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.
“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.
“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.
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?
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?
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