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Company H 308th Infrantry Dennis Shiels

Dear family,

2020 marks 80 years since my father, Denis Francis Sheils, died of cancer at the age of 45.  I was six years old at the time, and have precious few memories of him.  One thing I do have, the thing I share with you now, is the diary he kept while serving our country in World War I.  This little book provides a glimpse into a formative and very difficult time in his life, as well as a perspective from a young soldier in The Great War.  I have had it typed out, and paired it with excerpts from history articles and the history of his units, H Company, 308th Infantry, 77th Infantry Division and later with PWE (Prisoner of War Escort) Company 122. 

                Private First Class Sheils served with two different units during the war.  He trained and fought with H Company, 308th Infantry, leaving Camp Upton, NY, in April 1917, and was with them until he was hit with mustard gas on August 17th, and sent to the hospital. After several weeks in the hospital and then a convalescent camp, he was reassigned to PWE Company 122, and spent the rest of the war guarding prisoners of war, escorting German POWs back to Germany, and finally returning in November 1919, almost one year after the Armistice was signed.         

                He also had two diaries: one, he kept from his departure from Camp Upton to his return to the US.  The entries in this diary are short and direct.  The second diary appears to have been begun during his time as a POW guard, and covers the beginning of his war experience in more detail; it ends just before his first move to the front lines, but gives much more insight into his personality and his experience.   I have the second diary inserted under the first diary entries, but in blue.  Hopefully this makes sense as you read the text. 

                While losing him as a child was one of the greatest tragedies of my life, I have also discovered through this research that there were many times in France when he could have died, when many others around him died, and yet he was able to come home, meet and marry my mother, and have a family. In fact, the only reason any of us are reading this is because God saw fit that he should come home.  I am grateful that he took the time to write of his experience, and that God chose to spare him for a time.  I hope you will enjoy getting to know him a bit, as well as appreciate the hardships and sacrifices that he and so many other men made in service to our great country and to the world.

                I love you all, and keep you all close in my heart and in my prayers.


 

Denis Sheils

Co H, 308th Infantry

A.E.F.

 

 

Friday, April 5th, 1918

I begin to keep a record of the places I am to see and live in.

We are ordered to place our blue bags in front of barracks where a truck is waiting for them.

5:40 p.m.

We are ordered to fold our beds and place them in the recreation room.

 

Denis Sheils

PWE Co 122

A E F

Short diary of my experience in France:

 

Friday, 5th April, 1918

                We were expecting to leave Camp Upton any time so we were ordered to fold our cots + pile them in the recreation room, after 5:30 p.m.  We had to sleep on the floor that night, it was my first experience sleeping on a hard bed.  I didn’t sleep any because it was pretty cold, + we had our blankets in our packs, we couldn’t take them out, as we had orders to be ready to pull out at a minute’s notice, any time during the night.

 

Saturday, April 6th, 4:50 a.m.

Last night slept on floor in mess hall; was too cold to sleep.

9 a.m. on the train, have 3 sandwiches + 1 box corned beef. Very nice ride in train.

11 a.m. on the ferry,

The train took us to Long Island City at 10 a.m. where we entered the ferry boat, which is very much crowded, but I have a seat.

2:30 p.m. on S.S. Cretic

We rode on the ferry 2 ½ hours. We were brought to No. 61 North River at 22nd St. + 11th Ave. N.Y.

4 p.m.

I was assigned a place to sleep. I am now on deck.

6:05 p.m.

The ship is just leaving the pier + many hands are waving, wishing us good luck.

Saturday morning at 4:30 we were ordered out for roll-call, after that we had breakfast (ham sandwiches and coffee) + then the orders were to carry all our barrack bags + pile them along the road so the trucks could pull in beside them, to load them + take them to the train. When we had that finished we had to turn out ourselves with packs + full equipment, + line up for inspection, + get our traveling rations, which consisted of three sandwiches, one can of corned beef, + two packages of hard bread.  After we got all these things tied to our packs we were ready to start, it was then about 7 a.m.  Well we got started at last, + believe me I was pretty tired already holding up my pack, rifle, and one hundred round of ammunition; when we got to the train it was eight o’clock. They took us such a round through camp it took us an hour to get where we could have got in fifteen minutes.  Well when I reached the train I was all in, + I was mighty glad to get a seat + get my pack off, it had my back broken.

                When the train pulled out, it was about 8:30 a.m. + we arrived in Long Island City about 10:30. We just walked across to the dock where a boat was waiting, + when we all got on it was pretty crowded, but I was lucky enough to get a seat.  We were about two hours and a half on this boat when we pulled in alongside the steamship Cretic, sixty-one North River, which is at twenty second street and eleventh avenue, NY.

                Well we got aboard the Cretic, which was pretty well camouflaged on the outside, but it looked and smelled more like a pig pin on the inside, than it did a place for human habitation.  It was just a boat for shipping horses + cattle before the war, + which was fitted up just for the emergency with wooden bunks three high, + all joined together.  When all the troops were on, there was 23 hundred aboard altogether, we were just like sardines in a box.  The places where our bunks were was filthy, no fresh air or light at all, just a few small electric lights. We weren’t allowed to open the port holes at any time, + when we got up in the mornings, everybody was so sick from the effects of the foul air.

 

Sun April 7th 1918

The ship contains 2300 passengers, all soldiers except the supply and medical are sleeping in steerage. The officers are occupying 1st class. The food is very poor, also no place to sleep.

                The mess hall was terrible, the water and dirt on the floor was over our shoes at times, + the meals weren’t fit for pigs; all that was any good was the bread + jam.  The meat or fish they served us, nobody could eat it.  Major Budd was in command + we made an awful kick one day to him but it was to no effect.  The officers all slept in first class cabins, + eat + drank of the best all the time.  I bought a few sandwiches off a waiter for a dollar one evening, + they certainly tasted good, it was chicken.  They were selling the food they were supposed to issue; it was the meanness of the English man.  They sold a duck to a few fellows one night for five dollars, + when they tried to eat it, it was impossible, it was just like rubber, so that got the boys sore, + things got hot on board, that all the rifles and ammunition had to be taken away; it was certain if they didn’t take such precautions, there would be a few dead English men around.  It was just 6:05 p.m. on April 6th when we left New York, we were all put below deck, weren’t allowed up till next morning, when we were out of sight of land.

