Christmas on the Old Front Line, one hundred years ago . . .


Published in: on December 22, 2016 at 8:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

One hundredth anniversary of the final day of the Battle of the Somme.

Published in: on November 19, 2016 at 7:15 am  Leave a Comment  

11, 11, 11.


Published in: on November 11, 2016 at 9:46 am  Leave a Comment  

Poets Killed on the First Day of the Somme, July 1, 1916



2nd Lt. Henry FIELD.  Served with the 6th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiement. He was killed on the first day Somme during the bitter fighting for Serre, one of 836 casualties from his battalion. He was 22. Buried at Serre Road Cemetery No.2, Beaumont Hamel & Hebuterne.

Above the shot-blown trench he stands,
Tall and thin against the sky;
His thin white face, and thin white hands,
Are the signs his people know him by.
His soldier’s coat is silver barred
And on his head the well-known crest.
Above th shot-blown trench he stands,
The bright escutcheon on his breast,
And traced in silver bone for bone
The likeness of a skeleton.


HodgsonLieutenant William Noel HODGSON, 9th Battalion, the Devonshire Regiment. Hodgson was awarded the Military Cross. In April 1916 the Battalion was in front line trenches opposite Mametz. On the opening day of the Battle of the Somme, Hodgson was killed by a bullet in the throat from German machine gun fire while taking a supply of bombs to his men in newly captured trenches near Mametz. Buried at Devonshire Cemetery, Mansel Copse, Mametz.

I, that on my familiar hill
Saw with uncomprehending eyes
A hundred of Thy sunsets spill
Their fresh and sanguine sacrifice,
Ere the sun swings his noonday sword
Must say good-bye to all of this; ~
By all delights that I shall miss,
Help me to die, O Lord.


Lt. Alfred RATCLIFFE. Served with the 10th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment, is killed on the Somme, while attacking the German-held village of Fricourt. His battalion suffered more casualties than any other battalion on this date: 60%. Lt Ratcliffe was 29. Buried at Fricourt New Military Cemetery.


Corporal Alexander ROBERTSON . Served with ‘A’ Company, 12th Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment (Sheffield City Battalion: ‘The Sheffield Pals’). Was in same attack on Serre as Will Streets. ‘A’ & ‘C’ Companies were the first to move forward on the morning of the first day of the Somme. Met with heavy shelling, rifle & machine-gun fire. His body never found. He was 34. His name recorded on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing, near Albert.


StreetsSergeant John William STREETS . Served in the 12th. York & Lancaster Regiment. Known as “The Miner Poet”. Killed on the first day of the Somme, during the fighting for Serre. He was wounded early in the day and was returning to a dressing station when he heard that another soldier of his platoon was too badly wounded to return on his own, so Streets went back to find him. He was never seen again. He was 31. Buried Euston Road Cemetery, Colincamps.

Back to their Mother Earth this night return
Unnumbered youth along the far-flung line;
But ’tis for these my eyes with feeling burn,
That Memory doth erect a fadeless shrine ~
For these I’ve known, admired, ardently friended
Stood by when Death their love, their youth swift ended.


Waterhouse2nd Lt. Glbert WATERHOUSE.  Served with the 2nd Battalion, Essex Regiment, which partook in the bitter hand-to-hand fighting south of the village of Serre. At the end of the day, Waterhouse was counted among the missing, presumed dead. Buried at Serre Road Cemetery No.2, Beaumont Hamel & Hebuterne.

… But the minnewerfers fell,
And the blackbird ceased his song,
And the place became a hell,
Rang with curses loud and long ~
Blackbird, chaffinch, bumble-bee
Fled away upon the wing ~
Where they sang so merrily
Other messengers now sing ~
Bumble bee is busy still,
Blackbird and the chaffinch sing
In another faery dell,
By the village on the hill;
But a devil out of hell
Tossing high explosive shell,
Gambols in the flowery dell
Where the minnewerfers fell.


