“I was most proud of the Canadian patch I wore on my shoulder.”
Canadian Ambulance Driver, Grace
MacPherson, never let the sight of horrific wounds or the sound of anguished
cries drag her down. If a patient called out in pain from the back of the
ambulance, she responded: “You cut that out! Nobody’s riding in my ambulance
moaning like that!” She refused to risk emotional involvement with her
passengers. And yet she promised: “You’re going to get the best ride you ever
had in your life.”
Military History magazine – Long Trip To Short Thinking – Photo: WW1, France, Grace MacPherson working on her ambulance.
‘February 26 1918 – On duty at Beauchamp
evacuation hospital again. Rolled for sixteen
consecutive hours and some tired.’
American ambulance driver’s diary in Clermont-en-Argonne – Diaries of Samuel M Keplinger – Photo: 1918, a tired American ambulance driver is taking a nap at the poste de secours. Collection JMPicquard – Images de 14-18
and cigarettes from New York Sun fund—also boxes of candy!’
December 1917, American ambulance driver in Meuse, France – Record of S. S. U. 585 – photo: 1917, Eastern
France American soldiers receiving their Christmas mail. US Army Center
‘November 27 1917. Rainy morning. Marcellus returns from Paris, where he went
yesterday to get spare parts.
Turn in old clothes, and buy supplies at Q. M. Leave camp at 2 p.m. for Nancy.
Stop at “Place” at Ecouen (18 kilometres from Paris) for night.
Section sleeps in barn.’
American ambulance driver in
Lorraine – Record of S.S.U 585 – 1917-1919 – Photo: WW1, East France, American Soldiers getting clothing and
supplies at Quartermaster’s depot in France. US Army Signal Corps Archives
‘November 8 1917— Called up to evacuate some 20 wounded—all by the
same enormous ‘bombe de tranchée from a Minnenwerfer. Because we were able to
get the cars closer to the front
line poste instead of waiting for the blessés to be carried down the slippery
road, the evacuation was completed at 9:30 P.M. instead of the estimate of 2:00
A.M. We had to go back but had a terrible time finding the
poste, occasionally getting so mired
that we had to wait for a
star-shell to see the way. But we finally made it and slept on chicken wire bunks with the brancardiers.’
American ambulance driver’s diary
in the Marne region, France – Diary of Jerome Preston – Photo: 1917, Eastern France, American ambulance parked as close as possible to the poste, on a dry spot of ‘road’.
‘We are all in.
The principal reason we keep going is because Pierre, our cook, came
up to the front with a camp stove, a coffee boiler, and the canned food, and
works day and night, with the aid of the cognac supply, and serves us
something hot every time we roll in. He fell asleep against his stove once,
but was shortly awakened when the wood under him smoldered and caught fire.
“Bluebeard”, the mechanic, put him out with the water bucket. He is quite funny and continually calls out to himself: “En avant toute, Pierre!”’
23–25 october 1917 – American ambulance driver’s diary in the thick of the Battle of La
Malmaison , Aisne region, France – History of the American Field Service in France – Photo: A
French cuistot in his kitchen right near the front. BnF
The Smiling Sisters
‘The place was formerly a little café, and now that the
Germans are gone, the woman who ran it with her husband came back to find
almost nothing left, not even doors or windows, long ago smashed out. Her
husband is fighting in the army. But, with fortitude, she set up her shop
again, even in these miserable surroundings. A few rough army tables and chairs
she found somewhere are set on the bare ground just inside the door. In what is
left of the room there’s a stove. Her barrels of wine and her supplies
are placed around inside. She and her sister do the cooking and serve whoever
comes that way — us among them! And the remarkable thing is that they can turn
out a very good meal. We’d expect that people in this situation would be gloomy
and morose. But these poor women, driven from their homes so long ago, are not.
They are happy and glad to be back — satisfied, I suppose, even to be alive.
This endurance and bravery in the face of the most terrible
hardships is splendid. This improvised café, with its rusted, battered sign,
well punctured with holes, and these women who came back with willingness and a
smile to try to get together and rebuild the work of a lifetime, will always
represent to me the spirit of France.’
WW1 American ambulance driver’s diary in Lassigny, Oise region, France – Photo: WW1, smiling sisters salvaging chairs from the ruins. BnF
October 3 1917 – We made our slow
and tortuous way south through a continuous traffic jam some 20 miles to the
village of Vaubécourt where tents were set up again. The kitchen trailer
was delayed so
we went in
search of food. After many failures we found ourselves in the back room of a
tumbled-down house by going through a stable. The room was bare but
scrupulously clean and with a cheerful fire on a wide hearth. Two old women
served us with fried potatoes, cider and pears which, added to the tins of meat
we had brought and a huge loaf of bread and cheese made quite a
meal! They told us of the vandalism and wanton destruction of the Huns when
they occupied the village. They sent all furniture and
goods to Germany and burnt the houses. After libertating the town the English gave
each of the inhabitants of the destroyed villages around here a bed, some
clothes, a rooster, a hen and a cow.
American ambulance driver in Vaubécourt, Meuse region, France – Diary of Jerome Preston – An Innocent Abroad. Photo: 1917, Meuse region farmhouse. BnF
‘October 1, 1917 – It was a long trip,
dusty and nerve-racking but we could see clearly as the full moon gave us a
mellow light even through the mist. We got home at 3. A.M. and when we pulled
the car into place even the car complained of its long trip as a grinding
squeak was audible in one of the cylinder heads
I was dead tired but I couldn’t resist
reading your letters Ma. After I read them I climbed into bed some tired.
This morning, I didn’t wake up till 8 as
I was still tired and cold from last night.’
American ambulance/truck driver’s diary
in Aisne, France – Text and Photo ‘sleeping soundly – the drivers’ quarters’ Dartmouth