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



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

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