100 Years Ago This Week: Drilling in Rain and Mud

 Background:  It is mid-December of 1918 and WWI has been over for more than a month.   My grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we called ‘Poppa’, had enlisted in the United States Army’s 20th Engineers in 1917.  He sailed to France aboard a troop transport ship and was assigned to the headquarters unit of Company A based at a camp set up inside a bull ring in Dax, France.  However, on November 7, 1918 he traveled to Langres France and enrolled in Engineers Candidate School.   Here are the journal entries he wrote one hundred years ago this week.

———————————————————————————-

From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday December 15, 1918– A beautiful day, spent all the time cleaning up, writing letters, and being entertained by the stews coming in just before taps.  

Monday December 16– Rain again today.  Drilling in rain and mud.

Tuesday December 17– Mining problem at Fort this a.m. Kraft gets letter from McKeen telling him that unit leaves Jan 1st.  Hope we can get back soon.

Wednesday December 18– Sent a wire today to Major Brooking to find out if 1st BN 20th was going home.  

Thursday December 19– Some of the old October mail that never came showed up today.  Glad to get it. Mining examination today. Not very bad.

Friday December 20– Started camouflage class today.  All afternoon on “Duck Pond” doing doughboy.

Saturday  December 21– Rainy day,  half day of camouflage, inspection and dismissed. Lots of mail. Christmas box came today.


Poppa had the misfortune to be accepted into engineers officers training just as the war was ending.  His soldier buddies back in Dax are preparing to return home but Poppa has no information about when he will be able to leave.   Although he finds some of the training interesting he would prefer go home as soon as possible rather than finish training and receive his commission.

When he wrote on December 15 that he was being “entertained by the stews coming in just before taps”  he likely is referring to the soldiers returning at the last minute after imbibing too much in town.  According to urban dictionary  someone who is “stewed” is under the influence of alcohol.

In the back of Poppa’s  journal there is a pass that authorizes him to leave camp on December 15th.  Although he doesn’t mention it maybe he was one of the “Stews” coming in right before taps.

 

On December 18th he sent a wire to “Major Brooking to find out if 1st BN 20th was going home“.  He is likely referring to Major Walter D. Brookings.  

Like many of the other officers in the 20th engineers Walter Brookings was involved in the lumber business before joining the army.  In 1899 Brooking’s family owned a logging business in San Bernardino County in the southern part of California.  They used clear cut methods which left the land bare and so, in 1912 when their timber supply dried up,  they moved to Oregon.  They started the Brookings lumber and Townsite Company which bought 30,000 acres of timber in Oregon.  They started the community of Brookings, Oregon to attract workers and built a railway.

Brookings Oregon was started by the Brookings family in 1908 and had a population of 6,300 in 2010.

According to a website maintained by Eldon Gossett the 30 something Walter Brookings was named vice president of the company.  Gossett wrote that Because of Walter’s temper and poor judgment his father put him in charge of the San Fransisco California office which was quite a distance from headquarters and, therefore, out of his hair.

Walter’s uncle was Robert Brookings, a very successful business man who, after retiring, went on to build up Washington University in St. Louis and start the Brookings Institution for Government Research in  Washington D.C.  He was highly regarded and served as a consultant to President WIlson.

This is a picture of Robert Brookings, the influential uncle of Major Walter D. Brookings

When Walter received a notice from the U.S. government in 1917 that he would be drafted into the army he contacted his uncle Robert Brookings and asked him to use his influence to keep him out of the army.  It is apparently a measure of what his uncle thought of him that he refused to intervene.  The army offered Walter a commission as a captain but Walter wanted to enter the army as major.  Again uncle Robert refused to intervene and Walter was inducted into the army as a captain.

Captain Walter Brookings sailed to France in November of 1917 on the same troop ship as Poppa and  was placed in charge of forestry operations in the Dax district in April of 1918.  He was promoted to Major on September 21, 1918.  He was discharged from the army on October 8, 1918.

Later in life Walter moved to Virginia where one of his hobbies was raising Germans Shepherd dogs for the “Seeing Eye” Organization.  He died in 1950 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Next Week: President Wilson Reviews the Troops on Christmas Day

Sources

“Quality. Independence. Impact.” Brookings.edu, The Brookings Institution, 7 Dec. 2018, www.brookings.edu/. Accessed 12 Dec. 2018.

“Robert S. Brookings.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 7 Dec. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_S._Brookings. Accessed 12 Dec. 2018.

