasant life of Toul, but had not Dame Rumor whispered that, after a short respite, we were to play our part in the world's greatest battle --- what was probably to be the turning-point of the war --- Verdun?
RICHARD C. WARE
ON the night of September 23, 1916, I took Edward E. Kelley, of Philadelphia, to show him the road to the village of Marre. We had dinner at about six o'clock, and it was just getting dusk as we left the village of Ippécourt, which was then our base. Kelley asked me what he should put on, and I told him his gas-mask and steel helmet. In his hand he had a bottle of jam which we were to share with the brancardiers when we arrived in the village of Marre. Arriving at Fromeréville, we talked with the officers there until it was dark enough for us to go to the front. Coming out, I decided to go slowly so as to give Kelley a good idea of the road. As we neared the village of Marre, two shells landed about 150 or 200 yards away from us, and I turned to Kelley and said, "As these are the first shells you have seen, they sound pretty good, don't they?" and he answered, "Yes, if they don't come too close." Not more than twenty minutes later, when we were in the village, a shell landed directly in front of the car --- not more than three feet away. My first thought, was, as I regained consciousness, to ask myself if Kelley was alive. I put my arm around him and tried to speak, but was unable to make any sound. Perceiving that Kelley was still unconscious, and knowing that if I should make any noise the Germans would play the machine gun on us, I stepped over Kelley, got out of my car --- both my eyes were closed --- and started to crawl.
In Marre the old territorials had built barriers, so that no one could go through the village quickly. Some of these barriers were composed of large granite blocks, about six feet high and three feet wide, and others of barbed-wire entanglements, and farming implements such as the tedder. In crawling I hit the first barrier with my head and had to lie still for two or three minutes in order to regain strength with which to go on. Knowing the exact placement of these barriers I tried to avoid the second one, after hitting the first one. But, through some miscalculation, I crawled too far away, and in another fifty yards I came into the barbed-wire entanglement. As my strength was rapidly failing, I saw I must get help, and so thought it best to call, if I could, which I finally did. But as a result, a minute or two later the Germans played the machine gun on me. Hearing that, I lay down on the ground, hoping that some one would come to my aid, which, in fact, happened. My cries had been heard, and in a few minutes two Frenchmen came out and took me into the poste de secours, where my wounds were dressed. I was then put into an ambulance, taken back to the base hospital, and the next morning operated upon. On inquiry, I was told that Kelley was still alive and I did not know of his death until I arrived at the American military hospital at Neuilly, where I was much surprised and deeply affected to learn that he had died the night of the accident.
ROSWELL S. SANDERS*
*Of Newburyport, Massachusetts; joined the Field Service in January, 1916; was severely wounded while serving with Section Four in September, 1916. He received the Médaille Militaire, was invalided home, and rejoined the Service in 1917; subsequently he entered the British Royal Air Force.
WE had gone on our first permission --- Forbes, Dayton, and myself --- when the Section finally left Toul for its few days' repos. A very wise provision, that of the French army which allows the soldiers six days at home (according to conditions of troop supply and the exigencies of combat), after not less than three months at the front. True, it is not universally possible, and it is not by any means every man who profits; and occasionally, as in the early days of the great attack on Verdun, all leave is suppressed --- by division, by corps, or by entire army as the case may be; but, by and large, permissions are the rule and not the exception.
We were allowed eight days, and, as may be guessed, struck Paris in the mood to enjoy to the full the good things afforded by even its chastened war life. No one who has not campaigned can truly appreciate the luxury of a real bathroom, of gleaming table-linen and glistening glass and silver, of juicy steak, delicate liqueur, and good tobacco! Paris, quiet and darkened, was a very whirlwind of gayety after the long days and nights at the front, and it was before that aspect had gone that we separated, Forbes and Dayton for the warmer climate of Nice, while I headed for Normandy and Mont Saint-Michel.
France in spring was very lovely, but nothing to compare with the more mature, richer beauty of France in autumn, as I saw it on my second leave in September when I visited Brittany. On each occasion the train rolled easily and smoothly --- despite the heavy drain on railway labor and the increasingly thick war-supplies traffic --- through smiling fields and shady woodlands, along waterways teeming with life --- war life --- dodged around hills and ducked into tunnels --- and sped through village and town with the calm disregard of the usual peace-time express.
But there was a difference, noticeable in May, striking in September, and ever more marked as we neared the coast; closer to Paris, the passage of a train was but an incident --- in the far places, an event --- and ever there was a wide-eyed gathering to watch the train pull in. Would husband, son, or brother come, after all? Or --- never --- ?
It is with a tightening about the throat that we watch the glad group around the blue-clad figures --and those others, standing off by themselves, silent, drooping a little, perhaps, growing smaller and dimmer as the train pulls us away.
And wherever we went, in city and town and village, women and boys and old men were carrying on the affairs of the community --- simply, uncomplainingly, adequately. This was particularly marked in the sardine-fishing fleet of Concarneau with which I spent one full and happy day --- boys and old men --- old, old men, some of them (to quote from my diary) "grizzled and seasoned and weather-beaten, honest and generous and hearty; well on the shady side, but no signs of discouragement at growing weakness or the fact that they were doing work which ordinarily would be done by younger and stronger men, while they enjoyed a fully-earned easing-off ! --- Having bid my convives 'Au 'voir,' I could n't help feeling the fresher and better for having known them."
