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inspired in us all feelings of pity beyond any that we had ever felt
before. To see these big men bent double, convulsed and choking, was
heartbreaking and hate-inspiring.



At ten o'clock we were ordered to Poperinghe, about twenty miles
from Dunkirk and three miles from Ypres, where one of the biggest
battles of the war was just getting under way. The town was filled
with refugees from Ypres, which was in flames and uninhabitable.
Through Poperinghe and beyond it we slowly wound our way in the midst
of a solid stream of motor trucks, filled with dust-covered soldiers
coming up to take their heroic part in stemming the German tide. We
were to make our headquarters for the time at Elverdinghe, but as we
approached our destination the road was being shelled and we put
on our best speed to get through the danger zone. This destination
turned out to be a small château in Elverdinghe, where a first-aid
hospital had been established. All round us batteries of French and
English guns were thundering their aid to the men in the trenches some
two miles away. In front of us and beside us were the famous 75's, the
90's, and 120's, and farther back the great English marine guns, and
every few seconds we could hear their big shells passing over us. An
automobile had just been put out of commission by a shell, before we
reached the château, so we had to change our route and go up another
road. The château presented a terrible scene. In every room straw
and beds and stretchers, and mangled men everywhere. We started to
work and for twenty-six hours there was scarcely time for pause. Our
work consisted in going down to the _postes de secours_, or first-aid
stations, situated in the Flemish farmhouses, perhaps four hundred
or five hundred yards from the trenches, where the wounded get their
first primitive dressings, and then in carrying the men back to the
dressing-stations where they were dressed again, and then in taking
them farther to the rear to the hospitals outside of shell range.
The roads were bad and we had to pass a constant line of convoys. At
night no lights were allowed and one had to be especially careful not
to jolt his passengers. Even the best of drivers cannot help bumping
on the pavements of Belgium, but when for an hour each cobble brings
forth a groan from the men inside, it is hard to bear. Often they are
out of their heads. They call then for their mothers - they order the
charge - to cease firing - they see visions of beautiful fields - of cool
water - and sometimes they die before the trip is over.

At Elverdinghe the bombardment was tremendous; the church was crumbling
bit by bit. The guns were making too great a noise for sleep. About 4
P.M. we started out to find something to eat. A problem this, for the
only shop still open was run by an old couple too scared to cook. No
food for hours at a time gives desperate courage, so on we went until
we found in a farmhouse some ham and eggs which we cooked ourselves. It
was not altogether pleasant, for the whole place was filled with dust,
the house next door having just been demolished by a shell. However,
the machines were untouched, although a shell burst near them, and we
hurried back for another night's work.


The following morning we decided to stay in Elverdinghe and try to get
a little sleep, but no sooner had we turned in than we were awakened
by the order to get out of the château at once, as we were under fire.
While I was putting on my shoes the window fell in and part of the
ceiling came along. Then an order came to evacuate the place of all its
wounded, and we were busy for hours getting them to a place of safety.
Shells were falling all about. One great tree in front of me was cut
completely off and an auto near it was riddled with the fragments. For
two weeks this battle lasted. We watched our little village gradually
disintegrating under the German shells. The cars were many times under
more or less heavy artillery and rifle fire and few there were without
shrapnel holes.

The advantage of our little cars over the bigger and heavier ambulances
was demonstrated many times. On narrow roads, with a ditch on each
side, choked with troops, ammunition wagons, and vehicles of all
sorts moving in both directions, horses sometimes rearing in terror
at exploding shells, at night in the pitch dark, except for the weird
light from the illuminating rockets, the little cars could squeeze
through somehow. If sometimes a wheel or two would fall into a shell
hole, four or five willing soldiers were enough to lift it out and on
its way undamaged. If a serious collision occurred, two hours' work
sufficed to repair it. Always "on the job," always efficient, the
little car, the subject of a thousand jokers, gained the admiration of
every one.

