When the great war began in August, 1914, there were several hundred Americans in Paris. Many of them were tourists, visiting Paris as part of the grand tour of the continent. The others belonged to the so-called American colony and because of their long residence there considered Paris their home.
When the Germans hacked their way through Belgium and the vast horde of Huns streamed across the frontier toward the heart of France, carrying death and destruction in their wake, somewhat of a panic developed in Paris among those who were anxious to get away. Crowds collected in front of the banks eager to get money. Hotels and shops demanded cash payments. Paper money was discounted and gold was at a premium. Holders of large letters of credit suddenly found themselves poor. The train service was overtaxed and inadequate to handle the crowds, and automobiles were hired at fabulous prices. Trunks were left behind in the mad rush. As an illustration of the state of mind, a friend told me that an excited American rushed up to him on the street exclaiming, "Do you speak English? I will give you $500 to get me out of Paris."
The Americans divided themselves into two classes. First, there were those who were part of the crowd of fugitives and resorted to every means in their power in order to effect their escape. The others were those who, loyal to the dictates of their moral obligation, resolved to stay to the last extremity and aid the city they loved.
Among these last there was fortunately an organization comprising the American Hospital of Paris, an admirable institution, which for several years past had been maintained by Americans. With the American Hospital as a basis of unity the American Ambulance was founded and its services were offered to the French government.
On the third day of September, when the Germans were at Compiègne, barely 50 miles away, the French government moved to Bordeaux. The Americans were released from their promised service, leaving them free to escape from the investment of Paris which, at that time, seemed inevitable. To the eternal honor of our fellow countrymen be it remembered that they refused to accept the release from their promise and decided to cast their lot and if necessary risk their lives with the people of Paris. Then came the battle of the Marne and Paris was saved. From a small beginning the Ambulance grew to an organization caring for over 1500 wounded a day and maintaining more than 300 ambulances on duty in Paris and at the front. The cost of maintaining this work has been borne entirely by the American people.
It is difficult to estimate the value of the work of the American Ambulance in this war. No less important than the material aid rendered the French wounded has been the moral effect of the organization of cultivating and maintaining a friendly feeling for America and every worker in the Ambulance---doctor, nurse and ambulance driver---on returning to America has been an ardent proselyte, burning with a sense of righteousness of the cause of the Allies and eager for the United States to take her proper place in the struggle.
It was to join this organization that we started for France on June 12, 1915, and a few weeks later we found ourselves aboard the steamship "St. Louis" leaving New York harbor. A little crowd of friends was at the wharf to say farewell, but there was no band or "leis."
The "St. Louis" was an old ship, steady in smooth weather, but not over clean or comfortable. The label "American Line" was painted in huge white letters on the ship's sides. At night a cluster of electric lights with a reflector was lowered over each side and so placed that the letters were well illuminated. The ship was crowded. Since the war the American line has come into sudden popularity and consequently the rates have risen. We had a deck stateroom for which we paid $300 plus a $10 war tax. The bath was a tiny affair and a long ways off in the bowels of the ship. The sanitary arrangements left much to be desired. The food was fairly good. There was an orchestra of five pieces which played during meal time. Altogether we got on quite well and had, no kick coming, provided the old tub landed us safely at Liverpool. We had provided ourselves with life preserver jackets in New York and kept them handy. The last night out, as we were in the danger zone, many of the passengers camped out on deck and talked most of the night.
On July 19th land appeared and at eight o'clock in the evening we sailed up the Mersey and were docked at Liverpool. While it was still light, we lined up in the saloon, our passports were inspected and stamped by a benevolent looking old gentleman and we climbed off the St. Louis, grateful that our voyage was safely over.
Liverpool looked as grimy and unattractive as usual. It was Sunday night and everything was quiet. There were no signs of war. We managed to lay in a supply of newspapers, fruit and candy and an hour or so before midnight we started on a special steamer train for London. We sped through the dark night at a great rate of speed and could not help contrasting the superiority of the English railroad travel over that of the United States. There were no sudden stops and jerks such as one encounters unexpectedly anywhere from San Francisco to New York. The towns we passed through were dimly lighted on account of Zeppelins. The curtains of our train were drawn so that the light did not shine out. At half past three in the morning we reached Euston station and a great scramble for luggage ensued. Finally we extricated our baggage, piled it on a "four wheeler" and hied ourselves to the Savoy Hotel. At the hotel two pieces of baggage were found to be missing, so I dashed back to the station in a taxi and found the two bags safely reposing on the platform just where we had left them. The station was now full of sailors who had arrived there just after us. As I started back to the Savoy several sailors tried to hail my taxi, so I stopped and told them to "pile in." The taxi was rapidly filled to its capacity, and those who couldn't find room on the seats, sat on the steps and mud-guards. A much whiskered tar, smelling of salt water and tobacco, was my seat companion. He said that they were sailors of the North Sea fleet and were crossing London to Victoria station on their way to Portsmouth, he thought. Patrolling the North Sea was bitterly cold work and they were longing for the German fleet to come out. It was then broad daylight and we passed several dignified bobbies who yelled at the sailors to get off the running boards, to which the tars responded in true democratic fashion by applying their thumbs to their noses and actively wiggling their fingers.
London seemed very much the same as on previous visits and gave one the same comfortable and home-like feeling. There was a little less street traffic and fewer American tourists were in evidence. A good many uniforms were to be seen on the streets, and huge posters and notices calling for enlistments were prominently displayed. There were recruiting stations here and there, but we saw few recruits. We hunted up our favorite restaurant, the "Cheshire Cheese," and enjoyed a delicious dinner of sole, chops, pigeon pie, peas and toasted cheese. At the "Empire" afterwards we saw a mediocre performance before a crowded house, with orchestra seats at 10s apiece.