100 Years Ago This Week: If one can live through this school they can live through anything.

 Background:  It is December of 1918 and  WWI has been over for almost a month.   It has been more than one year since my grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, enlisted in the United States Army’s 20th Engineers.  In November, 1917 he sailed to France aboard a troop transport ship.  He was assigned to the headquarters unit of Company A based at a camp set up inside a bull ring in Dax, France.  However, on November 7, 1918 he travelled to Langres France and enrolled in Army Candidate School (A.C.S.).   Here are the journal entries he wrote one hundred years ago this week.

———————————————————————————-

From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday December 8, 1918– Walked to Langres today.  Found barracks bag awaiting us at station.  Just like a lost friend at last found.  Packed some things on my back.  Balance will be sent tomorrow.

Monday  December 9– Every few days some of the fellows are notified that their old outfits are booked .  They are sent to them in time to go back with them.

Tuesday December 10– Weather has been quite warm but wet and sloppy for past two weeks.  If one can live through this school they can live through anything.

Wednesday December 11– Nothing special today.  Rain, mud, drill work and study.  But not half as bad as it sounds.

Thursday December 12– Kraft has “lucky night” cleaning up about 2750 francs.

Friday December 13– Another unlucky day.  Heard that first bn of (?) is liable to start for home soon.  Now to try and get back.

Saturday December 14– Supper at the same old place in Rolampont.  Rather of a wild night for the boys. Mail today.


Found Luggage!

“Sunday December 8, 1918- Walked to Langres today.  Found barracks bag awaiting us at station.  Just like a lost friend at last found.  Packed some things on my back.  Balance will be sent tomorrow.”

Poppa arrived at training school in early November but his belongings which were in his barracks bag did not.  Over one month later he was finally reunited with his bag.  He must have had a rather large bag because he carried only some of his possessions on his back as he walked from the station in Langres back to his camp.  He wrote that he expected the rest of his things to be delivered the next day.

WWI era soldiers with their barracks bags.

Gambling Luck?

“Thursday December 12- Kraft has “lucky night” cleaning up about 2750 francs.”  

Poppa did not say how Kraft ‘cleaned up’ but it was presumably a  gambling activity that netted him 2750 francs.  According to historicalstatistics.org  2750 French francs would be worth about $488 in 1918 dollars.  Seems like big stakes considering that Poppa often mentions that money was tight.

Kraft was apparently another soldier in training school with Poppa.  In his journal Poppa  listed the address for E.B. Kraft as “Aberdeen, Washington”.  Aberdeen has a long history of logging and currently claims to be the  “Lumber capital of the World”.  Like Poppa, many of the soldiers he served with were associated in some way with the lumber business as civilians.

This is a page from Poppa’s journal on which he wrote some addresses. His gambler friend E. B. Kraft is the last one on this page.  

Is this the grave marker for the soldier who was in training with Poppa?  Apparently the grave is in Massachusetts but the information on the stone seems correct.  It says he was from the state of Washington and that he was in the 20th Engineers during WWI.  According to the stone Kraft had the rank of 2nd Lieutenant.  Does that mean he did receive the commission for which he was training in France with Poppa?

Grave marker for Edward B. Kraft located in Northfield Massachusetts

Going out for dinner

“Saturday December 14- Supper at the same old place in Rolampont. “

Poppa previously mentioned that he often went to the YMCA “hut” for meals.  Is that what he meant by the “same old place in Rolampont”  or is there a restaurant the he frequented?

This pass was found in the back of Poppa’s 1918 journal. Is this the permission he needed to go out to dinner in Rolampont on December 14th?

Terms of the Armistice

The war has been over for about a month.  As part of the armistice the German Government was told that the American military would occupy Germany.  On December 13th  as Poppa is feeling unlucky but hoping to be sent home soon some sections of the U.S. Army crossed the Rhine River and entered Germany to begin the  occupation.

Next Week:  Drilling in Rain and Mud

 

100 Years ago This Week: Still Walking in Mud…With Wet Feet

 Background:  It is December of 1918, three weeks after the end of WWI.   It has been more than one year since my grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, enlisted  in the United States Army’s 20th Engineers.  In November, 1917 he sailed to France aboard a troop transport ship.  He was assigned to the headquarters unit of Company A based at a camp set up inside a bull ring in Dax, France.  However on November 7, 1918 he travelled to Langres France and enrolled in Army Candidate School (A.C.S.).   Here are the journal entries he wrote one hundred years ago this week.

———————————————————————————-

From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday December 1, 1918– Spent day writing letters in a.m. took walk to Langres (?) depot.-looking for barracks bag- along canal in the P.M.

