From : Harvard in the Great War, M.A. DeWolfe Howe
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, (in 5 volumes),1922.
THROUGH the volunteer ambulance service which came to be known as the "Norton-Harjes" service, the name of Richard Norton acquired an extraordinarily significant personal identification with the war. There is, moreover, no name on the Harvard Roll of Honor more closely identified, through inheritance and association, with Harvard itself. The first Norton of his ilk to appear in the Quinquennial Catalogue was a seventeenth-century graduate, John Norton, of the Class of 1671. In the first half of the nineteenth century his grandfather, Andrews Norton, of the Class of 1804, and in the second half his father, Charles Eliot Norton, of the Class of 1846, were correspondingly notable figures in the community of Harvard scholars and teachers. He was the youngest of his father's six children. His mother, Susan Ridley (Sedgwick) Norton, died at the time of his birth at Dresden, Germany, February 9, 1872. When called upon for some biographical items about himself after the United States entered the war, Richard Norton wrote, in parenthesis after "Dresden" as the place of his birth, the words "Ye Gods!" The irony of this circumstance of his first encounter with the world must often have impressed him.
In 1874 the Norton family returned from a long sojourn in Europe to Cambridge, where Richard Norton, living in his father's house, "Shady Hill," attended the Browne and Nichols School, and graduated at Harvard with the Class of 1892. In college he was a member of the Institute of 1770 and the Hasty Pudding Club. It was a part of the fitness of things that a son of his father, the chief founder of the Archaeological Institute of America, should devote himself, upon his graduation, to the study of archaeology. His career in this field of scholarship was summarized as follows in a brief memoir printed soon after his death in the American Journal of Archaeology.
He . . . graduated from Harvard College in 1892, and spent the neat three years in Europe, studying at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, and, for a short time, at the University at Munich. While at Athens he took part in the excavation of the Argive Heraeum, and contributed a chapter on Engraved Stones, Gems, and Ivories to the final publication. In 1895 he was appointed Lecturer in Classical Archaeology and the History of the Fine Arts at Bryn Mawr College. In 1897 he went to Rome as Assistant Director of the American School of Classical Studies, and in 1899 was promoted to Director, remaining in this position until 1907. During this time he visited Central Asia in 1903 as a member of the Pumpelly archaeological expedition, and the Cyrenaica in 1904. He returned to the latter region in 1909 for further exploration, and in the following year began excavations at Cyrene as leader of the expedition sent out by the Archaeological Institute of America and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts,---excavations which were brought to an unexpected end by the war between Italy and Turkey.
In addition to archaeological articles in the American Journal of Archaeology, the Journal of Hellenic Studies, the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and elsewhere, Mr. Norton published "A Catalogue of the Casts in the Museum of Fine Arts in Portland, Oregon," and "Bernini and Other Essays" (1915). As an archaeologist he possessed a wide acquaintance with the monuments, a good visual memory, keen powers of observation, and especially a fine feeling for style and high appreciation of the beauty and significance of the works he studied. These qualities, natural in one brought up in his environment, were noticeable in his lectures in the Roman museums and appear also in his latest essays.
While Norton held his Bryn Mawr lectureship he was married, June 16, 1896, to a daughter, Edith, of Professor John Williams White, of Harvard. Of this marriage one daughter, Susan, was born.
Writing more personally in the Harvard Graduates' Magazine for December, 1918, William Fenwick Harris, '91, said of Richard Norton: "He had a scholar's equipment; had he the temperament? He was, I think, essentially a man of action. That is why he had left so little behind him in an academic way, little if one considers his ability and his knowledge." Then, after enumerating the writings named above, Mr. Harris proceeds:
The enthusiasm of his students and his fellow-excavators will remain his chief academic monument. He could not fetter himself to a book; he must be up and doing. In addition, he had an extraordinary capacity for exciting the most fervent loyalty among all the men who ever worked under him; this showed itself when he was in the field excavating as well as when he was directing ambulance work in France. His quality as leader was greatly aided by his unselfishness and his consideration for all those with whom he came in contact....
He was exceedingly hardy and admirably equipped to fend for himself in difficult expeditions, as he proved in Central Asia with the Pumpelly Expedition in 1905, and as leader of the excavations at Cyrene. [On this expedition, Mr. Harris has written elsewhere, "one of Norton's ablest assistants was shot; the bullet was undoubtedly intended for Norton himself."]He frequently said that if he had had large private means he would have given himself to exploring the ancient trade routes between the East and Italy. This power of roughing it and endurance of hardship, his knowledge of ways and means in travel, stood him in good stead during the years of his service at the front.
A thorough cosmopolitan, an experienced administrator, accustomed to life in the open, Richard Norton stood, at the very outbreak of the war in Europe, in a position of rare potential usefulness. Though his forty-two years had not included the special education of a soldier, they had trained him, quite uncommonly, in the initiative and resource so essential in war. The very promptness of his entrance upon an active relation with the war was characteristic of one who had received his preparation for it His sister, Miss Sara Norton, had the kindness, more than a year before her death in the summer of 1922, to provide for the purpose of this memoir some notes, under the heading, "Richard Norton's Ambulance Corps," which tell the story of its organization and conduct. Her narratives proceeding even to the end of her brother's life, read, substantially, as follows:
In the spring of 1914, Richard Norton had been with his old friend, Alison Armour, yachting in "Eastern waters." At Corfu, where Mr. Armour's yacht lay in harbor for a week, the Kaiser's yacht, the Hohenzollern, was also in harbor. Mr. Armour (an old yachting friend of the Kaiser's) and Richard dined more than once on the Hohenzollern, and on another day he went to the place where excavations were in progress, with the Kaiser and his party,---"elderly chamberlains greatly bored," as Richard said afterward to us. The Kaiser's friendliness to Richard, whom he had seen on several occasions before, was extreme and before they parted he gave Richard a jewelled scarf pin, the imperial "W" in red stones surmounted by the imperial crown in brilliants: a strange gift in the light of rapidly approaching events.