 

Mon April 8th

Nothing of any importance.

We didn’t know where we were going to, till about six o’clock on Monday evening (April 8th) when we pulled into harbor in Halifax, Canada.

                We stayed over all night, + they took on coal and oil in the morning, a supply to take us to Europe.  We were anchored right beside the Belgian relief that caused the great explosion in winter 1917.  The ship itself didn’t look to be much damaged; of course it was grounded, but a few other ships in the harbor was nothing but wreckage.  As for the city and country around, there wasn’t a foot high of wall or a tree left standing.  It must have been a terrible explosion to knock everything so flat.

 

Tue April 9th 1918

Last night our ship arrived at Halifax, Canada. Some of the boys are out in boats at present 10:30 a.m.

6 p.m.

The ship is just leaving Halifax, there are 8 more troop ships leaving at some time. 1 battleship is following us.

At 6 p.m. we left Halifax.  I was on guard on the rear end of the ship, to keep the soldiers from interfering with the guns that were mounted there.  Lt Kane came around to inspect the guard; I was taking in all the scenery of the surrounding country, I didn’t notice him till he spoke, + believe me I got some calling down.  When we got outside of Halifax, we pulled up with eight other troop ships that were bound for Europe.  We had one battle ship with us till we were within two days of land, when a squadron of submarine chasers met us, and escorted us to Liverpool. 

 

Wed April 10th 1918 – 6:30 p.m.

We are ordered to have life preservers on at all times.

                On April 10th at 6:30 p.m., we got orders to wear life belts at all times.  Anybody found on deck without a lifebelt would be put in the guard house. Nearly all the boys were sick for a few days; the rear end of the boat, where the medical + machine gun companies were, was quarantined for having cooties.   They had to get their hair all shaved off.  I didn’t see any submarines on the way but it was reported by wireless they were lurking in a certain zone, so when we got into that zone every boat threw out smoke screens + in two minutes we couldn’t see any of the other ships. There was a very narrow escape from a collision between our boat and another one; someone was steering crooked + when they saw each other they gave the alarm, + believe me there was some excitement on board.  Everybody rushed for their respective life boats (we had boat drill every day so we would know which boat to run to in case of emergency, so many to each boat), but lucky for us this time they escaped collision by a very narrow margin. 

 

Thur. April 18th

We are now out of the danger zone + it is very cold.

 

Friday, April 19th, 1918, 8:30 p.m.

We pulled into Liverpool Harbor at 7 p.m. & anchored.

Everything went well all the rest of the ways + we pulled in + anchored in Liverpool Harbor at 7 p.m. on April 18th.  We stayed all night on board + next morning we unloaded the cargo + got off about 1 p.m. April 19th ourselves.  We hiked a short ways to a station where a train was waiting for us.  Everybody was laughing at the train, it looked so small compared with the American trains; even though I had seen them before, they looked old to me.

                The weather was very cold when we were coming around the coast of Ireland, + also in Liverpool, there wasn’t much stuff stored around the docks, every warehouse was empty, + there wasn’t very many people to be seen anywhere.  Anybody we did see was pretty old; they gave us a warm reception when we landed.  The old men came + talked to us, + told us how they lost their sons or somebody else.  Nearly all of them were crying.  I guess it was between joy and sorrow.

 

Sat. April 20th, 1918

The boat tugged into dock at 4:15 p.m., 7 p.m. on train. I don’t know where we are going but we were given rations.

Sun. April 21st, 1918 9:00 a.m.

At 4 a.m. we arrived at Dover; we stopped at Rugby at midnight and got hot coffee. (5 p.m. on ship).

At 4 p.m. on the 19th April we left Liverpool in the train. We were issued rations on the train, + we rode till 4 a.m. next morning when we arrived in Dover.  We stopped over at midnight at a town named Rugby + we had some hot water, they called it coffee, but it didn’t have any sugar or cream in it. We weren’t allowed any lights in the train, afraid of aeroplanes seeing it. 

When we landed in Dover they took us to a big building eight stories high.  There was large iron stairs on the outside leading to each floor.   So we were taken to the top floor + told to sleep if we wanted to.  There was nothing on the floor, but we were so tired + sleepy we lay on the floor + put our packs under our heads to try to sleep.  When we lay there about five minutes, the rats started running across us + we had to get up + chase them with bayonets.  I never saw rats so daring + I was scared of them, so I couldn’t go to sleep there.  I went down to the street where some of the boys were going to have a wash.  It was just getting bright then, when we had a sort of a wash.  We were looking around to see what we could see; there was a lot of women + children around, + when we got to talking to some of the English soldiers, they told us that all the women + kids in the town came there + slept in caves all night.  The Germans had raided Dover several times at night with aeroplanes, + they had the people so scared, they were afraid to stay in their houses, so they came + slept in these big caves under the rocks for safety.

We went to visit the caves which were many miles long, built by savages long ago. The people were sitting on benches along the wall, lying on the floor, babys in carriages; anyway to get a sleep, + the odour that came out of these places wasn’t very pleasant.  Some of our boys got out through the town, which was pretty well blown up by air raids, + was able to get a square meal.  There was about ten thousand of us had our breakfast in an English mess hall, one piece of bread + a fat peace of bacon, with a cup of tea.  It tasted good because we were hungry. This was the first place I saw the real effects of the war. There was a lot of wounded soldiers working around there. Some of them were so shell shocked they couldn’t talk, +when we heard some of their experiences in the trenches, we began to realize what it must be over there.

4:40 pm we left Dover and we are now crossing the English Channel.

We left Dover about 4 p.m. + hiked out to the boat which was to take us across the channel.  We reached it + was all aboard ready to start at 4:40 p.m. The boat was so crowded we couldn’t get room to sit down. It was very rough all the ways across; most everybody was sick.  Before we left Dover we saw a boat load of wounded soldiers coming back from the front; some with their heads all tied up, others with legs and arms off, but they all seemed happy.  I thought they were lucky to get back even as they were.


 

Mon. April 22nd, 1918, 10 a.m.

At 6:45 p.m. last night we arrived at Calais, France. I was picked to go on guard; we were out until 1 a.m. getting rifles, gas masks, and helmets. We went to bed on a hard floor till 3 a.m. when we were called to start.  I am now waiting for a train to take me somewhere.  2:30 we are on the train.  We landed at Audruicq after riding 2 hours in dirty horse cars.

