Category: American Field Service

November 1917, Paris – A volunteer with the American Field…

November 1917, Paris – A volunteer with the American
Field Service, Nora Saltonstall gave 4 braille
gold watches
to an hospital for the reeducation of the blind veterans in Paris:

“I think the blind are the most
poignant of all; they are so very gentle and
subdued and they so appreciate a kind word or gift. They are intelligent men
and learn printing, typewriting, knitting by machinery, etc.

The first watch went to a man who is learning to make glass stoppers for perfume bottles. He loved it, especially as he is going
to be married soon and this beautiful gold watch looks far better on the
end of his chain than a knife which he had put there! The next two men were learning to be masseurs, a profession
particularly suited to the blind, and when they graduate from this school they
are apt to go to the hospital of the mutilated and work on them. The last watch was given to a very young Alsatian. All the men had face
wounds
and were heartbreaking to look at, although funnily enough we were
so occupied with showing them how the watches worked, how to wind and set them, that we did not think of their terrible wounds.
We saw the men at this hospital making baskets, learning to be mechanics,
making barrels etc. One man was also minus an arm but he
had an arrangement with a hook and could
work as fast as the others. It is wonderful what they can learn to do!”

Text: Out Here At The Front – Photo: 1916 or 1917,
Hospital for the reeducation of the blind veterans

Paris, Nurses and blind veterans en promenade. BnF-Gallica, France

‘Wednesday, November 7 1917 – I Spent the…

‘Wednesday, November 7 1917 – I Spent the afternoon writing and talking with the telephonist. I learned
that the corps de sante has an informal code that is used over the
telephone in case the Boches should overhear what is said. So, an automobile is
a bidon; a wounded man, une categorie; a
dead man, une planche, etc.’

American ambulance driver’s diary in Champagne region, France – History of the American Field Service in France – Photo: 1917, a French telephonist at work.

‘October 28 1917 – we are en repos at Saint-Remy, where…

‘October 28 1917 – we are en repos at Saint-Remy,
where the official cantonment is a large farmhouse. But the men prefer to
scatter to all parts of the town. Coffee and bread is served by 7.30am,
and by 8.00am the various groups gather to breakfast before the open fires on
chocolate with omelettes and toast!’

American ambulance driver’s diary in France –
History of the American Field Service in France
– Photo: 1917, Meuse region, France, breakfasting at the
camp –

Ministère de la Culture

‘Sunny weather made life pleasant today and we were able to…

‘Sunny
weather made life pleasant today and we were able to enjoy sea-bathing and
walks along the sand dunes. Our ambulance service is in Dunkirk and the
surrounding towns, but part of the Section has moved to a small village in the
midst of the dunes near the sea, between the ruined city of Nieuport and La
Panne
, the residence of the Belgian King and Queen, where we work among the
Zouaves and the Fusiliers Marins

WW1
American ambulance driver’s diary – History of the American Field Service in
France
– Photo: October 1 1917, on the beach, in Malo les Bains, Dunkirk
sector, France. BnF-Gallica

‘September 17 1917 – It is curious how these…

‘September 17 1917 – It is curious how these sophisticated
fellows turn to religion… Here are Brennan,
Ryan, White, Flynn, and others, who all went to the mass!’

In Lorraine, France, American ambulance driver’s diary – From Poilu to Yank – Photo: 1917 – WW1, Lorraine region, France, al fresco mass. BnF

‘September 17 1917 – In Koritza to celebrate my…

‘September 17 1917 – In Koritza to
celebrate my twenty-first birthday! Such an unthought-of place for me to
celebrate my majority! Still, I look at it as an omen of an interesting life.
If I’m here now and I’ve seen what I have seen when I’m only twenty, what shall
I not have seen and done when I’m fifty? It’s a question and a promise, hoping
that the war does not last too long, otherwise, it will be one of the tragedies
— broken, dismayed youth’.

In Albania, American ambulance driver’s
diary – History of the American Field Service – Photo: September 1917, American ambulance drivers in Albania. The
author of this entry is probably somewhere in this great photo! Library of Congress

‘Voiture 10 made a terrible trip last night. The Germans…

‘Voiture 10 made a terrible trip last night. The Germans probably got a
whiff of the French cigarettes the drivers were smoking, so the road was subjected to an extremely
violent bombardment. Even though the night was pitch dark, the drivers saw a
huge wave of the new invisible, odorless gas, but being unacquainted with its
properties they took several deep inhales to find out whether it really was this
new gas. Seeing a great light ahead,
they stopped a passing poilu to inquire whether it was the moon or a
star shell. “Je ne sais pas“ replied the stranger in perfect French,
I’m a stranger around here myself.“ Later we learned that the star
shells
were out this eventful night. I beg to state that upon the return of No.
10, we found thirty-seven éclat holes in the drivers but the car had
miraculously escaped untouched.’

September 1917 in the Aisne Region,
France, American ambulance driver’s article for the weekly AFS bulletin – Text and
illustration: History of the American Field Service in France

‘In inextricable chaos, brancardiers go empty-handed and return…

‘In inextricable chaos, brancardiers go empty-handed and return with silent burdens. The brancardiers’ death-rate is probably the highest of any department of the service; they bear on their arms the red cross, and on their faces friendly, quiet
smiles. Some are old men, with glorious individual characters;  some were in the 1870 war; numbers are
priests; some are professors. They gather the wounded and the
dead, too.’

Summer 1917, near Verdun American ambulance driver’s diaries – History of the American Field Service in France – Photo: September 11 1917, brancardiers in Vacherauville, near Verdun. BnF

‘Last night an accident brought to light one of the unsung…

‘Last night an accident
brought to light one of the unsung heroes of the war—the
motorcycle dispatch rider, who, riding his flimsy machine over the roads behind
the lines without lights, takes a big chance of being hit by any of the many
vehicles which crowd the roads at night and stands about the smallest chance of
getting out of such a collision undamaged. There is a great feeling of security
when seated behind the wheel of a truck as there are very few vehicles on the road which wouldn’t
get the worst of a collision.

The night was
moonless and black as pitch. Our staff car—-a Ford-–was passing through a
wood when they heard a motorcycle approaching. Having one of those
inexplicable premonitions that they were going to have a collision the driver
pulled over to his side of the road and was almost at a standstill when the
motorcycle crashed into them head on.

But neither the rider nor his cycle were
injured. As he dusted himself off he apologized profusely for having run into
them and assured our anxious lieutenant that he was quite accustomed to such
experiences.’

September 1917, SoupirChemin des Dames sector – American ambulance/truck driver’s diary – The Great White Road. Photo: 1917, near the front, a formidable shot of a motorcycle dispatcher’s fall – BnF – More about the Motorbike dispatch riders –
the unsung heroes of two World Wars

“Friday, 7th September 1917 – Après le travail le plaisir,…

“Friday, 7th September 1917 – Après le travail le plaisir, après la pluie
le beau temps!*
The sun was
warm this afternoon and we had a glorious bathe in the river where I left a few
“cooties,” and then a peaceful siesta on the shady banks where I
collected a few insects”

*Playtime after work, after the rain comes
the sun!

American
ambulance driver’s diary in Meurthe et Moselle, France – “No. 6” A Few Pages from the Diary of an Ambulance
Driver
– Photo: 1917, France,
resting by the river – BnF