Monday December 2– At last some mail came today.  Six letters in all which I was mighty glad to get.  Started mining course today.

Tuesday December 3– Still walking in mud, most of the time with wet feet.  Major Moses gave us a talk yesterday  telling us we are S.O.L. for commission but school must go on.

Wednesday December 4– Rumors,-rumors and rumors, everyone makes a rumor to suit his own feelings.  

Thursday December 5– Mining class is quite interesting.  Much better than doughboy drill entire day.  go to the  fort (?) and work on note book about every night.

Friday December 6- No entry

Saturday December 7– More mail again today.  Guess they have found me at last.


This is a picture of U.S. soldiers “washing up” in a canal in Rolampont in March of 1918. Is this the same canal that Poppa walked along on December 1st?
Here is a modern picture of the “Old Canal at Rolampont”
In the 21st century we think of the United States military as strong and nimble, able to deploy to any part of the world at a moment’s notice.  However, at the beginning of the last century things were different.   Our military was seen as primarily defensive,  intended to defend America from invaders.   Therefore, when President Wilson reluctantly entering the U.S. in WWI the military had little experience on foreign shores.  The military had to quickly learn to deal with issues such as transporting a large army to Europe, developing lines of communication and simply feeding and clothing the soldiers.
The military thought it was important to have training schools in France and worked throughout 1917 to set them up.  Shortly after the Engineer Training School began educating soldiers in areas such as mining, bridging and grenade throwing  the war ended and the armistice was signed.
Poppa was caught in the transition.  He arrived at the school on November 7th, just 4 days before the war ended.  Almost as soon as his class began he heard rumors that the school would be closing.
Poppa never wrote what the goal of the training was but presumably he expected to receive a commission as an officer when he graduated,  But, by December 3rd things apparently had changed because  “Major Moses gave us a talk yesterday telling us we are S.O.L. for commission but school must go on.”
Up to this point Poppa’s generally used polite language when in his journal.  By writing “S.O.L.” he may have been venting some frustration.  By the way,  the Etymology Dictionary claims the slang term referenced by S.O.L. can be traced back to WWI soldiers in 1917.  So when Poppa wrote it in his journal a year later it was apparently of fairly recent origin.
Meanwhile, back in America
On, December 4th, 1918 while Poppa was in training near Langres France President Woodrow Wilson was boarding the S.S. George Washington to sail to France, and then travel over land to Versailles in order to participate in the peace conference.  Apparently Wilson was the first U.S. president to travel to Europe while in office.
The S.S. George Washington, which carried President Woodrow Wilson to France in 1918.
Next Week:  If one can live through this school they can live through anything.
Sources:
“S.O.L.” Index, www.etymonline.com/word/s.o.l. Accessed 30 Nov. 2018.
“SS George Washington.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 29 Oct. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_George_Washington. Accessed 30 Nov. 2018.
Boquet, Michel.  Thanks for information about and picture of Rolampont canal

 

100 Years ago this Week: Thanksgiving Dinner in Rolampont.

 Background:  It is November of 1918 and two weeks after the end of WWI.   It has been more than one year since my grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, enlisted  in the United States Army’s 20th Engineers.  In November, 1917 he sailed to France aboard a troop transport ship.  He was assigned to the headquarters unit of Company A based at a camp set up inside a bull ring in Dax, France.  However,  on November 7, 1918 he travelled to Langres France and enrolled in Army Candidate School (A.C.S.).   Here are the journal entries he wrote one hundred years ago this week.

 

___________________________

From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday November 24, 1918– Hung around camp today.  Thought ?? might come over but has not as yet.  Spent today writing letter and studying.

Monday November 25- No mail for a month.  Must be lots “somewhere in France” for this soldier.

Tuesday November 26– The Y.M.C.A. has started a canteen here, the line is miles in length every night.  Buy lots of cakes, keeps me from near starvation. One year in France today. Won’t be another, now.

Wednesday November 27– Mud and rain every day.  Today especially bad, wet all day but work goes on just the same.  

Thursday November 28– Thanksgiving dinner in Rolampont.  Bought pork chops, bread, jams ole and French fried(?).  Certainly got filled up with this very unique dinner.

Friday November 29– Wet feet all the time, this is an endurance test more than anything else, little to eat with poor living conditions, wet feet and much work.  Can you beat that.

Saturday November 30– Two examinations and inspection today.  Afternoon off.  More rumors again.  Hope some of them are true and this closes soon.