At the French consulate hundreds of people were ahead of us waiting to get their papers. The work was so heavy that an adjoining residence was used to handle the crowd. Finally after several hours waiting we received tickets from the porter and when our numbers were called we were allowed to enter a large living room already filled with all kinds of people. Women and children composed the majority of those waiting and all looked very weary. Finally the numbers are called again and we proceeded upstairs to a room where several officials were seated at small tables. In turn each one of us was seated at a table facing an official and subjected to an inquiry as to the reasons for wishing to go to France. I showed several letters which produced little effect until letters from Dr. Marques, French Consul of Honolulu, stating in French the object of our journey, were read. These letters were like magic and our passports were given us without further trouble.
At ten the next morning we left London for Folkestone. The usual charming views of rural England were changed by seeing here and there training camps and bodies of troops drilling in the fields. Aside from that it was hard to tell that this mighty nation was at war. At Folkestone we formed in line, passed through a docket and our papers were examined and stamped. We were then allowed to proceed aboard the channel steamer "Sussex." No staterooms were to be had, so we procured steamer chairs and prepared for the worst of our four and a half hours trip to Dieppe. There were many vessels to be seen in the channel as we left the English shore and several destroyers gave us a feeling of security. Soon we passed out of sight of land, ships and destroyers and were alone. There was quite a sea and the spray splashed over us sitting out on deck. The weather was surprisingly cold and chilly. The steamer was crowded with passengers, most of them seasick, and they were not always particular to get to leeward when they had to pay tribute to Neptune. I remember seeing a little French cabin-boy or "mousse" trying to persuade a disconsolate looking English boy that it was desirable to pass his fingers down his throat. This pantomime continued for some time, but the English lad either would not be persuaded or felt too badly to attempt it.
The cold gray water of the channel looked very uninviting. We wondered if there were any German submarines around and if this part of the channel was protected by a steel net. We were all subject to a feeling of helplessness as we had at least expected an escort. That our fears were not groundless was shown by subsequent events when the "Sussex" was torpedoed, and this act of barbarism became an international question.
A trip never seemed so slow, until finally we feasted our eyes on the white cliffs of Dieppe, which looked so much like those we had left at Folkestone, as if the land had been cleft and pushed apart.
At Dieppe there was the animation and vivacity of conversation that one finds in a French seaport town. Once again we were herded into line and our papers examined and stamped. But nothing mattered now. We were on the beloved soil of France again.
A surprisingly good train carried us to Paris in three hours. While we enjoyed an excellent table d'hôte dinner for five francs, we looked out of the car windows at the peaceful Normandy country and could not realize that the most terrible warfare the world has ever seen was in progress a few miles away.
At the Paris station we were delighted to find that our baggage had come through with us, and taking it along in our fiacre we were soon comfortably settled at the splendid Edouard VII hotel.
How thrilling, almost magical after a good sleep to wake up in Paris, stroll out on the boulevards, rub one's eyes and realize that we are really there! The weather was delightful for midsummer, a temperature of 70° with clear sunny skies. Beautiful flowers were grouped for sale at the street corners. We recognized our old friends the Opera, Café de la Paix, the Madeleine and the Place de la Concorde at the end of the rue Royale.
Even in Paris it is hard to realize that war is at hand. There are soldiers to be seen here and there. Some of them are crippled, walking with crutches or have bandages on their heads. There are a good many women in mourning. Nearly all the shops are open and the larger magasins like the Lafayette and Printemps, are crowded with shoppers. The restaurants are well filled with patrons and there is the same long menu of delicious food with apparently little elevation of prices. We noticed only that the Grand Vatel and Tour d'Argent are closed. The Louvre is closed but a part of the Luxemburg is open, also the Musée Carnavalet. The big, noisy busses are no more. This is not a matter of regret as they are doing useful work at the front transporting troops. Women do men's work as conductors on the trains and metro, driving fiacres and cleaning streets. I have never seen the streets of Paris so clean. The banks close from twelve to two on account of the lack of employees and many of the stores do the same. There are crowds of people sitting out on the sidewalks of the cafes in the delightful Paris fashion. At ten o'clock the cafés close and no music is allowed in any restaurants.
At night one notices a great difference from the Paris of peace times. The night life of Montmartre is no more. The Bal Bouiller, Moulin Rouge and other places from which Americans have gained erroneous ideas of French life and character , are closed. The streets are quite dark but not as dark as we found them in London. The darkening of the streets is for two reasons. First as a precaution against Zeppelin raids, and second, as a matter of economy. Most of the theatres are running, but grand opera will not be attempted. On a Sunday afternoon we had a four hours' musical treat at the Opéra Comique. Charpentier's "Louise" was given admirably. The house was crowded, many of the audience being soldiers and some of them convalescents with their arms in slings or their heads bandaged. It was pathetic to see a number of blind soldiers in the audience. At the end of the performance Madame Chenal sang the soul-stirring "Marseillaise" with the audience standing. We could feel thrills run up and down our backs.
Although music is forbidden in cafés and restaurants, yet the government thinks that good music is a beneficial tonic for the people, and there are fine concerts in the Tuilleries and Luxembourg gardens. Soldiers attend these concerts in large numbers and the music receives much appreciation as shown by the attention and applause.
On bright sunny afternoons we enjoyed sitting out on the sidewalk of the Café de la Paix and watching the crowds pass by. War does not prevent the Parisians from enjoying this pleasure, and although there are many uniforms and some mutilés to be seen, it is hard to realize that men are being killed barely fifty miles away.
With all the losses and suffering France has endured there is no depression, but a smiling philosophical attitude is apparent on all sides. Truly it takes a war to show a nation's real character.