Meantime, I was in London, with my uncle, W. E. Darwin. In May Richard returned to London where he had two or three years before established himself, and where he expected to spend the summer. In late June we heard of my brother Rupert's death in Baltimore, and Richard and I determined to return home almost at once. We were detained a week or two, but sailed on July 22 from Liverpool. No danger threatened the world, as far as the public knew. We landed in Boston on August 2, and the pilot brought newspapers on board, with the bewildering rumors of war. War? We had left a world at peace-how could there be a European war? I remember the feeling of confusion as I answered the custom-officer's question. What was he saying? What did those papers say? War!--- but war in Europe was unthinkable.
The next two days were all waiting, for on August 4 England declared war. A few days later, on the 7th or 8th it must have been, Richard said: "I'm going back, I'm going to see what I can do." To us all his course seemed the only one possible; our hearts were with the Allies. There was a delay about his getting the necessary passport, and about some arrangements which had to be made, but less than three weeks after our return he sailed for England. I remember now only our entire gladness that he could go. He left with immediate plans on landing uncertain; though Belgium was agonizing, and France desperately resisting the horrible onslaught, while England was silently speeding her " contemptible little army " across the channel, yet everyone said "the war will be over in six weeks or three months at longest"; little, therefore, did we dream Richard was never to return, and what the years ahead were to mean to the world. We were not at war, and our farewells were not of war, but how different the point of view and tide of feeling were soon to become!
After a week or two in London, Richard left for Paris, hoping to get a job as a "war correspondent"---but war correspondents, some well-known, were swarming there. The battle of the Marne was over---Joffre's victory, which grew in importance as the war progressed---and Richard saw the return of the Marne wounded to Paris. A terrible revelation! There were no adequate preparations then in the armies of the Allies for that flood-tide of suffering which had begun to flow in from the front. Hospital trains and hospitals, ambulance service, supplies for the wounded, etc., etc.-all these things were lacking. The desperate need was clear to everyone who saw those wounded.
One day---it was September then---came a cable from Richard to us in Ashfield: "I am going to organize an Ambulance Corps. See if you can raise funds." So we set to work- and in less than six weeks we raised, without any actual public appeal, $17,000. Meantime he had left Paris and gone to London to organize the intended Corps. Mr. Henry James and a number of old friends warmly took up the project. The volunteers were found easily-Americans and Englishmen joined, but later, when England needed all her men, the English who were in Richard's corps were transferred to other services in the British Army.
On October 15 my brother left Paris for the front with the first cars. The corps in those first years was known as the American Volunteer Motor-Ambulance Corps, Inc., but later on, in 1917, when the Harjes cars were added to the A. V.M.A. C., it was called the Norton-Harjes Corps. (There was in the first year or two of the war confusion between the American Ambulance Corps and the American Hospital in Paris-known there as the Ambulance Américaine, and by Americans often ignorantly translated into American Ambulance. Hence the confusion between the "Ambulance," i.e., Military Hospital, and the corps. Richard's cars were called by the French at the front "les voitures Américaines," and the wounded poilu often asked for those voitures in which he knew he might find as much comfort and care as could be given him.) How the work grew, how devotedly Richard carried it on, and with what ability, how on the Somme, how later at Verdun, the American Volunteer Motor-Ambulance Corps, working with the French armies, was always near the front, is common knowledge. "I've seen 'our chief,'" said one of the corps, "jump into a trench to help lift out the wounded, when a bombardment was going on fit to shake the buttons off your coat---as cool as if he was in a drawing-room." Another man whose nerves gave way, and who had to return home because he could not stand the ambulance work, said to my brother Eliot, "I guess it might have been all right, if I had been with your brother---why, his men would follow him to hell." It was the same story from all who were with him. His gentleness and tenderness with the wounded were perfect---his steadfast courage unchanged even after three years of strain.
So through those long three years before we entered the war, Richard's work continued, at high pressure. He took no real holidays, but occasionally he got away from the front to Paris or London, to attend to some of the business of the corps, which was carried on by interested and devoted helpers there and here. The larger portion of the funds by which the corps was maintained came from America, but some money was raised in London, and large gifts from Americans in Paris were added. My brother Eliot in New York did an immense amount of work, as the size of the corps grew, in finding and sending over volunteers from here to join it.
When the corps was organized, it was a part of the British Army, and technically under the aegis of the British Red Cross (Richard and the men he commanded all wore the British ambulance service uniform), but was at once "lent" to the French Army, which lacked such ambulance service, even more than the British. With the French armies Richard, commanding his corps, continued. He was one of the first Americans to whom the French awarded the Legion of Honor Cross; and later he received the Croix de Guerre, with palms, and the Mons Medal of the British Army. The Ambulance Corps itself was also decorated, and the cars had the coveted little Croix de Guerre painted on them.
When America went into the war, the Norton-Harjes Corps--- after some months of uncertainty as to its fate---was taken over by the Red Cross service of our army, and the organization came under military control. Richard was offered a major's commission, but was not to be allowed to command the corps any longer, as he was not "an army man." So he retired, leaving the organization he had built up, leaving the men who had so loyally worked with him, with keen regret. But he continued to be actively useful, in the Intelligence Department of the Navy, in which he found a post and occupation. His work carried him often to Brest and to other ports as our armies were pouring into France---a cheering sight to those who had been living with the French armies, and seen those heroic ranks grow thinner, while the struggle still was so intense. But Richard had been overworking for many months---the photographs of him of this time show him aged and with a sombre gravity in the face that tells its own story. Toward the end of July, 1918, he was in Paris; there on the last day of the month he dined with an old friend: the following morning he was seized with symptoms of alarming illness, and there, in the Hospital Pasteur on August 2, he died of spinal meningitis.
A few days later there was an impressive service at the American Church in Paris, and shoulder high the coffin, under the Stars and Stripes, was borne up the aisle by men he had commanded. The touching words of one of them show what their feeling for him was. When a year after, his ashes were laid---one beautiful May day---beside his father's at Mount Auburn, about that open grave stood other young men who had served in the corps, and with them an American mechanic who had been attached to the corps in France. After the service, I saw this man, the tears rolling down his face, walking up and down near where we had been; he had come from New York, he explained, he "had to come," when he " saw the notice in the paper"; and then, referring to "our chief," he said, "Oh, he was a whale, a whale, the bravest man you could find---my best friend . . .," his voice broke, he turned away.