It has been a great privilege to work and live with the real Frenchman ---not him of the Parisian boulevards, but the quiet, steady-going fellow who is the backbone of the nation --- honest and sympathetic, generous and self-sacrificing.
We rejoined the Section at Roville-devant-Bayon, whither it had come, some days earlier, direct from Toul. The journey had apparently been made without incident, save the passing of a long convoy of T.P. (Transport Personnel) camions, the said passage, under a misapprehension, developing into a wild race, with crowds of blue-clad, dust-covered poilus cheering from every rocking, thundering car as the little Fords crept up and past.
Roville, apparently, was a charming place --- when it did n't rain; but of course it did, most of the time. Still, there were a couple of days of pleasant walks, swims in the "sparkling Moselle," and pretty runs for the casual sick-cases of the Division. Quarters were in a shed attached to a little inn, the cars parked alongside. Here they were overhauled and painted in readiness for the hard work we knew was to come; and on June 4 we started on the first leg of the journey which we all hoped would bring us to the "big doings," for the struggle around Verdun was even more intense than ever.
It was a clear, cool day, a joy to be alive, and every minute of that all-day pilgrimage was golden. Through fields of green, jewelled with the white stars of daisies and the scarlet of poppies, through cosy little towns, beaming warmly in the sun --- white wall and red-tile roof --- under woods that arched tenderly over us, up hill and down, we spun merrily, halting finally for lunch on the tree-lined bank of the canal outside Bar-le-Duc. And then on again, but soberly and sedately now, for we were once more in the area of heavy troop and ravitaillement traffic, arriving finally at our billet, Charmontois-le-Roi. And here, alas, our good fortune deserted us, and for five days we lived in a world of rain and mud --- sleeping in our cars, but the rest of the time much bedraggled. But on the 10th we bade the town, pleasant enough under ordinary circumstances, a glad farewell, and rolled to Triaucourt, where we spent one more night in the cars, drawn up along the street.
The 11th was typical of the days for weeks to come --- blowing a gale from the southwest --- the torn clouds racing overhead like lost souls; now a driving rain, then a sudden cessation, followed by an equally sudden and violent storm of hail ---then bright blue sky, in ten minutes hardly a cloud in sight --- and after another ten not a patch of blue sky left. Through such a day we chugged a slow and laborious passage, past battalions, regiments, supply trains, guns, what-not --- mile upon mile the roads were literally covered with troops of all branches, orderly and earnest; far up ahead, and at last we knew our work. At Ippécourt, so long to be our headquarters, we turned into a narrow little street, and parking our cars against the house fronts, gathered eagerly to hear our instructions.
RICHARD C. WARE
M'sieur! M'sieur! Grave blessé pour Toul!"
My eyes open with a snap. "Oui; oui; je comprends; grave blessé pour Toul. Je pars tout de suite!" I pull myself out of the warm blankets and put on boots and puttees.
"Quelle heure est-il?" "Deux heures douze, M'sieur. "Merci." Putting on my muffler, coats, and casque, I step from the dugout into the chilly night air.
I can't see my hand before my face. No moon, no stars, no light, except over there toward the north, where the clouds reflect the flashes of the crashing cannon. The perpetual battle still rages.
It's quiet here, just at present. Now step out until a foot touches the edge of the ditch, then follow that to the left until you strike the shelter for the cars. Could n't be darker, and twelve kilometres to drive without lights. . . . Here it is. . . . Glad I turned the engine over and left those blankets covering the hood before I turned in. She is warm and cranks easily. . . . She's starting. Swing to the right. Straighten out. Stop! that's the door of the poste de secours. Get out and see that your blessé is put carefully into the ambulance. . . .
He is under ether and restless. That means the brancardier must ride inside, too. Sorry! He is a fine fellow, and I would gladly have him on the front seat. Four eyes are better than two on a night like this. Move that stretcher a bit, put more blankets over him. . . . Close the door of the ambulance and drop in the pin. . . . Put your whistle in your mouth, both hands on the wheel, middle fingers dropped on gas and spark levers, left foot on the clutch, right foot touching the brake. Now, low speed, and give her the gas! A jounce --- that means we have crossed the railroad track and must turn to the left. I can see a little road ahead. . . . A Boche searchlight. . . . Ah! I thought so, their mitrailleuses. . . . They are firing too high.
Darker than ever. That means we are over the brow of the hill, and no harm done so far. They will have a hard time to find us with shells now if they try. Hope they will waste a few thousands of dollars. . . .
Those trees planted along the edge of the road, just silhouetted against the sky-line, are a great help. Bless the person who thought to plant them. There's the first shell now! . . . It looks as if it hit the road, about two hundred yards ahead. Slow down and see where the next one drops . . . that one hit to the left. . . . Better still! That other is farther to the left. They are getting wild, as usual. . . .
