BASE HOSPITAL No. 5 WHO MADE
THE SUPREME SACRIFICE
THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED
|CAPTAIN CHARLES R. RUND
CAPTAIN HARRY A. BULLOCK
LIEUTENANT WILLIAM FITZSIMMONS
LIEUTENANT RAE WHIDDEN
SERGEANT WALTER SULLIVAN
PRIVATE OSCAR C. TUGO
PRIVATE RUDOLPH RUBINO
PRIVATE COLIN CAMPBELL
BUGLER LESLIE G. WOODS
PRIVATE JOHN LYDON
|MISS ROSE K. BUTLER
DR. HARVEY CUSHING
DR. HENRY LYMAN
DR. GILBERT HORRAX
DR. HOWARD M. CLUTE
DR. JOHN J. MORTON
DR. EDWARD B. TOWNE
LAWRENCE W. CAIN
GLEN A. ROBERTSON
CARL D. CLIFFORD
MONTGOMERY C. REED
DURING the summer of 1918, when "The Vanguard " was being published with its accustomed irregularity, the idea of a book that would have a personal touch in it was conceived --- something on the same idea as a college year book, to contain personal write-ups of every member of the unit.
However financial difficulties and labor troubles in the French printing offices could not be overcome and for that reason the plan was temporarily forgotten.
Immediately after the armistice the idea took root again and steps were immediately taken to get together pen sketches of every officer, nurse and enlisted man in the unit, with the result that this book is now placed before the members of Base Hospital No. 5 and their friends.
It is hoped that the members of the old outfit will be interested in the pages that follow and that this book will bring back old memories of the days in Picardy.
IT seems quite fitting that, as an introduction, a few words of description should be written about the "Pas de Calais," that portion of Picardy and Lower Flanders in which Base Hospital No. 5 labored in liaison with the troops of Britain and her allies. The "Pas de Calais" derived its name from that narrow strip of turbulent water which separates England from France, now known as the Strait of Dover but in former times called "The Passage of Calais." History recalls only too often how the combatant forces of Britain have landed expedition after expedition on these same steep-cuffed shores for the purpose of invading French Territory. There also remain along the Northern Shores of France many historic ruins which testify of stupendous efforts made by conquering Roman and Norman and later French Generals who sought to invade the land of the Briton. Is it any wonder, then, that the native "patois" of Picardy viewed with suspicion the coming of their British Allies to their Shores ? They feared that the English would propose a "peaceful invasion" and that, at the termination of the war, would not relinquish their claims to the Channel Ports and passage.
It is not astonishing that the innocent peasant of Picardy should hold these suspicions for the reconstruction work undertaken by the British to make the Ports of Calais and Boulogne navigable for troop, munition and hospital ships; also the extensive construction of standard and narrow-gauge railways and sidings, to facilitate the movement of troops and munitions, were of such permanent nature and character, that permanent occupation by the British seemed inevitable. As we are primarily concerned only with the Medical Department or Royal Army Medical Corps, as they are termed in the British Army, we will but lightly touch upon the arrangement of hospitals, and the general system of handling the sick and wounded, before commencing the actual history of Base Hospital No. 5.
In all armies the advanced medical service is practically the same, because, even under the best of conditions, the treatment of wounded at the advanced posts can be only in the nature of "first aid." Invaluable work was performed by teams of eminent surgeons, British and American, at the Casualty Clearing Stations where they were called upon to perform delicate operations under heavy artillery fire and bombardment. However, the greater part of the surgical and medical treatment is given in the British General Hospital which corresponds to the Evacuation Hospitals which did such effective work in the A. E. F.
Owing to the large number of casualties, particularly during an "offensive," it becomes necessary to handle the wounded rapidly. It was for this reason that a system of General Hospitals, each with varying capacities from 500 to 2,000 patients, was organized along the main lines of communication on the British front. Thus it was that hospitals for the care of wounded on the Ypres-Armentieres-Arras sectors were located along the main lateral line of communication, Calais, Boulogne, Etaples, while Le Treport-Abbeville-Amiens-Rouen and Le Havre served for the areas of the Somme Battlefield.