We heard an interesting spy story the other day. A French girl who had lived in Alsace and knew the German language stepped on a man's foot as she was entering the Metro. The man was dressed as an English officer and to her surprise he swore a German oath. She resolved to follow him, so got off when he did and reported him to a gendarme, who shrugged his shoulders and wouldn't do anything. She then followed him to a house and noting the address, sped to the nearest police station. The house was quickly raided and not only was the spurious English officer caught but two other spies and a quantity of incriminating papers.
Germany had the most complete spy system the world has ever seen. Not only was Paris well covered but the country towns and villages as well. The authorities have warned the people to be on their guard by attaching notices in public places "Taisez-vous, Méfiez-vous. Les oreilles d'ennemis vous écoutent." This warning was not taken very seriously and was a favorite theme for jest at the theatres.
One of the chief topics of conversation is, "When will the war end?" Great things are always expected of the offensive "next year," after the bad winter weather is over. There is some talk of the pinch of starvation in Germany and the possibilities of a revolution. It seems that thinking people do not take much stock in these ideas.
The starvation of Germany is counter-balanced by Germany's food economies and her increased agricultural acquisitions in Belgium, Northern France, Poland and Servia. Thousands of prisoners furnish much of the agricultural labor. A revolution is discredited because the great mass of the German people have been taught and trained that the government should do their thinking for them. No, the war will be brought to an end by military superiority, and that means a long and bloody conflict. The battle of the Marne saved Paris, saved France, saved civilization. The noble Belgian defense, the heroism of the French soldier and "the contemptible little British army" at the battle of the Marne crumpled up Germany's plan of world conquest right at the start. But without England's aid France would have been paralyzed with most of her coal and iron mines in the hands of the enemy. After the battle of the Marne France's task was stupendous---to hold back the long battle line until British troops could be trained and take over a powerful position. This could never have been accomplished without the superiority of the British navy.
Germany launched a tremendous attack at Verdun, planning to beat her way through by main force. Those weeks and months of struggle were anxious days in France. When news of the terrible slaughter became generally known, there were questions among the civilians: "Why don't they give up Verdun and let the Germans have it? It isn't worth all the slaughter." "No," the French soldier said "Ils ne passeront pas." "Why don't the English start an offensive to relieve the pressure on Verdun?" "Don't you know the English are not ready yet and they are carrying out Joffre's plan? They will attack when the right time comes." We often thought that the idea that the French were being sacrificed at Verdun, while the British were inactive was part of the subtle German propaganda.
We kept wondering what the United States was going to. do in this great world mix-up. We came to France with the idea that this was a European war, the breaking of treaties and invasion of territory, far apart from America. We were not long in France before we discovered that the Allies were fighting for the very principles on which the foundations of our liberty rest and that there could be no such thing as neutrality of heart. A German victory in Europe meant America as the next victim in the world conquest. The Americans whom we have talked with think that our country has played an ignoble part thus far. We have made money out of the war, lots of it, and have sent back very little in comparison to our gains. But there is a feeling of confidence that the time will come when America will see that the Allies are fighting our battles and that the United States will take her place in the struggle for democracy.
Going up the Champs Elysées, past the Arc de Triomphe and along the Avenue des Grandes Armées one comes to the Porte Maillot. Passing through this gate one enters the suburb of Neuilly and is now officially out of Paris. As the taxi drivers can claim an extra rate of fare after passing through the gate, we used to pay off the driver at the gate, walk through and take another taxi to drive to the Ambulance. That was in the early days. Later on we learned to economize by going on the tram or metro for 30 centimes.
At the beginning of the war a splendid new school building, the Lycée Pasteur, was reaching completion. The Board of Governors of the American Hospital in Paris offered to the French government to maintain a hospital for the care of wounded soldiers for the duration of the war, and this building was assigned to them. It should not be forgotten that in the war of 1870 the Americans of Paris organized and maintained an American ambulance which rendered valuable service.
By completing the equipment and installing the necessary hospital furniture, it was found that the Lycée Pasteur lended itself admirably for the purpose of a hospital. The construction of the building with plenty of windows, splendid lighting and ventilation rendered it an ideal hospital building, and it is doubtful if among the 4,000 or more war hospitals in France, there is a finer institution. There are accommodations for 600 patients in round numbers with large wards and small wards for officers and special cases. A number of the wards are maintained by contributions from different cities and states, and this fact is designated by names over the doorways----New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Virginia, Rhode Island and others are there. We hope there will be a "Hawaii Ward" some day.
The Ambulance Committee consists of:
Capt. Frank H. Mason, Chairman.
Lawrence V. Benét.
Dr. C. W. Du Bouchet.
F. W. Monahan.
L. V. Twyeffort.
Mrs. W. K. Vanderbilt.
Mrs. H. P. Whitney.
The surgical staff of about thirty doctors are almost all volunteers from America, and some of our most famous surgeons have served there. Among them are Drs. Blake, Hutchinson, Harte, Powers, Murphy, Cushing and Crile.
The dental department, organized by Dr. Hayes and ably conducted by volunteer American dentists, has done splendid work, especially in restoration of shattered jaws.
The nursing staff consists of about 90 trained nurses, most of whom have come from America. There are a large number of auxiliary nurses under the able direction of Mrs. George Munroe.
The orderly work is done by volunteers, business men, artists, dilitantes, Rhodes scholars from Oxford and others.
A useful feature of the ambulance is the transportation service. A large number of cars are ready day or night to go the Gare la Chapelle, receive loads of wounded and transport them to hospitals designated by. the authorities.
The Field Service sections stationed at different parts of the front render valuable service to the French and have transported over 400,000 wounded. This part of the ambulance service is ably directed by A. Piatt Andrew, formerly assistant treasurer of the United States.
On my first visit to the hospital. I hunted up my former teacher, Dr. Blake, and found him making "rounds." He gave me a cordial welcome and upon my asking for work, said that there was plenty of it and that he would be glad to have me join his staff.