Sentry! Give him the password? "Grave blessé pour Toul! Où est la route? A droite." "Merci bien, bonsoir! . . . "
Rather disconcerting, having gone down that hill without knowing it. Could n't make out if that gray streak was the road. . . . This town is even darker than the open country and what I can see of it does n't look natural. Yet we have gone up and down two hills, which is correct. The ruined church tower; I'm surely on the right road. . . . Am I on the road or in a field?
What's that dark thing ahead? It's stationary. Pass it on the left. . . . A broken-down wagon with furniture on it. Two children between the shafts. Poor kids! The family must be moving back from some place under bombardment to a safer home. The father has ridden off on the horse for assistance.
Cart ahead trailing a horse. Why did the idiot hitch him to the right side of the cart? Get away over to the left. Damn! He has swung round and we have bumped him. . . . Now he is back again . . . hope he has learned not to run into a "Flivver."
Brakes! . . . What's that dark mass coming at us? Whistle! . . . "A droite! A droite! You damn fool, why don't you drive on your own side of the road?" jolly little he understands of that. . . .
That artificial hedge, put up to screen the ravitaillement from the Boche, shows the curve of the road, and when we get to the end of it, I can turn on my lights. , . . What's that noise? . . . Slow down. . . . Team coming out, going too fast . . . . The devil! It's a runaway, and I can't see any driver. . . . Hope it hits the soixante-quinze. That will stop the horses and hurt no one. That must be the driver running by. He ought to "get it," if it is his fault . . . but it probably is n't . . . anything might happen to anybody on this road to-night.
Thank God! the end of the screen. . . . On with the lights! Give her the gas! Vite! Vite! Twenty kilometres more to go. Keep your eye glued to that road.
I'm beginning to feel cold. . . . How I hate the Prussians. Keep to the right of that log. . . . I'm beginning to feel warm again.
Good! those, hills towering over us on the right mean we have not much farther to go . . . . Slow down, there is a sharp turn to the right soon . . . . Good! there it is, and the lights of Toul. You will soon be at the hospital. Listen to the town clock --- one, two, three --- forty-eight minutes from the front. . . .
Sound your Klaxon for the hospital gate-keeper. . . . " Bonsoir, M'sieur! Grave blessé de la Carrière." " Premier escalier à droite." "Merci." . . .
Open the back of the ambulance! "Ça va ? " Bon, he is still under ether . . . . .. Bonsoir, M'sieur le Major, un grand blessé couché de la Carrière de Fleury." And the hospital swallows up your charge.
C. CLAFLIN DAVIS*
* Of Boston, Massachusetts; Harvard, '01; served in Section Four of the Field Service from February to November, 1916.
I CAN shut my eyes now and see that long, long Road --- Bar-le-Duc to Verdun, Verdun to Bar-le-Duc. Fifty miles of it and more. Rising and falling, climbing and crawling, sweeping up superbly, magnificently swinging down. Up and down over moorlands --- bleak, barren, treeless, dreary, desolate, wind-swept, storm-swept. Sometimes there was a little sun --- like a sick child's face at a window --- in a wide tremendous reach of bluish sky. Oftener the sky was thick-gray straddling over a prison-yard (it seemed to us a prison-yard, a prison-yard in a riot). Rain, ill-natured rain, ready to turn at any moment into a slant of vicious sleet. Mud, endless sleek, slimy rivers of it oozing up on one to the very hair, like a pestilent disease. Or, in a sluttish vagary, after a day of wind, turning to sheets of gritty, yellowish dust that bit boisterously into the quick of one's flesh.
That was the Road. But it was more than that, much more. You see this was the Road they'd chosen to save Verdun, maybe to save France, maybe the world --- or the part of the world which loves gallantry of heart, fair play, honor, and decency. So it was a tremendously important Road. You felt that, if you but ventured on it ever so ignorantly. It had a high head, an arrogant, insolent manner, a flinty, unbreakable will. Little by little we recognized it for our Master. Even the strongest of us gave in. There was fear of it in us, though we did n't often admit it. Fear and hatred.
It had a voice --- a horrible, raucous, grinding, grating voice --- and once the sound of it got in your ears --- and your soul --- you never were rid of it again. It became an obsession. It dogged your very dreams. You'd start up at night from sleep all in a tremble, the echoes of it in your head. "Come on, come on! Give me more --- more --- More! More men.--- more guns! No pity ---no mercy! I'm saving Verdun! Come on, damn you, come on! It's the living I want! Devil take your dying! Come on!"
Well, they came on. Bon Dieu de France, how they came on! This was the Great Road to Verdun; and over it in those first days of battle there passed on that highway to hell more than thirty thousand motor-trucks daily. No wagons --- no horses --- no marching troops; nothing save that roaring river of motors. They looked like prairie schooners, those camions --- horseless. Coveys and coveys of them, their canvas tops drawn round and white. Inside, the soldiers. You'd see them as the trucks rolled relentlessly by. Some slept. Some quarrelled. Some sang. Some were very silent. Their eyes were sometimes stern and terrible, sometimes childlike and bewildered. All on their way to Verdun. Reckless and ribald and splendid and sad and fearful and gallant and glorious. Many sorts, many creeds, many races. They looked so fit, so friendly, so young, the most of them. It seemed a pity that --- Oh, it was a pity! Only one dared not think of it. They were there to keep the Germans from breaking through --- Ils ne passeront pas! --- from breaking through into France. Into the world. Into all one loves best.
