“Our camions were loaded with engineering supplies for the “parc du genie” or engineering
depot. These parcs sprang up all along the road parallel with the trenches and
in ravines well hidden from observers by trees or by camouflage.
Every week a new one seemed to
shoot up along the front at nearly every turn of the road. In these depots all kinds of material were
concentrated. Iron frames and barb wire to make wire entanglements, corrugated
iron for abri roofs, trench walks for captured trenches, rails of iron
to brace deep dugouts, logs, stakes; in fact, every imaginable attribute to the
engineers’ department. All these we hauled to the front and with them filled up
the newly-made parcs from early dawn to dark.
As we crept to them on a dark
night, the tat-tat-tat of the “mitrailleuse” could be heard just over
the hill ahead. Often a star shell would burst in the sky and occasionally a
rocket would scatter its falling sticks ahead of us. While the firing went on
no one would pass along the road and many times we have waited behind a sheltering hill for an hour or more until it was over—When
it stopped, traffic continued as
usual, and we hustled away again.’
Fall 1917, Aisnes region, France – American truck driver who later became an aviator and was killed in action in August 1918 – A Stop at Suzanne’s and Lower Flights – Photo: Night scene – Shells landing near an American convoy – Lucien Jonas, Master War Illustrator
‘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
‘After 48 hours
of work we headed to camp but picked up a car with a broken drive shaft and had
to tow it 15 miles back to the repair shop. But when we got there about 10am
this morning they had such a meal for us! Good beef, string beans, lentils,
potatoes, bread and cheese, and hot coffee! Gosh! It tasted like a million
August 1917, France,
probably in Aisne, Marne, or Meuse, American truck/ambulance driver’s letter – Camion letters from American college men 1918– Photo: 1917, American drivers enjoying an al fresco meal.
‘There has been plenty of
action up here lately and some good friends in the ambulance service have been
killed in the last ten days. We’ve been hauling ammunition and don’t get up so
far as the ambulances, but after the attack I suppose we will get our share of
the bad places in hauling up engineering material for the new position. Today I went up ahead of a convoy with the lieutenant to locate
a park we had never been to before and met the officer on a hillside. He was
most cordial and offered us a great meal with champagne, rum, and some very
decent Dutch cigars afterward; where he got the latter I have no idea!
Time to go to work now. Goodnight. (But while it is
seven-thirty here, it is only one o’clock in the afternoon there, so it really
August 1917 – American ambulance & truck driver’s letter – Trucking to the Trenches – Photo: Summer 1917, Jouaignes, France, rare photo showing American ambulance and truck drivers having dinner with French officers and lots of pinard!
‘The last three days I
have been running the wrecking car and since it has been raining for a couple of days it has been
some job. When it rains here the roads all disappear and two or three inches of
slimy mud take their place. Consequently lots of cars slide off into the
ditches and we have to haul them out. We come in so tired from a fifteen to
twenty hours’ struggle that we flop into bed without even taking our boots off!’
8 1917, near Verdun – American ambulance and truck driver’s letter – Camion
letters from American college men – Photo: Deep in the mud – 1917,
‘Volunteers from the United
States of America:
happy to greet the free citizens of a free country who have crossed the ocean to
help France in this bitter
war. I hope you all feel how
grateful we are that you have left your homes to share our hardships and
dangers. I understand that, although you originally joined the ambulance service, you have agreed to drive the American trucks used for the
transport of supplies.
It will be hard, rough, even perilous
work, with very little comfort. But all of you are healthy young fellows, and your
help enables us to dismiss our oldest drivers who will
return to their untilled fields.
bread are the things we most want to win this war. The ploughmen you release
will get us the bread; the men America sends us will bring our army the rich new blood we need and hasten our
victory over a powerful but dishonorable foe.
June 1917 – French Commandant Mallet’s message to the American volunteers- Photo: June 1917, French and American officer handshake at the American truck drivers training camp, in Jouaignes.