The Scrapbook of an American Army Nurse in WWI: Part Two

american nurse

Many of the photographs in Army Nurse Edith MacDonald’s scrapbook (see The Scrapbook of an American Army Nurse in WWI: Part One), are of her colleagues (other nurses and medical officers) and her patients.  Fortunately, most of these are labeled with names but, unfortunately, with few additional details.  Moreover, many of the photos are in soft focus, making visual recognition difficult.

Nonetheless, publishing these pictures and names may prove worthwhile, if any of them are recognized by their families.  If anyone can shed light on any of these individuals, please do not hesitate to leave comments and information.  In this way, little by little, the history of Base Hospital 115, from the perspectives both of staff and patients, may be modestly expanded.

Edward Griffiths, rank unknown, 2d Infantry Division, AEF

Edward Griffiths, rank unknown, 2d Infantry Division, AEF

George P. Dickson, unit & rank unknown.  He writes on back of photo: "To Miss Edith E. MacDonald, from an Appreciative Doughboy"

George P. Dickson, unit & rank unknown. He writes on back of photo: “To Miss Edith E. MacDonald, from an Appreciative Doughboy”

Raymond R. Taylor, unit & rank unknown.

Raymond R. Taylor, unit & rank unknown.


Army Nurses Lottie M. Mumbauer (906 North 19th Street, Philadelphia) and Lorena S. Ingraham (107 Maple St, Lycoming, Colorado & Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania)

Army Nurses Lottie M. Mumbauer (906 North 19th Street, Philadelphia) and Lorena S. Ingraham (107 Maple St, Lycoming, Colorado & Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania)

Army Nurses Ella M. Williams (Graham, Tazewell County, Virginia) and Adelaide Campbell (106 Beaconsfield Ave, Toronto, Canada).

Army Nurses Ella M. Williams (Graham, Tazewell County, Virginia) and Adelaide Campbell (106 Beaconsfield Ave, Toronto, Canada).

Published in: on April 17, 2015 at 2:11 am  Leave a Comment  

First to Fall: the American Volunteers who Gave their Lives for France


One hundred years ago, by the Spring of 1915, a full two years before America’s declaration of war against Germany, hundreds of young American men were already serving in or near the front lines— as infantrymen in the French Foreign Legion, as aviators in the Lafayette Flying Corps or Lafayette Escadrille, or as ambulance drivers with the American Field Service. These young men, many of them Ivy Leaguers from Harvard, Yale and Princeton, and other top universities, joined up of their own accord and at their own expense, putting their lives on hold for several years, for the privilege of defending someone else’s country. Their motives were both idealistic and personal, involving a love of French culture and the French generally, a hatred for what they saw as Teutonic militarism and aggression, and a degree of shame and impatience toward their own country, for failing to rise to what they saw as its moral responsibility to take its rightful place in the European War.

Though few in number, their influence on America’s decision finally to intervene in the war was significant. These young men were greatly admired in the United States and, because so many of them were from influential families and very well-connected, their letters home and articles in magazines, and the dashing figures they cut in the press, not only caught the popular imagination, but captured the attention of politicians and statesmen as well.

Yet today, a hundred years on, the American Volunteers are little remembered. I doubt that you will find even a passing mention of them in any American textbook.

For such reasons, it seems fitting to begin filling that void now, a hundred years on, one individual at a time. All the American Volunteers deserve to be remembered, but most of all those who died in the war, often before they could know that their sacrifice would prove instrumental in persuading their countrymen to rise to the occasion, and take up arms— or bandages— in the defense of France.

As often as time and opportunity permit, over the next three years, photographs and brief obituaries of individual Volunteers will appear here, beginning with three this evening, from the American Field Service, the French Service Aeronautique and the French Foreign Legion.

BJ Omanson



Born February is 1887, in Orange New Jersey. Son of Robert Bowne and Elizabeth Montgomery Suckley. Home, Rhinebeck, New York. Educated abroad, Phillips Academy, Exeter, and Harvard University, Class of 1910. In business, New York City. joined American Field Service, February 12, 1915; attached Section Three; Sous-chef, May, 1915 to September, 1916. Recruited for Field Service, in America, September to November, Commandant Adjoint Section Ten, November, 1916. Croix de Guerre. To the Balkans. Wounded by avion bombs , March 18, at Zemlak. Died March 19, 1917, at Koritza, Albania. Buried in Koritza.