We were ambulance drivers, a handful of Americans. There was need of many such in those first days. We looked on appalled, bewildered, at the back door of battle. The Road had, I believe, a deep contempt for us. It was the living the Road wanted --- the wounded could make what shift they might. He did n't want to bother with them. But he had to bear it. Sluggish streams of ambulances --- all day, all night. And the live soldiers, going up to the boucherie, as they called it, would put their heads out of the back of their camions and shout gaily --- "You won't get us to-day, L'américain!" "No, but we'll get you to-morrow!" we'd yell back. It was a ghastly joke. But anything for a laugh in those days. You were right at the breaking point.
I remember the day I went up there first ---to join my section of drivers. They had gone on ahead. I followed, coming from Paris. It was twelve at night when I crawled from the train at Bar-le-Duc (it does n't connote jam and cheese any more, that name). The night was very cold. It was snowing. The station swarmed with war-worn soldiers --- ants in an anthill. And refugiés, old women, old men, children. Vague-eyed, huddled, hopeless. They coagulated into stiff groups. Sat or knelt or lay down in corners of the bleak station. Their possessions were in meal sacks. Sometimes a child had a wretched little dog under his arm --- sometimes a cat. All of them were mute and meek --- even the animals. It was horrible to see them. You've no notion how horrible.
I found a little space on the floor of the station and slept there, under a table, till dawn. Then I went to a huge roaring parc for all the automobiles in that sector. I told an officer there my plight. He put me in a comer with the other permissionnaires, Frenchmen. "Stay there," he said, "till I tell you to go." I stayed.
At three o'clock I was told to climb into a motor-bus, to climb in by a window. The door in the rear was blocked by tins of gasoline and bags of food. There were six of us inside, territorials ---stretcher-bearers and drivers. On the way to Verdun to rejoin sanitary units. The old machine got under way. It rocked and pitched and heaved and grunted. The Road seized us --- seized us with a grin. We plunged along in the stream. Darkness fell. It snowed too. There was no light inside. One saw headlights in groups, far off ; then in long straight lines near by --- in convoys. There was a sense of something ghastly in the air. Confusion. Destruction. Desperation. At last, sometime, God knows when, we turned into a side road.
Those side roads! It was like finding yourself in Dante --- in the Inferno! Pitch-darkness ---marching, swearing, blaspheming regiments of men --- trails of great and little guns --- endless convoys of munitions, and food, and medical supplies. All twisted and interlocked, struggling, stamping, sweating in a bedlam of hell-night.
Our old omnibus careened into the mess. Sometimes we wabbled forward a bit. Oftener we stuck. We'd no food. It was cold and late. Suddenly there was a flash and scream of shrapnel out there in the dark. The Germans had the range of our road. They were firing from Les Éparges. My Frenchmen pulled up their coat-collars, shrunk into their seats. "Ça y est," they said, "la boucherie." It looked it. I thought of our cargo of gasoline. "Great Hell!" I reflected. No escape. Door blocked. The shrapnel sang a vile tune --- nearer and nearer. Then at last three coups! Right over our heads. We're done for! No, by the Lord of Battle, we're not! Two drivers, two horses, the wagon behind us blown to ribbons. And our old bus plunges along in the reek of it untouched.
At midnight I found my pals. In a barn. Half-dead with fatigue and hunger. As I lay down to sleep on a wisp of wet straw I heard those accursed shells scream joyfully over the barn-roof. All night long they kept it up.
That was my first meeting with the Great Road. I hated it then. I hated it later. We all did. Hated it and loved it. Ours was not the glorious share --- just the hauling of the wounded. Bringing them out of the postes de secours where they lay, their faces all blood and sweat and their chests still heaving in the ebb of their supreme exertions. Bringing them out and on and on --- till sometime, somewhere, they could lie down and rest and live again --- or die.
And when I left the Great Road, when I saluted it --- the Savior of France --- and said adieu, I thought I could go in peace --- quit of it. I could not. It is running still in my head. It has worn a way into my heart. Nights I lie awake and stare into the dark and see the Great Road --- see the horror and the splendor ---the Great Life and the Great Death. See the long caravans of the wounded---mud-stained, blood-stained, faded-blue uniforms; wistful, agonized faces, dumb, twisted lips. I see and wonder again, as I saw and wondered then. There's a God waiting out there. Waiting for you and me to come and find Him. We can't find Him here. Let's go back to the Great Road. Find Life. And Death. And God!
Of Naples, New York; Amherst; joined the Field Service in September, 1915; served with Section Two until June, 1916; subsequently a First Lieutenant in, U.S. Aviation.