To most of the posts we could go only after dark, as they were in
sight of the German lines. Once we did go during the day to a post
along the banks of the Yser Canal, but it was too dangerous and the
General ordered such trips stopped. These few trips were splendid,
however. To see the men in the trenches and hear the screech of the
shells at the very front was thrilling, indeed. At times a rifle
bullet would find its way over the bank and flatten itself against a
near-by farmhouse. One was safer at night, of course, but the roads
were so full of _marmite_ holes and fallen trees that they were hard
to drive along. We could only find our way by carefully avoiding the
dark spots on the road. Not a man, however, who did not feel a hundred
times repaid for any danger and anxiety of these trips in realizing
the time and suffering he had saved the wounded. Had we not been there
with our little cars, the wounded would have been brought back on
hand-stretchers or in wagons far less comfortable and much more slow.

Finally the second battle of the Yser was over. The front settled down
again to the comparative quiet of trench warfare. Meanwhile some of us
were beginning to feel the strain and were ordered back to Dunkirk for
a rest. We reached there in time to witness one of the most exciting
episodes of the war. It was just at this time that the Germans sprang
another surprise - the bombardment of Dunkirk from guns more than twenty
miles away. Shells that would obliterate a whole house or make a hole
in the ground thirty feet across would fall and explode without even
a warning whistle such as ordinary shells make when approaching. We
were in the station working on our cars at about 9.30 in the morning,
when, out of a clear, beautiful sky, the first shell fell. We thought
it was only from an aeroplane, as Dunkirk seemed far from the range of
other guns. The dog seemed to know better, for he jumped off the seat
of my car and came whining under me. A few minutes later came a second
and then a third shell. Still not knowing from where they came, we got
out our machines and went to where the clouds of smoke gave evidence
that they had fallen. I had supposed myself by this time something of
a veteran, but when I went into the first dismantled house and saw
what it looked like inside, the street seemed by far a safer place.
The house was only a mass of torn timbers, dirt, and _débris_. Even
people in the cellar had been wounded. We worked all that day, moving
from place to place, sometimes almost smothered by dust and plaster
from the explosion of shells in our vicinity. We cruised slowly around
the streets waiting for the shells to come and then went to see if any
one had been hit. Sometimes, when houses were demolished, we found
every one safe in the cellars, but there were many hurt, of course, and
quite a number killed. The first day I had three dead and ten terribly
wounded to carry, soldiers, civilians, and women too. In one of the
earlier bombardments a shell fell in the midst of a funeral, destroying
almost every vestige of the hearse and body and all of the mourners.
Another day one of them hit a group of children at play in front of the
_billet_ where at one time we lodged, and it was said never to have
been known how many children had been killed, so complete was their

For a time every one believed the shells had been fired from marine
guns at sea, but sooner or later it was proved that they came from
land guns, twenty or more miles away, and as these bombardments were
repeated in succeeding weeks, measures were taken to safeguard the
public from them. Although the shells weighed nearly a ton, their
passage through the air took almost a minute and a half, and their
arrival in later days was announced by telephone from the French
trenches as soon as the explosion on their departure had been heard.
At Dunkirk a siren was blown on the summit of a central tower, giving
people at least a minute in which to seek shelter in their cellars
before the shell arrived. Whenever we heard the sirens our duty was to
run into the city and search for the injured, and during the succeeding
weeks many severely wounded were carried in our ambulances, including
women and children - so frequently the victims of German methods of
warfare. The American ambulance cars were the only cars on duty during
these different bombardments and the leader of the Section was awarded
the _Croix de Guerre_ for the services which they performed.



In the summer a quieter period set in. Sunny weather made life
agreeable and in their greater leisure the men were able to enjoy
sea-bathing and walks among the sand dunes. A regular ambulance
service was kept up in Dunkirk and the surrounding towns, but part of
the Section was moved to Coxyde, 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. Here we worked for seven
weeks, among the Zouaves and the Fusiliers Marins, so famous the
world over as the "heroes of the Yser."