Lt. Bernard WHITE.   Served with the 20th (1st Tynside Scottish) Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers, is killed on the first day of Somme, opposite the village of La Boisselle. The 20th lost its commanding officer, 16 other officers, and 320 enlisted. One of White’s brother officers later described his death: “His platoon was the first to leave the trenches, and he himself was responsible for the direction of the attack. He led his men right across ‘No Man’s Land’ ~ here eight hundred yards broad ~ and was last seen standing on the parapet of the German trenches throwing bombs. He then disappeared, and for a short time was missing. Then his body was found and buried, with one or two other officers, who fell beside him … His death has left a very empty place in my life, for he was an exceptional man in many ways, so brilliant and full of life…”   He was 29. His name is on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing, near Albert.



Published in: on July 1, 2016 at 12:50 am  Comments (1)  

Final days of a young Marine wounded at Belleau Wood

The courtyard at the College de Juilly which housed Evacuation Hospital No. 8. This is the scene Pvt Hummelshiem looked down upon from his hospital bed.

The courtyard at the College de Juilly which housed Evacuation Hospital No. 8.  This is the scene Pvt Hummelshiem looked down upon from his hospital bed.

Pvt Herbert W. Hummelshiem, 15th Company, 6th Machine Gun Battalion. Died of wounds 18 June 1918. The following account of Pvt Hummelshiem’s last days in Evacuation Hospital No. 8 in the old College de Juilly is taken from Frederick Pottle’s Stretchers: The Story of a Hospital Unit on the Western Front (New Have, Yale University Press, 1929):


I FIRST saw Herbie a week after I started work in the operating room at the old Collège de Juilly, during the last of the Belleau Woods fighting. I was new enough to it then so that I saw him as a human being rather than a case: a big, well-built lad of nineteen, but pale and thin, with very clear blue eyes and closely cropped blond hair.

He was wounded in the knee, a serious wound, but not so pressing as some of the other cases. He lay nearly all day on a shaky old French litter on the tiled floor outside the operating room, waiting his turn. Once I found him shivering and tucked the blankets in around him. It was about four in the afternoon when he was finally brought in.


I took down the record for the operation. The boy’s last name was German; his first name, Herbert. He was, as I have said, only nineteen. A marine. He had been wounded sixteen hours previously. His voice was high pitched and rather unsteady; he was clearly frightened by the operating room. That was hardly to be wondered at. Operations were under way on the tables at either side, and the room ran with blood and reeked with ether. My white gown (at Juilly even surgical assistants had luxuries) was covered with blood stains. In that gown, with a piece of bandage tied around my forehead to keep the sweat out of my eyes, I must have been a terrifying spectacle. Yet he would have died rather than admit that he was afraid. I saw the dumb appeal in his eyes as I helped lift him on the table, and slid my hand into his. He looked up at me gratefully. The nurse started to put the ether mask down over his face. His voice shook a little.

“You’ll hold my hand and see me through, won’t you?” he asked. That was how my friendship with Herbie began.

The operation proved to be long and difficult. The missile was a jagged piece of shell nearly a centimeter each way, which had penetrated the joint cavity. Once the major threw it out, but it slipped back again. But he found it again, and dressed the wound. I took the dictation. I do not know why I should remember that dictation, but I do, as well as though I had written it yesterday.


“June 16, 1918. Herbert H—–, 15th Company, 6th Machine Gun Battalion, U.S.M.C. Duration of injury, 16 hrs. G.S.W. right knee joint. Missile entered from popliteal space, traversing between outer hamstring tendon and the notch of the condyles, lodging in the joint cavity. External arthrotomy. Piece of shrapnel 1 x 1/2 x 3/4 cm. removed from the joint cavity. Débridement. Joint irrigated with Dakin solution and left open for drainage. 9 Carrel-Dakin tubes in posterior wound. Hold. Major Shipley.”

I helped to carry the boy, limp and hardly breathing, to the ward, and put him in bed. Ward B was the best in the hospital. It was a long bare room with whitewashed plaster walls, and a floor of red tiles, with long windows, overlooking the old stone-flagged central courtyard of the Collège. I had to pass through it on my way to the operating room, and I always used to stop to speak to Herbie when I could.