LOOKING at any of the maps of the Verdun battle-front you will observe a dot near the left bank of the Meuse directly south of the city. It is the village of Dugny, on a direct line perhaps five kilometres from Verdun. The village consists of one long, rambling street, in dry weather fetlock-deep in dust, which the rain converts to a clinging, pasty mud. At the farther end of the street, where it bends northward toward Belleray, stands a square-towered stone church. The village lies in a hollow, a hill, formerly crowned with a fort, rising steeply between it and Verdun. To the south the country spreads out flat for some kilometres ---the valley of the Meuse--- to a range of hills. It was to these hills the Germans expected to force the French retirement once the city was taken. Between Dugny and the hill directly to the north ran a narrow-gauge railroad, and daily during our occupancy the enemy searched this road with "130's." These bombardments usually took place around two in the afternoon, and at that hour it was considered unsalubrious to adventure up the Verdun road which skirted the hill at this point. The hill, itself, was cratered with enormous holes where "380's" had landed. Some idea of the tremendous force of modern high-explosive shells could be had by viewing these holes, each capacious enough to hold half a dozen of our cars, and with blocks of clay as large as single cars tossed about like so many pebbles.
Our principal poste was Cabaret. It is a festive name, and certainly there was always under way a "continuous performance." Cabaret was nothing more than a large stone barn. It was situated some two kilometres up the Étain road beyond Verdun, and hence on the east side of the Meuse. Here the wounded were brought in on stretchers from the shell-craters which formed the line. Their dressings were adjusted, and from here we carried them to the dressing-station in the stone church at Dugny.
All around the building were stationed batteries. In the field back of it they stood almost wheel to wheel.
To the right and to the left and across from it they were placed. All along the Étain road they ranged. Within a few kilometres of the front at the time there were said to be concentrated more than five thousand pieces of artillery. These guns were continuously in action. They were continuously searched for by the enemy's guns. The resulting cataclysm is beyond description. Once in northern Ontario I encountered an old Scotchman whom I quizzed regarding some rapids I contemplated shooting. "Mon," he replied, "they're pr-rodugious, extraordinaire." Such was the gun-fire of Verdun "pr-rodugious extraordinaire."
Besides the poste at Cabaret, we nightly despatched one car to Fort de Tavannes and one car to the Moulainville-Étain cross-roads, the latter a particularly ghastly place strongly recalling Bairnsfather's cartoon, "Dirty work at the cross-roads." Our directions for finding the place were "to go to the fifth smell beyond Verdun"---directions inspired by the group of rotting horse carcasses which were scattered along the way. These comprised our regular runs. In addition we were subject to special calls to Fort Fillat, to Belleray, and to Fort Belrupt. At first our schedules called for one car every ninety minutes to leave Dugny for Cabaret. This was found to be insufficient, and soon the intervals were shortened to sixty, then to forty-five, and finally to thirty minutes. At times the wounded came in so fast that all pretence of a schedule was abandoned, a car returning at once to the poste after having evacuated to Dugny. To facilitate matters the Squad was divided into two sections of ten cars each and each of these sections was again divided. It was hoped by the arrangement that a man would be able to get one full night's rest out of three, and sufficient day repos to keep him fit.
We had, as I have said, reached Dugny late in the afternoon of the 28th. There was not much time wasted in turning over the sector to us, for at seven o'clock the following morning we went into action. The order of rollings posted in the bureau showed I was scheduled to leave for Cabaret at ten-thirty. There were two routes leading to the poste, one by the way of the village of Belleray, thence over a hill, skirting the city, through a wood and out upon the Lain road. This route circumnavigated the city. The alternative route led directly north from Dugny, passing into Verdun by the Neuf Porte, thence on through the city following the river and across a bridge near the Porte Chaussée, through which egress was had to the Faubourg Pavé around "dead man's corner" to the Étain road. The first of the two routes was considered the quieter. I had misgivings that this was but a comparative term, but being by nature of a reposeful disposition I determined that my first run, at least, should be by the Belleray route.
The entrance to Belleray village is had over a narrow wooden bridge spanning marshy ground. The ground on both sides was pocked with shell-holes, some not six feet from the bridge and none farther than fifty yards. Considering that the guns which fired these shells were at least six kilometres away on the other side of a range of hills, this might be considered reasonably accurate shooting. Just beyond the bridge the road turns sharply to the left, making a steep ascent and coming out to the east of the city, passing by several barracks or casernes. It was at this point that the whole fury of the bombardment broke on one. Even when we had learned to expect it and steeled our nerves accordingly, it came as a shock --- a roaring wave of noise from the inferno below. Down past the casernes the road dipped to the left and entered the woods. The trees were shattered and stripped of limbs as though by countless bolts of lightning, and the ground beneath was ploughed by shell-fire and sown with shrapnel. Emerging from the woods onto the Étain road, the course for some distance was bordered with houses, the outskirts of Verdun. There was not a house but showed the effect of bombardment, and some had been reduced to heaps of debris. From here on the buildings became less frequent, and, on both sides of the road, to the cast in the open field, on the west, under the protection of a small rise of ground, the batteries stood and belched forth their hate. The ground shook with the reverberation, and overhead the air whined and screeched. Down this corridor of hell the road made its way to Cabaret. When I reached Cabaret on that first trip, the sweat was standing out on my face as though I had been through a great agony and my hands were aching with the grip on the wheel. "If this be the quieter route," I thought, "what in the name of Mars must the other be?"
