Being part of a common effort lay at the heart of the Field Service experience and began with assignment to a Section generally composed of young men from the same school or same part of the country--- or perhaps they were only shipmates from the same boat over.
"Team spirit" was natural for boys trained on the playing fields of American schools and colleges. They responded cheerfully to their new leaders---both American and French--- and adapted quickly to the new "game" in this foreign land: serving the French, serving with the French, serving among the French.
The Section was composed entirely of men who had come to France before America entered the war, and the bond that united them, from the very outset, was their love for France. Though drawn from every part of their own country --- from half a dozen universities and twice that number of colleges and schools --- almost at once there sprang up among us an idealistic spirit, which made us a unit. So, because of this spirit, drudgery became rather a play and discomfort less hard to bear. The men saw the good in each other and grew strangely tolerant. Danger became vastly less important than getting to a poste, and never once was there hesitation in going where ordered; never once was there a second call for volunteers.
FRANKLIN D. W. GLAZIER (SSU16), "Beginning Work at Verdun" in History of the American Field Service in France, "Friends of France," 1914-1917, Told by its Members. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1920. Volume II.
THE birth of the soul of Section Sixty-Five was not attended by anything heroic; it sprang into being around a huge manure-pile at the old mill near May-en-Multien. On the morning of June 19, 1917 --- and a hot sunny morning it was ---two small units of boys from the Middle West were assembled in the corner of the mill-yard, together with three rickety shovels, an old cart, and a mule. The latter had been captured from the Germans, which fact, according to its French owner, explained why it always did the opposite to what it was told; it did not understand the French language. Before the day was over, however, it had had a very good instruction in English and gradually grew to comprehend certain words excellently.
A week before about one hundred and fifty men had been sent out from Paris to form the first contingent at the newly installed camp at the mill and had been separated into four sections of between thirty and forty members each. There was one section composed entirely of Yale men; another of Princeton men; a third of unattached men, called "miscellaneous"; and fourth, our Illinois-Chicago Section, formed from the union of a unit of eighteen men mostly from the University of Illinois and a unit of twelve men who lived in or near Chicago. As this fourth section labored perspiringly on the manure pile, which they were removing, the other three were out on the near-by roads, drilling under the direction of an excitable French Maréchal des logis. Occasionally one section would march into the mill yard, execute a French manuvre with questionable ease, and march out again, at the same time casting a sidelong smile at the section en repos. Down near the creek could be faintly heard the stentorian commands of the Yale leader, "A droite, droite! En avant, marche!" From amidst a cloud of dust on the road toward the château to the east came the nasal drone of the acting sergeant of the Princeton Section, "Un, deux, un, deux, un, deux, trois, quatre " --- keeping the tread of his forty men in unison.
LOUIS G. CALDWELL(SSU65), "At the Mill of May-en-Multien" in History of the American Field Service in France, "Friends of France," 1914-1917, Told by its Members. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1920. Volume II.
TOWARD the close of 1916, one hundred and fifty students of Stanford University assembled and signified their willingness to abandon the classroom for ambulance driving on the Western Front. From these young men was selected a group of twenty which became known as the First Unit of Friends of France, and later as Section Fourteen.
"Friends of France" is an association having a wide membership in California and was founded to promote cordial relation's between the two Republics --- "for Humanity and the Humanities." To its generosity and enthusiasm is due the success of the expedition and its influence in awakening, on the Pacific Slope, interest in the War.
On February 3, 1917, at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, the society gave a banquet and leave-taking to the young men of the unit, each of whom was presented with a brassard bearing the shield of the Society made by Mrs. W. B. Bourn, of the Friends of France; and on the following morning the students boarded their special car bound for the east. On February 14 they sailed from New York.
Section Fourteen was the first section of the Field Service to come from the Pacific Coast, and in recognition of this fact, which was significant of the extending interest throughout the States in France and the war, the departure of the Section from Paris was marked with considerable ceremony. The farewell dinner at 21 rue Raynouard on March 15, which, according to custom, marked the leave-taking of sections for the front, was graced by the presence of the American Ambassador to France, Mr. William J. Sharp, and the former Ambassador of France to the United States, M. Jules Cambon, both of whom spoke eloquently of the growing rapprochement of the two Republics. Mr. Andrew, the Director of the Field Service, presided, and speeches were also made by representatives of the French Army and the officers of the Section, pledging their best efforts to the common cause. On the morning of March 16, the Section rolled out of the lower gate of "21," with its convoy of twenty-four new cars, bound for the front.