He could not sit up, but had always to lie flat on his back with his leg in a long aluminum splint. When our work slackened toward the end of June, I used to sit by his bed and talk with him. Sometimes I wrote letters to his dictation: letters to his mother, his aunt, his sweetheart—“The little lady,” he called her. In those letters he repeated over and over that he was getting along well, was feeling better, and would soon be out of bed.

It was not true, for his case went badly from the first. The joint was badly infected, and kept getting worse: a slow, obstinate infection which sapped his strength. He had apparently been on the verge of a physical breakdown at the time he was wounded, and could seem to rally no strength to throw off the infection.


In our talks I learned a great deal about his history. His father was a successful business man in a mid-western city. There was only one other child, a brother. His people were of German descent; his grandmother spoke no English. His parents had not tried to dissuade him from joining the marines. He had been personal orderly to an officer, a major, and at the front had served as a runner, carrying messages for him. He had gone through two weeks of the horror of Belleau Woods, seldom getting anything to eat, and keyed up to a dreadful nervous pitch, for he must have been by nature timid. He had had none of his clothes off for the sixteen days before he was hit. On that morning, he, his major, and three other men were crouching in a shell hole. A shell landed on top. of them. The major and two of the men were killed outright, and the other man died very shortly afterward. Herbie said that he had not been killed because he had been praying just before the shell struck.

The days went by, and Herbie got no better. Twice he had to undergo reoperation because of the infection. I was off duty both times, but because it seemed to steady him, I came back to help. He feared an amputation both times; dreaded it literally worse than death.

After the third operation his cot was moved to the windowside so that he could see the men hurrying around in the courtyard below carrying the wounded on litters, or loading the convalescent into ambulances for evacuation. On one of the old towers opposite was an ancient clock. He used to watch the slow progress of its hands all day long. I remember that one day an elm branch swung in between, and I found him almost in tears because nobody would heed his request to move his cot a few inches. A boy of nineteen, thousands of miles away from home, terribly alone, and facing the probability of death, what did he think, as he lay there for weary hours and days, watching the lacy boughs of the elms spatter the flags of the courtyard with arabesques of light, which shifted and faded as the hands of the clock crawled around?


In Juilly was one little fruiterie, where, for exorbitant prices, one could occasionally buy fresh fruit. One day I got a pound of big cherries for him. When I poured the beautiful red things out on his blanket, he looked up startled, struggled manfully for a moment to keep down his emotion, and then his eyes ran over with tears. He said nothing to me, but I felt sick with shame as I realized how casual the gift had really been.

On the fifteenth of July the Germans attacked furiously, and three days later we launched the counterattack which kept them retreating to the end of the War. Several surgical teams were detached from our hospital, and I was sent along. I was gone three days. I came back half dead, and found our hospital crowded with wounded. It was three days more before I could go to Herbie.

I stumbled down the ward, and brought up with a start of surprise. Herbie’s bed was empty. At first I was disappointed, and then glad, for it came to me that he must have improved sufficiently to be sent back to the base. On the way out I stopped to speak with the ward nurse, Miss O’Toole, a tall, thin, gray-haired Bostonian, who had gone from a holiday at Nice to four years’ voluntary service with the American Red Cross. I knew that she was fond of Herbie.


“So they evacuated Herbie?” I asked.

She looked up, startled. Then her eyes filled—and it takes a great deal to make a woman cry after she has been seeing men die almost every day of her life for four years

“Herbie died yesterday morning,” she said.

From the ward orderly I learned afterward the story of his death. On the night of the twenty-first the infection started a hemorrhage. It was almost immediately detected and controlled, but in his weakened condition the loss of blood proved fatal. Every attempt was made to raise his blood pressure sufficiently to make an operation possible, but he never rallied from the condition of shock. He died just before dawn that morning. At that hour I was sound asleep in my billet. At the last, when he had so many things to think of, did he remember me, his friend?

So far as I know, he left just two things. One was a letter he wrote to his mother the night before he was wounded, when he expected to be killed at any moment.