On Tuesday November 26th Poppa wrote that he had been in France for one full year.  He had arrived  on the troop ship Madawaska and until recently was living and working as a member of the 20th Engineers in Dax France. Since November 7th he had been at the A.C.S. or Candidates School, presumably working toward a commission as a Second Lieutenant.

The army worked frantically beginning in 1917 to set up this and other training schools in France.  Only months after opening, with the end of the war, Poppa wrote that there are many rumors that the school will be closing soon.

Poppa has not written about the specific location of the camp where he is living and training.  On November 17th he wrote that he went to Langres to look for his barracks bag.   On November 28th he wrote that he went into Rolampont for Thanksgiving dinner.   Records mention both of these towns as well as several others nearby as settings for the army’s training centers.  The 2 communities are about 7 miles apart.  Perhaps Poppa is living somewhere between the 2.

On Monday November 26th Poppa used the phrase “somewhere in France” and put it in quotes.  Due to censorship soldiers were not supposed to identify their locations when writing home. Soldiers commonly used the phrase “somewhere in France”  when writing home to friends and family.

According to a book called “The American Spirit” the Candidates School was in the Turenne Barracks which are located in or near Langres.

Turenne Barracks

On November 27th Poppa wrote that “The Y.M.C.A. has started a canteen here, the line is miles in length every night”.  Hopefully he is exaggerating when he wrote  that the YMCA hut “keeps me from near starvation”.

Throughout World War I, the YMCA provided morale and welfare services for the military. By war’s end, the YMCA,  had set  up 1,500 canteens in the United States and France;  and 4,000 YMCA huts for recreation and religious services.

The YMCA ‘Hut’ in Langres France

Here is a video of U.S. soldiers training in Rolampont during 1917-18.

Next Week: Still Walking in Mud…With Wet Feet

Sources:

Historical report of the Chief Engineers 1917-1919.  Washinton Govern,ment Printing Office.  1919

History -1900 to 1950s.  “The Y: YMCA of the USA, 12 June 2018, www.ymca.net/history/1900-1950

“The American Spirit.” Google Books, books.google.com/books

Scribner’s Magazine.” Google Books, books.google.com

100 Years ago This week: Many rumors about this school closing

 Background:  It is November of 1918 and one week after the end of WWI.   It has been more than one year since my grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, enlisted  in the United States Army’s 20th Engineers.  In November, 1917 he sailed to France aboard a troop transport ship.  He was assigned to the headquarters unit of Company A based at a camp set up inside a bull ring in Dax, France.  However,  on November 7, 1918 he travelled to Langres France and enrolled in Army Candidate School (A.C.S.).   Here are the journal entries he wrote one hundred years ago this week.

———————————————————————————-

From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday November 17, 1918– Spent forenoon taking bath and writing letters.  In afternoon went to Langres to infantry school trying to locate (?).  Was unable to find mine but enjoyed the day anyway.

Monday November 18– Much work but it is interesting but very hard.   Have to be on the job every minute.

Tuesday November 19– Many rumors about this school closing and everyone anxious to see it close.  The work goes on just the same all day.

Wednesday November 20– Our instructor taken sick so today we have been having different ones.  Several fellows sick with bad colds. Some just sick of this place.

Thursday November 21– Good morning M. Candidate with your chances just as slim as mine —etc.  Very appropriate song and expresses the thoughts of everyone.

Friday November 22– Had live grenade practice today .  One poor fellow had misfortune to pick a defective one which went off in his hands.  Blew off both hands and injured him otherwise. (?) …very, very good.                               

Saturday  November 23– ??

(?) .Had good supper in Rolampont tonight.  ? buying stuff…(?)


Poppa spent nearly a year with the 20th Engineers in Dax France.  His work there involved drawing blue prints and planning wood structures needed by the soldiers.  He complained several times in his journal that he was tired of that type of work and applied to go to A.C.S.  Apparently, this is ‘Army Candidate School’ where he could earn an officer’s commission upon completing some classes such as   bridging, camouflage, flash and sound ranging, mining, pioneering, topography and searchlight.

However, he has been at the school in Langres, France only 10 days and already appears to be regretting his decision to enroll.  In his journal he complains about the lack of food and the living conditions which are worse than what he experienced in Dax.  The war has been over for a week, and there are rumors that some soliders are returning home.   Wet weather and the loss of his luggage on the way to camp has added to his misery.

Mr. Zip Zip Zip

On November 21st Poppa writes “Good morning Mr. Candidate with you chances just as slim as mine… etc” .  He implies that this is a  song lyric.