Especially equipped ambulance trains assisted by efficiently organized corps of ambulance drivers, among whom were many brave and loyal Englishwomen (Voluntary Aid Detachment), made the task of transporting wounded a highly perfected organization. Throughout the war Britain suffered from the shortage of surgeons and physicians as well as other medical attendants. It was early in 1917 that this shortage reached a very acute stage, and America, whose entry in the World War was imminent, was appealed to by the British War Department for the loan of Medical Units as soon as possible.
Shortly after the Mexican trouble in 1916 the American Red Cross, with the sanction of the administration, had decided to organize Base Hospitals for use in case of necessity. Such were the events which led up to the formation of Base Hospital No. 5.
At the time diplomatic relations were severed with Germany there were about twenty-five enlisted men on the rolls while the ranks of officers and nurses had been filled for some months. Captain Reynolds was in charge of the enrolment of the men and the enrolment was carried on at the Office of the Boston Elevated.
It was decided that in order to convince the public that the unit was prepared, a hospital would be erected on Boston Common and maintained there for two weeks in May, 1917. An article describing the hospital appeared in the leading Sunday papers of April 29, 1917. That same day, however, orders came for the immediate mobilization of the unit for foreign service. All members were notified to report at once at the Harvard Medical School Monday night for their physical examination and the paper the following morning contained an advertisement demanding men for immediate service abroad. This advertisement was a huge success in that it brought almost a thousand volunteers to headquarters within the next few days. The remainder of the week was devoted to physical examinations, urgent dental work and drills.
On Sunday, May 7, a service for the personnel was held in St. Paul's Cathedral. The men were taken from the Harvard Medical School in automobiles to Charles Street. Here the company was formed and marched across the Common to service. The Cathedral was filled to overflowing with guests, military representatives and friends of the unit. The service was most impressive and tended to make the personnel realize that it was not a pleasant expedition upon which the unit was about to start. Chaplain Peabody addressed the unit for the first time at this service. At the close the unit's colors were blessed.
After the service the men were carried to the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital where lunch was served them and where Major Patterson took command. The men were then dismissed with orders to report Monday morning prepared to entrain for New York.
The following morning at seven-thirty the roll was called and special cars took us to the South Station. A large number of our friends had gathered here but smiles and happiness were absent in their expression, and at the last minute many of the unit began to realize for the first time the magnitude of the enterprise. We all had our illusions and the most of us hastened to assure those we left behind that we would be home for Christmas. Photographers were on the stand early and many pictures were taken which appeared the following day in the daily papers.
At nine o'clock we entrained on one of the best troop trains that ever left Boston. There were Pullman cars for the officers and nurses and all new steel coaches for the men. As we left the South Station many of us felt a huge lump in our throats, and on the faces of those we were leaving there was expressed a helplessness that was unforgetable.
The trip to New York was full of amusing incidents. One of the men jumped off the train at Providence, and deserted. The coffee served at noon is especially well remembered, because of the fact that it was served in waxed paper cups which immediately began to leak when the hot coffee was poured in. It became a problem to drink it faster than it ran out.
At three-thirty we reached the Grand Central Station and as we marched through the station to the Elevated a fine reception was given us. From the Elevated we went aboard a Government boat which took us to Fort Totten. The nurses in the meantime were quartered in New York.
Our first meal at Fort Totten was something of a revelation. Only the fact that we were starved after our long trip induced us to eat at all, for the food didn't exactly tend to remind us of the homes which had been left behind. We were assigned to barracks and spent our first night in a good sleep. It must be admitted that we were rather cold, for being unused to army cots it never occurred to us that we would need as many blankets under us as we would over us.
On May 9 our uniforms were issued and after trying them on and getting settled everybody made a grand rush for Broadway. Here the mere words, "We sail for France Friday," was enough to assure us anything we wanted.
The following day, Thursday, May 10, was given to drills and more departures for Broadway. Most of us retired in good season, for we knew that we would leave early in the morning on the next leg of the great adventure.
At seven o'clock Friday, May 11, the work of moving our equipment aboard the boat commenced, and about eight-thirty we started down toward New York. It was a wonderful May day, the spring breeze whipped the waters into whitecaps, and brought the color to our cheeks. We stood around in groups singing and talking almost all the way into New York. As we neared the city the noise became almost deafening. It seemed as if all the whistles in New York were vying with each other to see who should give us the best send-off. It was a wonderful day and more impressive than words can tell. How often we thought of it in the long dreary months that followed!