Then once more we were moved to the district farther South known
as Old Flanders, where our headquarters were in a Flemish farm,
adjacent to the town of Crombeke. The landscape hereabout is flat as a
billiard-table, only a slight rise now and again breaking the view. Our
work consisted in bringing back wounded from the vicinity of the Yser
Canal which then marked the line of the enemy's trenches, but owing to
the flatness of the country we had to work chiefly at night. Canals
dotted with slow-moving barges are everywhere, and as our work was
often a cross-country affair, looking for bridges added to the length
of our runs. Here we stayed from August to the middle of December,
during which we did the ambulance work for the entire French front
between the English and the Belgian Sectors.

Just as another winter was setting in and we were once more beginning
to get hordes of cases of frozen feet, we were ordered to move again,
this time to another army. The day before we left, Colonel Morier
visited the Section and, in the name of the Army, thanked the men in
glowing terms, not only for the work which they had done, but for the
way in which they had done it. He recalled the great days of the Second
Battle of the Yser and the Dunkirk bombardments and what the Americans
had done; how he had always felt sure that he could depend upon them,
and how they had always been ready for any service however arduous or
dull or dangerous it might be. He expressed officially and personally
his regret at our departure.

We left on a day that was typical and reminiscent of hundreds of other
days we had spent in Flanders. It was raining when our convoy began to
stretch itself out along the road and it drizzled all that day.[8]


[8] This Section has since added several important chapters to its
history, having served successively on the Aisne, on the Somme, at
Verdun, and in the Argonne. (_November, 1916._)




THE night before we were to leave we gave a dinner to the officers of
the Ambulance. There were not many speeches, but we were reminded that
we were in charge of one of the best-equipped Sections which had as yet
taken the field, and that we were going to the front in an auxiliary
capacity to take the place of Frenchmen needed for the sterner work of
the trenches. We might be sent immediately to the front or kept for a
while in the rear; but in any event there were sick and wounded to be
carried and our job was to help by obeying orders.

Early the next morning we ran through the Bois-de-Boulogne and over an
historic route to Versailles, where, at the headquarters of the Army
Automobile Service, our cars were numbered with a military serial and
the driver of each was given a _Livret Matricule_, which is an open
sesame to every motor park in France. Those details were completed
about ten o'clock, and we felt at last as if we were French soldiers
driving French automobiles on the way to our place at the front.

About thirty kilometres outside of Paris the staff car and the
_camionnette_ with the cook on board dashed by us, and upon our arrival
at a quaint little village we found a café requisitioned for our
use and its stock of meat, bread, and red wine in profusion at our
disposal. In the evening we reached the town of Esternay and there
again found all prepared for our reception. Rooms were requisitioned
and the good people took us in with open arms and the warmest of
hospitality, but one or two of us spread our blankets over the
stretchers in the back of our cars, because there were not enough rooms
and beds for all.

The next morning was much colder; there was some snow and later a heavy
fog. Our _convoi_ got under way shortly after breakfast and ran in
record-breaking time, for we wanted to finish our trip that evening.
We stopped for lunch and for an inspection which consumed two hours,
and starting about ten o'clock on the last stretch of our journey,
drove all afternoon through sleet, cold, and snow. At seven o'clock
that night we reached Vaucouleurs, had our supper, secured sleeping
accommodations, and retired. Our running orders had been completed; we
had reached our ordered destination in perfect form.


Several days passed. We were inspected by generals and other officers,
all of whom seemed pleased with the completeness of our Section. Yet
improvements they said were still possible and should be made while we
were at the park. We were to take care of a service of evacuation of
sick in that district and at the same time try out a "heating system."
The Medical Inspector issued orders to equip two ambulances and report
the results. Our Section Director designed a system which uses the
exhaust of the motor through two metal boxes, which arrangement
warmed the air within the car and also forced the circulation of fresh
air. This was installed in two cars and found to be very satisfactory,
for in all kinds of weather and temperatures the temperature of the
ambulances could be kept between 65° and 70° Fahrenheit.