 

Tue. April 23rd, 1918, 10 a.m.

We had to guard baggage all night and we had to sleep in an empty train, which pulled out when we were asleep.

We anchored in Calais at 6:40 p.m. on April 21st; as soon as we got off, myself + nine other fellows were picked out to go on guard somewhere.  An American was sent to guide us to where we were to change our rifles, we were to use English rifles from now on. This place was about ten minutes from the boat but it took us an hour to get there, the way the dizzy guide took us.  I think we walked through most of the town before we reached the right place. So we got our new rifles and bayonets; they were much lighter than our own.  This was the first place I saw artillery; the streets were all taken up with camouflaged guns, thousands of them.  Nearly all the houses were blown down by air raids, there wasn’t a safe window in any part of the town seen.  There wasn’t very many inhabitants + everywhere through the streets there was dugouts, all protected with bags filled with sand.  This was the first place I heard the noise of the guns at the front, which was about 45 kilos away, + they didn’t make me feel any too good. 

Well, after we got our rifles + ammunition we were taken to headquarters, + waited a short while for a truck, which was to take us somewhere else.  We waited about an hour here, + we had bread, cheese, + tea in the meantime, in an English kitchen; this was a pretty large camp, but it was all canvas tents that it was built of.  The rest of the company was billeted somewhere in the camp, but I didn’t see them. 

We left here in a truck about 9 p.m. + rode about 45 minutes, to a store where we were issued helmets.  Then we hiked for a half an hour to a gas house that was located on top of a hill, + where we were issued gas masks, put through our first poison gas.  The gas was in a barracks for the purpose of testing us, to see if we would get sick.  It was very dark + we couldn’t have any lights on account of aeroplanes overhead, but we got through alright. 

We started back to camp + got there about one a.m.  We were issued three blankets + given a tent to sleep in till 3 a.m., when we were to start for somewhere else.  I slept pretty good for the two hours, because I was tired.  We were called at 3 + started out, + when we hiked about two hours we reached a railroad station.  It was a big centre, + there was a large Red + canteen here, so we had some sandwiches + tea.

We waited around all day till 2:30 p.m., when we got a train that took us to Audruicq, two hours ride.  This was the first place I saw German prisoners.  We got there about 5:30 p.m. + we were told what we had to do.  All the baggage of the 308th Regt was unloaded here so our work was to guard it.  First night we slept in an empty carriage that was on the tracks beside us; that was while we weren’t on guard. In the middle of the night, an engine backed in + pulled the carriage out, + we had to throw all our stuff out + jump out while she was moving.

We stayed here three nights, + had a very hard time to get anything to eat.  Lt Woods was with us the whole time, so he looked out for the grub.  The second + third nights it was raining all the time, + as we didn’t have anyplace to sleep, we had to get under a few bags.  We were wet through. We couldn’t buy anything in this town, according to the laws here.

 

Thur. April 25th, 10 a.m.

We slept under the bags last night and got all wet.

Friday, April 26th, 1918 11 a.m.

We are starting for Bayenghem where the Co is.  It is very warm.

 

Sat. April 27th, 1918, 10 a.m.

Arrived here last night and had to sleep on dirty floor; plenty of rats around.

Our company passed through here on 24th April on the way to Bayenghem, about 12 kilos away, + we started on the way on the 26th, after all of the baggage had been removed by our supply company.  We reached Bayenghem about 2 p.m. to where the company was.  They were sleeping in pig pins, stables, or any empty shed they could find. The barn I put up in there was a little straw on the floor, but it was impossible to sleep at night from the rats. 

 

Sun. April 28th, 2 p.m.

Went to Mass at 10 a.m., then went out for a walk till mess time.  This is Mother’s Day so I must write to mother.

On Sunday 28th April I went to Mass in a small French church beside us; I had to serve Mass.  I couldn’t understand what the priest was saying when he had the sermon.  I wrote a few letters after Mass, as it was Mother’s Day + we were all supposed to write to mother. 

Next day I went with Lt Kane to an English machine gun school; it was about two hours ride in a truck.  Just before we started we were having a bath in a town about 3 kilos from where we were billeted, + I lost my pocket book with nine English pounds in it, but when I came back from school, one of my comrades had it.  He got it from the English in charge of the bathhouse.  While I was at school I used to go out to the rifle range every day. 

We got very poor grub all the time, hardtack + comm-bill 3 times a day with tea.  I broke some of my teeth trying to eat the hard tack. I borrowed a few Francs off Lt Kane now + again to buy something to eat in a town beside us.  All I could get was horse meat, but it tasted good all the same.

  I was talking to a Belgian priest one evening.  He took me into his house + told me a lot of what he had seen of his four years in the front lines.  He kept a lot of refugees in the house with him.

One day while I was at this school, an English aviator who was doing some stunts overhead fell to the ground, about a hundred (feet?) away.  Broke the aeroplane to pieces, his head was cut in two + he was all cut up.  We had a couple of air raids but no damage was done.

 

Mon. May 13th, 1918, 7 p.m.

We left Bayenghem 12:45 and it rained all the way to train.  We are shipped in cattle trains + so crowded we haven’t room to sit down.

 

Tue. May 14th, 1918 7 a.m.

We got off the train and now in Mondicourt. We were given a cup of tea and a Scotch band is playing probably for our reception.  10 a.m. We left Mondicourt at 7:25 a.m. and at 9:30 a.m. we came to our new home, Warluzel.  We are here attached to the 2nd Battalion.

We hiked back to Bayenghem on April (May) 12th, and on the 13th we left with the company + hiked back to Audruicq, where we were shipped in cattle cars (so packed we couldn’t sit down) to a place called Mondicourt, + after a very tiresome night’s riding reached there about 6 a.m., dirty as pigs + cold as snow.  When we were leaving Audruicq, a Grerman aeroplane spied us and dropped some bombs; he killed seven.  When we got off at Mondicourt, we were line up in a field, given stack arms + fall out to get some tea that was issued by a Scotch kitchen.  They had their bag pipes + band, + they cheered us up a little with the music. 

