100 Years ago this week: We all Hope That the French and English Will Hold Them

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.


From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday April 7, 1918– Spent day in camp, rainy season is now on, sky clear one minute next minute it is raining.  Tom took physical examination for commission in 20th today.

Monday April 8– Working on the garage.  Nothing New.

Tuesday April 9– Received a new book “Carry On” from Marion today.  Hope we can “carry on” hard for awhile then carry back ourselves intact and safe.

Wednesday April 10– The big drive is still on.  We all hope that the French and English will hold them then then we can get a chance later.

Thursday April 11– Very much mail today.  Eleven very nice letters from U.S. today.  Will not get many more packages as law has just been passed limiting them very much.  

Friday April 12– Captain Pill called out the detachment early this morning and bid each one good bye.  We are very, very sorry to lose him but we still have a good adjutant as Freedman will take his place.    

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


Sunday April 7, 1918– …  Tom took physical examination for commission in 20th today.  

commission is a formal document issued to appoint a named person to high office or as a commissioned officer in the armed forces.

Carry On

Tuesday April 9– Received a new book “Carry On” from Marion today.  Hope we can “carry on” hard for awhile then carry back ourselves intact and safe.

The book “Carry On” was written in 1917 by Coningsby Dawson, an Englishman who served as an officer in the Canadian Army from 1916 through the end of WWI.  He went on to author many more works and died in 1958.  According to Amazon.com “Carry On” was a best seller in 1917.

Coningsby Dawson in 1919

The book was sent to Poppa by Marion Clarkson Brown who would later become his wife (and my grandmother).  Marion was a 1916 graduate of the University of Wisconsin with a bachelor of arts degree.

Earliest know photo of Marion Clarkson Brown (1892-1983)

The German Spring Offensive

Wednesday April 10– The big drive is still on.  We all hope that the French and English will hold them then we can get a chance later.

The French and English had been at war with Germany since 1914.  They had so far battled to a stalemate with an enormous loss of life by both sides.   After 2 days of artillery bombardment the Germans attacked the British and French in Belgium on April 9th.  The Germans pushed the British back three miles.  However, the arrival of British, French and Australian reinforcements broke the German momentum and the offensive halted.  The German offensive was only a partial success.  Additionally, the Germans suffered 330,000 casualties and now lack sufficient reserve troops.

Although Poppa and his unit were stationed far from the front and were not expected to be involved in combat they must have worried that the Germans would break through and over run France.

British 55th (West Lancashire) Division troops blinded by poison gas during the battle, 10 April 1918

Friday April 12– Captain Pill called out the detachment early this morning and bid each one good bye.  We are very, very sorry to lose him but we still have a good adjutant as Freedman will take his place.    

According to the book “Railway Track and Structures” Captain L.M. Pill  had been a valuation engineer on the Mobile & Ohio Railroad of Mobile, Alabama  before being commissioned as a major of the American Expeditionary Forces in France. Captain Pill had been the roommate of the late Major Edward Hartwick.

Lt. Freedman (of Maine) was a friend of Major Hartwick.

Next Week:  Camp Tuscania

Sources:

“A Biographical Sketch of Major Edward E. Hartwick.” Google Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Apr. 2018.

The History Place – World War I Timeline – 1918 – A Fateful Ending. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Apr. 2018.

“Battle of the Lys (1918).” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 04 Apr. 2018. Web. 06 Apr. 2018.

“Railway Track and Structures.” Google Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Apr. 2018.

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