We landed at Pier 57 and went directly aboard the "Saxonia," where we were assigned to quarters, four men to a stateroom, which was far better than troops traveled that followed us. But at this time the deck had greater charms for us, and we were soon all congregated amidships, where the boys were all yelling for Captain Reynolds to speak to us. He did give us a little talk but was too broken up because he was unable to accompany us, to say very much. He was followed by Lieutenant Villeret, who had become the idol of every man in the unit in the few days that he had been with us.
We cleared New York at about one o'clock and slowly started toward Sandy Hook. We were overtaken a little way out by a Government tug with provisions. They succeeded in getting them all aboard with a few exceptions and we steamed on to Sandy Hook, where we anchored until dark. Then with all lights extinguished and all port holes closed we sneaked out of New York Harbor.
It was a lonesome night as we leaned over the rail watching the lights of Long Island disappearing from view. Probably then for the first time the immensity of our undertaking came over us, together with the realization that perhaps after all we might never see our friends again.
The following days were much alike; reveille was held at six o'clock, then after breakfast and inspections there were drills, lectures, guard duty and fatigues until after retreat at six o'clock. Occasional entertainments served to break the monotony, and at night after dark we all gathered in the dining room for a good sing or a quiet game of cards. So the days passed, and at last orders were issued that from May 19 until the end of the voyage we should wear our life belts constantly. So we entered the danger zone, and for three anxious days plowed along, ever on the alert for a chance submarine, and always sleeping with our nerves on edge ready to leap at a moment's notice. One eventful night several ships were sunk in our path and our course was diverted in consequence, so that we missed our convoy and passed through the most hazardous part of our journey without protection.
At last on May 21 our convoy arrived and we were told that we would be in sight of land the following day. All arose early in order to catch the first glimpse of England; but a fog shut in soon after sunrise and we continued along in silence until about noon when suddenly the fog lifted and there before us was a rocky promontory. Then the fog shut down again, and when it raised we were in Falmouth Harbor. There on all sides of us were hills rising abruptly from the water and all the most wonderful shade of green, while a lighthouse of purest white made the view more beautiful by contrast. But we were rudely awakened from our dreams by the voice of the top-sergeant looking for men for a baggage detail. However, we fell to work with enthusiasm, for we were all anxious to get ashore.
Late in the evening a lighter came alongside the "Saxonia." To this we were transferred and were soon alongside the dock. From here we marched to the station and by ten o'clock went aboard our train. The men of the unit were sent to Blackpool, while the nurses and most of the officers were taken to London. All that night we sped on our way and all the next morning our route lay across the beautiful countryside, where everything was so fresh and green.
About noon we arrived in Blackpool and as we stepped from the train we were confronted by a British military band. As we finished detraining they struck up the "Star-spangled Banner." It is doubtful if there was a man present who could say that it didn't bring a lump to his throat. It was a touch of America three thousand miles from home. As we snapped down our salute, as the last note of the music died away, the order to fall in was given and then squads right, so, with colors unfurled and headed by the band, we made our entrance into Blackpool, England. The streets were crowded on either side and we were accorded a fine welcome as we marched to our quarters on Albert Road.
There were few restrictions for us during our stay in Blackpool, and as we were the first Americans, the freedom of the city was granted us. For six days we were permitted to come and go as we liked. There were occasional drills to be sure, But the authorities were inclined to treat breaches of discipline leniently so nobody took them too seriously. Our days in this city were very pleasant, the only regret being that there were not more of them. As it was, they furnished topic for discussion around the stove in F Hut on many a cold and lonesome winter evening.
On the evening of Wednesday, May 29, we entrained and traveled all night across England to Folkstone, arriving there at six-thirty the following morning. This was only a few days after the terrible air raid on this city, and the ruined buildings and fresh graves were our first glimpse of what war can mean to the civilian population.
We marched from the train to a rest camp where we had breakfast, and then every one made a rush for the Y. M; C. A. hut, where an extemporaneous concert was staged by our unit and Tommies. Last letters home were written at this time, for it was well known that we should cross the Channel that afternoon and nobody could foretell what lay ahead of us.