There reached us in 1919 a memorial got up by friends in England to my brother's memory, and signed by Lady Ritchie and others; the words run as follows:
LONDON, October, 1918.
"We friends in England wish to express to Richard Norton's family and countrymen, our admiration for the great work of mercy he accomplished in France, and handed over to his countrymen to carry on. He has been thanked and distinguished officially. From us, his friends, comes the affectionate remembrance in which we shall ever hold the memory of this noble and generous gentleman."
A detailed history of the Norton-Harjes ambulance service, of which Richard Norton was the organizer, director, and field commander, would constitute a memorable chapter in the annals of American participation in the World War. Appearing at the front in October, 1914, with a single fleet of ten ambulances, it had grown by October, 1917, when it was turned over to the American Red Cross, and many of its younger members, at Norton's advice, entered the fighting force of the United States, to proportions indicated by the operation of over a dozen sections, with about two hundred ambulances and seven hundred volunteers, with a roll of as many more who had previously gone out and returned to America or entered military service. This growth had come to pass in part by the addition of a section of cars presented by Mr. H. H. Harjes, of the Paris firm of Morgan, Harjes & Co., and of two sections furnished by Mr. Robert W. Goelet (Harvard, '02), of New York, and through financial aid from the American Red Cross. It was a guiding principle in the selection of volunteers that the mere ardor of youth was not a sufficient qualification for service. In one of Norton's letters, about to be quoted, this point is clearly made. From "A Letter to the Editor of an American Journal," written by Henry James, the first chairman of the Council of the American Volunteer Motor-Ambulance Corps---under the auspices of the St. John Ambulance Association (the modern successor of a knightly organization dating from the Crusades) and the British Red Cross Society---a few sentences applicable both to Norton's associates and to the volunteer war service of college men in general may well be quoted:
I find it difficult to express to you the sense of practical human pity, as well as the image of general helpful energy, applied in innumerable chance ways, that we get from the report of what the corps has done, and holds itself in readiness to do, thanks to the admirable spirit of devotion without stint, of really passionate work, animating its individual members. These have been found beneficently and inexhaustibly active, it is interesting to be able to note, in proportion as they possess the general educated intelligence, the cultivated tradition of tact, and I may perhaps be allowed to confess that, for myself, I find a positive added beauty in the fact that the unpaid chauffeur, the wise amateur driver and ready lifter, helper, healer, and, so far as may be, consoler, is apt to be an university man and acquainted with other pursuits. One gets the sense that the labor, with its multiplied incidents and opportunities, is just unlimitedly inspiring to the keen spirit or the sympathetic soul, the recruit with energies and resources on hand that plead with him for the beauty of the vivid and palpable social result.
In letters from Norton himself, the nature and value of his work in the war are most clearly indicated. Though some of them have already been quoted in "The Harvard Volunteers in Europe," published in 1916, when his work had been in progress for two years, they may surely be used again in this more substantial record of the contribution of Harvard men to the waging of the war. In the nature of the case his letters, in a handwriting so like his father's as to prove that much besides a resemblance of face and figure may be inherited, were designed, more than most letters from the front, to report upon the work of an organization. This does not diminish their value for the present purpose. They were addressed to his brother Eliot, of New York, and to Mr. H. D. Morrison, the London representative of the Corps.
June 7, 1915.
The biggest battle I've yet seen is under way, and we are in the thick of it. It is now 8 A.M., and I've been here since 4. The French are pounding the bottom out of the world in front, and the Boches are doing their best to reply. I write at the dugout at the entrance to the trenches where the wounded wait for us. Batteries are around us and along the road we follow to the hospital. One is some fifty yards from the dugout, and the Boches are trying to find it-not entirely unsuccessfully, for about fifty yards from us there has just fallen a shell.
We have three groups of four cars out on this work today; the others are doing the regular evacuations and service de garde -so we are furiously occupied. Back again from the hospital and waiting for the car to be loaded. It is a wonderful, brilliant summer day, but a strange haze from the bursting shells and torn earth hangs heavily over the fields. The roads are hidden in the clouds of dust raised by the constant tramp of thousands of men and by the shells of the ammunition wagons. There are some mules, too, bringing up the mitrailleuses.
Later. Things are going well. We have taken three trenches and there are pas mal de prisonniers. The poor wounded men we carry are amazingly patient and uncomplaining. In fact, almost the only ones who even murmur are those who have gone out of their minds, and there are but few of these. The prisoners look a bit cast down, but otherwise bear themselves like men and are treated absolutely well. Only one seemed scared, and he was a boy, and wounded at that: he felt better when I told him nobody wanted to scalp him.
We are under a tree now surrounded by a group of some twenty women of the village, stretcher-bearers, and the doctor who manages our dugout. The bombardment is lessening and there are no wounded for the moment.
A couple of batteries of big guns (220) are booming, and their shells shudder over our heads. It's curious to note the differential sounds different sized shells make. These " 220's " sound exactly like a big Catherine wheel when it begins to revolve-the same jerky whirr. If you are sufficiently near you don't notice this, as I perceived this morning when one that was hidden not fifteen feet from the road I was travelling on went off exactly as I passed. I thought the Boches had got me. Taken all in all, it is the most tremendous and interesting and horrible spectacle one could imagine. Overhead the aeroplanes, surrounded by the beautiful, long-lasting puffs of heavy white smoke, the horizon line a few kilometres away-one long string of black or white geysers of smoke according to the sort of shell that explodes, and nearby the volleying, booming, whirring batteries, the ambulances, the fresh and the tired troops, the uncomplaining, pain-sick wounded, and the magnificent, cool, patient, heroic doctors. The Devil take the Boches, but I feel man is a pretty fine piece of work.
10 P.M. Back again to our home camp at Baizieux, all safe and sound, rather to my surprise, as we had a decidedly sultry time this afternoon. As a memento I have a large hunk of a shell which exploded just over the roof of the dugout while I was inside. For some hours the shells were going off all round us making us run for the dugout if near enough, and do a powerful lot of trying to shrink up if we were a few yards too far off to do the rabbit trick. One of the cars got hit by a bit of splintered wood. That was the only real casualty, though some of the cars suffered from being kept going too many hours without a stop.