He had kept it with him, and it was in the pocket of his pajamas when he died. It was the most truly pathetic thing I ever saw. You must remember that it was written by a quite normal boy under the expectation of sudden death at any moment. It had the awkwardness which any American boy of nineteen would show in trying to tell his mother of his love, but it told it so even more effectively. At the end he made a little will, giving all his few belongings to different members of his family. The chaplain took that and sent it to his mother. The other thing was one of the small buttons of his uniform which he gave me as a souvenir in the first days of our acquaintance.

A few days after Herbie’s death, I walked out to the American cemetery. It was just outside the grim, gray wall of the old French burying ground, beside the cobbled highway, in a wheat field. The wheat had grown up to the very foot of the wall; it was now golden and -almost ready for the harvest, starred here and there with flaming red poppies. From the foot of the wall a lane had been cut in the wheat, and two rows of raw mounds with brown crosses faced each other across a narrow path; all exactly alike except for the name plates. I had to stoop and read several before I found his—number 100. I laid a bunch of already wilting poppies on the mound, and stood a moment tryingto grasp the situation, to feel to its depths what Herbie’s death meant.


The sun was just dropping below the horizon, sending out dazzling streamers on a level with the eye. A skylark was soaring and singing overhead. A cart trundled by on the cobbled road, and sweet and clear from the church spire came the peaceful notes of the Angelus. The air smelled of the harvest. I could not feel sad. My tired brain would not fix itself on the grave; it wandered off into a blissful apathy. I forgot for a moment the sight of mangled bodies and the smell of blood and ether and gas gangrene. The healing beauty streamed in upon me: the glory of the sunset, the smell of the wheat, the sound of the bell, the song of the lark. I could not grieve for Herbie at all. He was gone, forever; but for me no more gone than the other wounded men who had passed through our hospital for another.

I must have stood there a long time, for presently the dew came down and made me shiver. As I turned away, I saw far on the horizon to the northward a flash like heat lightning, and then, dull and muffled, I heard the thudding tremor of the guns.

Published in: on February 21, 2016 at 12:45 am  Comments (1)  

More Christmas greetings from the old front line



Published in: on December 12, 2015 at 11:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

“The stillness was oppressive.” ~~~ An American surgeon on the Meuse records his impressions of the Armistice

wadeinOn the morning of the ninth, I decided that we must open up a new avenue of evacuation, and started up to Beaumont through Nouart and Laneuville, along the Meuse, to see if the road was safe for ambulances. I warned my driver that we should probably have to run the gauntlet of some shelling on our way through Laneuville. As we emerged from some woods and came into clear view of the village and the river, I could see shells breaking on the road ahead, particularly where it curved to descend to the village. The enemy’s guns were on the heights across the river, about a thousand yards away.

There was no need to tell my driver to put on speed. He fairly stepped on the accelerator, and we raced at the corner. The road was strewn with broken branches and filled with craters, but these we took in our stride, and rounded the comer with no greater mishap than a couple of holes in the mud guards. We tore down into the village and out on the river road to the west, the shelling following us until we were out of observation in some

We followed the road up into Beaumont, and as a result of the reconnaisance I was able to evacuate wounded by this route after dark. It made a vast amount of difference, for the road was in excellent condition, except for several short stretches. The wounded went direct from Beaumont to the surgical hospital at Landreville.

I attempted that same afternoon to go back to Division Headquarters at Fosse by way of the dirt road running south from Beaumont, but returned because of a block. On my way back into the town I was held up by two ambulances, one of which was supplying the other with gas.

On the other side of the block was a battery of artillery, and riding at the head of it I recognized my brother-in-law, Kermit In the few moments of conversation that were permitted, we sounded one another on the possibility of an armistice, and both felt that it was very unlikely. When two days later it actually came, it was a good deal of a surprise.

I spent the night at Beaumont, and ordered Field Hospital One by telephone to move up to that town. Beaumont was but two kilometers from the river, but a dip of the land protected it from direct observation, and it had only been subjected to desultory shellng. There was a goodsized church and a theater, both of which lent themselves for use as a hospital.

Early on the morning of the eleventh I was sitting in the office of G3, writing out an order for some medical supplies to send to the rear, when the telephone rang, and the sergeant answering it announced that an armistice would go into effect at eleven o’clock that morning. A general telephone alarm had been sent out transmitting this message.  I was completely stunned by the news, for while there had been persistent talk during the past few days that an armistice was imminent, I had not the slightest conception that it would actually occur. At twenty minutes of nine came official confirmation of the fact.