JOSEPH H. EASTMAN (SSU14), "On the Pacific Coast" in History of the American Field Service in France, "Friends of France," 1914-1917, Told by its Members. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1920. Volume II.
IMBRIE is certainly a "scream." He remarked to-day that on going out on his run to the poste the road was O.K., but coming back he saw a fresh-killed horse. He said: "Now that's the sort of a thing that causes one to stop and reflect, but I didn't. I jammed down both the levers and did my reflecting at forty miles an hour." When Francklyn came in and said "to be careful " on a certain road, Imbrie, with his usual cheerfulness, remarked: "Careful! careful! Good Lord, how's anybody going to be careful? If we wanted to be careful, we should have been careful not to leave America."
WILLIAM YORKE STEVENSON (SSU1), "Duty at M Quatre" in History of the American Field Service in France, "Friends of France," 1914-1917, Told by its Members. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1920. Volume II.
Just as we were running back a cent-cinquante-cinq struck about two metres from one car and at the same time another six or eight metres on the other side. We were all stunned. Suddenly I heard a moan, and then Paul Osborn cry from under the car, "Hospital, quick!" I did not realize anything at first, but soon came to my senses. He had heard the whistling shell approach and had dodged under the car, as he had one minute before said he intended doing. In this case it was the worst thing he could have done. We picked him up, and although it was pitch dark we were able to see by the light of the bursting shells that he was bleeding in the back profusely. As quickly and doucement as possible we put him in the car on a stretcher and started at once for the Village Gascon emergency hospital. Noyes drove the car, Orr remained inside with Paul, Wells sat on the fender feeding the radiator water, it being in a very leaky condition, and I ran on ahead watching the road.
Arriving at the hospital, Paul was placed on a brancard and his wounds were dressed. He was terribly hurt, having two large holes the size of one's fist in the back of his right leg, and another was bored through his back and into his lung. We were all very much alarmed, and when the priest asked us whether he was a Catholic or Protestant, we became more so. Finally, when the priest took me aside and said, "perdu" I could hardly hold myself together, for it did not seem possible that the fellow who, a little while ago, was taking a cat-nap in the dugout in the same blanket with me, was now almost dead.
JOHN BROWNING HURLBUT (SSU28), "Duty at M Quatre" in History of the American Field Service in France, "Friends of France," 1914-1917, Told by its Members. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1920. Volume II.
It was, of course, necessary that the sections, being each an independent unit, be commanded by a French officer. The French G.Q.G. took pains to choose these lieutenants, not only from among those who spoke English, but with a regard to their ability to cope with the problem of commanding neutral volunteers whose discipline must conform to that of the French soldiers, and yet which could not be enforced by the same methods. That these officers won the complete loyalty of the men is enough evidence of their qualifications, but long association with many of them brought more than loyalty, for out of their leadership grew the respect and affection for the French officer which makes us ever happy to recall those days. The influence of many of them spread beyond their own sections, and the names of Lieutenants de Kersauson, both Rodocanachis, de Rode, de Turckheim, Reymond, Bollaert, Fabre, Baudouy, d'Halloy, Marshall, Rey, Pruvost, Goujon, Ravisse, and Gibilly, are known to most of the men of the Service.
Lieutenant de Kersauson commanded Section One in its earliest days. He had lived in the United States for some years, answering his country's call at the outbreak of war. It became his especial pride to convince his fellow officers that his American section was not only the best sanitary section in the armies, but that its discipline could conform to that of the regular army. His own enthusiasm was transmitted throughout his section in such a way that, although the personnel was constantly changing, the traditions of the Section remained throughout its service. It was a tradition which later gained for it the fourragère. Lieutenant de Kersauson remained with Section One for two years, and then, much against his will, was withdrawn to take charge of the instruction of Field Service men at the French officers' school at Meaux. In conjunction with this duty he was appointed to oversee the training of the new men at the camp at May-en-Multien. It was a fitting tribute to his previous success that he was called for this larger work in connection with the Field Service relationship with the French Army.
STEPHEN GALATTI (SSU3&HQ), "French Officers Associated with the Service" in History of the American Field Service in France, "Friends of France," 1914-1917, Told by its Members. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1920. Volume II.
