Conditions in the big
bombers were rudimentary: ‘We had no oxygen, of course, but
we had sheepskin boots and leather clothing, and furlined gloves and
helmets. I personally used to wear a silk stocking on my head before I put my
helmet on. I also used to have silk gloves underneath my fur-lined gloves. They were
most effective. We were supposed to have whale oil to combat frostbite
of the face but I never saw any. I used to put Vaseline on my face and
found that very effective until we came back and then you suffered.
Frostbite was a regular injury. Otherwise,the plane was
ajoy, absolutely secure, like a dreadnought!”
British aviator posted in the Pas-de-Calais France –
Strike Command: The Inside Story of the RAF’s
– Photo: February 18 1918 –
Aire-sur-la-Lys, Pas-de-Calais, British
aviator and observer getting ready for a bombing mission. Bibliothèque de
documentation internationale contemporaine.
a fast joy ride!
‘February 7 1918. On fatigue this
morning. Fatigue consists of gathering wood at some shot up
village — old beams, laths ect; pealing carrots, potatoes and grinding
coffee; sweeping bedrooms, dinning room & halls. Getting water in
containers. The coffee grinding job is the graft. Sit in front of
fire and read while grinding. Gathering wood is hard but we get to the front on
a fast joy ride!’
In Argonne, American ambulance driver’s diary – Diaries of Samuel M. Keplinger – Photo: February 1918, Eastern France, American soldiers returning to camp with a load of salvaged wood.
‘February 2 1918 – It is very cold driving now. The trees are covered with ice and shine like diamonds in the sun. The ice falls from the trees like hail and stung our faces
like the deuce.’
In Baccarat, Lorraine, France – American ambulance driver’s diary – The Compensations of War: The
Diary of an Ambulance Driver during the Great War – Photo: WW1, Eastern France, American ambulances on the road.
1918 – ”Ground hog refuses to
tell if spring will arrive early or late.”
‘WW1 “Groundhog Day”: A name for Armistice Day (November 11, 1918), when the fighting stopped and everyone came out of
their holes. This was a gag of the period just following the war.’
War Slang: American Fighting Words & Phrases Since
the Civil War – Photo: Groundhog Day 1918 The Albert R.
Stone Negative Collection
‘January 27 1918 – Today is the
Kaiser’s birthday, and we half expected that things might happen, but there has been a thick fog, and all has been as
silent as can be. I am afraid the troops are not so sorry as they should be.
“Am I offensive enough?”** is one of the questions laid down in a pamphlet that reaches us from an
army school some thirty miles behind the line. It is for the subaltern to ask
himself each morning as he rises from his bed. Most laudable! But, it is one of the
paradoxes of war that the further you get from the battle line the more
‘offensive’ are the people you meet!’
**“Am i offensive enough?” is a reference
to a trench newspaper. See here. A chinless
platoon commander clutching his cane wondering “Am I as offensive as I might be?”
was the paper’s motif. Written by the troops on the front line, “The Wipers
Times” made fun of fake stories about the war being told at home.
In the Somme, France, British officer’s letter:
War Letters to a Wife
– Photo: 1918, fog in the Somme, France
swollen Seine bursts its banks, and it did during WW1, all fluvial traffic stops as ships and barges can’t
pass under the bridges. During WW1, the seine floods caused all sorts of
shortages: food, medicine, and especially coal. Coal was impossible to find, and
in these exceptionally cold winters, it became as rare and precious as
de la IIIe République: La grande guerre – Photo: WW1, Paris, the swollen and frozen Seine river Gallica France – Seine River, the Heart of Paris (great postcards) – #seine on Twitter
‘January 23 1918 – Inspection of cars, quarters and grounds.’
In the Meuse, France, American ambulance driver’s log –
of S. S. U. 585 – Photo: January 1918, Eastern France, Inspection day. US Army Signal Corps
“Your papers s’il-vous-plait”
‘January 19 1918 – After today men must have
“permis de circulation” to circulate in streets of Baccarat before 5
American ambulance driver’s log in Lorraine, France –
of S. S. U. 585
– Photo WW1, American ambulance stopped by a determined French guard who will probably want to check the driver‘s “Permis de circulation” – From the fantastic photograph album of WW1 American ambulance driver Henry Suckley. Hudson River Valley Heritage
women of the village remained in their homes, living above the ground on
quiet days. Some of these women operate small shops in
the front rooms of their damaged homes and the Americans line up in front of
the window counters and exchange dirty French paper money for canned pate
de foie or jars of mustard.”
Early 1918, in Ansauville (Gondrecourt sector), Lorraine, France – WW1 correspondent for the Chicago Tribune – “And
They Thought We Wouldn’t Fight.“ – Photo: January 19 1918, Ansauville,
American soldiers stopping by one of these small shops on their way to the
trenches. BnF – Occupation of the Ansauville Sector (Lorraine), Jan. 15 – April 3, 1918, First Divisiom (really great video)
‘January 18 1918 – We are learning our way about, but in a day or two we’ll
each have our own car. The cars are not really in bad condition and the engines are basic.
They have four cylinders and a radiator which can freeze up in winter, and so
it must be drained in frosty weather, or must be started up every half hour
during the night to be ready for instant use. They have Bosch
magnetoes but no accumulators, so no electric lights, far less self starters!
That means three oil lamps and on occasions a single headlamp. The wheels have
detachable rims held in place by six screw wedges. There is a spare rim.
That makes seven tires to keep up pressure as there are twin wheels on the back
axles. Pumping is by hand! The oiling consists of the sump and the gearbox and
many ‘grease caps’ to keep clean and filled. We are on duty all day till five,
and if on night duty –we are off from two till five and ten on till ten. We are all very cheerful and only two are
homesick and one with a cold.’
In Saint Omer, France, a Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD)
lady’ s letter – Women in the War Zone: Hospital Service in the First World War –
Photo: WW1 a VAD lady starting up the engine of her ambulance.