It was incredible that what had come to be our everyday life was thus suddenly to end. It was impossible at once to adapt oneself to the idea that there would no longer be a line of enemy out ahead as intent to kill you as you to kill them.

It was with thoughts like these pursuing one another through my mind that I jumped into my car, taking with me Boone and the Division Chaplain, and started for Beaumont. We went up by the river road through Laneuville, and where two days before I had run the gauntlet passing through the village, now all was peace and quiet. The stillness was oppressive.

The church at Beaumont was filled with casualties suffered during the crossing of the river, early that morning. As I moved about among them, talking to the men and watching the dressings, the church was suddenly filled with the peals of the organ, and under the leadership of Boone from the organ loft, we joined in the singing of “America.”

With the dying strains of the music, at a few minutes after eleven o’clock that November morning, the war became an incident of past history.

Excerpted from Wade In, Sanitary! by LtCol Richard Derby, Medical Corps, Second Division, AEF. (NY: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1919). Dr. Derby was married to Ethel Roosevelt, the daughter of Theodore Roosevelt,

Published in: on November 9, 2015 at 2:55 am  Comments (1)  

Memorial Day, sometime in the 1920s, in a cemetery outside a small midwestern town


. . . Later that spring, on Memorial Day,
her father and other veterans marched
the length of a cedar-lined path to pay
respects to the local fallen. She thrilled
at how stern he appeared among the men,
at how smartly he bore himself, unmatched
in the curt retort and snap of his drill.
She shuddered to hear the synchronized crack
of volleys fired again and again
from a line of rifles slanted above
the white wooden cross of a soldier’s grave.
Observing the set of her father’s face,
like statuary, she pondered the lack
of expression, the marble stare into space.

—– Excerpted from the poem “Her Father’s War” by BJ Omanson, from his collection, Stark County Poems: War and the Depression come to Spoon River. “Her Father’s War” was first published in The Sewanee Review; later reprinted in Sparrow: A Yearbook of the Sonnet.

Published in: on May 25, 2015 at 2:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

Paris in the early days of the war, August 6, 1914 — (Charles Inman Barnard)



(see previous post in this series: August 5 — Charles Inman Barnard)

Thursday, August 6, 1914. Fifth day of mobilization. Cloudy in the morning, fair in the afternoon. Thermometer at five P.M. 17 degrees centigrade.

There is probably no more forlorn street in Paris at the present moment than the Rue de la Paix, the headquarters for dressmakers and milliners. Upwards of seventy-five per cent. of the shops are closed, and on both sides the street presents a long, gray expanse—broken only at intervals—of forbidding iron shutters.

It is not here, however, that one must look for the effect of the war on American business, but rather along the Avenue de l’Opéra, the Grand Boulevards, and other well-known business streets.

In the Avenue de l’Opéra, at the intersection of the Rue Louis-le-Grand, the Paris shop of the Singer Sewing Machine Company is closed, while on the other side Hanan’s boot and shoe store is also shut. Just off the avenue, where the Rue des Pyramides cuts in, the establishment where the Colgate and the Chesebrough companies exploit their products likewise presents barred doors. Two conspicuous American establishments remaining open in the Avenue de l’Opéra are the Butterick shop and Brentano’s.

Mr. Lewis J. Ford, manager of Brentano’s, said that they had lost a quarter of their employes and fifty per cent. of their trade by reason of the war, but proposed to keep open just the same.

In the Grand Boulevards the Remington typewriter headquarters are closed, as is the Spalding shop for athletic supplies; but the establishments of the Walkover Shoe Company, both on the Boulevard des Capucines and the Boulevard des Italiens, are open.

In spite of the hardship entailed upon American firms, they are far from complaining. On the contrary, there is a concerted movement among American business men at this time to assist the French in keeping the industrial life of Paris going as normally as possible during the war.

At night Paris is still dark and silent, but in the daytime the city is beginning to adapt itself to the new state of things. Many places from which the men have been called away to serve their country are being filled by women.