It was on the following day I received a call to Fort Fillat, one of the outlying defences of Verdun. My knowledge of its location or of what a fort should look like was of the vaguest.
Fort Fillat was, or rather had been, located on the crest of a hill. The entire region roundabout Verdun had a seared, desolate look, but this hill was, I think, the most despairing spot I have ever seen. The lawn slope had been clothed with trees. Now, none but a few shattered stumps remained. The way up was strewn with wrecked camions, tumbrils, shell-cases, and scattered equipment, and the air was fetid with the stench of rotting carcasses. Below in the valley the guns thundered and roared, and, directly opposite, Fleury was in the throes of a terrible bombardment. Having passed beyond the Fort without realizing it, I found my way --- I cannot call it a road --- impassable because of shell-craters. I noticed with considerable interest that while some of these craters were old, being half-filled with water, others apparently were of very recent make. I descended from my car in an endeavor to find a way through, and the enemy chose this opportune time to shell the hill. It was then I performed a feat which for years I had essayed in the gymnasium without success --- the feat of falling on the face without extending the arms to break the fall. Whether it was the concussion of the shell which blew me over, or whether I really did accomplish the stunt unaided, I am unable to say. At all events, I found myself flat on the ground, my head swimming from the explosion, and a cloud of dust above me. My first impression ---that this was a particularly unhealthy spot ---here found confirmation. I managed to get my car turned and made my way back to where I had noticed a crumbling wall. A head appeared from beneath the stones and a brancardier crawled out of a subterranean passage. It was Fort Fillat.
It was two-fifteen in the morning when my next call for Cabaret came. There were two cars of us, and I followed the other, for the first time passing through Verdun. It was intensely dark, too dark to see anything save when the gun-flashes gave a flickering glimpse of a shattered wall. Along the Lain road the firing was furious. So many guns were in action that, at times, there was an almost unbroken line of flame. In the daytime the run was bad enough, but nothing to be compared with this.
It was on my return from the second trip that night that I got my first view of Verdun. The firing had slackened. Day had come, and the sun, rising a golden ball, swept the smoke-masked valley and touched the shattered towns and walls. Though it was a landscape of desolation, of demolished homes and wrecked fortunes, it was not a picture of despair; rather it was a picture of great travail nobly endured, a symbol of France assailed but unbeaten.
It is impossible for me to give any consecutive narrative or account of those days we served in the Vortex. The communiqués show there were attacks and counterattacks; that the French took ground, lost it, and retook it; that gas-wave after gas-wave came over; that "the fighting in the Verdun sector continued heavy." All this meant we worked without thought of schedule, with little sleep, and without regard to time. Now and then we ate, more from habit than because we were hungry; but when we were not rolling we did not rest; we could not, the agitation of unrest so permeated the very air. "How does it go?" we would ask our blessés. "Ah, monsieur, nous nous retirons," one would answer. Would the city fall? But soon we would be reassured, for the next man, his fighting eye gleaming from beneath a bloody bandage, would affirm: "Ils ne passeront pas; on les aura." And so I say, I can give no very clear account of those days. My journal does not help much.
It is disconnected, jerky, and without proportion. Certain incidents and pictures there are, however, which stand out in my memory as sharply pricked as the flash of a machine gun on a pitchy night. I remember one morning very early, as I rounded "dead man's corner" en route to the poste, encountering Mac returning, and that he leaned out and shouted, "Be careful, they are shelling the road ahead," and that I proceeded on my way, half dead for want of sleep, wondering dully how a chap was to "be careful."
I remember a night when, the road blocked, I was forced to make a détour through the woods, and ran into a tangle of horses and caissons thrown into confusion by a shell; and I recall that I flashed my torch for an instant and it fell full on the face of a dead man who lay square in the centre of the road, a gaping hole in his head. I remember that first dawn in Verdun, and yet another dawn when I went down the Lain road as the French were drawing a tir de barrage, and passed just inside our batteries and just outside the enemy's curtain fire on the hill above. Clearer than all, I remember one scene at Cabaret. It was close to midnight after a hot, muggy day. There was a change of divisions, and within the stone barn there must have been about a hundred and fifty men. The outgoing surgeons were consulting with those just arrived. The departing brancardiers were awaiting the order to move, while those of the incoming division were moving about, storing their packs preparatory to leaving for the line. Around the walls lay the wounded. A single calcium light threw a white glow on everything, sharply marking the shadows. The door was draped with a blanket, as were the shell-holes in the walls, and the air was close and foul with the war smell, that compound of anaesthetics, blood, and unwashed bodies. Outside, for the moment, the batteries were silent, and within, the hum of voices was distinctly audible. And then, suddenly, as though every man were stricken dumb, the silence fell, silence save for the whirring screech of a shell. It seemed hours in coming. Something told us it would strike very close, perhaps within. As though mowed down, we had dropped on our faces. Then it burst --- just beyond the wall. Éclats tore gaps in the door drapings, and whined spitefully across the room, raining against the wall, one hitting my casque. "La lumière, la lumière!" shouted a voice, and the light was dashed out. There we lay --- a mixed mass of arms and legs --- lay and waited for other shells. But no more came, and presently we were up and the place roused into activity.
