‘December 31 1917
– And so this
is the end of 1917, — the most thrilling, most inspiring, most
profoundly influencing year of my life. I look back on it with a certain amount
of satisfaction tinged with awe and wonder.’
American ambulance driver’s diary, near the front, France – History of the American Field Service in France – Photo: 1917, France – American ambulance on the road.
‘The day before Christmas. A melancholy day for most of us. I know we are all thinking that there is no place like home. It is raining out but seems to be getting colder.’
December 24 1917, Marne, France – American ambulance driver’ s diary – S.S.U. 19 – AFS – Photo: American, French drivers & troops relaxing at the local YMCA.
‘We ‘ll spent our Christmas day up here in the shell holes and pill boxes. A Happy Xmas, yes, but
we won’t see Father Xmas come down
the chimney with bag of toys, or any presents on his back!’
Picture Postcards from the Great War 1914-1918 – Text: Christmas in the Trenches
1917 – To forest for wood. Big mail – Oilskin coats, breeches and hats arrive.
Paymaster comes with November pay. Books bought for the section library.’
In Meurthe-et-Moselle, France, American ambulance driver’s log for Section 585 – Record
of S. S. U. 585 – WW1, France, American drivers relaxing in their section library.
brought a spell of fine crisp days
with the temperature dropping to zero and the cars are becoming mulish. When it rains the roads
turn sticky and greasy. The
sudden changes of temperature produces mists that make night driving an abomination. Cars have to be washed endlessly in the icy water of
the canal at Sept Saulx. The occasional artillery duels includes gas and the masks increase the difficulty of driving, causing frequent accidents from cars wandering
off the roads.’
Early December 1917, American ambulance driver’s diary in Marne,
France – Diary of Jerome Preston – Photo: WW1,
Eastern France, a road in winter. Leopold Poiré
December 1st 1917, Verdun sector
‘SNOW! A world absolutely
transformed! Snow on the little huts, on the trees, glistening on the ground,
and the air crisp and tingling. Because of the danger of planes taking pictures
of tracks in the snow, we have to cross the open places on a single path, and the
cars have to use one track only’
December 1917, near Verdun, American ambulance driver’s diary – History of the American Field Service in France – Photo: stunning photo taken December 1st 1917, on a road in the Verdun sector.
In November 1917, shortly after surviving this traumatic near
miss, in Verdun, Ambulance driver Harry Crosby wrote:
was reading the Bible yesterday morning and I noticed a passage “Whosoever
shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” A few hours later I was praying as I’ve never prayed before"
“The war makes a
person feel so
small and useless that one wonders what difference does
it make whether you get killed or not? After all, you’ve got to die sooner or later.
So what’s the difference?”
Harry Crosby, a flamboyant ambulance driver,
became a poet and publisher after the war. In
December 1929, he shot himself and his girlfriend in a New York dingy hotel room.
Sources: Gentlemen Volunteers: The Story of the American
Ambulance Drivers in the Great War & Black Sun: The
Brief Transit and Violent Eclipse of Harry Crosby – Photo: November 1917, near Verdun, Harry Crosby in his destroyed ambulance
‘It was our turn at the poste de secours. All morning long the Boches were sending over shell after shell of shrapnel, so it wasn’t exactly fun driving.
Toward 5 p.m. they started shelling both our roads to the poste. Here’s where
the trouble started. We covered the first _ on the journey O.K. — then as we
tore over the dangerous stretch the big shells started to come in one after the
other right by the road sending up everything in big geysers. Talk about being
petrified! We all nearly passed out. There wasn’t a sign of a soul stirring
anywhere as all the Frenchmen had taken to abris. Dead horses, overturned
wagons and débris of all over the road. Suddenly a whizz-bang
and a vast heavy hit the side of the hill hardly 40 yards awaym bursting with a terrific explosion. Then came two
more right on our other side. The éclats were shining and you could hear the
shells screeching in. I nearly passed out completely. We managed to reach the
poste when a shell burst not ten
yards away. I instinctively
shot down to the floor of the car which saved my young life. There was a
deafening explosion and then flying rocks, éclats, mud, everything in sight
shot past us. My car with yours truly in it
was peppered with everything and was a mere mass of wreckage. — the whole top
caved in, and gaping holes in its sides. We also had two other wounded with us. I never thought the Flivver would make the steep grade
but she just did.’
November 1917, near
Verdun, American ambulance driver’s letter – Diary of Samuel Keplinger – Photo:
1917, near Verdun, automobile (not a Model T Ford!) in the same kind of
situation as described in this entry.
‘November 26 1917 — We were given a gas mask test with tear gas, first breathing in till the
tears ran and then putting on the masks to show how well they worked. Went out
to get wood among the batteries across the road, chopping up the trees that had
been cut down by yesterday’s bombardment. The afternoon was remarkably clear;
but it hailed violently at supper time… The English have made a wonderful
advance at Cambrai.’
American ambulance driver’s diary in
Marne, France – Diary of Jerome Preston – WW1, France, American soldiers gas mask
drill in the woods.
‘Went to town on a 3-hour pass
and indulge in a luxurious hot tub bath, trully the best thing I’ve struck in
France! We can rent a tub and two towels for 1.50 franc* and I’m a liar if
I don’t have one every Sunday. We had our delayed
Thanksgiving dinner tonight and it was some dinner. The
menu—veal, mashed potatoes; gravy; macaroni macaroni au gratin, jam, figs,
dates & nuts. I’m still uncomfortable…’
* French franc was
about 5 to the dollar.
Thanksgiving 1917, Nancy, France, American ambulance driver’s diary – The
Compensations of War: The Diary of an Ambulance Driver during the Great War –
Photo: 1917, soldiers enjoying a hot bath.