IN Jubécourt we were joined by Lieutenant d'Halloy; and knowing him came to mean the world to us of his "Seventeen family." Duty and utter devotion to ideals were his faith. Of the kindest and cleanest of hearts, unselfish to the ultimate degree, he gave himself entirely to the Section, and by so giving he made us, every one, completely his. He had but to speak and we had followed him to earth's end. Long after star-shells have faded from our memories and we have forgotten the cannon language we shall remember, and the thought will be a cleansing, bright flame --- that man of as clear and clean a spirit as ever glowed in France's dark war night.
JAMES W. D. SEYMOUR (SSU17), "The French Lieutenant" in History of the American Field Service in France, "Friends of France," 1914-1917, Told by its Members. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1920. Volume II.
Lieutenant Prévost has been replaced by Lieutenant Gibily, the officer in charge of the French Ambulance section we relieved when we joined the 38th Division. Lieutenant Gibily has been with this Division for over two years and seems to be very well liked by every one who has known him. The fellows like him as much as I do, and, despite the fact that he can hardly speak a word of English, he always manages to have a pleasant word for everybody, and when he can't make himself understood in either French or English, he acts out whatever he has to say in pantomime, which is enough to bring down the house; and best of all, his sense of humor never fails him. Although in civilian life he is connected with a wholesale chemical company, his chief interest in life seems to be nineteenth-century French poetry, and his most vicious boast is that be knows ten thousand lines of verse by heart including all of Cyrano de Bergerac. His present aim is to learn English, and before coming to the Section he supplied himself with two second-hand textbooks. The one which he prefers and from which he studies constantly must have been written about the time of Shakespeare or shortly after, and to hear him read off this obsolete English in the most serious way and with an accent all his own, is funny enough. I have been doing my best to help him out, but it is a rather hard job. In order that you won't get a very one-sided impression of the man, I ought to add that he is a fine-looking chap with a very military manner, has served in both the infantry and artillery early in the war and has been badly wounded in the leg. Also he has been decorated four times.
ARTHUR J. PUTNAM (SSU70), "Lieutenant Gibily" in History of the American Field Service in France, "Friends of France," 1914-1917, Told by its Members. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1920. Volume II.
By chance I have had the good fortune to make the acquaintance of the major in charge of some heavy artillery batteries here, and his officers have taken me over the whole outfit, even showing me the photos, made by aviators, of German trenches and present positions. This evening I took Gardner Emmons back there with me, where I found several more French officers added to the company. We two conducteurs ---young Americans --- sat there as big as life, keeping them amused, while we ate their Breton cakes with jam and drank their tea. Gardner said how much he liked tea and how difficult it had been to find any, so that finally he bore off in triumph a whole can of it, thanks to the kindness of the major, who offered to take us along with him, promising better training than any artillery school can offer; but some questions as to citizenship and its retention stand in the way. Later, the major, who is a real old soldier and has been in service in all the colonies as an engineer, took me out in his car to see some mined towns and to point out various positions, and then invited me to lunch in his dining-car. We had omelette, roast duck with lettuce and peas, three kinds of wine, and chocolate pudding with baked apples and jam. It would have amused you to see me trying to keep up conversation in French with two captains, a lieutenant, and a major. Much to the amazement of the rest of the crowd here, the old major asked our lieutenants, French and American, and myself, to tea again the next day, and we enjoyed it a lot. I am going to ask father to send him a box of cigars soon, when I am permitted to give his name.
ALBERT EDWARD MAcDOUGALL (SSU30), "Mud and Artillery" in History of the American Field Service in France, "Friends of France," 1914-1917, Told by its Members. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1920. Volume II.
Coming out of the cellar from mess one noon --- a wet, dismal day I remember --- I was startled into immobility to hear the splendid strains of the "Star-Spangled Banner," magnificently played on a piano. I was still standing at attention, and the last note had barely died away, when the one remaining door of a half-demolished house opened and a tall, handsome young fellow with the stripes of a corporal appeared, saluted, and bade me enter. I did so, and found myself in a small room upon the walls of which hung the usual military trappings. Stacked in the corners and leaning against the walls were a number of simple wooden crosses with the customary inscription, "Mort pour la patrie." Five soldiers rose and bade me welcome. They were a group of grave-diggers and here they dwelt amid their crosses. Their profession did not seem to have affected their spirits, and they were as jolly a lot as I have ever seen, constantly chaffing each other, and when the chap at the piano --- who, by the way, before the war had been a musician at the Carlton in London, and who spoke excellent English --- struck a chord, they all automatically broke into song. It was splendidly done and they enjoyed it as thoroughly as did I. The piano they had rescued from a wrecked château at the other end of the town and to them it was a godsend indeed. Before I left, at my request, they sang the Marseillaise. I have seldom heard anything finer than when in that little, stricken town, amidst those gruesome tokens of war's toll, these men stood at attention and sounded forth the stirring words of their country's hymn. When I left it was with a feeling that surely with such a spirit animating a people, there could be but one outcome to the struggle.