One popular song in 1918 was Mr Zip Zip Zip which included the lyrics:

Good morning, Mister Zip-Zip-Zip,
With your hair cut just as short as mine,

It appears that Poppa adapted the lyrics from this popular song of the time to apply to his own situation when he wrote:

Good morning Mr. Candidate,

with you chances just as slim as mine…

Live Grenade Practice

On November 22nd Poppa wrote that he had live grenade practice and told about a poor fellow who had a defective grenade go off in his hands and was seriously injured.  Poppa does not write that he experienced this incident or if it happened previously.

In another soldier’s journal Phillip H. English wrote of a grenade training accident that happened at Langres in January of 1918, prior to Poppa’s arrival.  It’s possible that Poppa is referring to this prior accident in his own journal.

Here is a Youtube video about the types of hand grenades used in WWI:

Next Week:  Thanksgiving dinner in Rolampont.

Sources:

World War I Diary of Philip H. English (*D 570.3 26th E64 Vol. 1)

“Good Morning Mr. Zip-Zip-Zip!” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 12 Nov. 2017, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_Morning_Mr._Zip-Zip-Zip! Accessed 16 Nov. 2018.

100 Years ago this week: Armistice!

 Background:  It is November of 1918 and more than one year since my grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, enlisted  in the United States Army’s 20th Engineers.  In November, 1917 he sailed to France aboard a troop transport ship.  He was assigned to the headquarters unit of Company A based at a camp set up inside a bull ring in Dax, France.  However, on November 7, 1918 he travelled to Langres France and enrolled in Army Candidate School (A.C.S.).   Here are the journal entries he wrote one hundred years ago this week.

———————————————————————————-

From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday November 10, 1918– Spent day taking walks over county.  Beautiful hills and valleys.

Monday November 11–  Germany signs armistice today.  Tonight guns are booming and crowds yelling.   (?) (?) and organized into companies today. Assigned to Co. B.  Live in a crowded barracks, much mud, poor grub, but good fellows and I expect to like it.

Tuesday November 12 – (One Year today)  First day of training.  Busy all the time from 5:30 a.m. until taps at 10:30.  Don’t think I will hear taps many nights.

Wednesday November 13– Work very interesting, lots of it not a minute to spare all day or night.  Drill, eat study and sleep.

Thursday November 14– Weather cold but A.C.S. goes on just the same.  Some say the war is over but for me it has just begun and just what Sherman said it was.

Friday November 15– No waste in this mess here.  I am hungry all the time , much drill and cold weather gives the appetite.

Saturday November 16– Half day Drill and (?).  Inspection right after dinner, went to Rolampont spent evening at Y.  lunch room and on return home.


The War Ends!  

Photograph taken after reaching agreement for the armistice that ended World War I.

The Great war ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.  Originally celebrated annually as armistice day, we now call November 11th veterans day.

 

But what does it mean for Poppa?

Although the end of the war is certainly a reason to celebrate,  Poppa seems reserved in his response and less than enthusiastic  about the training he is beginning.

The day after the armistice Poppa writes is his first day of training and marks one year since he left the United States.

Poppa is living in Langres which  is about 8 miles from  to the community of Rolampont where he “spent the evening” on Saturday November 16th.

In 1918  Rolampont was the headquarters of the  AEF 42nd Division.

Headquarters of the 42nd Division Rolampont, France. February 1918.

Next Week:  Many Rumors About this School Closing

Sources:

Book: Organization of the American Expeditionary Forces

Book: Historical Report of the Chief Engineer

100 Years ago this week: Poppa Arrives at Army Candidate School

 Background:  It is November of 1918 and more than one year since my grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, enlisted  in the United States Army’s 20th Engineers.  In November, 1917 he sailed to France aboard a troop transport ship.  He is assigned to the headquarters unit of Company A and is based at a camp set up inside a bull ring in Dax, France.  Many of the soldiers around him have come down with the Spanish flu.  Here are the journal entries he wrote one hundred years ago this week.

———————————————————————————-

From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday November 3, 1918– Did not go to Pau yesterday.  Rain all day nothing to do but sit by fire, read, play cards and wait for orders to pack up and go.  

Monday November 4– Waited all day for final orders, none came until 5 P.M. tonight.  Will probably leave tomorrow. Austria quit fighting today at 3 P.M. Hope war is over before we get to school.

Tuesday November 5– Left at 6:30 P.M. for A.C.S.  The boys of our tent-all of us have been together for a year- gave me a nice pocket bill book as a parting gift.