I must stop now and arrange for tomorrow when we shall probably be very busy again, though doing the night work.
Tonight we were relieved by some French cars. We are all all right, but I want some more volunteers.
P.S. Have just got our lists in, and find we carried just over six-hundred today.
A year ago we started from London with ten cars, and not much more than "hope" for a bank balance. We were wanderers searching for work. During this year we have grown into a corps consisting now of some sixty cars, to which the St. John Ambulance and Red Cross Societies render any assistance we ask; and instead of wondering where we were to find occupation, the French authorities have entrusted us with the whole ambulance service of the 11th Army Corps. We have carried during the year just ended 28,000 cases of sick and wounded, whilst during the days of September 25th to October 9th our cars relieved the sufferings of over 6,000 individuals. Besides all this, we have enough money in the bank to carry on the work for a short time without making a public appeal for more.
One of our "undertakings," we failed to accomplish. As you know, the Red Cross authorities asked us, last March, to rejoin them at Boulogne to serve the British Army. Instead of leaving the French we undertook to raise another corps for service with the British. Men, money, and cars were provided, but it soon became apparent that the British military authorities had no intention of using our Volunteer Corps, or even of making any more use than was absolutely necessary of the British Red Cross Society's ambulances. This being the case, it was arranged, with the consent of the British Army authorities, that we should employ our whole contingent with the French.
You have been kept fairly well informed of the general course of our work through the summer. Our last very busy time was, as you know, at Hebuterne. This was followed by some weeks of less exciting but equally necessary work. In the middle of August we were ordered from the region of Amiens to Chalons, where the recent fine advance has been made. The work here, owing to the nature of the country, is much more difficult than it was before. It is a chalky, deserted region, with but a few poverty-stricken villages. In large measure these were entirely or mostly destroyed during the Battle of the Marne. For this reason the housing of the volunteers and the cars is by no means easy to arrange. As a matter of fact, the cars stand in the open fields or in the pine woods where hostile airman cannot see them, and at present all our men are under canvas.
The French Army authorities keep their plans so secret that we are given only a few hours' notice before we are moved. Hence nobody could have foreseen that tents would have to be bought, or that we should go into a country which could not supply us with any food, and that we would, therefore, be forced to buy a great deal of canned "stuff," either at or from the Army Canteen in Boulogne. I do not mention this with any desire of making it appear that the work is particularly difficult, but merely that it may be realized that it is impossible to put down in black and white what we may need at any given time.
A still greater difficulty, and a really serious one, is the question of chauffeurs. These cannot, of course, be brought from America, so we have to depend on the British Red Cross, in a large measure, to supply us. We have secured a good many through our office in London, and these last, with hardly an exception, have proved entirely satisfactory. But it is hard for a small office like ours to find enough or to find them, as is often necessary, in a hurry....
It is curious that only three or four incidents of the twelve hard days' work stand out clearly in my mind. The rest is but a hazy memory of indistinguishable nights and days of cold and rain, long rows of laden stretchers waiting to be put into the cars, wavering lines of the less seriously wounded hobbling along to where we were waiting; of sleepy hospital orderlies, dark underground chambers-in which the doctors were sorting out and caring for the wounded-and an unceasing noise of rumbling wagons, whirring aeroplanes, distant guns coughing, and nearby ones crashing, shells bursting, and bullets hissing. Out of this general jumble of memory one feature shines out steadily clear. It is of the doctors-patient, indefatigable, tender, encouraging, and brave in the most perfect way-who were everywhere in the forefront, and seemingly knew not what fatigue meant.... If the nurses are the angels of this war, these doctors are the apostles "who lift up this world and carry it to God." Doubtless there are others on the other side of the line, but those mentioned I have seen and known.
One of the incidents I have referred to which stands out clearly in my mind is of a nightmare drive to Herlus. I received orders late one evening to take two cars to this village at 1 A.M. Not being able to find the divisional doctor to tell him that I considered it impossible to take motor ambulances by night, without lights and in the pouring rain, over the shell-holed road which led to the village, I had to try it. Mr. Joseph Whitwell, with his car and chauffeur, accompanied me. On my car I had George Tate, a most capable man. As he is a better driver than I am, he held the wheel, while I (or so it seems now) spent my whole time wading through knee-deep mud, trying by the faint light of an electric lamp to find the way round shell holes and bogs, or pushing the car out of the gutter. It shows how difficult the journey was, that to cover the six kilometres there and back took us two hours and a half. We had the satisfaction of getting the wounded safely to the hospitals, and perhaps it was not entirely low-minded of us to be pleased when we heard next morning that some French cars had refused to make the same journey.
Another very distinct memory is of a morning spent with Mr. Joseph Phelps in a dugout at Perthes, the village where the advanced French lines were the first day. We had been sending cars to the village for two or three days, although the Germans still occasionally shelled it, but one evening, hearing that them had begun again, I had a strong feeling that the position wee had picked out for the cars was insecure. It was all right for the men, who could "go to earth," but they could n't take the cars with them, and our service would have been hampered had the latter been blown up. So at dawn Phelps and I took the ambulance down to the village and left it a couple of hundred yards outside the ruins of the place, where the banks of a trench gave it some protection. Then we walked down to the poste de secours to tell the doctor in charge where the car was to be found when he needed it. There were one or two slightly wounded, and while we were waiting for others the Germans began to shell a battery which was some forty yards directly behind the poste de secours. For a short time they threw small shells and shrapnel at us, but as they had n't got the range every-. one went on with his ordinary occupations-the most ordinary being rolling cigarettes. In fact, if the American tobacco kings. had any sense of justice they would give us the best ambulance to be bought to make up for the cigarettes we smoked that morning!
Still another picture that rises in my mind as I write is of a cloudy morning when, after a very tiring night, I was sitting on the roadside watching a rather heavy bombardment near by, and suddenly through the din rose the sweet clear notes of a shepherd's pipe. It was the same reed pipe I have heard so often on the hills of Greece and Asia Minor, and the same sweetly-sad, age-old shepherd music telling of Pan and the Nymphs and the asphodel meadows where youth lies buried. The piper was an ordinary piou-piou, a simple fantasin, "Mon vieux Charles," with knapsack on back, rifle slung over his shoulder and helmet on head, strolling down to the valley of death a few hundred yards beyond. Nor is this the only music I have heard. One night a violin sounded among the pines which shelter our tents, and I strolled over to find a blue-clad Orpheus easing the pain of the wounded and numbing the fatigue of the brancardiers with melody from Chopin and Schubert and Beethoven.