At 7:30 a.m. we left this place + started to another village named Warluzel.  We got there about 10:30 a.m. after a very tiresome journey; we wouldn’t have been able to make it if it wasn’t for the bag pipes playing all the way. Just the same quite a few of the boys got exhausted + had to be taken in ambulances that followed us for that purpose.  When we reached this place we were attached to the 2nd British Division.

We were billeted in old barns here + every night the Germans come over + bomb us.  One night they dropped on pretty near this big barn we were in, + the concussion of it turned us over in our bunks + the tiles all fell in off the roof- but no one was hurt. We were not very far from the front here, we could see the enemy balloons up the lines, + hear the shooting all the time.

 

Sun. May 19th, 1918, 11 a.m.

Got orders at 9:30 to pack up and be ready for to go to school at 10 a.m.

On Sunday morning at 9:30 when I was at Mass I got orders to be ready to move out with Lt Kane at 10 a.m. to go to a school.  This was the first time I saw where the chaplain gave permission to go to Holy Communion before going to confession.  We started at 10 a.m. + hiked to Mondicourt, where we took the train + after an all night ride in the train we reached St. Omer at 1 p.m. We had plenty of hay in the train so we slept good + had plenty of jam, bread, + corn bill.  When we were passing through a small village about 11:45 a.m., when we were just having something to eat, the train had to pull up on account of the Germans shelling the station right in front of us.  While we were waiting, I saw plenty of houses blown to pieces, + a horse that was a short ways off, a shell passed right through him.  After timing the shots the engineer manages to get by, just by a mere chance.  We were all pretty scared.

 

Mon. May 20th, 1918, 10 p.m.

Slept in train all night; had plenty of hay.  11:45:  train had to pull up on account of heavy shell fire in front of her.  4 p.m. we are allowed 4 hours through St. Omer.

When we reached St. Omer, we were allowed a four hour pass, as we had to wait for another train.  I went through a lot of the city, as it had been under shell fire, there was quite a lot of it blown up.  I was in to see the cathedral there, + it was very nice. 

We reached the school about eight o clock that night. It was a pretty nice place; we didn’t have anything to do at all here.  There was English girls cooking + waiting in the mess halls here (WACCS).  We stayed here about nine days + started back to Warluzel.  On our way back we stayed in an English camp for two days waiting for a train.  Etafles (?) was the name of the town beside here; it was a large base for English troops, + there was also some hospitals here.  Just the night before we pulled in, the Germans were after raiding the place, + dropped several bombs on the hospitals, killing several of the wounded + quite a few nurses.  I went up to see it, + it certainly looked outrageous, to see what they did to Red Cross hospitals, they couldn’t but know what they were doing, as the roofs + streets were all marked with large red crosses.  We were put into squad tents here, + we were issued blankets, but they were covered with cooties so we slept without any.  We put one fellow out of the tent because he slept in the blankets.

When we got back to Warluzel we stayed until June 6th. We drilled every day, + most of the time with our gas masks on.  If we were caught without mask off between ten and twelve, we were punished- it was just to make us used to them.  The grub here was very poor, + we had a lot of trouble with the English troops.  I paid as much as forty cents for one egg here.  I was so hungry at times I could eat anything.

 

Thur. June 6th, 1918, 10 p.m.

We left Warluzel today at 5:30 p.m. and after 3 hours walk we reached another village named Bouquermaison.  We sleep here in our own made shelter tents.

 

Frid. June 7th, 1918, 10 p.m.

We left that last town and came to another place named Beaumetz and we sleep in our own shelter tents.

 

Sat. June 8th, 1918, 1 p.m.

We left Beaumetz and we walked 3 ½ hours and we are now in a village named Gorenflous.

 

Sun. June 9th, 1918, 9 p.m.

We left Gorenflous today at 1 p.m.  We came to a town named Hangest.  We get a train here but I don’t know where to.


 

Wed. June 12th, 1918, 1:40 p.m.

We got on the train Mon. 10th at 5 a.m. and got off this morning at 6 a.m.at a town named Thaon.  From here we hike to some other place.  8 p.m. we came to a place named Fontenay at 7 p.m. and I heard we stay here in our own tents for a few days.

Well at last we heard we were going to start for the American front, + everybody just went crazy, such cheering + hollering, I think the Germans could have heard us up the lines. We changed our rifles again + got back our own Enfields.  So we started at 5:30 p.m. on the 6th June, + on the 12th we pulled into a place called Fontenay, down on the Alsace Lorraine front.  We had four days hiking + two days train ride.  I had very sore feet all the time, + I was glad when we reached the train, even though there was a foot + a half of horse manure on the floor.  We cleaned it our best we could, then pulled some grass that we shook on the floor to sleep on.  There was forty of us in the car, + we weren’t very comfortable for a two days ride.  We slept in our own made tents at night + it was so cold it was hard to sleep.  

Sun. June 16th, 9 p.m.

I am lying in my tent and the rain is coming right down on me. 12 noon:  went to church at 10 a.m. Holy bread was served at Mass…about to start to walk to a town named Rambervillers 10 miles off.

On June 15th we got our first American rations, + believe me everything tasted good, + it was the first time I had enough to eat in a month. On Sunday 16th June it was raining very hard, it was coming down through the tent, my blankets were all wet.  I went to Mass at 10 a.m. + they served holy bread here; the first place I ever saw it.  After Mass myself + two other fellows started out for Rambervilles, a town ten miles off.  We had a very hard time getting back, tired + sore feet. This was the first town I saw an American YMCA in, so we bought plenty of crackers + chocolate in it.  Well when we got back it was after taps so we got some extra details for it.

Tue. June 18th, 1918

We left Fontenay Mon 17th at 9 p.m.- it was raining very hard and our shelter tents were all wet and dirty; very hard to make packs. We walked till 1:45 a.m. when we reached Rambervillers. We sleep here in French billets.  1st YMCA I’ve been in.

Wed. 19th

We left Rambervillers Tue. At 9 p.m. - lovely night.  We met 69th Reg on our way + we reached a French armory at 2 a.m. in a town named Baccarat.

On Monday June 17th at 9:30 at night we left Fontenay.  It was raining very hard + our shelter tents was all wet + dirty, we had a hard time to make a pack, we got started for Rambervillers, + we reached there at 2 a.m. It was very dark + we had to hold fellow in front so we wouldn’t get lost.  Quite a few of the boys dropped out exhausted, when I was within a hundred yards of where we were going, I caved in myself, + had to be carried to the billet.  Next day we were issued cigarettes + tobacco sent in small boxes from the States by friends.