About noon we were ordered to fall in with full equipment and were transferred to another rest camp nearer the wharves, where we had our midday meal. And such a meal! Nothing had ever tasted so good it seemed, and we ate to our hearts' content. How often in the months that followed we wished to be back there again.
After dinner we marched across pleasant leas where bands were playing, then on down to the docks, where we went aboard the "Princess Victoria." Here we were joined by the nurses and officers. Our trip across the Channel was made in a dense fog and at a speed that fairly took away the breath. We were soon across and in the quay at Boulogne, where a band waited to escort us to the rest camp.
As we swung up the street behind the band the French people broke all bounds; women rushed between ranks to embrace us and the cries of "Les Américains" and "Vive l'Amérique" preceded us so that people kept gathering all along the route of march. We were the first American troops they had seen and our equipment was a source of never-ending attraction to them.
As we marched into the rest camp near the base of Napoleon's Column we were greeted with enthusiastic cheers from the Tommies, of whom there were several thousand. Here a meal awaited us, to which we were able to do full justice. Our quarters were then assigned and we were soon fast asleep. Thus ended Memorial Day, '17, and it must be admitted that this day will always be remembered by every member of the unit as one of the red-letter days of his life.
Reveille refused to arouse us the next morning and only the notice that it was a case of get up or go hungry could interest us at all. But eventually all were up, quarters were policed, and we were prowling about camp, for we were not allowed to leave the camp area at this time. In the middle of the afternoon we fell in again and marched to another station, where all were obliged to wait several hours for our train, due to the fact that traffic was terribly congested because of moving troops into the Ypres Sector. But eventually our train came and we all piled in regardless; but our ride this time was brief, and in about an hour we were ordered to fall in at the side of the train and then we got our first view of our future home.
Seldom does one find, in the devastated areas of Northern France, a more ideal spot for a war-hospital camp than that at Dannes-Camiers, where Base Hospital No. 5 first saw "active service" with the British Army on the Line of Communication. The twin villages of Dannes and Camiers, that share a single railway station located equidistant between the two towns, are situated in the heart of the cement and pasturage regions for which Northern France was noted in pre-war days. The "main street" of both villages is the famous Route Nationale No. 2 running between Calais and Paris. In 1914 the men of the village patriotically laid aside the implements of peace and took up those of war in defense of their country, while the women, in order to support themselves and their children, turned their parlors into souvenir shops, cafés or estaminets for their own benefit and that of the soldier population in the cantonment. Stretching in a belt nearly a mile wide, to the west of the two villages, are the picturesque sand dunes covered with coarse sea grass. Across these dunes there are two narrow roads running to St. Cecile Plage and Plage St. Gabriel on the Channel shore.
Both these places had strived to become summer resorts like the neighboring village of Paris Plage across the River Canche, but wind, fire and storm wrought great damage, apparently discouraging the efforts of interested parties. Directly to the east of the railway extends the chain of low green hills which are a continuation of those that have their origin near Cape Griz Nez and continue southward along the shores of France until they lose themselves in the basins of the Canche and Somme rivers in Lower Picardy. It was on these hills behind Dannes and Camiers that Emperor Napoleon mustered the "Grande Armée" when he had planned an invasion of England.
A word should also be said about the old Gothic church at Dannes in which several of the officers, nurses and men of Base Hospital No. 5 worshiped during the summer of 1917. Referring to "Peeps into Picardy" we find that this church is regarded as one of the most curious in the Boulonnais. The nave, of which the vaulting is very fine, dates back to the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, while the choir is of the fifteenth and sixteenth century construction. A Gallo-Roman font of the twelfth century is used in the church.
Besides the two churches, one at Dannes and one in Camiers, there are three Calvarys or roadside shrines that represent the crucifixion of Christ. To these the natives pay greatest reverence either by crossing themselves or kneeling in silent prayer at the foot of the cross in passing.
Thus, in brief, have I attempted to describe these two picturesque villages, around which are entwined so many fond memories of the early days of Base Hospital No. 5 in France. I shall now attempt to draw a word-picture of the hospital area in which we first labored.