We were at this place in all six weeks, including Thanksgiving,
Christmas, and New Year's. Our work consisted of evacuating _malades_,
and at first it offered a fine opportunity of teaching the "green ones"
how to care for their cars. But we were all soon put on our mettle.

The outlying country was full of lowlands and streams which in many
places during the hard rains covered the roads to such a depth that the
usual type of French cars could not operate. Our car suspension was
high, and we were able to perform a service the other cars had not been
able to do. We established, too, a standard for prompt service, and
during the weeks we were there it never became necessary that we delay
a call for service on account of "high water." We left this district
for other work with a record of never having missed a call, and the
promptness of service, day or night, was often a matter of comment by
the French officials connected with this work. During the high water,
certain posts accustomed to telephone for an ambulance would ask for an
American Ambulance Boat, and the story was soon about that we had water
lines painted on the cars as gauges for depths through which we could
pass. I was once in the middle of a swirling rapid with the nearest
"land" one hundred yards away. But I had to get through, because I knew
I had a pneumonia patient with a high fever. I opened the throttle
and charged. When I got to the other side I was only hitting on two
cylinders, but as mine was the only car that day to get through at all
I boasted long afterwards of my ambulance's fording ability.

We were always looking forward to being moved and attached to some
Division within the First Army, and, as promised, the order came. Our
service in this district was completed, and on the morning of January
5 our _convoi_ passed on its way to a new location. Our work here
included _postes de secours_ that were intermittently under fire, and
several of the places could only be reached at night, being in daylight
within plain view of the German gunners.

Here again we remained only a short time. Without any warning we
received an order one evening to proceed the next day to Toul. This we
knew meant 7 A.M., for the French military day begins early, and so all
night we were busy filling our gasoline tanks, cleaning spark-plugs,
and getting a dismantled car in shape to "roll."



The trip to Toul was without incident, and when we drew up at the
_caserne_, which proved to be our future home, we reported as ready for
immediate work. The next day five cars were sent to a secondary _poste
de secours_ about ten kilometres from the lines and two cars farther
forward to a first-line _poste de secours_. The rest of the ambulances
formed a reserve at our base to relieve daily those cars and take care
of such emergency calls as might come in day or night. Then as soon as
we proved our worth, we were given other similar points on the lines,
and gradually took over the work of the French Section working with the
next Army Division.

To-day we have our full measure of shell adventures, night driving,
and long hours at the wheel. But these are, of course, only the
usual incidents of life at the front. We, too, the whole Section
feels, will have our Second Battle of the Yser, or our attack on
Hartmannsweilerkopf, and we are as eager as any soldier to prove what
our men and cars can do in the face of such emergencies.[9]


[9] Shortly after this was written, the Section was sent to the Verdun
sector, where for five months it has worked in the vicinity of Mort
Homme and Hill 304. During this period one of its members, Edward J.
Kelley, was killed, and another member, Roswell Sanders, was gravely
wounded. (_November, 1916._)




"_Un blessé à Montauville - urgent!_"
Calls the sallow-faced _téléphoniste_.
The night is as black as hell's black pit,
There's snow on the wind in the East.

There's snow on the wind, there's rain on the wind,
The cold's like a rat at your bones;
You crank your car till your soul caves in,
But the engine only moans.

The night is as black as hell's black pit;
You feel your crawling way
Along the shell-gutted, gun-gashed road -
How - only God can say.

The 120's and 75's
Are bellowing on the hill;
They're playing at bowls with big trench-mines
Down at the Devil's mill.

Christ! Do you hear that shrapnel tune
Twang through the frightened air?
The _Boches_ are shelling on Montauville -
They're waiting for you up there!