The first sensation of a civilian doctor on starting to work in a ward of French soldiers is one of bewilderment. There is a mass of wooden frames, pulleys and weights holding shattered bones in comfortable positions. The awful looking wounds make one wonder how a man ever survived such an injury and then how will it be possible to save these shattered limbs. At once one is impressed by the courage, cheerfulness and patience of the French soldier. Some are mere peasant boys of 18 to 20, others are educated men, merchants, school teachers, law and medical students. The majority are country boys, sons of the soil. They all expect to get well and most of them do. The worst cases are kept out on porches, where they have the benefit of the fresh air and sunshine.
At present all the patients are "old cases" and the operations performed are for the removal of pieces of shell and dead splinters of bone. The patients are carefully X-rayed and the pieces of shell located. Then there is an electrical apparatus invented by Professor Bergonie of Bordeaux by means of which one can feel a piece of shell vibrating in the flesh. Even with these aids the pieces of shell are very elusive and sometimes surprisingly difficult to find. The work consists of morning rounds with Dr. Blake, afterwards operations if there are any to be done and then the dressings.
L. has been assigned to a small ward, where she makes beds, helps at the "pansements," takes temperatures and pulses, helps with the meals and in many other ways. She looks real business-like in her French Red Cross uniform and enjoys the work thoroughly.
The food served to the wounded is very good and the blessés are very appreciative of what is 'done for them. The approximate cost of maintaining the hospital is $1,000.00 a day, and this is entirely a matter of subscription.
In order to economize time we moved to a small villa near the hospital, kept by the head waiter of the Ritz. He is an Italian and speaks several languages and sets a good table. We have our coffee in our room at 7 a. m., and are at the hospital at 8 o'clock. We have lunch in the basement of the hospital with a crowd of 200, composed of doctors, nurses, auxiliaries, ambulance drivers and personnel and the noise is like that of a boiler factory. However, everyone seems to have a good appetite and to be in good spirits. At night we are too tired to go out, so dine at the Villa for 3 francs. For sixty cents or less, as a franc is worth about 18 cents, we have a delicious meal and the enemy barely 50 miles away. Fancy getting any such meal in New York for 60 cents I It can't be that the food itself is so much superior, but it is the art in cooking it, in which the French excel.
It's a wonder that the blessés after the terrible experiences they have been through are not more nervous. With a few exceptions they are calm and patient. One of our men lay badly wounded under a pile of dead men for thirteen hours before he was rescued. The soldiers say that the German line with its concrete fortifications and heavy artillery is too strong to break through.
One of our patients was a boy of seventeen who ran away to the army as he was too young to be called. He was recovering from a wound of the abdomen and wrote a verse of poetry for me which he entitled:
and concluded the poem as follows:
Vers vous Américains amis si précieux
Des bons soins que dans votre hôpital j'ai reçus
Je me souviendrai durant toute ma vie
Dites-moi? Comment voulez-vous que j'oublie?
Mais je ne veux pas donner de détails menus
Ma reconnaissance vers vous s'envole
Semblable à un léger oiseau frivole.
Charmant petit oiseau, s'échappant du fond du coeur
Vous souhaitant pour toujours joie et bonheur.
In parenthesis he wrote in English: "Excuse my writing because I am in the bed."
A présent je suis sauvé et dans ce petit coin du nouveau monde transporté dans notre chère France. je suis soigné admirablement, jamais je n'oublierai le dévouement dont font preuve Infirmiers et Infirmières. Leur souvenirs restera toujours gravé dans ma mémoire. Vive la France! Vive les Américains!
A big tile-layer from Montreal responded to the call of France and is now recovering from a bad wound of the arm. He enjoys talking English and acting as interpreter for the nurses. A dapper little soldier lived several years in New Orleans, speaks perfect English and seems glad to be among Americans.
There is a Zouave in the ward who has lost a leg and hobbles around on crutches. He owns a fine setter dog which is the only animal pet of the hospital. The dog was at the front with his master when the Germans exploded a mine under a section of trench. Fortunately the dog was somewhat in the rear in the vicinity of a field kitchen and had the opportunity of saving his master's life. As soon as the explosion occurred the setter ran up and, after digging furiously awhile, hauled the Zouave out of a pile of earth. The soldier was unconscious and had a leg badly mangled but survived his injuries. The dog became a great favorite at the hospital and when the Zouave was decorated, the setter received a special ribbon.
In the wards are three British Tommies, all that are left of the British wounded brought to the ambulance after the battle of the Aisne. One of them was in the retreat from Mons and gave me a graphic account of those terrible days.
After serving nine years in India and Burma, my time expired on the third of June, 1914, leaving me three years to serve on the reserve. I was just beginning to enjoy civil life when suddenly, which everyone knows, England declared war on Germany on the fourth of August. Of course, that meant I had to be called to the colors again. I reported at my depot as soon as possible. I was equipped and sent over to France and, on about the fourteenth of August, I disembarked at Saint Nazaire. I stayed there two days then went to join my regiment in Belgium. I was not there very long before I found out it was no joke but we held our own pretty well until the twenty-sixth of August. We were at Mons at the time and were forced to retire. They were all over us. Well, we started off with the enemy at our backs and I never had such an experience in my life. The enemy was easily eight times our strength, so all we could do was to keep tracking along and they were mowing us down like sheep all the time. We were wondering why we could not retaliate and make a fight of it but all we could get from our commanders was 'keep going.' True, we had very little artillery and I am sure we would have been slaughtered had we tried to make a stand. Well, we obeyed our command. We were marching along in our sleep at times. We were doing over thirty miles some days. Of course, we were marching through the night as well. Very little rest we got. As soon as we did halt we could hardly get time for a rest before the enemy was shelling us again and we had to make another move.