ROBERT WHITNEY IMBRIE (SSU1), "The Human Shell" in History of the American Field Service in France, "Friends of France," 1914-1917, Told by its Members. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1920. Volume I.
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.
PHILIP DANA ORCUTT (SSU31), The White Road of Mystery, New York: John Lane, 1918
The poilus are wonderful. High, too, I hold the brancardiers, whose death-rate is probably the highest of any department of the service, and who bear on their arms the red cross, and on their faces friendly, quiet smiles. They are old men most of them, often with glorious individual characters, too; some were in the 1870 war; numbers are priests; some are professors. Their work is gathering in the wounded and the dead, too. They have a two-wheeled frame on which they can sling a brancard, and the creaking of these wheels is heard day and night.
I have seen blood on men's faces, gray faces swathed in stained gauze; I have helped wounded into ambulances, and shoved stretchers in; and when they are unavoidably jolted, the poor chaps try to stifle their groans and smile. I think they know we are trying to help. I feel now that I am of more service than I have ever been before over here, or in my life. A brancardier just told me that there are beaucoup des morts, and that it is a ferocious attack. In the meantime the poilus go on wandering grimly trenchwards down the road. I wonder if this is "merely an artillery duel on the Argonne front" that we used casually to read of in the New York papers?
JAMES W. D. SEYMOUR (SSU17), "An Idyll of Old Men" in History of the American Field Service in France, "Friends of France," 1914-1917, Told by its Members. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1920. Volume II.
GREAT trees reared high above the abris which clustered familiarly about the central abode of the Médecin Aide-Major. A deep hole was the kitchen, fragrant with wood smoke and cookery smells, and blackened and scorched within. Luscious in weary times the tea that came from the dark mouth of it, even without the famed eau de vie, and the weird brews of its ex-sailor inhabitant, the cook dubbed "Fritz" by his ever good-natured brancardier comrades. Near by was the tin-roofed little shack walled with pine boughs which served as dining-room, with its greasy worn board and grimy benches. There were many friendships formed between us and our brancardiers about that table through the long, soft sunsets. Priests many of them were, and the bravest, most selfless little men in the world. None of war's glory theirs, none of its zest, but all the danger of it, all of its most awful sights, all the vague horrors of its hell. Each evening a little quiet group would start out, trundling their brancard carriers or bearing folded brancards on their tired, stooped shoulders, down the gloomy road toward the star-shells --- these humble, little, gray-grizzled, calm-faced old men, toward the vivid blossoming of the shell flowers and fallen, bloodied fruit. Gentle their hands as a mother's, tender and soft their voices murmuring prayers to comfort dying men; everlastingly faithful and kindly, healing the deepest wounds of the soul. Rich is their service, for at last their faith brings great good comfort and content to these, God's hero-children, the soldiers of France.
JAMES W. D. SEYMOUR (SSU17), "Impressions" in History of the American Field Service in France, "Friends of France," 1914-1917, Told by its Members. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1920. Volume II.
At eight on the morning of the 23d --- the attack began at five --- the wounded began to stream down the roads to the postes --- zouaves, bleeding beneath their hasty bandages, but the proud fire of victory still in their eyes; childish, black, wounded Somalis with uncomprehending pain written in their faces; men with arm wounds helping men with foot wounds; and wounded Frenchmen supporting still more badly wounded Germans, and vice versa. There is a camaraderie of suffering that knows no law and no country. All, all came down the roads leading from the front --- human wrecks, the jetsam of the battle. The postes were crowded to overflowing, and still they came. They staggered in and sat on the fallen stones about the poste, their heads in their hands, waiting to be tended and ticketed and sent back; they came in wheel-stretchers from the front, and they came in horse ambulances from the spots where they had fallen in the lines. Frequently they were dead when taken out at the poste, and were carried aside to a yard that was used for a morgue. All those who could walk had to do so; had to go farther down until they were picked up by the camions. During the morning we could only take couchés inside the cars. The assis had to crowd outside, on the fenders, on the hoods, anywhere. Several times we took as many as twelve in one car. German and Frenchman went alike --- all according to the seriousness of the wounds.