We left Rambervillers at 9 p.m. Tuesday night. It was a lovely moonlight night. We met the 69th Regt coming back from the front.  We hiked till 2 a.m., when we reached the town of Baccarat, very tired.  We were billeted in a large French armory.  We had to climb four flight of stairs up to where we were to sleep.  There was no bunks; we had to sleep on the floor.  This town of Baccarat was once occupied by the Germans, + when they were driven out of it by the French, they set it on fire + half of the town was burnt down.  They also blew up a large bridge which was the main entrance to the town, across a wide river.  They also blew down the church tower, + put shells through the walls in several places, so there wasn’t much left but the roof.  A French chaplain told me the reason they attacked the church was they thought there was a machine gun operating in the steeple.  Of course we don’t know but there might have been, he didn’t know himself. 

 

Fri. June 21, 1918, 1:30 p.m.

We left Baccarat Thursday 20th June at 9 p.m. + we came to a village named Neuf Maisons.

On Thursday night, June 20th, at 9 p.m., we left Baccarat + after a very tiresome hike of about four hours, we reached a village named Neuf Maisons. The company was all split up + scattered all over the village, in any old place they could lie down.  The idea was this village was under shell fire, + they didn’t want to have the men all together, lest a shell might drop among them + wipe them all out. I had a pretty good place to sleep, up on an old hay loft with plenty of hay on it, + I slept good too.  Next day we walked around a bit, but we had to keep under cover nearly all the time, as there was aeroplanes + observations balloons in sight all the time.  We had a hard time getting something to eat, but we managed to get a few eggs + salad in a private house; they soaked us two francs (40 cents) an egg, but it was good to get them at any price.  There was a small Y hut in town, but we couldn’t get anything, only cigarettes to buy in it. 

 

Sat. June 22nd, 1918

We left Neuf Maisons Friday at 9 p.m. and at 11 we came to billets located in a forest (Ker Avor).

We left this village next night at 9 p.m. + after a hike of two hours we came to a place in the middle of a forest, where there was a few French billets; they named it Ker Avor.  After knocking around for a while, we got assigned to a bunk at last.  Some of the boys got lost coming through the woods + didn’t get in till next morning.  Well I went to bed, in my clothes of course, + tried to sleep, but as soon as I lay down the cooties started, + they did squads right + left all night long, + every other night we were here.  Our clothes were just covered over with them, they had wound stripes, + service stripes all over their backs.

 

Sun. June 23rd, 1918 9 p.m.

Went to confession and communion at 10 a.m. Served Mass in skeleton church in woods; very chilly and windy.

 

Mon. June 24, 1918, 9 p.m.

Heavy bombardment started at 3:15 a.m. + finished at 5:30.  Captain told us to dress and be ready to make shelter if necessary.  It’s now 3:45 a.m.; heard of thirty 1st Battalion + 1 officer getting captured, Co C.

 

Tue. June 25th, 1918, 9 p.m.

On guard at orderly room; heavy shelling from 4 p.m. until 4:45…dreamt Nell being sick.

 

Wed. June 26th, 1918, 9 p.m.

Had sick stomach all day.  Threw my first live hand grenade.  Was issued new caps and wrapped leggins.

 

Thur. June 27th, 1918, 9 p.m.

Got some pills from the Dr for my stomach. Went to bed at 4 p.m.

 

Friday, June 28th, 1918, 9 p.m.

The captain’s birthday.  Got a letter from Nell informing me of my insurance papers which she got, which were only $5000 instead of $10,000.

 

Sat. June 29th, 1918, 9 p.m.

We left the forest at 7 p.m. on way to the frontline; 1 a.m. now, at what they call the Three Pines.

 

Sun. June 30th, 1918 9 p.m.

Lost my rosary beads I had from mission in D….?.  Stayed here at pine trees all day; wrote a few letters.  The company went into the front lines at 2 a.m. this morning.

 

Mon. July 1st, 1918, 9 p.m.

Still here on guard.

 

Tue. July 2nd, 1918

Wrote a few letters today.

Wed. July 3rd, 1918, 9 p.m.

Had to go to doctor with craps and indigestion.

 

Fri. 9:30 p.m.

We left 3 Pines this morning at 4:30 a.m. + arrived in another forest at 6 a.m.  2:30: I am now pitching a tent.  Just saw a fellow who has been shot through the heart by his comrade.

 

Sat. 6th July, 1918, 9 p.m.

This forest is about 1 mile from Badonviller; young J. Heen was buried today.

 

Sun. 7th July, 1918

We had no Mass, only sermon at 4:30.

 

Mon. July 8th, 1918, 9 p.m.

Still here in my half tent; had a aero battle overhead + a large piece of shrapnel fell beside me.

 

Wed. July 10th, 1918

We left the woods at 9:30 p.m. + got to a village named Bertichamps at 2 a.m. We got some cocoa at 11:30 p.m. served by YMCA men at a village called Indian Village. We got paid at 4 o’clock. Went to a show in YMCA.

 

Thur. July 11th, 1918

Went to a show in Salvation Army. Elsie Janis told some stories and sang.

 

Sat. July 13th, 1918

Had my breakfast in bed for first time in army + had concert and dance at 7:30.

 

Sun. July 14th, 1918

France’s day of Independence.  High Mass. Band played, a very touching sermon, moving pictures at Salvation Army.

Mon. 15th July, 1918, 9 p.m.

Went to Baccarat, got my insurance transfer. Went to church. French sent 125F to Katie. Pat Statler died. Had a swim.

Tue. 16th July, 1918

All company had bath + swim. Funeral Mon. night.

 

Wed. 17th July, 1918

Up at 4:45 a.m.  Went out to have pictures taken by aeroplane; rained all the time + had no coats on.

 

Sat. July 20th, 1918

We left Bertichamps Friday at 7:15 p.m. and arrived in Ker Avor at 10:30. Got to bed at 1:30.

 

Sun. 21st July, 1918

Went to church and communion at 11 a.m. (Sgt Berner?) Half the Co are in the reserved lines.

