Thursday, January 17, 2019

Personal Recollections of WWI Military Service

This post will complete Don Beery's account of his military service, after his arrival in Le Havre, France.

“January 4 [1918] – We left Le Havre about 4:30 P. M. and arrived at Brest at 2:30 A. M., January 7th.  Why we ever made this trip is a mystery, just more of the army's organized confusion.  We were quartered in barracks and are with a stevedore company.  The next day we hiked about three miles to the old Napoleon Barracks for a bath. This was really a bath by the numbers: (1) Remove your clothes; (2) Enter a large room where there were about 100 shower heads protruding from the ceiling and each man picks out a likely spot; (3) the water is turned on from a master control for all the shower heads (except for those that don't work) and is left on for about one minute for you to get lathered up; (4) After an interval of about one minute the water is turned on again for you to rinse, but when about half the soap is rinsed off the water is turned off. Begin and you've had it! OH! Well! - C'est la guerre.

January 9 – We left Brest about 9:30 P. M. Our passenger cars were connected to the rear of a freight train with our baggage car in between.  “Somewhere in France,” the passenger cars were left on a siding and the freight went on-- with our baggage car containing all our food, still connected.  The French railroad men wanted to move our cars but our captain said, “No! We will not move until the baggage car was returned.” After much shouting and waving of arms, they agreed.  A day and a half later, the car came back.  In the meantime we lived n black French bread, bought, stolen, begged or traded for. 
WWI troop train
January 14 – We arrived at Chaumont at 1:30 A.M. We always seem to arrive in the middle of the night.  The cobblestone streets were glazed with ice and our worn down hob nails were slick as sled runners, so slipping, sliding and falling down, we made our way to our assigned barracks at Camp Bacon where there were bunks ready for us.  We had not had our clothes off and very little sleep since leaving Brest, so this really looked good for us.”
WWI U.S. troops marching in France
WWI troop parade on French cobblestone street
On January 18, Beery became ill with scarlet fever.  He stayed in the hospital until February 27 when he rejoined his company.

“April 24 – The 41st Division was designated a replacement division and all the privates in the company were transferred to various other divisions and the non-commissioned officers (I was a corporal) were ordered back to England to reorganized a unit with casuals from the 32nd Division.  It was an unhappy ending of our close friendships.”

After crossing the channel on April 30, Beery was assigned to a camp at Winchester  “for many months.  While we were here was had many special assignments in addition to the supervision and maintenance of the barracks assigned to troops for their stopover on their way to France.” Later they went to London for guard duty, including for Wilson's visit.  After being promoted to sergeant, he was assigned to military police (M.P.) duty in Liverpool.  He returned to France and sailed for home on June 11.  He was discharged from Fort Lewis, Washington and  arrived in Portland on July 4-- “a grand and glorious Fourth of July.”

No comments:

Post a Comment