Speaking by his grave the senior French officer present said: “Henry Suckley always joined to the highest qualities of a leader the humble patience of a soldier, believing that the best way to obtain obedience was himself to set an example in everything.”

And one of the directors of the Field Service wrote when he heard of his death: “Of the many hundreds of Americans who have come and gone in this organization, he was one of the three or four on whom we depended the most and who was the most liked and trusted by those who worked with him or for him.”



Born July 23, 1895, in Orange, New Jersey. Son of Heman and Mary Loveland Dowd. Educated Asheville School, North Carolina, and Princeton University, Class of 1918. Plattsburg Camp, 1916. Joined American Field Service, November 11, 1916; attached Section One to May 3, 1917. Enlisted French Aviation, May 14th. Trained Avord and Pau. Attached French Escadrille guarding Paris, Sergent. Spad Escadrilles 152 and 162 to February 17, 1918. Transferred U. S. Aviation. Commissioned Second Lieutenant, April, 1918; attached 147th Aero Squadron. Killed in combat, October 26, 1918, near Dannevoux, north of Verdun. Distinguished Service Cross. Buried Romagne-sous-Montfaucon, Meuse. Remains later removed to the Lafayette Flying Corps Memorial near St. Cloud.

On October 26th, 1918, Dowd and three others of 147th Squadron were ordered to patrol the lines, but he was delayed on account of engine trouble and his companions got off without him. He decided to follow and continued alone to the adventure that was to be his last. His commanding officer, Captain James A. Meissner, filed the following official report which was later used as a basis for the award of the Distinguished Service Cross:

DSC“Lieutenant Meredith L. Dowd, A. S., U. S. A. went on patrol over the lines on the afternoon of October 26, 1918, at about two o’clock. Over the Bois de Dannevoux he observed four German planes. According to the statement of Private M. M. Buckland, 305th Trench Mortar Battery, 80th Division, who saw the combat, Lieutenant Dowd first showed his markings to the planes as if they were Allied planes. As they did not answer his signal be attacked them immediately. The second time he attacked, one plane left the formation and headed for Germany. Lieutenant Dowd attacked the remaining planes three times, but the last time he drove on the formation, the plane which he had first driven off returned above him and shot him down. He fell in a steep dive and was dead when found by the French.”



“… One young American volunteer in the Foreign Legion was killed in the battle for the Fortin de Navarin at the end of September, 1915. He was Henry Weston Farnsworth, of Dedham, Massachusetts, a graduate of Groton and of Harvard, of the class of 1912. His tastes were bookish, musical and artistic. Burton, Dostoievski, Tolstoi, Gogol, Ibsen and Balzac were favorites with him, although his studies in literature covered a much wider field—the English classics as well as the modern continental writers. After he was graduated he spent the summer in Europe; visiting Vienna, Budapesth, Constantinople, Odessa, Moscow, and St. Petersburg, revelling in the historical associations, the art collections and the music of these cities, and making odd friends here and there, as was his wont, and studying the people.

When the European War broke out Farnsworth was in the city of Mexico, whither he had gone when the United States Government sent troops to Vera Cruz. In the meantime he had had some experience as a newspaper correspondent and reporter for the Providence Journal and had published a book, “The Log of a Would-be War Correspondent,” describing his experiences and observations in the Balkan War in the autumn of 1912, the fascination of which he could not resist. Returning home from Mexico, he sailed for England in October, 1914, with no intention of taking active part in the war, but with the desire to become an onlooker, in the hope that he might write something about the great conflict that would be worth while. The air of London and Paris was full of military projects, and he was tempted in various directions. Finally, after a period of hesitation and uncertainty, he entered the Foreign Legion early in January.

In course of time Farnsworth’s regiment was moved to the front in northern France, and early in March he was writing from the trenches. The sector was quiet and little of importance happened except an occasional bombardment or some desultory rifle firing. He was often on night patrol in No Man’s Land.  In one of these night expeditions Farnsworth and his companions succeeded in sticking some French newspapers announcing Italy’s declaration of war on the barbed wire in front of the German trenches. Pleased with their enterprise, their captain gave seven of them twenty francs for a fête.

In August Farnsworth’s regiment was in Alsace. In September, however, it was on the march and took part in the bloody battle in Champagne toward the end of the month. His last letter was dated September 16, 1915. He was killed in the charge that his battalion made on the 28th, before the Fortin de Navarin.