About the worst part of the retirement I witnessed happened to my regiment at a place called Meaux. This was on about the seventh day, I believe it was the third of September. We had been marching all night and this was about 6 a. m. We came across what we thought was a French outpost. Our colonel questioned them and they reported "all clear" so he looked for a likely place to halt us so that we could get a little snack which we were badly in need of. At last we came across a large plot of open ground with a nullah in it. We marched into this nullah. Up to now my regiment had been very fortunate. We had just been reinforced and were about 1,200 strong. Our colonel gave us orders to pile arms and take off our equipment. In less than ten minutes after we had done so, a shower of bullets came in to us. We were surrounded by Maxims from the top of the nullah and no way out of it only to fly, which we did, most men leaving their arms behind, but not only that, we left over 700 dead and wounded, all in a few minutes. But for the Irish Fusiliers, who were on our left, we would have lost more as they kept the enemy at bay until we got under cover, when what was left of us got together again. We did not amount to 500, and there were not 200 of us armed and we also lost our Maxims. The outpost we took for French was a German outpost in French uniforms. Tricky dogs!
The next day all the brigades got together, and it was the same old thing. Retire. Retire. This was, I think, about the ninth day of it and I am sure every man in the British army was cribbing, as a soldier always does. They were all saying, "When are we going to turn around and get a smack at them?"
That night General French visited our brigade, and no doubt he visited the other brigades as well, for he must have heard about the discontent among his troops, and he said, "Men, if you will only finish this march, which you must do, it will last through the night, and tomorrow I will promise you a fight." There was not a man who did not cheer him, and every man marched all night with a good heart.
At daybreak the following morning we were seventeen miles from Paris, but little we knew that then. General French was as good as his word. We got a fight that day. We turned about and, thank God, the retreat was over. Then it became our turn. We started to advance and we gave them something for their money. We never left them alone. We would not give them time for wind. We let them see that we were made of better stuff than they were. They were surrendering by thousands, completely fagged out and we were shelling them now, mowing them down worse than they did us, and we were capturing guns and ammunition galore. We kept them on the run until we got to the Marne, where they turned around to make a fight. just what we wanted. This was, I think, the tenth or eleventh of September. The battle lasted two days and we didn't half give them something. We popped them off as fast as the clock could tick at times. At last they were forced to retire. As fast as they retired we followed them up until night came, and we had a good night's rest without being disturbed.
We started next morning straight into action. My regiment got some hand to hand fighting this day in a village. We got in close quarters with the bayonet and we let them feel it. We captured the village and many prisoners and also left a few hundred dead there. Then we came to the Aisne. Here they held us in check a few hours until word came that we must cross the bridge today at all costs. We did, but not without great loss. This was at midday on the thirteenth of September. The remainder of that day there was heavy cannonading on both sides, but we held our position, which had cost us dearly.
We were now in Soissons. That night my regiment was on outpost duty and it was pouring heavens hard with rain and we laid out in the open. We were like drowned rats next morning when we got relieved, but we got a nice day's rest, for we had got a good position. We were in a long deep nullah out of sight from the enemy and it was only about twelve feet wide. They would have to be very accurate if they wanted to drop a shell in it. The Germans were shelling us very heavy all that day and our side hardly ever fired a round, only now and again the artillery would fire one.. We wondered what the matter was, but we found out later we were short of ammunition. That is why we could not advance any further.
The enemy's shells were flying over our heads and dropping short all that day, but they could not hit our mark. We got so used to them we took no notice of them at the finish. Night time came and the shelling ceased, but as soon as daybreak came the shelling started again. Still we took no notice, until about midday an enemy aeroplane hovered over us for about half an hour and then returned to his own line, and soon a shell dropped straight into the nullah. I got it along with five others wounded and one killed. One of the wounded was my captain. I lay there only about ten minutes, then I was picked up by our stretcher bearers and carried to an old church about a quarter of a mile away. There I saw my captain. He was laid next to me. We got our wounds attended to and stayed there until midnight, and all the time we were there the enemy were shelling the church. Luckily we got away without further injury. They dared not move us in the day time because we had to cross the bridge again, and the enemy had the range on it. We were moved at midnight and went away in ambulance wagons to another dressing station, then, after being dressed, we left there at once in motor wagons and arrived at another dressing station, where our wounds were dressed again and we were taken to the railway station. We were placed in cattle trucks and then we started on our journey. We traveled all night and until noon the next day. Then they took us from the cattle trucks and placed us on a railway platform, and it was to my delight for I never experienced such a ride in my life. I expected to arrive at Paris in pieces. They gave us a good feed, then the doctor came round and picked out the worst cases and told us we were to be taken to the American Ambulance, which was about ten miles from the station.
We were placed in ambulance cars at once. Here again I saw my captain. He was put in the same car as myself, and we had a good chat together. We arrived at the hospital about 4 p. m. I was taken to a nice clean bed, bathed and made as comfortable as possible, and I am sure there is not a hospital anywhere where a wounded man could get better attended to.
What a change to be transferred from the great bustling city of Paris to this quiet little village of Juilly! Although but 23 miles distant from Paris, yet it took us two hours to make the trip from the Gare du Nord to the tiny station of St. Mard. Numerous troop trains having the right of way delayed the passenger traffic, as they do all over that part of France where there is military activity. American workers at Neuilly, in France for the first time in their lives, have difficulty in making fellow-mortals understand their pronunciation of the word Neuilly. The word Juilly exacts an equal number of variations in pronunciation. Perhaps there are no two names in French geography harder to pronounce correctly and, curiously enough, these two places were chosen for the two hospitals of the American Ambulance. One of our doctors who had just arrived from America took the wrong trains in Paris and found himself at Meaux. lt was a rainy night, he was carrying a heavy suit-case and he did not know a word of French. He wandered around trying to find someone who could understand his pronunciation of Juilly. After trying without success every combination of sound that he could think of he was about to conclude that the place did not exist, when he thought of writing the name on a piece of paper.