 

Tue. 23rd July, 1918

Heavy barrage from 1-2 a.m. 4 Amer. got wounded. Started to rain 9 a.m. Sleeping in shelter tent beside orderly room.

 

Thur. 25th July, 1918

Bought souvenir of French soldier for 15 francs. Captain Sterling left the company today at 7:45 p.m.

 

Sat. 27th July, 1918

Captain Mills got killed with hand grenade.

 

Sun. 28th July

Heavy barrage somewhere last night from 9-10:30. Rained all night and very cold. No Mass today. Got letter from Nell; baby.

Tue. 30th July, 1918 Last night went up to the trenches at 10:30. Got back 11:30; had very poor eats, got coffee at 9 p.m.

 

 

 

Wed. 31st July, 1918

Jerry was over with aeroplanes; dropped 6 bombs + wounded 2 engineers and 1 French man; was lying in tent, it was 10 p.m.

 

Thur. 1st August, 1918

Jerry dropped some gas bombs but I didn’t hear them at 11 p.m. Went for some plums.

 

Frid. 2nd August, 1918

We were issued rations + are about to start on a long hike. It is now 5:30 p.m.

 

Sat. 3rd Aug. 1918

We left Ker Arvor at 7 p.m. with the heaviest pack I ever carried + arrived in a town named Anglemont at 5 a.m. I am now lying under an apple tree taking a rest. I got a box of toffee from Katie.

 

Sun. 4th Aug. 1918

We left Anglemont at 7:45 p.m. and arrived in another town named Damas at 3:30 a.m. It was some walk. It rained + heavy shower and thundered and lightened. We slept in billet, all creepers.


 

Mon. 5th Aug 1918

We left Damas 8:15 p.m. + reached Rozelieures at 10 p.m. 5 mls, got coffee.

 

Wed. 7th Aug. 1918

We left Rozelieures at 6:30 a.m. this morning and walked to Charmes about 11 and got mess. Got on train at 4 p.m.

 

Thur. 8th Aug 1918

We left Charmes at 4:30 p.m.  33 men in each horse car with packs and extra rations; no room to lie down. We were on the train all night+ arrived at Laferte-Gaucher at 11:30 a.m. We didn’t have anything to eat + hiked 4 miles to an orchard where we pitched tents. We had beans for supper at 6 p.m. We passed Thaon, Domfaire, Sezanne, Esterney, + other towns.

 

Sat. 10th

We left the orchard at 11 a.m. + hiked 3 miles to automobiles that were waiting for us.  For breakfast 1 cracker + coffee, lunch bully beef + ½ cracker, no supper. We rode on trucks from 2 p.m. till 8 p.m. then hiked to woods + got there at 10:30 p.m. Very tired. Had to sleep in overcoats; passed through Chateau Thierry.

 

Sun. 11th Aug. 1918

Got up at 5 a.m., got coffee in French kitchen. Served Mass, went confession. Just saw first dead German down in billets.

 

Tue. 13th Aug. 1918

Left woods at 2 a.m. on way to front; reached reserved trenches at 1:30 a.m. Had 3 gas attacks + under heavy shell fire all the time.  Didn’t have any breakfast, it is now 2 p.m. We are living in small holes under the road.

 

Wed. 14th Aug. 1918

We are still in our holes. There has been an aero battle right over us. 1 French was brought down. We cut down our packs. 

 

 

Fri. 16th Aug 1918

We left our dugouts on way to front at 12:30 a.m. under heavy shell and gas fire. We had to lie along the road for some time then we proceeded to a clump of trees at daylight where we were shelled and gassed till we had to get out.  I am just after carrying 2 men to infirmary.

 


 

Tue. 20th Aug 1918

I am now in a hospital in Vichy. I came here Sunday. We had a nice ride in hos train for 24 hours.  I saw first time Mon. night.

 

Wed. 21st Aug 1918

Still in hospital; just got a whole new outfit. All our old clothes was burnt up + I lost some very necessary things.

 

Frid. 23rd Aug

Just about to go out for a walk, was out last night. It is a very nice place.

 

Sun. 25th Aug. 1918

It is now 5 o’clock. We came to this new hospital at 6 a.m. yesterday; quite a few patients were ready to be shipped home. The doctor told us we must stay in bed; out all day. At confession yesterday. Had my first ice cream.

 

Wed. 11th Sept.

Still in Ruhl Hotel; got paid 45 F today.

 

Frid. 20th Sept.

Leaving hospital at 5:30p.m. Got train to Mass at 6:51 p.m. arrived at 11 p.m., got on truck to convalescent camp. 15 min ride.  Got 4 blankets, mess kit, underwear issued.  Had a cot to sleep on. Wrote for mail today.

 

Sun. 22nd Sept 1918

Had a pretty good show last night outside. Was very cold all night. Went to church at 10:30 to St Paige.

 

Tue. 24th Sept.

Rained all day, we had to stay in our canvas tents; 3 tents made into one.  Doctor called me down for sleeping in day time.

 

Sat. 28th Sept 1918

Drilled twice yesterday. Had a band concert in mess hall.  A year ago today I joined army.

 

Sun. 29th Sept.

Got paid 45 F today.

 

Mon. 21st Oct.

I am still in convalescent camp. Haven’t been feeling good for the past 4 weeks. Got a job as a guard Frid 18th. Haven’t gotten any mail yet.  Got paid.


 

Sunday 10th Nov.

We left convalescent camp at Mons at 9 a.m. travelled all night in train; changed about 10 times.  We arrived at replacement camp at Blois 10 a.m. Got paid 40 F.

 

Thur. 14th Nov.

We had an excursion to Chambord to see the chateau.

 

Mon. 18th Nov.

We left Blois Sunday at 7 a.m. + arrived in Tours at 1 p.m. This is a prison camp.

 

Mon. 2nd Dec.

We left St. Pierre Des Corps today at 1 p.m. with 200 prisoners.

 

Thur.

We had a long train ride + we arrived Wed. at 11 a.m. + hiked to camp from Chaumont.

 

Sat. 21st Dec. 1917 (as written)

Still doing guard every other night.  Got paid 62.57 F today. Got a letter from Mrs. Greer with 25 dollars in it.

 

Mon. 23rd Dec. 1918

Waiting for a show in the YMCA. Ladies didn’t come.