Wednesday November 6 – Arrived in Paris about 10:00 stay at a good hotel run by the Y.M.C.A.  Lost barracks bag and spent whole day in subway running from depot to depot.  

Thursday November 7– Arrived at school without barracks bags.  The A.T.O. promised to forward them later.  Hope they reach us soon.

Friday November 8– Spent day getting settled in.   Mud is about a foot deep, nothing like camp we had at Dax.

Saturday November 9– Worked all a.m. on rock pile.  In p.m. we went over three miles after hay for (?) bedsack.  Carried it back on my shoulder. Start (?) getting settled.


Poppa has been in France for nearly a year.  He has written several times in recent weeks that he did not like his job and would prefer to do something else.  He also wrote that he was being considered by his supervisors for A.C.S.  which, I believe refers to ‘army candidate school’ .   Based on his writings it appears that he got his wish and that it happened suddenly.  He wrote that on the evening of November 5th, 1918 he said goodbye to his buddies and left for A.C.S.  He arrived the next day in Paris without his luggage which apparently was lost on the trip.  He stayed over night in Paris at “… a good hotel run by the Y.M.C.A.”

Does this business card advertise the hotel where Poppa stayed in Paris in 1918?

The United States army established several training schools in the Paris area during 1917-18.  According to the 1919 publication  “Historical Report of the Chief Engineer” the Army Engineers School was opened at Langres on October 31, 1917, and later moved to Fort St. Menge.  Courses taught included bridging, camouflage, flash and sound ranging, mining, pioneering, topography and searchlight.  By November 1st of 1918 400 candidates per month were being enrolled in the school.

Langres is a very old French city with a current population of about 10,000.

A modern picture of Langres, France

Although Poppa indicated that he travelled to Paris,  presumably by train, He does not yet mention Langres by name.  Located  almost 200 miles to the east of Paris he apparently arrived there on November 7th.  Was he a member of the class of 400 that was to start on November 1st?

On the battle front

WWI is near its end.  Germany is now retreating as French and American troops move to re- take Sedan, France which Germany had occupied for 4 years. German emperor and King of Prussia Wilhem II abdicates.

Next Week:  Armistice!

Sources:

Historical Report of the Chief Engineer, 1919:  Washington Government Printing Office

Thank you to Michel Boquet for information about  and for pointing out resources on US army training camps in France

 

100 Years ago This Week: Letters are the greatest means of encouragement these days.  

 Background:  It is October 1918 and more than one year since my grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, enlisted  in the United States Army’s 20th Engineers.  In November, 1917 he sailed to France aboard a troop transport ship.  He is assigned to the headquarters unit of Company A and is based at a camp set up inside a bull ring in Dax, France.  Many of the soldiers around him have come down with the Spanish flu.  Here are the journal entries he wrote one hundred years ago this week.

———————————————————————————-

From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday October 27, 1918We had a basketball game today with “C” company.  We won 16 to 10. Very stiff and tired tonight as I am not used to so much exercise.

Monday October 28– We were re-classified last week.  Am afraid it will do no good but maybe, possibly, perhaps something might happen. 

Tuesday October 29– British “Royal Blue Horse Guards Band” played here yesterday.  Good music but not enough “Pep” for outdoor military concert.

Wednesday October 30– Another nice bunch of mail today.  Letters are the one big event and greatest means of encouragement these days.  

Thursday October 31 – News came this P.M. (Unofficial) that Turkey quits.  Hope so. Entertainment by American girls at the new ‘Y’ tonight.  Guess we will all be there.

Friday November 1– Good news today.  Major B______ told me he would send in my name for me in answer to a telegram for two men for Engineers Army candidate school.

Saturday November 2– Expect to go to Pau with Captain Elam for weekend this P.M. returning Monday morning. 


Tuesday October 29– British “Royal Blue Horse Guards Band” played here yesterday.  Good music but not enough “Pep” for outdoor military concert.

The Royal Regiment of Horse Guards (The Blues) (RHG) was part of the British Army.  It was formed in 1650 and its coat of arms was blue.  The regiment served in many wars including WWI.

Thursday October 31 Entertainment by American girls at the new ‘Y’ tonight Guess we will all be there.

Poster designed by N. McMein, 1918, “One of the Thousand Y.M.C.A. Girls in France.” 1986.3051.04. Recto. | After conservation treatment.