Such are some of the impressions of the battle seen from this side of the line. Others I have formed, since the main fight ceased, in the lines previously held by the Germans. I went over some of their trenches the other day and have never seen anything so horrible. Although, as prisoners have told us, they knew they were to be attacked, they had no idea that the attack would be anything like so severe as it was. Those I have talked to said it was awful, and that they were glad to be out of it. Their trenches were very elaborately constructed, many of the dugouts being fitted up with a considerable amount of furniture, for the dwellers evidently had no notion that they would be hurriedly evicted. After the bombardment there was nothing left of all this careful work. The whole earth was torn to pieces. It looked as though some drunken giant had driven his giant plough over the land. In the midst of an utterly indescribable medley of torn wire, broken wagons, and upheaved timbers, yawned here and there chasms like the craters of small volcanoes where mines had been exploded. It was an ashen grey world-distorted by the spasms of death-like a scene in the moon. Except for the broken guns, the scattered clothing, the hasty graves, the dead horses, and other signs of human passage, no one could have believed that such a place had ever been anything but dead and desolate. The rubbish still remained when I was there, but masses of material had been already gathered up and saved.
I may mention that some very interesting gas machines were taken. These were of two kinds-one for the production of gas, the other to counteract its effects. The latter were rather elaborate and heavy but very effective instruments consisting of two main parts, one to slip over the head protecting the eyes and clipping the nose, the other an arrangement of bags and bottles containing oxygen, which the wearer inhaled through a tube held in the mouth. There were several forms of these apparatus, but the most interesting point to note about them is that one had stamped upon it the words: "Type of 1914, developed from type of 1912, developed from type of 1908," thus showing that six years ago the Germans had decided to fight with gas....
There is little more to tell. Our Corps d'Armée has been withdrawn for a short time to rest and this gives us time to replace our " lost sheep " among the cars and to get the rest into good condition for the next heavy work.
February 15, 1916.
The letters which have been received from American applicants to join our corps since the British Red Cross refused to allow Englishmen of military age and qualification to work with us have been very numerous, and I have found them, as a mass, so interesting that I have sent most of them to the office to be filed. It is evident, however, that there are many misconceptions in the minds of our compatriots regarding our work, and it is in the hope that you may be able to clear up some of these that I now write you.
Considering the fact that our country is at present led by a man whose mind gets so self-centered that he thinks wrong can be corrected or benefits gained by the mere mouthing of highfaluting sentiments rather than by action, it is not to be wondered at that there is a great deal of mistaken idea at home concerning the various phases of the war. Such a man is not apt to be a very useful leader. So it is not surprising that we receive letters from quantities of persons who are firmly convinced that their mere desire to help in our work is all that is needed to make them of use to us. Of course, and this is natural enough-in fact, could hardly be otherwise-their ideas of the work of an ambulance corps are based on accounts of battles, as this is about all the newspapers put before them. The fact is, however, that what nowadays are considered battles occur only at long intervals, and most of the time the ambulances are performing an essential, but by no means thrilling, service among the field hospitals and along the line where, although the fighting never ceases, things are generally comparatively tranquil. Especially is this so in the winter months, during which both last year and this there has been no attempt at a great offensive, by either side, on the western front. It is n't that the armies could n't fight if they wanted to; the Russians show us well enough that they could But for one reason or another, probably because the English have not been ready, they don't. So our work goes along quietly for the most part, and there is many a day when the men don't have enough to do to keep them from thinking of their discomforts. These are really nothing very bad, but still a volunteer from another land, one who is not fighting for his own people, has to have a strong sense of the ultimate value of the work he has chosen to do to enable him to forget them. That, I find, is the most serious trouble with any of the men who have been with me. When, as last September, there is heavy fighting, they are as keen as possible and take all the various risks and troubles in the most pleasant spirit. But when, as sometimes happens, the corps is en repos they get restless and don't know what to do with themselves. For this reason, among others, I don't want you to send out volunteers who are too young. It is not that they lack courage, but that is a quality we are not often called upon to show. What this work chiefly demands is resource. Our men are not like the soldiers constantly under the eye of an officer, but are generally dependent on their own intelligence for the conduct of their work. Such driving as we do was never conceived of by motorists before this war. Borghesi's ride from Pekin to Paris was a summer day's excursion through a park compared to our job. Driving a car laden with men whose lives depend on reaching the hospital as soon as possible is a considerable responsibility. When, in addition, they have to be carried along roads, or more likely mere trails, that are being shelled or may be swept with rifle fire, often at night with no light, and through the unending crowd of moving troops, guns, ammunition and revictualling trains, the responsibility is considerably increased. A man must keep absolutely cool and his temper unruffled, and he must be able to size things up so as to do the best he can for his load of fading lives. Experience of life is what is needed to do this successfully, and that is just what a youth has not got. Of course, there are the rare exceptions, and we are lucky in having some of these, where imagination and instinct take the place of experience. But you cannot count on a youth having these, and I have no time to test them, one by one, to see if they will take the bit; so don't send me boys unless you are dead certain of their quality.
There are really three sorts of work we have to do. One is the risky and very hard work during a battle, such as my account of the Battle of Champagne gave you some idea of. The men who can do that successfully will, when they get home after the war, be able to do anything from running a railway to managing an Art Museum.