The Farnsworth Room in the Widener Memorial Library at Harvard, a large room for the leisurely reading of such standard books as Henry Farnsworth loved, was handsomely supplied with books, pictures and furniture by Mr. and Mrs. William Farnsworth, in memory of their son.”

~~ Edwin W. Morse



Gordon, Dennis.  The Lafayette Flying Corps: The American Volunteers in the French Air Service in World War One. (Atglen, PA: Schiffer Military History, 2000).

Morse, Edwin W.  The Vanguard of American Volunteers (NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1918).

Seymour, James William Davenport, ed. Memorial Volume of the American Field Service in France, “Friends of France,” 1914-1917 (Boston: American Field Service, 1921).

One hundred years ago, 24 April 1915: Armenian annihiliation begins

24 April 1915: Turkish government begins systematic extermination of Armenians with the arrest of 250 Armenian intellectuals in Constantinople. The program of extermination will continue through the duration of the war and afterwards. The majority of able-bodied males will be executed or detained in forced labor camps. Women, children and the elderly will be forcibly marched hundreds of miles into the Syrian desert, while deprived of food and water and subjected to robbery, rape and murder along the way. From one million to one and a half million Armenians will die as a result of Turkish actions during this time.

The Armenian Genocide.

Deportation of Armenian intellectuals on 24 April 1915.

A Chronology of the Armenian Genocide.

Map of the 1915 Armenian Genocide in the Turkish Empire.

Memorials to the Armenian Genocide.

Turkey angry at Pope Francis Armenian ‘genocide’ claim.

Published in: on April 12, 2015 at 11:51 am  Comments (1)  

The Poilu in postcards


The British historian and WWII veteran, John Laffin, in his valuable compilation, World War I in Postcards, finds these French carte postales from 1914-1918, compared to their more conservative British counterparts, frequently “overdone” and in “atrocious bad taste”. Personally I find them unexpected, playful and charming, even if occasionally verging on the absurd (how very French, after all).

Either way, our present-day reactions are hardly the point.  What is significant is how popular the cards were at the time with the soldiers themselves, who bought them and sent them home by the hundreds of thousands— not only French soldiers, but soldiers of all the allied armies serving in France.

My grandfather, a corporal with the US Marines in France in 1918, sent home several of them to his wife and niece back on the homeplace in Illinois when he was billeted in the tiny farming village of Germainvilliers in the Vosges foothills— and that was how, 35 years later when I was still a boy and he showed them to me, I first became acquainted with such cards.

Each county had its own distinctive postcards, of course, including the Germans, but the French postcards stand out from all the others, and were especially popular.  Given the miserable and unrelenting drabness of life at the front, these inexpensive trifles of charm and color, easily available in estaminets and stationary shops behind the lines, may well have seemed irresistible to soldiers just out of the trenches.

It is hardly necessary to point out the immeasurable distance between the fantasized image of the poilus in these cards— with their scrubbed male models wearing immaculately laundered and pressed uniforms against picturesque battlefield backdrops in pleasing pastels— and the actual mud-encrusted, lice-infested poilus they supposedly portrayed.  These cards were fantasy, pure and simple.  No one mistook them for any sort of reality, certainly not the soldiers themselves.  From our distant perspective, after a century of unspeakable warfare and atrocity following the end of the Great War, we might very well find such postcards inexcusably trite, or even mildly offensive. But the soldiers at the time seemed genuinely fond of them.  They certainly bought enough of them.

BJ Omanson


















Published in: on March 30, 2015 at 12:54 am  Comments (3)  

Christmas greetings from the old front line

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Princess Mary’s Christmas Box for the British soldiers, 1914

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from a Scottish Regiment

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from the Chasseurs Alpins

from the 7th Division, BEF, 1917

from the 7th Division, BEF, 1917

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from the Cameron Highlanders 1918

from the Cameron Highlanders 1918

Published in: on December 24, 2014 at 12:09 pm  Comments (1)  

One Doughboy’s bitter reminiscence of the Armistice on the Western Front, November 11, 1918

Detail from F.C. Yohn’s painting, “Last Night of the War”, depicting the 5th Marines crossing the Meuse on the night of November 10-11, 1918.

Detail from F.C. Yohn’s painting, “Last Night of the War”, depicting the 5th Marines crossing the Meuse on the night of November 10-11, 1918.