At eight o'clock on the morning of Wednesday, July 12, we came off duty in the Verdun sector, completing fourteen days of service at that time, I believe, a record, as ambulance sections were not supposed to serve more than ten days consecutively in this sector. We were relieved by a French section. This relieving section had, before we left Dugny, in its one day of service lost two men, one gassed, the other killed by a shell. Though we had had six cars hit, one almost demolished, we had not lost a man nor had one injured. American luck!
The remainder of the 12th we loaded our cars and got everything ready for departure. We were glad enough at the prospect of getting away from Dugny.
We were up at five next morning, and by eight the convoy was formed. In a drizzling rain we pulled out through Dugny's one street and, proceeding by a circuitous route amid the traffic of the Voie Sacrée, we finally reached "Bar." We did not stop here, but pushed on some eight kilometres beyond and drew up at a village. As we climbed down from the cars, the voices of the guns came to us only as a faint rumble, for the Vortex was some fifty kilometres away.
ROBERT WHITNEY IMBRIE
September 30, 1917
I AM very glad that you got hold of the " Sambre-et-Meuse." It is about the most inspiring thing in the world, and I meant to send it to you, long, long ago. I must tell you about the first time I ever heard it. It was a year ago in June, when we were just beginning to find out a little about the real French spirit and what a wonderful country France was after all. Our ambulance unit had come to a temporary halt, and we were sitting around on our cars, lined up in the public square of the little town in which we were stopping.
Suddenly, just around the corner, came a terrific blast of bugles, and we knew that it was a regiment of our Division, passing through the town on the way up to Verdun --- from which only half of them were to come back, ten days later. Another blast from about forty bugles, and then came the strains of the "Sambre-et-Meuse."
I never heard it before, but with the very first notes cold chills ran up and down my back, and I could hardly keep from crying. The streets were instantly lined with people, every one as affected as I. The music became louder and louder, and almost immediately the leaders came into sight; bugles shining in the sun, and all elevated at exactly the same angle, and right behind them the endless line of blue uniforms.
You know from the music that while the tune goes steadily along, periodically the bugles come in on the new theme, not during the minor parts, but when the original martial theme comes back. Well, just before the bugles come in, all forty of them go up in the air and perform a few flourishes, all in perfect time, and then they all come horizontally to the lips just at the exact fraction of a second when it is their turn to play, everything precise and in perfect rhythm, brass, drums, and the steady beat of thousands of feet; after the brass, the regimental colors, which every one salutes as they pass; the highest officers leading on horseback, and then wave after wave of blue.
Your spirits go up and down with every variation of the music. The eyes fill up with tears during the quieter parts, and then, when the original martial strain comes back, and the bugles come in with a roar, and the drums roll louder and louder, you instantly have a change of heart and become wildly elated.
The music itself is wonderful. But when you have three or four crack French regiments marching behind, it is still more so. When in addition you have Verdun to think of, and you know what a call and rallying cry it is to every one of the French soldiers passing before you, you can well imagine that the ensemble is overwhelming and plays havoc with your nervous system.
COLEMAN TILESTON CLARK*
*Of Westfield, New Jersey, Yale, '18; joined the Field Service in May, 1916; served with section Three in France and in the Orient; later an aspirant in French Artillery; mortally wounded in action at Juvigny, May 28, 1918, and died May 29, 1918. This is an extract from a home letter.
THERE are separate hospitals for couchés, assis, and malades, which fact sometimes makes complications, as in the case of one driver who was given what appeared to be a serious case to take to the couché hospital. While on the way, however, this serious case revived sufficiently to find his canteen. After a few swallows he felt a pleasant warmth within, for French canteens are not filled with water, and he sat up better to observe his surroundings and to make uncomplimentary remarks to the driver. Arrived at the hospital, the brancardiers lifted the curtains at the rear of the car, and seeing the patient sitting up, smoking a cigarette, and apparently in good health, refused to take him, and sent the car on to the assis hospital. Overcome by his undue exertion, the wounded man lay down again, and by the time the ambulance had reached the other hospital, he was peacefully dozing on the floor. The brancardiers shook their heads, and sent the car back to the couché hospital. Somewhat annoyed by this time, the ambulancier did not drive with the same care; and the jolts aroused the incensed poilu, who sat up and began to be personal . The driver, not wishing to continue, for the duration of the war, his trips between the two hospitals, stopped the car outside the couché hospital, and, seeing his patient sitting up, put him definitely to sleep with a tire tool and sent him in by the uncomplaining brancardiers.
As one man remarked, "Our life out here is just one damned brancardier after another," which calls for a few lines on the French army stretcher-bearers.
