100 Years Ago This Week: Camp Tuscania

100 Years Ago This Week: Camp Tuscania

Background:  In September of 1917 My grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, joined the United States Army.  He was assigned to the 20th Engineers whose primary purpose was to mill lumber and build the wooden structures needed by the soldiers. In November he sailed to St. Nazaire, France aboard a troop transport ship.  He is assigned to the headquarters unit of Company A and is now based at a camp set up inside a bull ring in Dax, France.  The company has been recently struck by the sudden death of their commanding officer Major Edward E. Hartwick, of meningitis  On March 31st, 1918.


From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday April 14, 1918 – The name of their camp being “Camp Tuscania” they have a very interesting story to tell of their trip on the ill fated ship.

Monday April 15– The river is rising rapidly due to so much rain.  The ground around the arena is all under water. Pay day today.  Have been broke for some time.

Tuesday April 16– Joe Laid off today coming in slightly worse for wear in the evening.

Wednesday April 17– We are now putting in 10 hours per day work.  7:20 to 6:00. I am sure getting tired of this daily grind.

Thursday April 18– A fine little supper party at ‘Cheval Blanc’ this evening.  Gil, Tom, Brundage and myself. A good feed sure is appreciated.

Friday April 19– Wed night we had some more Y.M.C.A. entertainers at Co. C.  Four young ladies one American gave some real music.

Saturday April 20– Usual Saturday work until 3 P.M.  Clean up for inspection then take a bath.  Went to picture show this evening at casino.


Camp Tuscania

Saturday April 13– Today I went with Joe to help move in the 6th Bn.  They are about 20 Km from us. 

Sunday April 14, 1918 – The name of their camp being “Camp Tuscania” they have a very interesting story to tell of their trip on the ill fated ship. 

Here Poppa is referring to the 6th Battalion of the 20th Engineers who experienced disaster on their trip from America to France.

On January 23, 1918, the 6th Bn. 20th Engrs. were among about 2,300 soldiers to  board the troopship “Tuscania” in New York harbor.  On February 5th the Tuscania, traveling as part of a British convoy was torpedoed and sank off the coast of Ireland by the German submarine U-77.  About 200 men were lost.  Two months later, on April 13, 1918 Poppa and  another soldier, Joe,  traveled to the 6th battalion’s  new camp to help the survivors move in.  

The camp of Company D of the 6th Battalion of the 20th Engineers.

In 1920 a monument to those lost on the Tucania was built on the Irish coast.

The monument to those lost in the torpedoing of the Tuscania.
A view of the Irish coast where the monument to those lost on the Tuscania was built.

I wrote about the sinking of the Tuscania previously here.

High Water

Monday April 15– The river is rising rapidly due to so much rain.  The ground around the arena is all under water. 

Apparently, 1918 was not the only year that flooding was an issue in Dax.

This picture shows flood conditions in Dax France in 2014, 96 years after Poppa wrote about high water near his camp in Dax.

Supper Party

Thursday April 18– A fine little supper party at ‘Cheval Blanc’ this evening.  Gil, Tom, Brundage and myself. A good feed sure is appreciated.

The Cheval Blanc (White Horse) Restaurant in Dax, France Circa 1920?

Y.M.C.A. entertainers

Friday April 19– Wed night we had some more Y.M.C.A. entertainers at Co. C.  Four young ladies one American gave some real music.

YMCA Hut and Office building 3rd Co., Candale where Poppa was entertained on the Evening of April 17th, 1918.

As I wrote previously, the YMCA took on the role of looking after the soldiers in the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) during WWI.  The USO did not yet exist.  They provided wholesome entertainment and tried to keep up the soldiers’ morale.

Next Week: Seven Months a Soldier

Sources:

Vents, Une Picorreuse à Tous. “Articles à Propos De 1914-1918 Sur La Biblogotheque.” 1914-1918 – Page 4 – La Biblogotheque. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Jan. 2018.

Steamship Tuscania Is Torpedoed and Sinks.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 28 Jan. 2018.

“SS Tuscania (1914).” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 23 Jan. 2018. Web. 28 Jan. 2018.

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