100 Years Ago This Week: Back to work

Background:   WWI has been over for more than 2 months.   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. He has been in France since September of 1917.  He was assigned to the headquarters unit of Company A based at a camp set up inside a bull ring in Dax, France.    Here are the journal entries he wrote one hundred years ago this week.

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From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday, January 19, 1919– No Entry

Monday January 20– Started work today, making table survey of present narrow gauge track in place at abandoned 1st. Co. operation.  2nd Co. (Det) ? is now at this camp while 1st Co is at Pontex helping to get out the burned timber there that the U.S. has on its hands.

Tuesday January 21– Finished up the outside work this A.M. Started the map this P.M.  Am to go back to my old job, relieving the fellow now at it. Not much to do it appears but I would much prefer more work on an outside job.

Wednesday January 22– The river is again very high, not as high as last spring but it may reach that point soon.  Gave us shorter hours today – eight hours is now the official times of labor.

Thursday January 23– About 40 M.P.s are now located here.  They are to be stationed here permanently, at present eat with us but will later have their own mess.  Y.M.C.A. concert tonight at Y.  Two girls with Red who has been here several times before. One girl sings very well, The other a dancer who makes one think himself at a cabaret show somewhere. Had a little dance afterwards.

Friday January 24– More mail today.  Did not expect any so soon so this was a pleasant surprise. 

Saturday January 25– Not a thing to do all day.  Spent all my time in office writing letters, reading, etc.  Will probably have several of these kind of day.


On January 20, 1919 Poppa started writing in a new pocket diary.  The title on the front is “Agenda” and it is printed in French, suggesting that, unlike the journals he used for 1917 and 1918,  he acquired this journal in France.

Poppa’s Journals. For some reason he used one labeled ‘1913’ for the year 1917, and one printed in France for 1919.

Peace Conference

The Paris Peace Conference started on January 18, 1919 in Versaille, France.  It was held to negotiate peace treaties which ended WWI.

The Burned Area

After leaving Engineers Training School Poppa has re-joined his unit in Dax, France.  Throughout France the American Expeditionary Force (A.E.F.) was beginning the massive logistical effort of returning its soldiers to America.  Camps were closed or consolidated and soldiers moved to new temporary locations until they could be sent home.   As a result Poppa’s camp in Dax is now home to the M.P.s (military police ?) and the 2nd Company.  Poppa wrote that the 1st Co, which was the original unit in this camp, has been sent to the ‘burned area’ in Pontenx (often misspelled Pontex) to help with clean up.

The burned area refers to  the remains of a forest fire that occurred in early September, 1918. The fire was intentionally started  by local residents who were unhappy with the sale of the forest to the Canadian and U.S. militaries.    The fires they started would eventually burn 30,000 acres and 180,000 trees as well as three camps set up by the Canadian armed forces and some small French villages.  Local residents, Canadian soldiers and American military personnel worked to extinguish the fire.  Despite their best efforts the fire continued until it reached the shore of Gastes-Parentis Lake were it burned itself out.  (per Michel Boquet)

Some of the burned timber could still be salvaged and used if milled soon.  However,  if left untouched, by the spring it would no longer have value.  So the French Government asked for the American and Canadian forces to help clean the burn area before they returned to North America.

This picture, from U.S. Government Archives is labelled “American Sawmill in Potenx April 1918.

New railroad tracks were run to the burned area, new barracks, headquarters and ‘Y’ huts were built.  Several of the lumber mills that had been set up around France were moved to the burned area and used in the salvage operation which continued through the winter of 1918-19.  At one point it became the largest lumber mill in Europe and produced more than half a million board feet of lumber per day.

Therefore, with their services no longer needed for the war effort,  the soldiers of Poppa’s unit were sent to the burn area.  Poppa, as part of the Company A headquarters staff remained in Dax, for the time being.

The Y.M.C.A

On January 23rd Poppa attended a concert at the YMCA.  “Two Girls with Red” performed.