Woman Tramway Conductor

                            Woman Tramway Conductor

Women are becoming tramway conductors, and there is talk of their working the underground railway. Girl clerks are taking places in government and other offices.

The unusual state of things prevailing in Paris is the cause of many picturesque scenes. This morning there was an unwonted sight of a hundred cows being driven by herdsmen of rustic appearance along the Boulevard des Capucines. A little further on, the eye was arrested by a brilliant mass of red and blue on the steps of the Madeleine, where a number of men of the Second Cuirassiers were attending special mass.

The cheerful tone which prevails among the people in the street is very noticeable. All faces are smiling and give the impression of a holiday crowd out enjoying themselves at the national fête, an impression which is reinforced by the gay display of bunting in most of the streets in the center of Paris.

A remarkable sight is the Rue du Croissant in the afternoon, at the time when the evening newspapers are printed. The unusual number of papers sold in the streets has brought thousands of boys, girls, women, and old men from the outlying districts of the city.

~ ~ ~ Charles Inman Barnard, from his book Paris War Days: the Diary of an American (Boston: Little Brown & Co, 1914).

(see the next post in this series: August 7– Charles Inman Barnard)

Published in: on August 6, 2014 at 8:29 am  Leave a Comment  

Paris in the early days of the war: August 4, 1914 — (Charles Inman Barnard)



(see previous post in this series: August 3 — Charles Inman Barnard)

Tuesday, August 4, 1914. We are now in the third day of mobilization. Weather slightly cooler, 17 degrees centigrade, with moderate southwest wind.

At seven this morning I went with Sophie to the registration office for Germans, Alsatians, and Austro-Hungarians, Number 213 Place Boulevard Perière. A crowd of some five hundred persons—men, women, and children—were waiting at the doors of the public schoolroom now used as the Siège du District for the seventeenth arrondissement. Although a German by birth, Sophie is French at heart. She came to Paris when only eight years old and has remained here ever since—she is now sixty-one—and has been thirty-two years with me as housekeeper and cook. All her German relatives are dead. Hers is a hard case, for if expelled from France, she would have to become practically a stranger in a strange land. Fortunately she has all her papers in order, and can show that she has nine nephews actually in the French army. I made a statement in writing for her to this effect, which she took to the registration office, but she had to wait, standing without shelter from eight in the morning to six o’clock at night. After carefully scrutinizing her papers, the officials told her that her papers must go for inspection to the Prefecture of Police, and that she must come back for them to-morrow. She had with her photographs of three of her nephews in military uniforms. One of these nephews had received a decoration during the Morocco campaign for saving his captain’s life during an engagement.

I managed to see the Commissary of Police of the quarter and spoke to him about Sophie, explaining her case and saying that as she was such a splendid cook it would be a great pity if Paris should lose her services. The commissary smiled and said: “It will be all right. Sophie will be allowed to remain in Paris!” I profited by the occasion to obtain a permis de séjour, or residence permit, for myself. The commissary, after noting on paper my personal description and measuring my height, handed me the precious document authorizing me to reside in the “entrenched camp of Paris.” These papers must be kept on one’s person, ready to be shown whenever called for. Outside of the office about three hundred foreigners, including Emile Wauters, the Belgian painter, and several well-known Americans and English, were waiting their turn to get into the office. I congratulated myself on having a journalist’s coupe-file card that had enabled me to get in before the others, some of whom stood waiting for six hours before their turn came. This is an instance of stupid French bureaucracy or red-tapism. It would have been very easy to have distributed numbers to those waiting, and the applicants would then have been able, by calculating the time, to go about their business and return when necessary. Another instance of this fatal red-tapism of French officialdom came in the shape of a summons from the fiscal office of Vernon, where I have a little country place on the Seine, to pay the sum of two francs, which is the annual tax for a float I had there for boating purposes. This trivial paper, coming in amidst the whirlpool of mobilization, displays the mentality of the provincial officials.