Then there is what might be called our regular job, the post duty, the daily going and coming from certain stations just back of the line to the hospitals with the occasional casualties. During the winter months one carries more sick and sorry than one does wounded, but there is a never-ending trickle of these latter. For the last few months, as you know, we have been working along the Tahure to Mesnil front. There has been a very slight ebb and flow of the line, but on the whole it is a little more advanced than it was when the French got through pounding the Germans last September. They certainly did give it to them then, and it is an open secret that had the English attack been as well conducted as the French, the line would be further forward than it is now. However, when it was over, we sat down for the winter, and posts were arranged to which the wounded are brought. Just who picks out these posts I have never discovered, but the general rule is that they should be as near the actual fighting line as the condition of the roads and general safety permit the cars to go. We have served two such posts. One was all right, though, owing to the mud which prevented the close approach of our cars, the stretcher bearers had a weary long walk with their painful burden. The other, however, was to my mind most quaintly placed, as it was on the crest of a ridge and in plain view of the enemy. Though the doctors' tents and dugouts were sheltered by a cluster of pines, the coming and going of the cars was perfectly obvious and daily drew the fire of one of the enemy batteries. Some of the gunners were excellent shots, too, and although they never scored a bull's-eye, they made several "ringers" which spattered us with mud. Their favorite projectile was what is known as a "whizz-bang," a confounded thing that goes off with a peculiarly disagreeable crash at the same instant that you hear it. Now a respectably educated shell whistles as it comes and gives you time, if you have wisely adopted the habits of the woodchuck and don't go far from your hole, to make an Annette Kellerman dive. Maybe the tune it whistles is the "Last Rose of Summer," but still you are at least on the way underground when it hits, and, such is the strange working of our minds, that gives one a great feeling of comfort. But these whizz-bangs were brought up on Kultur and come in without knocking. I hate them-in fact, I hate them all-I have collected many things in my life, but I was never born to be a conchologist. Some men tell me they get used to such things. I can only say I feel no symptoms of acquiring the taste.
Well, so long as the doctors could stand this post on the hill we had to. At both posts the men did duty for twenty-four hours at a stretch, and had tents pitched under the trees in which they cooked their picnic meals and took what rest they could. Most of the time it rained, and it was always cold. To my way of thinking a tent is a beastly thing. A considerable portion of my life has been passed in them, and no one can convince me they are anything but disgusting. I love to read about them in the summer magazines when the wily redskin is pursuing the heroic trapper, or the beauteous millionairess heroine has fled from the seething city to soothe a broken heart, catching trout and a cold in the head by the pellucid lake-all that sounds lovely, but were I ever to play redskin to the heroine I'd never be so mean as to ask her to pass the honeymoon in a tent. They are cramped in space, they leak, the wind loosens the ropes at night, they flap, they are damp in winter and hot in summer, they are harbor lights for everything that creeps or crawls within thirty miles, the oil stove explodes in them, and you spoil most of your bedding putting it out; and when anybody, whether an Arab or a Boche is trying to strap you, they are about as much comfort as an ice-cream soda to a polar bear. However, they are better than sitting in the mud, so at the posts we sit and get damp till the relief comes, and then hustle back to the base camp, where there are no satisfactory means of getting dry, but where you mop yourself up and steam over any form of fire you or your friends can produce. You see, there is not much in that kind of life but plain, hard uncomfortable work. So anyone who thinks he is coming out here to wander over the stricken field doing the Sir Philip Sidney act to friend and foe alike, protected from harm by the mystical light of heroism playing about his hyacinthine locks, had better stay home. This hero business will only win him the Order of the Wooden Cross. What one really does is to look like a tramp who has passed the night in a ditch and feels as though one were doing ten days "hard" for it. That is what the ordinary work is.
Then there is the third kind, which is when we are, as now, en repos. No corps can go on indefinitely at the front. The men get worn out and the cars get out of order. During the early part of this winter our cars stood in the open where the mud was so bad that we often had to pull them out in the morning with the lorry before we could start. There was so little water that sometimes there was insufficient for the radiators. Under such circumstances cleaning the cars was entirely out of the question, and any but absolutely essential repairs had to whit till we could move somewhere else. When, finally, we were relieved by a French convoy only one-third of our cars could go, and several of the men were working on their nerve.
We were sent a few miles back to the large farm where we now are. Here there is a splendid big barn with lean-to sheds round about in which most of our cars are housed. There is plenty of water, as there is a large stream just beside the house, and the cars have been washed, springs mended, the engines cleaned, and everything possible done to enable us to work many months more before there will be need of another overhaul. For this sort of work you will easily understand that we must have men who know something about motors and who are ready to work on them themselves. A man who is unwilling or unable to help in the care of his car would be nothing but a nuisance to us. For a man who knows how to work there is always plenty to do, but the life of so-called repos here at the farm is decidedly monotonous. We never see outsiders, and we do not often get out of sight of the farm buildings. Chalons is not many miles away, but we only send there when we hear that one of our cars which had to be repaired at the army shops is ready for us, or when there is something to buy for the upkeep of the cars, or when a new volunteer comes to join us. Of course, the government will give us anything we need for the upkeep of the cars, but one is allowed to apply only on certain given days of each month for certain things, while others are applied for on other days. This often means a delay of many days before one can begin to repair the car, because not only must the proper day of application be waited for, but several days elapse between the application and the arrival of the material. Consequently it is often best to send to Chalons and buy what is needed. We would send there oftener could we have more petrol, but while en repos we are allowed only 25 litres a day! As we have twenty-five cars, which have to be cleaned and tested in addition to routine work, every motorist will realize that we are much like interned prisoners. If this lack of essence merely meant our incapacity to get the mail or enjoy an occasional bath no one would mind, but its chief effect is to delay our work. There is no doubt that the brains running the automobile service of the army are not the most brilliant in France. French officers with whom I have spoken admit the criticisms I have made, but advance as an excuse the fact that the service is vastly more complicated than was ever imagined before the war. While this is perfectly true, it does not excuse putting persons in command of it who station a convoy such as ours where there is no water for the radiators, where the cars sink to their hubs in a swamp, and who do not realize that a considerable amount of essence is needed for keeping the cars in proper condition. We have never yet been unable to do whatever work was asked of us, but this is because we have gone ahead on our own and bought from time to time many hundreds of litres of essence when we foresaw that we would be held up for lack of it. This is all dull to write, and dull for you to read, but perhaps it will make you realize that it is aggravating for the men to have to live through it, and you will understand why a mere general readiness to do anything is not the only or the most important characteristic that volunteers must possess.