This reminiscence of the Armistice as experienced by soldiers and marines of the 2d Division AEF is excerpted from the book Trifling with War, by Ray DeWitt Herring (Boston: Meador Publishing Company, 1934).  Herring was a member of the 5th Machine Gun Company, 3rd Brigade, 2d Division, AEF.

BJ Omanson

~ ~ ~ ~

“When it became assured the war was to end, the dread uncertainty of the last few hours held anew the terrors of the unknown. To be bumped off on the last day, what devilish luck! And yet such was the fate of many of our own boys, pawns in the hands of ambitious military chiefs.

Note the order:

  1. On the night of November 10th (actually the early morning of Nov 11th), “heroic deeds were done by heroic men. In the face of a heavy artillery and withering machine gun fire, the 2nd Engineers threw two foot bridges across the Meuse, and the first and second battalions of the 5th Marines crossed resolutely and unflinchingly to the east bank and carried out their mission.
  2. In the last battle of the war, as in all others in which this Division has participated, it enforced its will on the enemy.

‘It enforced its will on the enemy’.   It is a heart-shaking question whether this one time gallant boys, hardly daring to breathe the hope of a promised armistice, wanted to force their will on the enemy. Perhaps that will had fashioned another concept in which “enemy” was now a meaningless abstraction, ‘war’ an ugly, fitful dream. Perhaps their will was only to live and let live.

It may have been a military necessity for one American Division to gain the right bank of the Meuse, and it may have been splendid strategy for another to race out of bounds into historic Sedan before 11.00 A.M. November 11, 1918 to stage a fitting finale to the melodrama that showed arrogant democracy the hero in the closing role; but it was not necessary to kill those boys at 4.00 A.M. on the day which was bringing life anew before the blessed sun should have reached his zenith. So it appears, and so our Major said, who cried bitterly over the uncalled-for slaughter. His consolation was that the death of the boys, who had been twice crucified, could not be laid upon him who would not have had it so.

The morning of that day passed by with leaden feet the living who almost forgot the sin of death done at daybreak. Intermittent shelling was noted with feelings that must e pardoned if there was shame in them. When about 11 o’clock the last hostile shell in this sector crashed harmlessly near the brook bordering foret de Dieulet, then we knew enchained humanity had broken the latest shackles fastened on the race by its nemesis, war.

. . . . .   ‘A peace that passeth understanding’  came within partial comprehension in the evening of that soldiers’ day of promise. A great heaviness was borne away. New men, strangely moved with new visions unbelievably true, gathered in wondering groups. There was no hilarity, no singing of paeans of victory. Too rapid had been the change from the threshold of death on this broken battlefield now promising life to the fortunate buddies of the unrequited slain. An aloofness was upon all, and a silence as of the great unaccustomed shadows thrown by the first campfires known to this generation of soldiers. The pageantry of the storied camping ground was lacking. The camaraderie about the beacons flaring fitfully along the horizon was of the fellowship of the disconsolate and lonely. Nothing could be so empty as victory. Many days must pass before life could be cherished. Never again could it be embraced with rapture. For the mark of the beast trails thru dreams of Christians who prevailed mightily over their brethren.

On the next day with the help of Sergeant Long, a roster of our original company was drawn up. Killed, wounded, missing, shell-shocked, sick, accounted for many missing names. Minor changes in the company itself took on dramatic significance to we who knew the men intimately and realized the relentless shuffling of their fortunes and hopes. This roll calling was not the glorious recital official records would make of numbers slain and percentage of valor registered by volume of casualties.

How does the damned human idiot figure another man’s death as his glory? — or a regiment decimated as his coronet? Our record showed us how truly unfortunate so many in one small company had been. When we multiplied the misery centered in our own group by thousands of like units in a dozen armies, we began to realize the world of woe encompassed in that tragic quadrennium beginning in 1914.”

—Ray DeWitt Herring


Published in: on November 10, 2014 at 11:22 am  Leave a Comment  

The Scrapbook of an American Army Nurse in the First World War

Edith MacDonald, probably taken shortly before the war.

Edith MacDonald, probably taken shortly before the war.