These brancardiers include musicians ---for the band does not play at the front --- exchanged prisoners who are pledged to do no combatant work, and others who volunteer for or are assigned to this branch. These men are in the front-line trenches, where they bandage wounded men who are hit, and carry them to the front abris, where the médecin majors, or army doctors, give them more careful attention.
At the front abris are other brancardiers, who then take charge of these men and load them into our cars; and when we arrive at the hospital, it is brancardiers who unload the ambulances and carry in the wounded. Inside the hospital other brancardiers nurse the wounded, as no women nurses are allowed in the triage hospitals.
These brancardiers may seem callous and somewhat lacking in sentiment, yet do a noble and heroic work. Who could perform their task without becoming callous or insane? Often we curse them when they put a man in the car head downwards, or when they let a stretcher slip. But we forget that when the infantry goes en repos, the brancardiers stay at their postes, going out every hour to bring in a fellow countryman or an enemy; that for the past two nights, with their abri filled with chlorine gas, these same men have toiled faithfully in suffocating gas-masks bringing in the wounded, caring for them, and loading them into our cars; and that it is months since they last saw a dry foot of ground or felt for a moment that they were free of the ever-present expectation of sudden death. The wonder is rather how they do these things at all than why they seem at times a little careless or a bit tired. The brancardier does n't tell you all this. When he sees you he asks after your comrades. He takes you in, gives you a cigarette, and some pinard in a battered cup, and tries to find you a place to rest, all the time reeling off cheerful stories and amusing incidents.
The Staff is the brains of the army; Aviation, the eyes; the Artillery, the voice; the Infantry and Cavalry, the arms; the Engineers, the hands; the Transportation, the legs; the People behind the lines, the body; but the Brancardier is the soul. In fact, his position, and the ambulance driver's at the front, is much the same as that of the grouse in open season --- every one has a chance to take a shot at them and they have no opportunity for retaliation. In a word, by virtue of the nature of his work, the ambulance driver must always be in the warmest places; and has a really unusual opportunity to observe, by moving from sector to sector and battle to battle, what few other branches of the service can see.
The old Volunteer Ambulance Service is dead, but the days we have lived with it are golden, and nothing can ever take them away from us or bring them back again.
PHILIP DANA ORCUTT*
*Of Boston, Massachusetts; Harvard; joined the Field Service in June, 1917; served with Section Thirty-One; subsequently attended the Harvard Officers' Training Camp. The above are extracts from his book, The White Road of Mystery. (See Bibliography.)
THE first light had hardly grayed our loft before the blare of bugles and the "slog, slog," of hobbed shoes told us of the passing of a column. Petit déjeuner over, our blankets rolled and stowed, we drew our cars up by the side of the road to await the passing of that column. Eighteen months in the Army have shown me no finer spectacle than we saw that morning. For here passing before us were the tirailleurs d'Afrique, men recruited from the Tell and Morocco, the most picturesque soldiery in the world. Rank after rank they passed with a swinging, steady cadence, platoon after platoon, company after company, regiment after regiment. Twelve thousand strong they marched. At the head of each company, flung to the breeze, was the yellow flag, bearing the hand and crescent of the Prophet, for these men are Mohammedans. At the head of each regiment marched a band, half a hundred strong, bands which surely played the weirdest strains that ever stirred men's souls or quickened laggard feet. Bugles, drums, and the plaintive hautboy blared, thumped, and wailed in tingling rhythm. Complete in every detail they passed, with all the apparatus belli, machine-gun platoons, goulash batteries, pack-trains, munition transports, every button and buckle in place, every rope taut, an ensemble of picturesque fighting efficiency. And the faces! ---the dark, swarthy faces of the Arab, the Moor, and the Moroccan, faces seamed with the lines implanted by the African sun and the gazing over desert wastes. There was no type. Each man was individual. But one thing they had in common. In all the world there is but one lure that could unite and hold such men --- for they are all volunteers --- that lure, the primal love of strife. That love was stamped upon their very souls, showed itself in their carriage, their stride, and in their hawklike gaze. We looked, and felt that verily these were men. And they had fought, fought in the lands of strange names. On many a breast flashed forth the medals of hard-fought campaigns, the Étoile d'Afrique, the Médaille Militaire, the Croix de Guerre, the Moroccan, the Indo-China Medal---, all were there, and sometimes one single tunic bore them all.
In all that long column, one man there was we shall not forget. A captain, he strode at the head of his company. At least six feet four he must have been. Clad in the earthy brown of the African troops, his harness and trappings were of finest pigskin. Around his middle was wound a flaming crimson sash. From beneath his képi, worn at a jaunty angle, peeped out a mane of tawny yellow hair, conspicuous against his sun-tanned skin. He fairly scintillated like a burnished blade held aloft by a brave hand. And when, in answer to our salute, he stiffened into "regulation" like a page out of the Tactics Manual, we felt it would be a privilege to follow such a man in hopeless charge.
It was ten-thirty when the last transport had passed, the last gun clinked by. The column had been four and one half hours in passing.
R. W. IMBRIE
Literature of the Field Service, Sketches, con't
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