 

Thur. 26th Dec. 1918

Yesterday Mass Day. I went to Chaumont and I saw Pres. Wilson + General Pershing.  Snowed first time. Had first glass (?). I had all my hair shaved off.

 

Sat. 11 Jan. 1919

Just came off guard; very cold. Had a dance in YMCA Wed. night, 20 American girls.  Got paid 62.57 F. Friday 10th Jan. Sent application for discharge Sat. 4th Jan 1919.

Sun. 26th Jan.

Received a cheque from Guarantee Trust Co. NY on 25th; don’t know who sent it.  Was down to see my Co. last Wed.  Called on Lt and Fr. Halligan.

 

Thur. 30th Jan. 1919

Waiting for a show in Y. Searched all Germans yesterday; got German money and cap.

 

21st Feb. Friday

I am here in sentry box. Expect to leave for home tomorrow if everything goes all right. Cabled for money to Mag last Tuesday.

 

21st March, Friday

I am now in No. 2 sentry box. It is raining and snowing; pretty cold.  Wrote to Lt Kane today.  Went to Ireland 22nd; arrived 25th Feb. Had a pretty good time.  Spent Washington’s Birthday in Paris, 24th in London.  Had Gibson with me; he didn’t come back yet. Called to Boylans + Mrs. Sullivan’s sisters + the Froads (?) and all the friends around.  Got money cabled from Nell and Mag; gave Katie and Mother.  I spent nearly all; took back 3 (?)  Had a race coming back:  YALE + Charles.  Saw Nell and Marion Boylan + Uncle Ed.  Had to borrow 200 F to get home.  Got watch fixed, got paid 165F today.  At 10 o’clock had a letter from Mary; 110 cases of flu after I left home.  Eddie and Mary left me at Cavan with horse and car. Left by 9 o’clock; reached Dublin 1:30; cousin Nell met me.  Had a good time all day till 9 p.m. and when boat left it was very cold on the boat.  Had a time taking another soldier along; left him in Paris.  Got back to camp Thursday night.  A few venereal cases, some new boys here.  Lt Farris has been made Capt.

 

Mon. 24th March

General Pershing received us 7 in hospital.

 

April 7th, 1919

Had a dance in Y; 20 girls.  3rd April a show.  5th the Y man left for states. Canteen closed 1st April.

 

April 14th

Sitting in No 2 sentry box; very warm.  Jerry’s playing music.  Last Sunday was Mother’s Day 10th.  Went to communion in Chaumont.  Sent home 212F worth of souvenirs, sent shells last Monday.  Started to drill today.  Just finished a box of carmels Katie sent.  Got paid 1475 Francs.

 

April 16th

Sent Mag 200 Dollars. April 24th (1160) got paid 50 Dollars:  too much.  Don’t get any now for 2 months.  Got a fine dance hall here now.

 

May 14th

Com had a fine dance last week.  Got 2 girls in our Y now.  Fixed it up pretty well. Capt Smith got busted for not standing at attention.  Was down to some shows + dances in Chaumont; free transportation.  Had some venerial cases of men + women shown in Y + a lecture.

 

May 30th

Just packing up to leave Hanlon Field. Everybody is gone but PWE + PW.  Had a dance the 27th, very good.  Had to take prisoners downtown last night.  Had a farewell last night at YMCA. 2 Y girls served out lemonade, sandwiches, nuts, and crackers.

 

June 1st, 1919

Left Hanlon field Friday 30th + hiked to Remoncourt 15 mls.  Left out at 6 a.m.  2.5 mls. + reached Neufchateau at 4:30 p.m.  Stayed in hospitals both nights.  Visited cemetery here; quite a few from 77 Div: 1937. 4 nurses/ Y sec. 33 .

 

June 7th, 1919

Left Neufchateau at 2 p.m. yesterday, forty in each train. 40 arrived in ……..(?) at 8:30 a.m. Billeted here in old barracks. Was very sick yesterday morning.

 

July 3rd, 1919                                                                                                                                                                                     

Going on guard.

 

4th July, Sunday

Was a very bad day. We got a kid here. He can do anything, went a got a bag of cherries yesterday.  11,000 prisoners in camp now.  Got paid 11.50F last Mon. 30th June.


 

Wed. 23rd July 1919

Just came off guard. Nine of the prisoners got away.  77 go on strike.  Had a Co. of Jerrys out last week cleaning rust off rails + filling munition holes.

 

Thurs. 31 July

Still here. Lights went out last night, plenty of shooting. Was whitewashing around doughboy yesterday, got a fit of long pants.  Had a piece of coal taken out of my eye, had to have it cocained.

 

 

Margaret:

Going home. Cable 50 Dollars quick to Cavan Post Office

Denis

 

 

Left Hanlon Field at 8:30 p.m.  Got train from Chaumont to Paris at 9 o’clock a.m.; arrived in Paris at 8 a.m. Had breakfast at YMCA.

 

Sat.

Left Paris at 5 p.m. + arrived in La Havre at 9:30.  We stayed overnight in Y.  We left La Havre 3 p.m.  Got to Southampton at 9 a.m. got to London at 2 p.m.  Left London at 9 p.m.

 

Aug 10th, Sunday

Last Wednesday new men came from the states + relieved married men.  Very hot today.  Was a fire in camp last night.  Two K of Cs in camp now.  All shows go home 16th.

 

Aug. 17th, 1919

Last Sat. two French MPs girl and feller down at the brook.  They shot him in the arm.  Went to confession and communion.  1 year ago I was gassed. We are still in N camp.  Chives got made https://i.etsystatic.com/15855541/d/il/c9d0fa/1913158052/il_340x270.1913158052_9ncw.jpg?version=0

 

Aug. 20th, 1919

We are after getting new mattresses from rest camp.  Had three fires last week. 1 hospital burnt.

Aug. 27th, 1919

Just got deloused with cold steam.  Getting in iron cots tomorrow. Got seven new men yesterday.  Got letter from Nell Boylan yesterday.

 

Sat. 5th Sept. 1919

Last Sunday 31st Aug. the AEF passed out of existence; now AF? Got a good pair of pants out in Les-sur-tille; sent sixty Francs worth of pictures home.  Sold my gloves for 25 Francs.  Got paid Tuesday 2nd, 249 Francs.  About 7 AWOLs.  Burns gave me 200 Francs to help.  He went to Dijon.

