100 Years Ago This Week: Not Much Work to do for me

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 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.  


From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday May 19, 1918– Officers ball game at Co. A today against 6th Bn officers.  Also game between “A” and “C”. in evening I went to Co. “C” Y.M.C.A. to lecture.

Monday May 20–  Lloyd is confined to camp for six weeks due to A.W.O.L. one evening last week in camp Victor.

Tuesday May 21– Payday today everyone has been broke for nearly a month.

Wednesday May 22– The engineers and medics have a ball game with indoor ball in evening.  Have had several games thus far.

Thursday May 23– Not much work to do for me.  At companies they are getting out lots of lumber and all feel that now they are doing something.

Friday May 24– Making  map of location for regimental infirmary which is to be at this place.

Saturday May 25– Rec’d a Christmas box from home today.


Monday May 20–  Lloyd is confined to camp for six weeks due to A.W.O.L. one evening last week in camp Victor.

It can be inferred from this entry and others in his diary that the soldier named Lloyd was not always the best rule follower.  Months earlier on December 19, 1917 Poppa made this entry in his journal  “Very quiet day but mighty noisy night.   Hill and Lloyd have mock wedding and raise h-l till Midnight.” 

Thanks to Michel Boquet for finding this picture of S.R. Lloyd. who apparently was not always as serious acting as he appears in this picture.

Wednesday May 22– The engineers and medics have a ball game with indoor ball in evening.  Have had several games thus far.

Based on several journal entries it appears that the soldiers enjoyed playing baseball.  But what is he referring to when he writes of “indoor ball”?

Thursday May 23– Not much work to do for me.  At companies they are getting out lots of lumber and all feel that now they are doing something.

One main purpose of the 20th engineers in France was to produce lumber.  That is why they were sent to the Dax area which is in the edge of a large forest.  This is the second time that Poppa reported that the engineers were producing lots of lumber.  In previous posts he had expressed frustration with how little they seemed to be contributing to the war effort.  However, on May 2, 1918  they started up the newer bigger lumber mills which resulted in significantly increased production of lumber.

First French mill used by 1st Co., Mees
Production of lumber increased significantly when the older, smaller French mill was replaced with this 20 M mill.

Saturday May 25– Rec’d a Christmas box from home today.

Like soldiers in every era Poppa looked forward to receiving mail from home.  It must have been frustrating when it took over five months for Christmas packages sent from Wisconsin to reach him in France.

According to the Postal Museum “During World War I, the postal system experienced unprecedented growth. Between July 1, 1917 and June 30, 1918 the Post Office Department dispatched 35 million letters to the American Expeditionary Forces.”  “In May 1918, the War Department assumed responsibility for overseas post offices. Military personnel replaced Post Office Department employees who had been sent to operate the field stations. The Military Postal Express Service (MPES) was the first all-military mail service in American history.

Next Week:  Not very good news just now.

Source:

“Expanded Service 1898-1920s.” Methods of Communication That Have Threatened Letter Writing. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 May 2018.

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