After doing some writing, I went on my new bicycle to the chancellery of the United States Embassy and saw a crowd of about seventy Americans on the sidewalk awaiting their turn to obtain identification papers. I met here Mr. Bernard J. Schoninger, former president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Paris. The news of the outbreak of war found him at Luchon in the Pyrenees. All train service being monopolized for the troops, he came in his automobile to Paris, a distance of about a thousand kilometers. All went smoothly until he reached Tours, when he was held up at every five kilometers by guards who demanded his papers. Chains or ropes were often stretched across the roads. Mr. Schoninger showed the guards his visiting card, explained who he was, and said that he was going to Paris on purpose to get his papers. The authorities were very civil, as they usually are to all Americans who approach them politely, and allowed him to motor to Neuilly, just outside the fortifications of Paris.

I proceeded on my wheel to the Embassy, where I found our Ambassador very busy with the American Relief Committee and with the American Ambulance people.

Several Americans at the Embassy were making impractical requests, as for instance that the American Ambassador demand that the French Government accept the passports or identification papers issued by the American Embassy here in lieu of permis de séjour. If the French Government accorded this favor to the United States, all the other neutral nations would require the same privilege, and thus in time of war, with fighting going on only a little over two hundred kilometers from Paris, the French Government would lose direct control of permission for foreigners to remain in the capital.

It is estimated that there are over forty thousand Americans at present stranded in Europe, seventy-five hundred of them being in Paris. Of these fifteen hundred are without present means.

The Embassy is literally besieged by hundreds of these unfortunate travelers. There were so many of them, and their demands were so urgent, that the Military Attaché, Major Spencer Cosby, had to utilize the services of eight American army officers on leave to form a sort of guard to control their compatriots. These officers were Major Morton John Henry, Captain Frank Parker, Captain Francis H. Pope, Lieutenants B.B. Summerwell, F.W. Honeycutt, Joseph B. Treat, J.H. Jouett, and H.F. Loomis. The last four are young graduates of West Point, the others being on the active list of the United States army.

Ambassador Herrick set his face against any favoritism in receiving the applicants, and some very prominent citizens had to stand in line for hours before they could be admitted. Mr. Oscar Underwood, son of Senator-elect Underwood, is organizing means to alleviate the distress among his countrymen and countrywomen in Paris. He has also asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to extend the time allowed for Americans to obtain formal permission to remain in France, and his request will no doubt be granted.

Doctor Watson, rector of the American Church of the Holy Trinity, in the Avenue de l’Alma, has offered that building as temporary sleeping quarters for Americans who are unable to obtain shelter elsewhere, and is arranging to hold some trained nurses at the disposal of the feeble and sick.

War is a wonderful leveler, but there could hardly be a greater piece of irony perpetrated by Fate than compelling well-to-do Americans, who have no share in the quarrel on hand, to sleep in a church in France like destitutes before any of the French themselves are called upon to undergo such an experience.

At the Chamber of Deputies I witnessed a historic scene never to be forgotten. Some of the deputies were reservists and had come in their uniforms, but the rules prevented them from taking their seats in military attire. In the Diplomatic Tribune sat Sir Francis Bertie, the British Ambassador, side by side with M. Alexander Iswolsky, the Russian Ambassador. The Chamber filled in complete silence. The whole House, from royalists to socialists, listened, standing, to a glowing tribute by M. Paul Deschanel, president of the Chamber, to M. Jaurès, over whose coffin, he said, the whole of France was united. “There are no more adversaries,” exclaimed M. Deschanel, with a voice trembling with emotion, “there are only Frenchmen.” The whole house as one man raised a resounding shout of “Vive la France!”

When M. Deschanel concluded, there was a pause during the absence of M. Viviani. The Premier entered, pale but confident, amid a hurricane of cheers and read amid a silence broken only by frenzied shouts of “Vive la France!” a speech detailing the whole course of the diplomatic negotiations, in which he placed upon Germany crushing responsibility for the catastrophe which has overtaken Europe.

The Chamber, before rising, adopted unanimously without discussion a whole series of bills making provision for national defense and the maintenance of order in France.

M. Viviani’s speech was interrupted by terrific cheering when he referred to the attitude adopted by the British and Belgian governments. All rose to face the diplomatic Tribune, cheering again and again.