When Mrs. H. P. Whitney, in December, 1914, offered to equip and maintain a hospital for French wounded soldiers, several locations were offered by the government and the college of Juilly was finally chosen. The institution lies between two main railways running toward the battle line, and at that time was considered quite near the front. If you look at a map of France you will not in all probability find Juilly, as it is a village of only some 400 inhabitants. The name Juilly is derived from Julius, and it is thought that at one time Julius Caesar had a camp there. At any rate, we know that the Romans invaded this part of Gaul and in the College Park is a splendid Roman wine jar which has been unearthed and mounted on a pedestal at the end of an avenue of elm trees.
The College was founded in 1630 by the Oratorians and was made a royal academy by Louis XIII. Some famous men have been students here, as Villars, d'Artagnan, Montesquieu, Norfolk, Howard d'Arundel and Jérôme Napoleon. The great Napoleon came here once to see his brother Jérôme and the room where he slept is pointed out to visitors, also a framed letter on the wall in which Napoleon gives his brother good advice as to his school behavior.
It was not a new experience for the College to receive wounded soldiers, for it was used as a hospital both in the wars of the French revolution and in the Franco-Prussian war. At the battle of the Marne 500 wounded were brought here and covered the floors of the corridors, and German prisoners wore locked up in a room which was afterwards used as our kitchen.
The buildings are a sturdy pile of three storied stone structures with little pretense to architectural merit. Only the northeast wing and the college theatre are used for the wounded with accommodations for 220. The rest of the college is intact and instruction of the youth of France continues as in the times of peace. One of the charming features of the place is the park in the rear of the buildings. Here are wide lawns, beautiful avenues of elm trees and a small lake, the home of snow-white swans.
The Americans early in 1915 had a busy time of it converting the old stone building with walls four feet or more in thickness and devoid of all plumbing, into a building of modern hospital requirements. Workmen were mobilized with the army, and it was with the greatest difficulty that men could be obtained to install the plumbing, heating and electric lighting systems. All the material had to be assembled in Paris and hauled out in trucks, some of the hauls requiring two days. The spring of St. Geneviève was tapped and water pumped to cisterns on the roof. Electricity was brought from a one-horse concern at the village of St. Mard , about two miles away. A central heating plant and sewer system were installed and the necessary equipment of an up-to-date hospital completed.
The little village is a quaint affair as are most French villages. There is the town square lined with linden trees in front of the college and across the square is the village church. There is of course the Mairie and l'École des Garçons et l'École des Filles. The mayor is a well preserved man of sturdy stock whose only son is in the trenches. The mayor's wife is a sweet, admirable woman living in constant dread of hearing bad news about her son. Yet she would not have him back in safety, as she knows he is fighting for France and for her loved ones. We, in America, have too little thought of the noble French women who are on their knees every day praying that the bitter cup may pass them by, but meeting their sorrow with wonderful resignation if this prayer is denied them.
There are a few stores selling general merchandise, the butcher shop, the pork shop (always a separate institution in France), little fruit, tobacco and newspaper shops and several estaminets or wine shops. The post office and telephone are directed by two or three intelligent women. Mail is delivered from Juilly to surrounding hamlets and is carried by a young widow. In good weather she rides a bicycle, but in bad weather she does her ten miles a day on foot. Her husband was killed in the battle of the Marne, leaving her with a young child, alone and unprovided. "Yes," she says, "life is hard. I am left a widow with a young child, but my husband died for France and that means that he died defending me and my son and the other women and children of France." She never complains as she trudges along the muddy roads in the rain, and she always has a cheerful smile for the Americans.
There are two shoemakers, the tile-roof man and the village carpenter and blacksmith. The last two are expert artisans and are of great service to the Ambulance. Of inns there are none at all. The village is too small to support one. Likewise with the gendarmes. There is an antiquated garde champêtre who fixes official notices on the Mairie and at times goes through the streets ringing a bell and reading governmental announcements.
The hospital is glad to get village help for the laundry and kitchen but with so much work to be done in their homes it is difficult to get women workers. However, there are over fifty women from Juilly and surrounding villages who work in the laundry and kitchen, and act as ward maids and scrub women.
The staff consists of a varying number of doctors, most of them Americans, twenty to twenty-five trained nurses, several auxiliary nurses and some volunteer orderlies. There is an automobile ambulance section attached to the hospital. Most of the drivers are young men from the United States and they drive Ford cars which are fitted to carry three lying-down patients or couchés.
For some months the wounded were received from Compiègne, which is about seven miles from the trenches. This made a run of about thirty miles in ambulances which was too severe for badly wounded men, especially in bad weather. Besides that, the possibility of the hospital being kept full of patients depended on the activity of that section of the line and when there were few or no engagements there were no wounded to be had. Later on a different arrangement was made whereby the hospital, although geographically in the Zone des Armées, was included in the Camp Retranché de Paris. This system was much more advantageous, as wounded were received from along the battle line from Verdun to the Somme.
The guns at the front can be heard every day at Juilly. Our first great sensation in the war zone was an indescribable thrill when we heard the cannon booming in the distance towards Soissons. The sound, now louder now fainter, when heard for the first time cannot fail to make an impression. This voice of death blown by the winds over the fields and ruined villages of France brings a consciousness of the reality of war as does no other sound. To one who has not heard it, the sensation cannot be imparted. To one who has heard it, the memory will never be forgotten.
We find at once a great difference between the living here and at Neuilly. At Neuilly, while of course the patients were French, yet it was essentially an American hospital and English was spoken freely. Here we live in much more intimacy with the French and a speaking knowledge of the language is essential if one wants to be of the greatest service. Accordingly we looked around for a teacher and found that the housekeeper's daughter gave lessons. She was a buxom French girl of 19 with a perfect American accent.