Lying to the eastward of the railway line, which traverses the two townships, one finds a broad expanse of beautiful fields, bestrewn with the brilliant wild poppies and other flowers of Northern France. This tract of land, nearly a mile long and a half-mile wide, was one of the areas chosen by the British for a 12,000 bed hospital camp. This area was subdivided into six sections. One general hospital with a capacity of 2,000 patients was to be allotted to each of these sections. It would be difficult for one to imagine the wonderful transformation that was made in this spot, which prior to 1915 had been covered with hay, grain and multicolored' wild flowers.
A wide asphalt and cement road was constructed from the railway crossing at Camiers across the center of the area and nearly to the "Boulonnais Cement Factory," where it formed a loop and returned parallel to the railway back to the crossing. At several points intersecting streets were laid from east to west, thus providing each hospital area with ample facilities for motor traffic.
Electric lighting and telephone lines were installed, and in short every detail for a model village was provided for, excepting the houses. There was a post office ("A. P. O. S. No. 18 ") located at No. 18 General Hospital and an athletic field as well as several tennis courts. At each hospital area there were separate living quarters for officers, nurses and enlisted men. Between 1915 and 1917 very few huts aside from mess halls, kitchens and heavy surgical wards had been provided for. The majority of the patients were cared for in tent wards or "marquise," each having a capacity from 48 to 60 patients. The general arrangement of wards was in a system of "lines" known as A, B or C "lines." The tents or wards were then numbered from 1 to 10 (or as many as there were wards in that particular "line"). Thus we would have Wards A-3, B-8 or C-13, etc.
There were two words in the English language for which every one of us soon realized a new meaning. These were "convoy" and "evacuation"-"convoy" meaning the arrival of a new assignment of patients, and "evacuation" meaning the departure of a number of patients, either stretcher or walking cases.
This is but a brief survey of the new life into which the personnel of Base Hospital No. 5 were entering, when, on May 31, 1917, they reported at British General Hospital No. 11 for duty. They had expected, and came prepared, to care for 500 patients. This hospital had a capacity of 2,000 and was nearly full at all times. It was evident at once that reinforcements would be necessary. In the meantime, many of the V. A. D. nurses assisted in the wards while R. A. M. C. and permanent base men assisted around the outside work.
Our quarters the first night in our new home were large marquise, where sixty of us were assigned beds on stretchers. But sleep was out of the question until all the equipment had been unloaded and packed away in a store tent. A few days later some of the permanent staff of the hospital were ordered away, so we were able to move into the little bell-shaped tents where four could live in comparative comfort. This was about the time of the offensive around Messines Ridge and the hospital was crowded to its capacity most of the time.
Early on the morning following our arrival, after we had policed our quarters, we heard heavy firing from the direction of Boulogne. Soon the guns on the hill just over our camp came into action, and it dawned upon us that a German plane was in the vicinity. It was a new experience for us and we watched with great interest as the shells broke around the tiny silver thing which we were told was a German plane.
The hills back of the camp were always the objective after our day's work was over. There one could relax his tired muscles and rest after a hard day's work. The hills themselves were fire red with the poppies that are so typical of Flanders fields. .
About this time we began to hear rumor of reinforcements, and when mail arrived addressed to some of them, we were sure that we were to have an addition to our unit. At last one dismal day the latter part of July we heard that our reinforcements had arrived, so every one that possibly could rushed to the administration building to see if there was any one he knew, and to get the latest news of home. The general aspect of our reinforcement was in keeping with the day. They had traveled half-way across France in a cattle car and they looked it. But they were from home and in that bunch of forty men we soon found some of the whitest men ever and they in a short while became as much a part of the unit as those of us who had preceded them.
It was on June 9, approximately one month after the departure of Base Hospital No. 5 for overseas service, that a small item appeared in an obscure corner of the Boston Post announcing that forty additional men would be required at once to reinforce the present personnel of Base Hospital No. 5. Voluntary enlistments would be accepted at the Harvard Medical School on the evenings of June 11, 12 and 13. So great had been the interest of the people of New England in the Harvard Medical Unit that over three hundred men clamored for the opportunity of enlisting as reinforcements for this unit on Monday evening (June 11). It was with great difficulty that Captain Reynolds, assisted by competent physicians of the Massachusetts General Hospital, was finally able to select forty physically perfect men for his overseas unit. The forty reinforcements, or as they were later termed, the "Forty Thieves," were sworn into Federal service on June 13 and went into training on June 15 at Fort Strong, Boston, Mass., where they were informally attached to Base Hospital No. 6 (Massachusetts General Hospital), which was then preparing for overseas service.