Supply House and YMCA 1st Co. Mees

When the U.S. declared war in 1917 the military was inexperienced with meeting the needs of a large army.  The Red Cross provided nurses and ambulances and the YMCA stepped in to meet the social and emotional needs.  YMCA huts manned by volunteers were put up all over France.

YMCA ‘Huts’ sprung up all aver France during WWI.

Next Week: We Expect to Give Another Show

Sources:

American Lumberman, Chicago . April 5, 1919

Email from Michel Boquet,  10 December 2018

100 Years Ago This Week: I didn’t know I had so many French friends!

Background:   WWI has been over for 2 months.   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.  On November 7, 1918 he traveled 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.

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From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday January 12, 1919– Arrived in Lyon at 8:00 AM but R.T.O. & M.P. would not allow us to stay over one day.  Left for Bordeaux at 11:00 AM. Train’s crowded, no sleep last night. Pretty scenery around Lyons as train travels along Rhone River.  Record- Oct 10 letter reached me as I left engrs camp yesterday.  Note -we’re much surprised to get our certificates yesterday as we left school three weeks before close.  Could not go to Paris as it is closed to A.E.F. at present. Couldn’t make my purchase I had planned so much on making in either Paris or Lyon

Monday January 13– Rode all night on crowded train but had seat.  Arrived in Dax at 10:30. Heard that order just came to the effect (?) that 20th will stay over about three months on road repair work.  Everyone disappointed. I am glad to get back to the old bunch.

Tuesday January 14– Tom and I are living in a little tent by ourselves.  He arrived about a week in advance of me. I didn’t know I had so many French friends until I got back here.

Wednesday January 15– This is the day we were supposed to start for home. I am glad to be here however and  the time will be spent in a good camp at least.

January 16 17-18, 19– Heard the Hanger was reported missing.  Doing nothing but resting, writing, and reading.  Five officers in the Hospital —— (9).


On Saturday January 11th, while in engineers training school near Langres, France,  Poppa was ordered to re-join his unit in Dax.  By the end of the day he had left the training school in Langes and traveled to Dijon.  From there he took a train to Lyon, France.

Lyon was formed in ancient times at the spot where the Rhone and Saone rivers meet.  Lyon is the country’s third largest city and currently has a population of about half a million.

Saone River in Lyon, France

From his journal entry it appears that Poppa wanted to see the sights of Lyon “but R.T.O. & M.P. would not allow us to stay over one day.” R.T.O.  may refer refer to railway transport officer?  M.P. could stand for ‘Military Police’?   From Lyon trains took him to Bordeaux and then back to his unit based in Dax.

Poppa said that he could not make the purchase that he planned.  He couldn’t make the ‘purchase’ in Paris as he had hoped because that city was closed to Members of the American Expeditionary Forces (U.S. Soldiers).  Apparently, for at least a time after the end of the war soldiers were not allowed to go to Paris on leave.

He has not yet specified what he plans to purchase but I believe that he wants to buy an engagement ring for Marion Clarkson Brown.

In previous journal entries he had mentioned a fellow soldier named Hanger.  What does Poppa mean when he says that “Hanger was reported missing”?

Meanwhile, back in America

On January 16th,  1919 the 36th and final state approved prohibition making it possible to ratify the 18th amendment to the constitution.  That meant that prohibition would go into effect in one year (January 17th, 1920).  Local governments could choose to implement prohibition earlier.  Poppa had been in training camp in Washington D.C. on  November 1st, 1917 when prohibition was implemented there.

Next week: Back to Work

Sources:

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Lyon.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 6 July 2018, www.britannica.com/place/Lyon-France. Accessed 9 Jan. 2019.

100 Years ago This Week: Leaving Langres

Background:   WWI has been over for almost 2 months.   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.  On November 7, 1918 he traveled to Langres France and enrolled in Army Engineers Candidate School (A.C.S.).   Here are the journal entries he wrote one hundred years ago this week.

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From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday January 5, 1919– (No entry)

Monday January 6– (No entry)

Tuesday January 7– Having much doughboy this week.  Today it is rumored that 1bn 20th men are going back to their COs who are leaving for the U.S.A.