During WWI the YMCA was a different organization than we think of today.  According to The History of the YMCA in WWI the ‘Y’ provided 90% of the welfare services available to the military both at home and overseas.  The Red Cross and USO were not yet the organizations we think of today and when American needed to quickly build an army to fight overseas the YMCA also mobilized.  During the ‘Great War’ 35,000 YMCA volunteers worked to meet the welfare of our forces overseas.  Of the men and women working with the YMCA there were 286 casualties during the war.

Saturday November 2– Expect to go to Pau with Captain Elam for weekend this P.M. returning Monday morning.   

 Pau is a city in southwestern France, set along the Pyrenees mountains’ northern edge approximately 50 miles from the Spanish border.  Pau is about 55 miles from Dax where Poppa’s company is located.  Poppa didn’t say whether the trip to Pau would be for work or pleasure.

Meanwhile, on the front lines

The war was nearing its end.  The Germans and allies lack men and resources and the civilians were protesting the war.  The head of the German Navy decided to stage a major naval battle against the British.  However, on October 29, 1918 German sailors refused their orders to attack the British and began a revolt which began the German Revolution.  On October 30th Turkey signed an armistice with the Allies.

On the Home Front

During the last week of October, 1918  21,000 Americans died from the Spanish Flu epidemic.

 

Next Week:  Poppa Arrives at Army Candidate School

 

100 Years ago This Week: The Spanish “Flu” is very prevalent around here now

 Background:  It is October 1918 and more than one year since my grandfather, John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’, enlisted  in the United States Army’s 20th Engineers.  In November, 1917 he sailed to France aboard a troop transport ship.  He is assigned to the headquarters unit of Company A and is based at a camp set up inside a bull ring in Dax, France.  Many of the soldiers around him have come down with the Spanish flu.  Here are the journal entries he wrote one hundred years ago this week.

———————————————————————————-

From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday October 20, 1918– Lieut. Ward died last night while on vacation in Marseilles.  “Americas Answer to the Hun” at the casino tonight.

Monday October 21– We now have a Y.M.C.A. uptown. I wrote that before.  The Y.M.C.A. is used for band practice twice a week.  Also orchestra once a week.

Tuesday October 22– The Spanish “Flu” is very prevalent around here now.  Very few of our troops have it. Most everyone at Hdq. had it last July and Aug.  Hope it was the same so none of us will get it now. Canadians have it I understand.

Wednesday October 23– (No entry)

Thursday October 24 – The Petite Gironde now publishes an American edition which gets here about 10:30 a.m. each day.  Nearly a day ahead of the New York Herald news.

Friday October 25Another French loan is in now.  Some very attractive and meaning posters are posted all over town helping in subscriptions.  

Saturday October 26– Today (Sunday) an aeroplane flew over the city (very low) distributing pamphlets and doing stunts to help(?) the loan (?)


Sunday October 20, 1918

” Lieut. Ward died last night while on vacation in Marseilles.

Homer W. Ward is listed in the book “History of the Twentieth Engineers”  as a member of 2nd Company who was lost from “disease or accident” .

The Monuments Project is a collaborative effort to document the stories of WWI American soldiers buried in foreign cemeteries.  On of the soldiers they featured on their website is  Lt. Homer W. Ward of Centralia Washington.

Homer Ward pictured in the University of Washington Yearbook from 1912.
An obituary-like article from the Centralia (WA) News Examiner

 “Americas Answer to the Hun” at the casino tonight.”

“America’s Answer”  (to the Hun)  is a 1918 American documentary and war silent film about  the arrival of the first half-million American troops in France during World War I.

October 24, 1918:  A War Hero in the Family

Poppa was living in the small town of Poynette Wisconsin when he enlisted in the US Army.  Many other young men from Poynette also joined up.  Terry Thompson of the Poynette Area Historical Society has been been highlighting these veterans of WWI on their Facebook page.

Poppa’s brother Hugh Clancy enlisted and was stationed in Rockford IL.  Poppa’s cousin  Arthur A. Jamieson (1893-1956)  interrupted his education at Harvard to join the 76th Field Artillery.   According to a book entitled “Harvard’s Military Record in the World War”  cousin Arthur  was involved in several battles including the Champagne Marne defensive,  Marne Aisne Saint Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne offensives    which were decisive battles near the end of the war.  In his obituary it was noted that “Arthur served with distinction …  in France where he was gassed and shell shocked spending considerable time in a hospital in France and receiving the Distinguished Service Medal for gallantry in action on October, 24th, 1918. “

Presumably he was wounded during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive which was fought from September 26, 1918 until the Armistice of November 11, 1918, a total of 47 days.

Two pictures of Poppa’s cousin Arthur Ames Jamieson who was injured on October 24th, 1918 during fighting in France.