Sailing from New York July 11 on board the Royal Mail steamship "Aurania," after many diverse incidents, they finally arrived at Camiers, France, on July 30. Fifteen new Red Cross nurses, the majority of them being from Virginia and Maryland, had just joined Base Hospital No. 5 and a few more doctors were soon to be added, thus bringing the personnel of the unit up to war strength.
During the month of August, there is little to record of interest. Rain fell incessantly for a week. There was clear weather for a few days and then more rain. British No. 11 General Hospital, located in the lowest corner of the area, was in a semi-flooded condition a large part of the time. Several men from the machine-gun school were given the opportunity of digging drains in the camp while they were supposed to be on rest. It was during the month of August that the British delivered their severest blows against the German armies in the Ypres Sector and the salient around the city of Lens. The capture of Hill Seventy by the Canadian troops on August 16 rendered the Lens position difficult to hold by the Germans as the Canadians held all the high ground on three sides of the city.
Casualties were heavy on all sides during these offensive and defensive operations and the personnel of all hospitals were kept busy day and night. Over five thousand patients were cared for by Base Hospital No. 5 during the month of August. During the night of August 26-27 a violent storm swept across the northern part of France which resulted in much damage to property. At No. 18 General Hospital (U. S. Base Hospital No. 12) nearly all the large hospital tents were uncovered or blown down. Thanks to the splendid work done by English laborers, under the supervision of Sergeant Miner, our tents remained in good condition throughout the ordeal. Our loss was restricted to two pack tents, carpenter shop, church and recreation tents and a few bell tents. On the evening of September 2 some excitement was experienced in camp when German aeroplanes made a successful raid on Boulogne.
As a signal of warning, at the approach of enemy aircraft, the electric lights would give two short flashes and then be extinguished until danger was passed.
To the uninitiated reader, it may be of interest to know how the approach of the enemy planes is detected. Every one has heard at some time the droning of a gasoline or electric motor and is aware that different motors have different vibrations. Allied and enemy planes were accordingly tuned differently. At several points in the rear of the lines there were tuning forks adjusted to detect the vibration of enemy motors. As soon as a plane came within range the tuning fork would pick up the vibration, and the warning would be relayed immediately to points farther in the rear.
On the evening of September 3 an attempt by the Germans to raid the English coast was made but it was successfully repulsed by the coast defense guns. The following day, about noon, a photographic scouting plane came over our area. The weather was clear and the air crisp, thus making ideal conditions for photographic work. The anti-aircraft guns, both mobile and stationary, did valuable work in keeping the plane at a very high altitude. Some criticism was heard concerning Colonel Patterson's desire to have the Stars and Stripes flying over the hospital area from such a tall flag-pole. It is believed by some to be possible that a photograph of this camp, showing the United States flag flying overhead, was secured and that, as a warning to other Americans who were to follow us into the battlefields of France, we should be made the objective of an aerial attack in spite of the fact that we were a hospital unit and therefore classified as non-combatants.
Be that as it may, we know not what was in the minds of the Germans when, in the evening of September 4, they dispatched their mission of death, having as their objective an American Base Hospital caring for two thousand sick and wounded patients.
There had been an attempted raid on the English coast earlier in the evening which had apparently failed. At ten-thirty we received a warning that enemy planes were approaching along the coast. The anti-aircraft guns at Sainte Cecile Plage and at Neufchatel were actively employed for a few minutes but were soon quiet and the all-clear was sounded. At ten fifty-five P.M., without any warning whatsoever, and while all lights in the vast twelve thousand bed hospital area were illuminating the camp, an enemy aeroplane suddenly swooped down over the brim of the circle of high hills from the direction of Etaples. A few minutes prior to this incident a loud report as of the crashing of a bomb had been heard from that direction, but by those who had heard it, it was mistaken for the report of an anti-aircraft battery.