 

Thur. 11th Sept.

Drilled 2 hours this morning. Was guarding American prisoners.  There was 56 altogether; 3 generals, I N.  I escorted 2 to Les-sur-tille Tuesday evening to see them on train for Brest.  Red freeze with them to Paris.  Burns and Brest got picked up after 5 days.  Found a French woman yesterday giving birth to a baby in woods.  Dijon is off limits.

 

Thur. 11th Sept.

The prisoners are all drawing clothes to go home.  We got a letter from the colonel thanking for our excellent services + for being delayed our home going.  3 fellows got shot taking some Amer. Prisoners to Brest.  10 AWOLs. Sold gloves for 25 Francs.  Getting a bag made with prisoners.

 

Fri. 12 Sept.

We are taking down + putting up wire around No. 5 stockade.  Bought pen + writing book last night.

 

Sun. 14th Sept.

Went to holy communion this morning.  On guard at 11.  3 of us got our names for not shaving.  Brewer going home.

 

Tue. 23rd Sept. 1919

Started sending prisoners home 17th Sept. Have a gramophone here now.  Got orders to be ready in 2 hours notice. 

 

 

Tue. 23rd Sept 1919

Last night I was on guard round an empty stockade.  I was very cold.  Captain showed me letter he got from Washington Sunday.  Saw a bunch of German officers going home yesterday. Was guarding 2 American prisoners Sunday.  It was very wet.  2 prisoners took rifles from sentrys last week + escaped. Some other prisoners shot a sentry on way to Brest. Soldier shot himself.

 

Sat. 27th Sept. 1919

Just came off guarding rations in stockade. 9 Cos left for Brest this morning.  Had to roll packs for inspection.  2 men in barracks last night; Brownlee + Mitshy.

 

Tue. 30th Sept. 11 a.m.

Just down at the train on way to Germany; has 600 prisoners. Got paid 242 Fs. This morning + had inspection.  We got started at …… + I am doing 6 hours guard in ration car.  There is 6 of us in our sleeper.  Nice day.

 

Sun. 5th Oct. 1919

We are living here in box cars on the tracks.  40 to a car and we got bedsacks and straw.  We got in here Wed. night after turning over prisoners at Limburg. Been down to Coblenz + through two of the forts; had supper up in one.  Couldn’t find way down; beautiful scenery.  Mosle and Rhine join right under fort.  Two forts are connected by a tunnel under Rhine.  Was through Kaiser’s palace yesterday + also in his church.  He was here four days after war broke out + stayed 2 weeks.  It was his command post.  We wash here in the roundhouse washrooms.  1600 troops on train altogether.  We passed though Metz, Toul, Nancy, Luxemburg, Coblenz on way to Limburg.  We passed though Coblenz 1:15 p.m. Had to go over pontoon bridge across the Rhine to get to fort.  Rode in train all along Mosle.  Beautiful scenery.  Passed through about 16 tunnels; longest one 2 miles (Elizabeth Tunnel).  Wrote cards down in Y. Changed money in headquarters 27.50 marks.  Bought 2 razors + prayer book.  Just got 106 mar.

 

Wed. 8th Oct.

Still living in box cars, hanging from roof.  Had a trip up the Rhine Mon. on one of the Kaiser’s boats; started at 9:45 a.m. + back at 6 p.m.  Had ice cream sandwiches served twice.   Had a German band aboard.  Went to + got supper.  Tuesday down in Coblenz; bought field glasses 240 marks, fife, 114 mks.  Had inspection yesterday. Sgts Mondore, Allen, + Pvt Clambeck went to hospital.

 

Names of places we pass through on way to Germany and back:

Cloudenany (?)

Bruvannes (?)

Quint

Metz

Toul

Nancy

Diedenhofen (Thionville)

Trier

Schereich

Wengerohr

Coblenz

Buhlen (?)

 

Wed. 15th Oct.

It is just 8 a.m. + I’m after eating a feed of beans on SS Pocahantas.  Came on board yesterday at 4 p.m.  We started from Coblenz at 1 p.m. Monday + we arrived at 12 noon in Antwerp Tuesday.  Had a very rough ride in train, + very cold.

 

Wed. 22 Oct. 1919

We left Brest yesterday at 5:30 p.m. We got 20 G (?) prisoners aboard.  They took all the women ashore Sunday morning after we pulled into Brest + took a few of them back on yesterday. We took on coal rations.  The SS America left here Sunday evening, quite a few of our officers went on it.  Had Mass at 9 a.m. Sunday.

 

Sat. 25th Oct.

Just about to go to confession.  It has been very wet all day.  Had inspection. Yesterday was very rough, couldn’t have any supper. 1 soldier missing. Lost pen knife; dogs sleeping at head of bed.  Shiffner sleeping over me.  Marines put PWEs in brig for crap shooting.

 


 

Sunday 26th Oct.

It is 4 p.m.  I am in my bunk here.  The old boat is tossing like a cork, + I don’t feel any too good.  I was at 2 Masses this morning.  110 (?) received holy communion at 4:40 Mass. 4 women.  It was very rough, especially at aft. Received at 1st Mass.

 

Tue. 28th Oct, 1919

Nice sea today + yesterday.  Met a couple of steamers this morning. Saw a small boat adrift yesterday at 12 noon.  This boat went alongside.  Nobody was aboard.  The water was over her deck and cabin.  Only allowed on half of boat today. They are painting half.  Took a dead sailor up on top deck yesterday.

 

Wed. 29th Oct. 1919

Pretty rough today; had a fire on boat last night. Boat turned a complete round + stopped. Great excitement.

 

Frid. 31st Oct. 1919

We landed in NY about 9 a.m. Got off + had lunch at 12 issued by Red .  Got on ferry boat to RR + went to Camp Dix.  We arrived about 4 p.m.

 

Thur. 6th Nov. 1919

On my way from Chicago to Cleveland.  Got discharged at 3 p.m. on Wed. 5th of Nov. + got on the train for Jerseyville at 4 p.m.  Arrived in Chicago at 5:30 p.m. Thursday + stayed over till next morning. Got train at 10:15 for Alton (?) Wired to Fr. + he met me at Springfield. Called to see Dr. McHenry + Jimmy Smyth.  Chicago.

 

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