"Where did you learn to speak English so well?" we asked her.
"Oh, I went to school in America for eight months."
"In what part of America were you?"
"I was in Honolulu at the Punahou School."
Then she told us how her parents had taken her some years before to Australia and not wanting to stay there decided to return to France by way of America. They had stopped off at Honolulu, where she had gone to school and although since then she had not had much opportunity to practise speaking English she had never forgotten what she had learned.
Our bedroom is across the hall from one of the large wards and was formerly one of the professor's rooms. It is convenient to be so near the blessés, as when one is called at night for a hemorrhage, it doesn't take long to get there.
The daily routine is as follows. Breakfast of café au lait, toast and eggs at 7 a. m. We drink our coffee out of bowls to save crockery and eat off an oil cloth covered table to save laundry. "Rounds" at 9 a. m. After which dressings are done. The poilus have their lunch at eleven and the staff at noon. The déjeuner is the best meal of the day and consists of some kind of meat or fish, two or three vegetables, sometimes a salad and cheese and coffee. We are in the Brie region and a ripe Brie cheese is delicious. If there are operations to be done, these commence at 1:30 p. m. The operating room is well equipped and the technique is excellent. In the afternoon we usually take a walk and roam around the surrounding country. There is a tennis court located in a grove of elm trees in the park where we play occasionally. It seems strange to play tennis while we can hear cannon booming in the distance and aeroplanes occasionally sail over our heads.
Supper is served at 7 p. m., and is a plain meal of meat, vegetables and fruit. In the evenings we read or indulge in a game of ping-pong in one of the long stone corridors.
Among our blessés are a number of Algerians. They are fine looking fellows with well-shaped heads. They seem quiet and docile, but on dit that they are demons in a fight. They do not like the cold weather and the trench warfare. Under their quiet demeanor is a quick temper. One day when a band of a passing regiment was giving a concert in the courtyard and the soldiers were crowded around the musicians, we heard a loud crack of something breaking and discovered that an Algerian in a fit of sudden rage had broken his cane over a French soldier's head and knocked him senseless. There was nothing to do but carry the soldier on a stretcher to his bed and "evacuate" the offender at once to his dépôt. The Arabs do not know what to make of having women nurses around. They call them "Mees" or "Mama" and the stout nurses are greatly in favor. They want to take the fat ones back to Algeria with them.
Two of our cars go three times a week to Compiègne for wounded and it is a fine ride. Our route passes through Dammartin, finely situated on a hill, where General French had his headquarters at one time. We then follow along a smooth road passing through several picturesque villages to the beautiful forest of Ermenonville. In Dumas "Three Musketeers," he speaks of his heroes riding from Dammartin to Ermenonville in ten minutes. Perhaps horses went faster in those heroic days, for it takes us fully twenty minutes in a Ford. On strategic points everywhere are barbed wire entanglements and here and there are cleverly constructed reserve trenches. The French are taking no chances and if the Germans ever break through they will not find it easy going. There has been no hunting allowed since the war started and the game is very tame. Fat pheasants and partridges scurry across the road, occasionally we see a hare or a herd of deer and the lake at Ermenonville is dotted with wild ducks. The ancient village of Verberie is passed through on the way. Here the English king Ethelwolf was married to Judith over a thousand years ago. Shortly afterwards, where the railway crosses the road, sentries stop the cars and our papers are carefully examined before we are allowed to proceed. The forest of Compiegne is magnificent and it is not strange that it was a favorite resort of the French royalty. The handsome town of Compiègne seems very peaceful considering it is seven miles or so from the trenches. Some of the residences are closed but most of the stores are open, people were sitting on the sidewalk cafés and carriages were driving through the streets. The large château of Louis XV, where Napoleon met his bride Marie Louise, is now used as a receiving hospital, and thither we repair for our allotment of wounded.
One day a Taube dropped a bomb on the courtyard about twenty minutes before our arrival, and a large hole occupied the place where we usually stationed our cars. The bomb broke most of the windows of the palace, peppered the walls and wounded a few hospital attendants. The statues in the hallways of the château are padded with straw and boxed up as a protection, but if a bomb should make a square hit, it didn't seem as if such measures would be of much avail. Usually there is some waiting for the wounded to arrive, so we have time to see something of the park with its splendid vistas, the handsome Hôtel de Ville and the statue of Joan of Arc. It was here that Joan was captured. How much of the spirit of that heroic maid is breathed in France today!
A visit to Dr. Carrel's hospital is a rare treat. The hospital is established in a fine hotel and it is an ideal institution, although an occasional shell which drops in the garden makes the proximity to the trenches not an unmixed blessing. Dr. Carrel was conducting his researches on the treatment of wounds which later became known as the "Carrel-Dakin method," and is a notable achievement in war surgery.
The sound of the cannon is very loud at Compiègne and other evidences of the proximity of the enemy are the destroyed bridge over the Oise, and several residences in the town utterly ruined by shell fire.
When the wounded come in and our quota is received we hurry back to Juilly. We wrap the blessés well in blankets and have hot coffee in thermos bottles for use en route. Where the road is rough, care is taken to jolt the wounded as little as possible. On arriving at the ambulance the wounded are undressed. They are nearly always very dirty and very tired. Their uniforms are caked with dirt and blood. They are given a hot bath if they are able to have it. Joly, the Major Domo of the receiving room, is quite a character. As soon as a wounded man is turned over to him he seats him on a slat arrangement which lies across the tub. Then with a bottle of liquid soap and a sponge he goes at his job with zest. First a thorough shampoo, Joly keeping up a running fire of conversation, and if the soap runs down the victim's face and into his eyes and mouth, Joly doesn't mind it a bit but follows up with liberal douches of hot water. The poilu seems to enjoy it all as much as Joly. A soldier, badly wounded or with fracture of the leg, is carefully bathed on a bed, and is not subject to Joly's ministrations. All the wounded are X-rayed unless it is very evident that the wound is merely a flesh wound. Cases requiring immediate operation are attended to at once. Sometimes the electric light system breaks down at the critical moment and acetylene lamps are ready for emergencies. The poor fellows are put to bed and given a meal and the inevitable cigarette. They then sleep and sleep. Many of them have not been in a bed for months. They usually sleep all night, all the next day, waking up only for meals, the next night and part of the next day. Quite often they have bad dreams and nightmares and cry out in their sleep as they dream of an attack.