Wednesday January 8– Today at 3 P.M. the battalion was paraded  in honor of ex-pres Roosevelt whose funeral is today.   

Thursday January 9 (No entry)

Friday January 10 (No entry)

Saturday January 11– Called out of first formation this A.M. Told to pack up and leave in one hour for Langres.  Left L- at 4:00 P.M. Stayed in Dijon (?) until 3 A.M.


Note:  Poppa made entries in his diary for almost every day since he enlisted in 1917.  He was very consistent.  However, during the week of January 5, 1918 he did not write anything for 4 of the seven days.  It was the fewest entries of any week to this point.  Is it possible that his dislike for his current situation took away his motivation to write in his journal?

Modern View of Langres France

Poppa had been in training at the Army’s Engineers school near Langres, France for several weeks.  Almost since arriving there were rumors that the training school was closing.  Some of the other soldiers in training had already left to return to their units and then, presumably, were to be sent home.  This week Poppa’s turn finally arrived.  On the morning of Saturday, January 11th he was told to prepare to leave in order to return to his unit in Dax, France.  By 4 p.m. he was leaving and he “Stayed in Dijon (?) until 3 A.M.”  

It’s sometimes difficult to decipher Poppa’s writing.  Here is his a picture of his entry for January 11.

Poppa’s journal entry for January 11, 1919. Where do you think he “stayed until 3 AM”?

At first I thought he wrote that he stayed in “wagon” until 3 a.m.  However, after studying the map I realized that there is a community of Dijon, France about 50 miles south of Langres.  Dijon, the birthplace of dijon mustard, was used as a headquarters by the American forces during WWI and was a hub for railway transportation .  I think that it’s possible he stayed in “Dijon” until 3 am when he presumably caught another train to continue on his trip.

Loading rations on a train in Dijon, France during WWI

Four days before he left the training school in Langres, on Wednesday January 8, Poppa wrote-  “at 3 P.M. the battalion was paraded  in honor of ex-pres Roosevelt whose funeral is today.”   

Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt died on January 6th, 1919.  He had served as president of the United States from 1901-1909.

President T. Roosevelt

Next Week:  I didn’t know I had so many French friends!

Sources:

AEF IN DIJON.” The American Expeditionary Force in and around Dijon, 8 Apr. 2017, aefdijon.wordpress.com/2017/04/06/first-blog-post/. Accessed 5 Jan. 2019.

“Theodore Roosevelt.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 26 Dec. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodore_Roosevelt. Accessed 5 Jan. 2019.

 

100 Years ago this Week: Could Anything be Much Worse?

 Background:  It is the end of 1918 and WWI has been over for almost 2 months.   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. 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.

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From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday December 29, 1918– Another rainy day.  Spent the day reading, writing and cleaning up.  A Co. making hot cakes on their stove this P.M. A year ago tonight was a big party “somewhere in Dax”

Monday December 30– This bridging is a s—— o—– g——.  The 1st BN is going out today, lucky fellows.  Several of the 3rd Bn go out Wed. Eleven from BN makes fully 20 we have lost since class began.   

Tuesday December 31– Spent New Years eve very quietly.  Went to movies at Fort and then to bed. Some of the wilder ones came in at 12 and awakened all with rifle and revolver shots.  

Wednesday January 1, 1919– Went to Langres today spent day just “looking round” the city.  Came back to camp this P.M.

Thursday January 2– At the D—— water potgram (?).  Moved in to another barracks. Could anything be much worse.

Friday January 3– (no entry)

Saturday January 4– Finished bridging this A.M.  In the P.M. a fellow was decorated with the D.S.C. at a formal service


Is the end near for Engineers Training School?

Although Poppa is training to be an officer at the Engineers Training School he is more interested in leaving France and the army and returning home.  Rumors say that the school will be closing soon.  He has written in the last few weeks that small groups and individual soldiers are  returning to their units to be sent home.  He appears hopeful when he writes of others leaving but depressed that, so far, he has not been chosen to go.