ROBERT A. DONALDSON (SSU70), "The Attack on Malmaison" in History of the American Field Service in France, "Friends of France," 1914-1917, Told by its Members. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1920. Volume II.
IT seems as though every time I go on duty new experiences increase my hatred of the hell of war. I cannot tell you all of them, the censor would object; but I do wish there was some way of telling you just how stoical to suffering the French poilu is. This is an impression that grows on me, with every wounded man that I carry. One has to become accustomed to so many heart-tearing scenes. The sight of blood-soaked bandages is frequent; but to see a young fellow with blood matted between a week's growth of whiskers and perhaps partly covered with mud; to see a pair of sky-blue eyes peering out from the paleness of intense suffering, and perhaps to hear him talk of home in his delirium, are things one can never become accustomed to. Strange as it may seem, I have never seen a wounded Frenchman who was unconscious no matter what the pain. I had one soldier whose leg had been broken below the knee by a piece of shell, and in some way his foot had got turned partly around. How the poor boy kept from groaning, I never knew. But what was more, he partly sat up in his stretcher and asked one of the carriers to turn the foot slowly back again. Cautiously and gently his comrade worked, until the suffering poilu said, "There," as he lay back on the pillowless stretcher. Your imagination can never paint the picture; you must see and experience the bravery of wounded France to realize her spirit. Boys of eighteen, men of forty, all give their lives and suffer for ideals that mean more to them than life. And then comes our part --- to get the wounded poilu quickly to the hospital and to the skilful surgeon, for time means life. And yet one must drive carefully, for every jar means agony.
FRANKLIN B. SKEELE (SSU14), "The Suffering and Bravery of the Poilu" in History of the American Field Service in France, "Friends of France," 1914-1917, Told by its Members. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1920. Volume II.
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.
J. HALCOTT GLOVER (SSU2), "Notes from Pont-à-Mousson" in History of the American Field Service in France, "Friends of France," 1914-1917, Told by its Members. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1920. Volume III.
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Across the road from us at Courcelles was a Midi regiment from the 68th Division, to which we were later attached. We gave them cigarettes for songs, and wine for knickknacks and souvenirs. They made canes, hammered brass, and laundered during the spare time of waiting for the day of going up. Section Sixty-Five spent the time watching planes, peeling "spuds," writing reams of letters, and discussing the big issues of the war. The night before we went up with the Division we took a can of pinard out under the apple trees and drew over a group of poilus, who sang their songs of the Midi provinces --- "Montagnard," "Gardez mes amours toujours," "Ah, pays lointain," "L'Arlésienne" --- some gay, some passionate, and others sentimental --- so justifiably sentimental during those occasional hours of reflection and uncertainty. I remember afterwards looking among the regiments of the Division, after their hard losses above Craonne in July --- looking for these fellows from the Midi who sang for us under the trees at Courcelles. I wanted to learn all the words of "L'Arlésienne, la belle divine " but I never saw but one of the lot after they went into line: I carried him to Longueval. He sang a tune much different from the airs of Provence --- a blubber and an unconscious moan. We shall never hear those airs again and find them half so fine, for all they may be sung by finer voices. The background of those days will never be again. And if it should be, we would not be young and sensitive --- it would all seem changed.
RAYMOND W. GAUGER (SSU65), "Rememberings" in History of the American Field Service in France, "Friends of France," 1914-1917, Told by its Members. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1920. Volume II.
IN front of four or five of the low masonry houses a Red Cross flag is hung, designating the postes de secours where the wounded are bandaged and given to the ambulances. An American car is backed up in front of one, and the khaki-clad driver is the centre of interest for a group of soldiers. Some he knows well, and he is carrying on a cheerful conversation with them. It is surprising what a number of French soldiers speak English; and there are hundreds who have lived in England and in the States. Some are even American citizens who have returned to fight for la belle France, their mother-country. I have met waiters from the Café Lafayette, chefs from Fifth Avenue hotels, men who worked in New York and Chicago banks, in commission houses, who own farms in the West, and some who had taken up their residence in American cities to live on their incomes. It seems very funny to be greeted with a "Hello there, old scout!" by French soldiers.
"Well, when did you come over?" asks the driver.
"In August. Been through the whole thing."
"Where were you in the States?"
"New York; and I am going back there when it is over. Got to beat it now. So long. See you later."