The foregoing will also make clear to you why we need neither doctors nor nurses. Our work is the transport of the wounded, and we provide no opportunities for either doctors or nurses to practise their ministrations. What we need are, first and foremost, good motorists, and it is practically essential that they should know some French. Many of the writers whose letters I have sent to you express a delightful confidence that they can learn enough of the vernacular on their voyage out to render their service effective. It is a shame to dash cold water on such pleasing beliefs, but the fact is they are hopelessly wrong. They are like the man who, when asked if he played the violin, replied, "I don't know; I have never tried." Still, the general spirit and tone of the letters is fine. It is certain that we can get all the men we need if we can get others to give us money to bring them over, and I have n't a doubt there are plenty of people who cannot come themselves but who will be glad to send out someone else. If the White House sheltered an eagle instead of a pouter-pigeon, there would be enough volunteers to man the v hole ambulance service of the French Army, and it would be well done too.
AT FIELD HEADQUARTERS, FRANCE,
January 15, 1918.
At this date it is scarcely necessary to tell you that the old American Volunteer Motor-Ambulance Corps, which was started even before you knew me in 1914, has now ceased to exist, but I will ask you to convey the substance of the following report to all those so generous Americans who have, during the last three terrible years, provided us with the means to continue our work. There will be also some few English friends to send this report to, because, although, as you remember, we never appealed openly to the English public, but always sought for the money to support our ambulance service from our own people, there were a certain number of our English cousins who gave us help, feeling that there was no question of nationality in this work of service to the wounded, and who also felt that there was immaterial, but very important gain, whenever American and English effort were brought together for one common cause.
In writing this report of the work we have done during the last year of our existence, I feel at first drawn to write, as I have done before, a summary of the actual effort in the line of caring for the wounded that we have carried out; but now that our work is ended and our Volunteer Corps is disbanded there is, perhaps, another point of view which had better be considered as being of greater value in the final estimate of the work we have accomplished. Were I to recount the days and nights spent rolling along the ruined roads, the watches kept by our volunteers at the advanced posts, the story of the perpetual hazards which they ran while fulfilling their unselfish task, I should be but in a large measure repeating the story I have already recounted more than once since the winter of 1914-15 I shall tell something of this in the following pages, but there is no question that a great change has come over the whole aspect of the war zone since America finally made up her slow considered mind to join forces with the Allies; and there are things which I think both for the moment, and for after years, are of more importance to put down in black and white than the mere story of the discomfort or dangers, or any other daily happenings that we have experienced.
I have had three years of actual experience at the front and can speak with a certain unquestionable clearness about the development of the ambulance and hospital service. As I look over our records, I am struck very forcibly by the change that has been suffered by the American mind. I well remember how, in the autumn of 1914, I was thought to be more or less unreasonable and over-enthusiastic when I undertook to take ambulances manned by Americans to the French front. As I look back on it now, I feel infinitely more than repaid by the work that I know we have accomplished for the trouble that I then had in convincing those of my compatriots who desired to be neutral that the work was worthy even of their highest neutral aspirations and for the bother I had with our former leaders, and now Allies, in convincing them that the work could be accomplished by those who came from a so-called neutral race. Did one not have the documents before one, it would be difficult to believe that Americans had been willing three short but so intensely pregnant years ago to express themselves as they then did. There is in my files a letter of November, 1914, from Miss Boardman, the then head of the American Red Cross, saying, "Personally I should very much like to send Mr. Norton a small contribution, but I find our officers (of the Red Cross) think it dangerous to establish this precedent." It was about the same time that I received a letter from my brother in New York in answer to one of mine in which I had asked him to request the Committee of the University Club to put on their Bulletin Board a notice of the needs of the American Hospital in Paris, in which he told me that the Committee could not do this as they felt such action might throw some fog of misunderstanding upon their presumed neutrality. It was in that winter of the war, before the trenches had become almost as prominent a monument of western Europe as the Chinese Wall in the eastern-when men were being left for days untended in the churches and school-houses where we found them, when transport of all sorts was still unorganized and difficult- that I suggested using one of our cars as a Kitchen Car to take supplies to the wounded. It must be that in my first appeal for funds to maintain this car I spoke of using it not only to give food to the wounded, but to give hot soup to the fighting men in the trenches, because I find in looking over the files a mass of correspondence from friends in America, some of whom are now wearing the American uniform, telling me that I was letting my enthusiasm run away with my common sense; that it was utterly contrary to all rules and regulations the Geneva Conference had laid down for the Red Cross for ambulance workers to provide nourishment for the fighters, and that were this done I should probably get our Volunteer Ambulance Corps into serious difficulties. We all know that hindsight is more certain than foresight, and what my critics of those days failed to realize was that I had the hindsight of a few weeks of war, which enabled me to see that all international contracts between the Germanic and the Anglo-Saxon race had achieved a Judaslike immortality.
When one thinks that last autumn, before the American Army took over our ambulance service, the Red Cross had undertaken to maintain as many convoys on the French front as I could secure recruits for and the French needed, that they are now maintaining canteens, to feed both fighters and wounded, as near the line of battle as is practicably possible, that they are expending their money exactly as much for the strikers as for the stricken, one cannot but be grateful for the change of mind which has come over our country. It was under this growing change in point of view that our work this last year has been carried out, while at the beginning of the year we were still limited by more or less financial stringency we saw the clouds gradually breaking and the possibility of developing our service. Whether the Red Cross would have been able to maintain and develop the ambulance service for the French Army along the lines which we amateur volunteers had first laid down once the country had come into the war will, I suppose, always be a moot question. In my own mind, there is absolutely no shadow of doubt that it could have been done and ought to have been done. There were in France at the time we declared war, and later, when the army authorities took over the service, some thousands of men who had been anywhere from three years to three months at the front. I have yet to see the reason why a system should have been devised in Washington which did away with the existing plan. This was done, however, and the Red Cross has thereby been able to save a certain amount of money and turn it into use for canteens, hospitals, and other services which have arisen since we declared war.
To go back a little to more personal events: Before leaving London a year ago, when I wrote my last report, I made another effort to persuade the British government to accept an ambulance convoy similar to the one which was working with the French. Although this idea of mine met with a sympathetic reception from many Englishmen of influence, the military authorities did not find it possible to accept. So I returned to France to take up my work there. As the winter drew on, it became more and more evident that America was soon going to enter the conflict, and one proof of this was the increasing interest shown in our ambulance service-the interest which made us certain that we would be able to support a constantly increasing number of convoys.