M. Viviani’s last phrase, “We are without reproach. We shall be without fear,” swept the whole Chamber off its feet.

The vast hemicycle was a compact mass of cheering deputies, all waving aloft in their hands papers and handkerchiefs. From the Tribunes of the public gallery shout after shout went up. At the foot of the presidential platform the gray-haired usher, with his 1870 war medals on his breasts, was seated, overcome with emotion, the tears coursing down his cheeks.

Paris is back in the days of the curfew, and at eight o’clock, by order of the Military Governor of Paris, it is “lights out” on the boulevards, all the cafés close their doors, the underground railway ceases running, and policemen and sentinels challenge any one going home late, lest he should be a German spy. Paris is no longer “la ville lumière“— it is a sad and gloomy city, where men and women go about with solemn, anxious faces, and every conversation seems to begin and end with the dreadful word “War!”

There is no more rioting in the streets. The bands of young blackguards who went about pillaging the shops of inoffensive citizens have been cleared from the streets, and demonstrations of every kind are strictly forbidden. So far is this carried that a cab was stopped at the Madeleine, and a policeman ordered the cab driver to take the little French flag out of the horse’s collar.

In the evening the city is wrapped in a silence which makes it difficult to realize that one is in the capital of a great commercial center. The smallest of provincial villages would seem lively compared with the boulevards last night. But for large numbers of policemen and occasional military patrols, the streets were practically deserted.

There is, however, nothing for the police to do, for the sternly worded announcement that disturbers of the peace would be court-martialed had the instant effect of putting a stop to any noisy demonstrations, let alone any attempts at pillage. Policemen can be seen sitting about on doorsteps or leaning against trees.

Parisians are already going through a small revival of what they did during the siege of 1871. They are lining up at regular hours outside provision shops and waiting their turn to be served. Many large groceries are open only from nine to eleven in the morning and from three to five in the afternoon, not because there is any scarcity of food, but on account of lack of assistants, all their young men being at the front or on their way there.

Great activity is already being shown in preparing to receive wounded soldiers from the front, and all the ambulance and nursing societies are working hand in hand.

The women of Paris are being enrolled in special schools where they will be taught the art of nursing, and thousands of young women and girls in the provinces have promised to help their country by making uniforms and bandages. Others will look after the children of widowers who have gone to the front, and in various other ways the women of France are justifying their reputation for cheerful self-abnegation.


The Medical Board of the American Hospital held another meeting at the hospital in Neuilly, to consider further the organization of the hospital for wounded soldiers, with an ambulance service, which it is proposed to offer as an American contribution to France in her hour of trouble.

Just how extensive this medical service will be depends upon the amount of money that will be obtained from Americans. The enterprise was given its first impulse at a meeting of the Board of Governors and the Medical Board of the American Hospital held on Monday at the request of Ambassador Herrick.

It is intended to establish at first a hospital of one hundred or two hundred beds, fully equipped to care for wounded French soldiers. Several places are under consideration, but at present no information of a definite character can be given on this subject. Later, if Americans are sufficiently generous in their contributions, it is proposed to obtain from the French Government the use of the Lycée Pasteur in Neuilly, not far from the American Hospital. In this building a thousand beds could be placed, and it is hoped that funds will be available to undertake this larger ambulance service.

Meanwhile the American Hospital at Neuilly is not to be affected in any way by this emergency undertaking, but it will continue its work for Americans in need of medical attention. The special hospital for soldiers is to be an American offering under the auspices of the American Hospital and under the direction of the Medical Board of that institution.

The Medical Board of the American Hospital consists of Doctor Robert Turner, chairman; Doctor Magnier, who is well known as the founder of the hospital; Doctor Debouchet, Doctor Gros, Doctor Koenig and Doctor Whitman.

Mrs. Herrick, Mrs. Potter Palmer, Mrs. Carolan, and other prominent American women have applied for service with the Red Cross.

~ ~ ~ Charles Inman Barnard, from his book Paris War Days: the Diary of an American (Boston: Little Brown & Co, 1914).

(see next post in this series: August 5 — Charles Inman Barnard)

Published in: on August 4, 2014 at 11:49 pm  Leave a Comment