A few companies of soldiers go leisurely past on their way up to the trenches, and nearly every man has something to say to the American driver. Five out of ten will point to the ambulance and cry out with questionable but certainly cheerful enough humor, "Save a place for me to-morrow," or, "Be sure and give me a quick ride!" Others yell our greetings, or air their knowledge of English. "Camarade américain," said in a very sincere tone and followed by a grip of the hand, has a very warm friendship about it. Yes, you make good friends that way. Working along together in this war brought men very close. You found some delightful chaps, and then ... well, sometimes you realized you had not seen a certain one for a week or so, and you inquire after him from a man in his company.
"Where is Bosker, or Busker? --- I don't know how you pronounce it. You know, tall fellow with corporal's galons who was always talking about what a good time he was going to have when he got back to Paris."
"He got killed in the attack two nights ago --- pauvre gars," is the answer....
JAMES R. McCONNELL (SSU2), "Friends among Frenchmen" in History of the American Field Service in France, "Friends of France," 1914-1917, Told by its Members. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1920. Volume I.
We have a cook and a servant, --- one of the poilus who is quartered here, too, and who earns a few sous on the side by serving us, --- also a French lieutenant who is really the head of the Section, a maréchal des logis, and a few other French retainers. They sleep in the same loft with us, and every night they chatter very late, kid each other about the fish they caught or did not catch in the river during the day, laugh and giggle at each other just like children. They are awfully amusing. By the way, all the poilus who are en repos fish, although there are only minnows in the streams about here. To-day I asked several how many they caught, and they said they were only fishing to pass the time. It seems to be a great diversion, for they all do it. Besides fishing the poilus en repos trap foxes, hedgehogs, rabbits, and other animals and then train them. Over across the road in one of the courtyards are two of the cutest little foxes I have ever seen, which play around and are just like little collies until we show up, when they scamper off and get behind a box or a stove and blink at us. We tried to buy one of them, but the owners are too fond of them to let them go.
They all bathe, too, every day --- the poilus. We go in with them, the mules, and the horses. Probably somewhere else in the same river the Boches are bathing. Such is life. We are extremely lucky to get a chance to wash at all and I'm afraid when we move from here --- for we shall soon be moved to poste duty --- we shan't have the comforts we are now enjoying.
CHARLES BAIRD, JR. (SSU2), "The Poilus' Amateur Theatricals" in History of the American Field Service in France, "Friends of France," 1914-1917, Told by its Members. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1920. Volume I.
IT was about the first of May that our Section assembled in the General Headquarters at Neuilly-sur-Seine. The men were ready, but the cars were not. The chassis were standing in line in Kellner's great carrosserie works, near Sèvres, a couple of miles beyond the Bois de Boulogne, awaiting the construction of the wooden bodies which were only half completed. Kellner was short of men, and we went to Kellner's. Within twenty-four hours men among us who had never swung anything heavier than a mashie were working at forge and anvil, making heavy iron braces and hinges; others drilled holes in the wood and iron; still others screwed and riveted the parts together. The sturdy women, who were working by hundreds in place of men who had gone to the front, stopped building bomb-cases and handling heavy tools to watch us for an instant, from time to time, and bring us little sprigs of lily-of-the-valley, "le muguet qui porte bonheur." The French carpenters became our friends and frequently invited us to share the coarse bread and red wine which they kept loose in the same box with their tools, by way of refreshment between meals.
WILLIAM B. SEABROOK (SSU8), "The Beginning" in History of the American Field Service in France, "Friends of France," 1914-1917, Told by its Members. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1920. Volume II.
BENNEY and I were talking before the fire in his room to-day and Gilmore was attempting to make hot chocolate, when a knock came at the door. He yelled, "Entrez," and, as the door slowly opened, we saw an old French couple standing on the threshold. This had been their home six months before, and now they had returned to look upon the wreckage. The woman wept when she saw the shell-hole through the ceiling, the broken furniture which we were burning, and the heap of old family treasures lying in one corner. We said nothing; we couldn't say anything; but as they departed sadly, the man muttered, "It is not very nice, but after the war we will . . . " and we heard no more. Benney and I were silent, and Gilmore forgot about his cocoa for a few minutes. It had never occurred to us before, when we tore a ruined house to pieces for firewood, and carted off all the old books and ornaments for souvenirs, that people like these actually lived in the houses, or would ever return.
JULIEN H. BRYAN (SSU12), "A Cantonment---and a Home" in History of the American Field Service in France, "Friends of France," 1914-1917, Told by its Members. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1920. Volume II.