[A detailed account of the work of the corps up to the summer of 1917 must be omitted for considerations of space.]
Towards the end of August, I was called to Paris, to meet Colonel Kean, who had just arrived to take charge of the ambulance service. He very kindly offered me, Kemp, and the others, who formed what I might call my staff, commissions in his service. This, however, was of necessity to be so different from the one we had managed for the past three years that we none of us saw our way to accept his offer, and from this time till the end of October we were kept very busy trying to help the transference of our service to the army authorities. Accompanied by Major Murphy, who most generously gave us a week of his time, I visited all the sections. At each of them, I told the men that while the time for their services as volunteers has passed, I should expect every one of them to do something for our country. In my mind it made no difference whether they stayed on in the ambulance service or took up some other line of work, but work of some sort they must do; that no one could make up their minds for them, but they must use their consciences, and do their duty as they saw it. Major Murphy spoke to them, in much the same sense, but he added that the most selfish thing he had ever done was going to the Cuban War when he ought to have stayed at home.
That they did do as I asked them and obeyed their consciences I am convinced, for some seventy per cent of the men then enrolled in our ranks are now in one branch or another of the army.
At this time I was very bitterly criticized, because when it became evident that only a small number of our men were going to continue in the army ambulance service, I was accused of having attempted to dissuade them. This was a complete misunderstanding of my position. From the beginning many men had used our service as a stepping stone to reach the fighting branches. Before America declared war, several had gone into the British Army, and after war had been declared a very large number joined us in a belief that turned out to have no foundation that work at the front with us would enable them to get into the fighting ranks quicker than if they stayed at home. Knowing the men as intimately as I did, I was not surprised that they did not wish to continue as ambulance drivers. Practically all of them were by birth and education of the type which in England go to the Officers' Training Camps; one, for instance, had fought in a British tank; others had had charge of large undertakings or had special training, and there was not one who did not prefer, if health allowed him, to share the toil and strain of the fighting men, rather than continue the easier work of ambulance driving. Their decision, as I say, did not surprise me, but I was surprised that men who had only just arrived in France should criticize so bitterly the motives and actions of men, many of whom had been working here since the early days of the war, and all of whom had risked their lives in the cause. Much of this criticism was unquestionably due to the fact that until Colonel Kean arrived, none of us knew what the plans of the government were. As late as August 1st the Red Cross in Washington was cabling Major Murphy to ask whether volunteers for the ambulance service should continue to be sent to France, to which Major Murphy replied that he was ignorant of Colonel Kean's plans, so that the question should be left in abeyance. The matter was further complicated by the fact that our sections were not all on the same footing.
My old original section (No. 7), Mr. Harjes' section (No. 5), and Mr. Goelet's two sections, had been supported during the greater part of their existence without aid from the Red Cross, and many people thought it might be possible for these sections to continue as before and that Colonel Kean would take over only the Red Cross sections. This might have been done, but, as a matter of fact, our army authorities did not wish any volunteer sections to remain at the front.
No matter what causes for misunderstanding existed, the bitter criticism to which the men in our service were subjected was extremely unjust. This is conclusively proved by the fact that I have mentioned above, that the great majority of them, without waiting to be drafted, at once entered one or another branch of the army.
Shortly after Colonel Kean's arrival, the army took over our camp at Sandricourt, and our sections began to be recalled. Towards the end of October I went to the front to say goodbye to General Dauvin and the officers and men with whom we had so long been associated, and on the 19th I accompanied Section 7 back to Paris. It had served exactly three years to a day and thus had had a longer and more continuous existence than any other volunteer section in France. I cannot state at this time just how many wounded we had carried, but it was several tens of thousands, and except when our division was en repos, the section had never been withdrawn from the line. Personally, I look back on the three years' work with unclouded satisfaction and consider myself most highly fortunate to have had such friends to help me, such men to lead, and such heroes as the French officers and poilus to help. My spirit is exalted at the memory of these men and my heart goes out to them in gratitude and pride.
But one bit of work remained for me to do and this was to arrange for the disposal of our cars and funds. These according to the Charity Laws of England, under which Section 7 had been organized and incorporated, could be given only to some charitable body or institution, so we gave our cars to the American Red Cross, while our funds are to be given to that part of the 21st Division of the French Army with which we served so long, to serve to alleviate the sufferings of the widows, orphans, and mutilated soldiers of the division. Thus from a very small acorn grew a tree in whose restful shade the memory of the American volunteers will be kept green long after our names are forgotten.
The confidential nature of Richard Norton's service as a civilian employee of the Naval Intelligence Department of the United States in Paris from the ending of his ambulance work in October, 1917, till his death on August 2, 1918, places the details of that service outside the field of public record. It may be said, however, that the work he did was counted of the utmost value by his superiors. His greater work, and that of his comrades, in the ambulance service, held a large, if imponderable value in its effect upon public opinion in America. Through affording the citizens of a neutral nation whose hearts were from the beginning with the Allies a practical medium for the expression of sympathy, no less than through his own heroic personal services, Richard Norton made a name for himself which should be remembered with perpetual honor.
In the general orders of the French Army Corps to which Norton and his associates were attached, his valor and theirs, in September, 1915, and again in July, 1916, were recognized in the following citations:
Adjoint au commandant de la Section sanitaire anglo-américaine pendant les combats du 25 septembre et des jours suivants, a fait preuve du plus grand dévouement et du plus beau courage, en conduisant lui-même ses voitures de jour et de nuit dans les zones dangereuses et en donnant à toute sa section l'exemple d'une endurance poussée jusqu'à l'épuisement de ses forces.
La Section sanitaire automobile américaine No. 7, sous les ordres de son chef, M. Norton, a fait, depuis plus de vingt mois, constamment preuve de l'esprit de sacrifice le plus complet, et rendu les plus grands services à la division à laquelle elle est attachée en assurant la relève des blessés dans les meilleures conditions. Il n'est pas un seul de ses membres qui ne soit un modèle de sang-froid et d'abnégation. Plusieurs d'entre eux ont été blessés.