On December 30, 1918 Poppa wrote, referring to one of the classes he was taking in training,  that “This bridging is a s—— o—– g——.  ”  Does s–o-g refer to “son of a gun” which does not seem to be very strong language for a soldier?   Or does it reference something stronger? 

On New Years Eve, 1918 Poppa went to the movies.  He did not mention what movie he saw.  The top grossing movie of 1918 was the silent film “Mickey” which cost $250,000 to produce, was released in August, and eventually grossed $8,000,000.

A poster advertising the 1918 silent film “Mickey”

January 4, 1919– The distinguished service cross is a military award established in January of 1918 by President Woodrow Wilson.  The DSC is presented to an individual in the army who, at great risk to themselves, performs an act of heroism against the enemy.  There were 6,185 recipients during the World War I era.

A picture of soldiers receiving the Distinguished Service Cross in December 1918.

The DSC is still awarded over one hundred years after being established so when Poppa observed a “fellow decorated” with it in December of 1918 the award had existed for less than a year.

The Distinguished Service Cross

 

 

Next Week:  Leaving Langres

Sources:

“Mickey (1918 Film).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 29 Oct. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mickey_(1918_film). Accessed 28 Dec. 2018.

“Distinguished Service Cross (United States).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 19 Dec. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distinguished_Service_Cross_(United_States). Accessed 28 Dec. 2018.

 

100 Years Ago This Week: President Wilson Reviews the Troops on Christmas Day

 Background:  It is December of 1918 and WWI has been over for more than a month.   John Rodney Jamieson, my grandfather, who we later called ‘Poppa’,   had joined the U.S. Army’s 20th Engineers and was assigned to the headquarters unit of Company A based at a camp set up inside a bull ring in Dax, France.  On November 7, 1918 he traveled 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.

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From the Journal of John Rodney Jamieson

Sunday December 22, 1918– Was going to Langres but due to rain decided to stay in camp.  

Monday December 23– Weather still quite warm but wet and very muddy.  I am company C.O. tomorrow -Christmas day.

Tuesday December 24– Some of the boys gave a Minstrel show at the Fort Y.M. hut on Christmas eve.  Loud, witty and truly expressed some of our thoughts and emotions about this place.  

Wednesday December 25– Went to see the President review troops about two miles from here.  Saw Pres and Mrs Wilson, Gen Pershing, Col House and others of the party.  Rest of the day around barracks reading and writing.

 Thursday December 26– We have been given all afternoons off between Christmas and New Years.  Have inspection at 1:00 and then nothing more.

Friday December 27– Had camouflage xam this morning.

Saturday December 28– Started bridging course today.  Awful walk down to the place. Glad the course is only one week in length.


President Wilson’s trip to Europe

President Wilson and General John Pershing reviewed the troops in France on Christmas day 1918.

Wednesday December 25– “Went to see the President review troops about two miles from here.  Saw Pres and Mrs Wilson, Gen Pershing, Col House and others of the party. ” 

President Woodrow Wilson became the first American president to travel to Europe while in office.  He wanted to participate in the peace conference scheduled for January, 1919 so he left America aboard the S.S. George Washington on December 4th, 1918  and arrived in Paris on December 16th.  On Christmas day he reviewed the troops in Humes France which is about equidistant between Langres and Rolampont, the two communities where Poppa was located during his training.  You can see a fairly high quality video (No audio) of President Wilson and General Pershing reviewing and addressing the troops and locals in this video on Youtube.

Presumably Poppa is in the crowd watching the ceremonies although I couldn’t pick him out in the video.

This is the second time that Poppa was near the president since joining the army.  On October 28th, 1917 while in training near Washington D.C. he wrote “Visited Washington today.  Saw National Museum, Potomac River and nearly run over by Pres Car.”

If you watch the video of the president you will see many dogs running around the soldiers.  Maybe they were strays or animals “adopted” by the various soldiers.  It is humorous to see that one dog, oblivious to the ceremony, was digging a hole just a few feet in front of the President while he spoke on the reviewing stand.

 

Next Week: Could Anything be Much Worse?

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.

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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.

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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: 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: 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.

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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