When Edith Lois MacDonald returned to her home in Columbus, Ohio, in the Summer of 1919, after a ten-month stint of overseas service as a U.S. Army nurse with Base Hospital 115 in Vichy, France, she brought with her a sizeable collection of photographs ranging in size from 9×7 enlargements to tiny shots just 1.5 x 2.5. In addition, there was the usual stack of individual souvenir postcards and postcard booklets  from Vichy and neighboring towns (Dijon, Digne, Monte-Carlo, Nice), and an assortment of other paper ephemera acquired during her overseas service:  ~~a hand-written and signed note from King George to “Soldiers of the United States”, welcoming them on their way through the British Isles to “…take your stand beside the armies of many nations now fighting in the Old World the great battle for human freedom…” ;  ~~a formatted postcard sent by the A.E.F. to the folks back home, informing them that their daughter has arrived safely in France;  ~~a Special Order on onionskin paper granting Nurse MacDonald and her travelling companion, Nurse Elizabeth Payne, permission to visit Nice and the nearby Alps for one week in February of 1919; ~~ a foot-long itemized and illustrated receipt from Hotel Westminster in Nice, filled out on both sides;  and  ~~a French Transport Order permitting Nurse Edith MacDonald to travel by train from Tour to Bordeaux (probably the first leg of her journey back to the States).

But the chief interest lies in the many photographs portraying life in Base Hospital 115, which was housed in the Hotel Ruhl, in Vichy. As explained in the little history of the hospital published for staff members in 1919, Base Hospital 115 was one of three base hospitals and associated organizations forming a “hospital center” in Vichy:

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Hotel Ruhl in Vichy, home of Base Hospital 115


       Upon arrival at Vichy it was found that the hospital was to be a part of what was known as a Hospital Center, which was the usual manner in which the hospitalization of the A. E. F. was handled. There were in Vichy when No. 115 arrived, two Base Hospitals, No. 1, from Bellevue Hospital, New York City, under the command of Major McKee, and No. 19, from Rochester, New York, under the command of Major, afterwards Lieutenant Colonel, John M. Swan. . . . .

       No. 115 was assigned to the Holt! Ruhl, a magnificent concrete building nine stories high, said to be the tallest building in France. The maximum capacity of this building was 1657 beds, and it was said to be one of the largest hospitals under one roof in the world. It had been occupied as a hospital by the French since August, 1914,, but was closed for a while, and had been reopened by Base Hospital No. l a short time before the arrival of No. 115. The building was in charge of Captain Thomas Atkins, of Base Hospital No. l, and he remained in that capacity till No. 115 was ready to take charge, giving valuable and much appreciated assistance, and helping greatly in all matters concerning the transfer. The building was taken over by No. 115 on September 11th, with 822 patients in the wards.

By the opening of the Battle of the Argonne, the carrying capacity of Hotel Ruhl had been more than doubled, to a total of 1657 beds.

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Nurse Edith MacDonald, at Cape May, New Jersey, two months before shipping out for France with BH 115

The photographs of Nurse MacDonald show several of the wards and offices of BH 115 in Hotel Ruhl, and a number of individual physicians, nurses, staff and patients. There is far too much material to fit into a single blog article, even if winnowed down to just the highlights, so throughout the next year or two I intend to post a series of small articles, each featuring one, or several related photographs or other ephemera. Insofar as possible, the individuals in the photographs will be identified.

Although Vichy was relatively distant from the Western Front, the American hospital center in its midst treated thousands of front-line soldiers, from all the major American campaigns, beginning with Chateau-Thierry and Belleau Wood, and ending with the costliest American battle of all, the Argonne.

Photographs of a number of individual soldiers, many of them identified by name, found their way into Nurse MacDonald’s scrapbook, and as I am able to discover something about each of these soldiers—their home addresses, their units, and perhaps what became of them, I will include that information along with their photographs in future installments here.

I will also, of course, include more information about Nurse Edith MacDonald herself.  My sincere thanks to the family of Edith MacDonald for making her scrapbook available to me, and permitting its piecemeal publication here.

See The Scrapbook of an American Army Nurse in the First World War: Part Two.


BJ Omanson


click to enlargeA HISTORY OF UNITED STATES ARMY BASE HOSPITAL No. 19. (Vichy, France: American Expeditionary Force, A.P.O. 781, 1919).



BH115 A HISTORY OF U.S.A. BASE HOSPITAL No. 115. (Vichy, Allier, France: American Expeditionary Force, A.P.O. 761, 1919).



tjom3 Tjomsland, Anne. BELLEVUE IN FRANCE: Anecdotal History of Base Hospital No. 1. (NY: Froben Press, 1941).

Published in: on April 14, 2014 at 9:50 pm  Leave a Comment