Poppa likely did not know for some time that while he was in Dax, France  writing in his diary entry for October 24, 1918 his cousin was injured at the front lines dozens of miles away.

This picture, from the the National Archives and Records Administration, is labelled “Gun crew from Regimental Headquarters Company, 23rd Infantry, firing 37mm gun during an advance against German entrenched positions. , 1918”

France was not the only place where Arthur’s heroic actions resulted in injuries.   In 1937,  at the age of 44,  he was working at the Bank of Poynette as a teller when two men attempted to rob the bank.  They fired gun shots and Arthur was hit.  According to a newspaper article  “The gunman and an accomplice fled down the street, without any money, around the corner to their car, which was parked a block away. Despite his wounds, a bloodied but determined Jamieson pursued them down the street, catching the attention of residents.”

“The The Petite Gironde now publishes an American edition”

The Petite Gironde was a French Newspaper.  They apparently published an edition in English in 1918-19.

Friday October 25Another French loan is in now.  Some very attractive and meaning posters are posted all over town helping in subscriptions. “

Is this the kind of poster or pamphlet that Poppa was referring to?

 

Next Week : Letters are the greatest means of encouragement these days.

Sources:

Poynette Area Historical Society

The Monuments Project  monumentsproject.org

The History of the Twentieth Engineers 1917-1918

 

100 Years ago This Week: Who am I working for?

Background:   It has now been over one year since my grandfather John Rodney Jamieson, who we later called ‘Poppa’ enlisted in the United States Army’s 20th Engineers.  In November, 1917  he sailed to France aboard a troop transport ship.  He is assigned to the headquarters unit of Company A and is based at a camp set up inside a bull ring in Dax, France.  Many of the soldiers around him have come down with the Spanish flu.  Here are the journal entries he wrote one hundred years ago this week.

—————————————————————————————

From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday October 13, 1918– Gave first band concert in veranda of arena today.  Many papers and magazines in mail today. Report that central Powers have accepted (?) peace plans.

Monday  October 14– Peace news more quiet today.  Nearly everyone thinks it is still part of game to save German Gov. from ruin.  

Tuesday October 15– Drafting, raining, graveling-  applied for another transfer today.  Last week Joe took a 24 hour trip for—– for the colonel.  Hard day war (?) for some people.

Wednesday October 16 – I wish I could put down here the song(?), no noise, the women cry as they push their little wheel barrows down the street past the office every morning selling fish.

Thursday October 17– Rain continuous from early morning.  Still raining tonight at 8:41. Casey (?) calls on us tonight driving Lt Colonel Kelley with many interesting tales from the front.

Friday October 18– Who am I working for was my cry.  Whereupon the matter was settled and again it was much better for me.  Four rush jobs. From four different men.

Saturday October 19– The Y.M.C.A. up town was opened tonight .  Will be nice place after while. Y.M.C.A. at rear of cafe does not sound very well.


“Who am I working for?”

Poppa seems to be increasingly unhappy with the type of work that he has been doing as a soldier.  He has mentioned that he has helped design and install telephone lines, buildings, and roads.  However, on October 15th he wrote that he once again requested a transfer and on October 16th he expressed frustration with his work.  Apparently 4 different superiors were directing him to do four different things

Rumors of peace

Although unhappy with his own role in the army It appears that Poppa and the other soldiers are excited about the possibility that the war will be over soon.  The war has been going better for the American/English/French forces.  The Germans continue to retreat on October 13th and 14th.  The Americans and their allies have advanced.

October 17th – Driving Lieut Col Kelley (Kelly?)

I can find no reference to a Lieut. Col. Kelley in the 20th engineers. However in the book called the History of the Twentieth Engineers Lieut. Col. Kelly (spelled without the second ‘e’) is listed as officer in charge of ‘Technical Equipment and Operation Supplies’.   The book also indicates that one-half of Company A was “…known also as the Third Detachment, Tenth engineers and as “The Kelly Outfit” consisted of about 130 men….  The Detachment built a camp at Bellevue, near Pontenx, (known as “Kellyville in recognition of the energetic commanding officer).”

Pontenx is a community about 60 miles north of Poppa’s camp.  In 1918 it had a population of about 1700.

A Us army photo of the Pontenx sawmill 1918. Presumably this is located in the camp of Lieut. Col Kelly.

Next Week:  The Spanish “Flu” is very prevalent around here now

 

Sources:

Twentieth Engineers  France 1917-1918-1919, Dimm and sons Prinitng Co.  Portland, Oregon.