"_Un blessé - urgent?_ Hold your lantern up
While I turn the damned machine!
Easy, just lift him easy now!
Why, the fellow's face is green!"

"_Oui, ça ne dure pas longtemps, tu sais._"
"Here, cover him up - he's cold!
Shove the stretcher - it's stuck! That's it - he's in!"
Poor chap, not twenty years old.

"_Bon-soir, messieurs - à tout à l'heure!_"
And you feel for the hell-struck road.
It's ten miles off to the surgery,
With Death and a boy for your load.

Praise God for that rocket in the trench,
Green on the ghastly sky -
That _camion_ was dead ahead!
Let the _ravitaillement_ by!

"_Courage, mon brave!_ We're almost there!"
God, how the fellow groans -
And you'd give your heart to ease the jolt
Of the ambulance over the stones.

Go on, go on, through the dreadful night -
How - only God He knows!
But now he's still! Aye, it's terribly still
On the way a dead man goes.

"Wake up, you swine asleep! Come out!
_Un blessé - urgent - _damned bad!"
A lamp streams in on the blood-stained white
And the mud-stained blue of the lad.

"_Il est mort, m'sieu!"_ "So the poor chap's dead?"
Just there, then, on the road

You were driving a hearse in the hell-black night,
With Death and a boy for your load.

O dump him down in that yawning shed,
A man at his head and feet;
Take off his ticket, his clothes, his kit,
And give him his winding-sheet.

It's just another _poilu_ that's dead;
You've hauled them every day
Till your soul has ceased to wonder and weep
At war's wild, wanton play.

He died in the winter dark, alone,
In a stinking ambulance,
With God knows what upon his lips -
But on his heart was France!





In one of the most beautiful countries in the world, the Alsatian
Valley of the Thur runs to where the Vosges abruptly end in the great
flat plain of the Rhine. In turn a small valley descends into that
of the Thur. At the head of this valley lies the small village of
Mollau where is billeted the Section Sanitaire Américaine N{o} 3. It
has been through months of laborious, patient, never-ceasing trips
from the valley to the mountain-tops and back, up the broadened
mule-paths, rutted and worn by a thousand wheels and the hoofs of
mules, horses, and oxen, by hobnailed boots and by the cars of the
American Ambulance (for no other Section is equipped with cars and men
for such service), up from the small Alsatian towns, leaving the main
valley road to grind through a few fields of ever-increasing grade on
into the forest, sometimes pushed, sometimes pulled, always blocked
on the steepest slopes by huge army wagons deserted where they stuck,
rasping cart-loads of trench torpedoes on one side, crumbling the edge
of the ravine on the other, - day and night - night and day - in snow
and rain - and, far worse, fog - months of foul and days of fair, - up
with the interminable caravans of _ravitaillement_, supplies with
which to sustain or blast the human body (we go down with the human
body once blasted), up past small armies of Alsatian peasants of
three generations (rather two - octogenarians and children), forever
repairing, forever fighting the wear and tear of all that passes, - up
at last to the little log huts and rudely made _postes de secours_ at
the mouth of the trench "bowels," - a silent little world of tethered
mules, shrouded carts and hooded figures, lightless by night, under the
great pines where is a crude garage usually filled with grenades into
which one may back at one's own discretion.

Day after day, night after night, wounded or no wounded, the little
ambulances plied with their solitary drivers. Few men in ordinary
autos or in ordinary senses travel such roads by choice, but all that
is impossible is explained by a simple _C'est la guerre_. Why else
blindly force and scrape one's way past a creaking truck of shells
testing twenty horses, two abreast, steaming in their own cloud of
sweaty vapor, thick as a Fundy fog? Taking perforce the outside, the
ravine side, the ambulance passes. More horses and wagons ahead in the
dark, another blinding moment or two, harnesses clash and rattle, side
bolts and lanterns are wiped from the car. It passes again; _C'est la
guerre_. Why else descend endless slopes with every brake afire, with

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