On the road to Paris, about a mile and a half away, is the village of Nantouillet, which is distinguished by a fine old château built by Charles de Melun, grand master of France under Louis XI. The moat and ivy covered walls are still well preserved and the building shows some charming architectural features. The present master of the Château is a prisoner in Germany and his efficient wife manages the farm. Before the battle of the Marne a squad of Uhlans rode into her courtyard and selected the best dog out of a famous kennel of hunting dogs. The Germans seemed to have been well informed about France even to small details. This reminds me of the story of the professor in the college.
For some time before the war began there had been a German on the faculty at Juilly. It was noticed that he spent most of his time outside of class work in walks and bicycle rides around the country. A few days before war was declared he disappeared. On the battlefield of the Marne, a few weeks later, his dead body was found clad in a German officer's uniform. In his pockets were well-drawn maps of the surrounding country, showing every road, hill, wood and stream of military value.
A few miles away is the pleasing château of St. Thibault on a large estate. The charming and cultivated family were fond of Americans and entertained us during the summer months.
The neighboring village of Thieux is notable for its attractive little church which was visited, according to the records, by Joan of Arc on August 13, 1429.
The Seine et Marne is one of the most fertile parts of France. The country is mostly flat, with low lying hills, clumps of woods, meadows and fields. There is no waste land. Toward the east are great stretches of wheat fields. A year ago these fields were red with blood, but nature rapidly effaces the signs of war and wheat is now waving over the fields destined to rank in history with Châlons and Tours.
Perched on a hill and a land mark from our hospital windows is the town of Montgé. Some British troops came through here in the retreat from Mons and blew up two houses in order to barricade the street, but the Germans came along on the other side of the hill. Now there is an artillery force stationed here. On our first visit the woods on the hill were full of soldiers digging trenches and we saw two of the fatuous "seventy-fives." They were painted over to resemble leaves, also a wire netting was spread over them which can be covered with branches and conceal the cannon from hostile aviators.
Along the road to Meaux is the newly-made cemetery where 317 soldiers are buried, among them Péguy, the young poet whom France mourns. These men were killed the night before the 6th of September, 1914, when Joffre gave his famous order that they should retreat no further, and that they should die in their tracks rather than give way. A body of troops was bivouacking in the field and a German battery on the hill of Monthyon got their range and landed several shell in their midst. The graves are decorated with metallic wreaths, and among them is one from the American Ambulance. Nearby is a plot where Germans are buried. It is fenced off with barbed wire and a black post with a board and number marks the spot. How magnanimous of the French to protect and care for the graves of the ruthless invaders of their country!
Meaux is the nearest large town to us and is probably the largest town nearest to Paris that the Germans reached in 1914. A good part of the population fled on the approach of the enemy. Only German patrols entered the town. The main bodies of troops never had a chance as they were engaged in heavy fighting on the outskirts by the French.
Dr. Gros of the American Ambulance tells a vivid story which shows what the French soldier endured in these glorious days of the Marne. With other Americans from Paris, Dr. Gros went out to the battlefield to bring in the wounded. They arrived at Meaux at midnight and found the town in darkness. There was not a light to be seen or a sound to be heard except the wailings of cats, wandering around the streets. They called and shouted and at last were able to arouse an official. "Where are the wounded?" they asked. "I will show you," replied the official. They were led with the aid of a lamp to a school building which looked dark and deserted. Pushing open the door they found the building crowded with wounded, over five hundred. They were lying on the hard floor. Some were dead, others dying, all were asleep. Nine days of forced marching and fighting without adequate sleep or food had produced such a state of exhaustion that they wanted only to be left alone. The prospect of surgical care, hospital, food and drink aroused no response. The worst cases were selected first, such as compound fractures and those wounded in the chest or abdomen. They made little or no complaint when they were picked up. Only when their wounds, stuck to the floor, were torn open, did they utter a sound.
Further along up the beautiful Marne valley, about an hour's ride from Meaux, lies the attractive town of Château Thierry, of about 7,000 inhabitants. Here La Fontaine, the fable writer, was born. The castle that gives the town its name is a 1200-year old ruin, picturesquely situated on the high bank of the Marne.
German troops crossed the river here in their great advance but were driven back again after the battle of the Marne, blowing up the bridge as they retreated, and British and French troops made the crossing on pontoons. The town suffered somewhat from shell fire and numerous shell holes are to be seen as grim reminders of the war. Because Château Thierry is located deep in the valley the sound of the guns at the front is not heard and there is little to make one realize that war is going on.
In company with some French officers I visited the hospitals and lunched at the officers' mess. Questions about America and the American ambulance from a score of officers I answered as best I could and they were too polite to notice my mistakes in the French language. The Médecin-Chef of the hospitals was a very nervous man, drafted from civil life and breaking under the strain of his office. When I said "merci" in refusing a dish offered me, he thundered at me "Merci oui ou merci non?" which amused everybody.
In a large enclosure in the town were a number of freshly captured, unwounded German prisoners. The officers were very sour and surly-looking. The privates were youths with closely cropped heads and seemed not at all sorry to be prisoners. They were kindly treated by the French and received the same food as the French soldiers.
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