Lieutenant William Fitzsimmons, who had recently been appointed adjutant of Base Hospital No. 5, was among those who heard the first report, and fearing the possible approach of enemy planes had summoned the sentry, Private Hiram Brower, to ascertain the cause of the violent explosion. Having answered the question of the adjutant, the guard resumed the patrol of his post. Scarcely a minute had elapsed when another more violent explosion occurred, caused by the dropping of an aerial torpedo on General Hospital No. 18. Fortunately no damage was done as it dropped in the center of the athletic field tearing a deep hole several yards in diameter. Then swinging his plane in a semicircular course, a bomb of the smaller type was dropped into the reception tent of No. 4 General Hospital, followed almost immediately by two bombs that dropped within eighteen inches of each other in front of Lieutenant Fitzsimmons' tent, two others at each end of Ward C-6 and another in the reception tent of No. 11 General Hospital. Lieutenant William Fitzsimmons was instantly killed by the first two bombs to be dropped on Base Hospital No. 5, while the flying fragments wounded Lieutenants Rae Whidden, Thaddeus Smith, Clarence McGuire and Private Hiram Brower. Fragments from the two bombs which were dropped on Ward C-6 killed Private Oscar Tugo and several patients, while other patients were wounded and large portions of the ward were wrecked.
Miss Eva Parmelee, who was the nurse on duty in C-6, narrowly escaped being wounded, her dress having been penetrated by flying shrapnel. Throughout the trying ordeal, she remained cool and collected, ministering to the newly wounded and comforting others. Her splendid service later won honorary mention from General Pershing and she has the honor of being the first American nurse to have been awarded the Military Medal by His Majesty King George V.
The last and most fatal bomb to be dropped resulted in the death of Privates Woods and Rubino, while among those wounded were Privates Mason, Sloane, Stanion and McLeod. Five amputations were necessary in the case of Aubrey S. McLeod, whose legs were shattered by the terrific force of the explosion.
Great credit must be given to Major Elliott C. Cutler and his able assistants in the operating room as well as to Major Brown in the X-ray Department, whose efficient co-operation made quick and accurate surgical assistance possible in the emergency.
Private Allen Mason, who had suffered wounds in the head and legs, continued to carry stretchers and assist his comrades in spite of his wounds. For his heroic and self-sacrificing conduct, he was mentioned for decoration in despatches to His Majesty King George.
For the first time since the entry of America into the Great War, the Stars and Stripes were flown at half-mast over the encampment of an American organization, No. 11 (Harvard, U. S. A.) General Hospital, in honor of those who had made the supreme sacrifice. Burial services were held Friday, September 7, in the military cemetery at Etaples. An attempt was made to have a memorial service on Sunday evening, September 9, but it was suddenly terminated by air-raid warnings.
Busy times were in store for the men in camp during the next few days and the axiom that "self-preservation is the first law of nature" was given a fair try-out. Everyone was expected to dig a trench around his tent in which he might seek shelter in the event of further raids. Ernie Silva, who always aimed to be ahead of every one else in the matter of self-protection, tried to make a one-man dugout but his efforts proved a failure. Added to the atrocities already committed upon us, a new method of raid warning was devised. Three one-minute blasts from the cement factory whistle served as the warning while five shorter blows were used for the all-clear. During September and October it is safe to say that nearly every one in Base Hospital No. 5 experienced the sensation of waking from a peaceful slumber in a panic-stricken condition upon hearing the whistle shriek out its warning that oftentimes proved to be a false alarm.
About the middle of September, the first attempt at journalism was made by some members of Base Hospital No. 5. "The Daily Whizzbang," edited under the management of Ernie Silva, enjoyed tremendous success. During the period of its publication it attracted considerable attention, particularly that of Lieutenant Colonel Patterson who had occasion to interview Private Silva quite frequently upon the ethics of journalism, especially in the Army. October in Camiers was noted chiefly on account of the steady rains which fell without cessation for days at a time. Late in October it became evident that the protests filed with the War Office in London and the War Department in Washington by Lieutenant Colonel Patterson concerning the lack of sanitation and proper health protection in No. 11 General Hospital area were at last to be heeded.
Rumors regarding the future plans of Base Hospital No. 5 were current every day. The most persistent rumors were that we were being considered for either St. Omer or Boulogne. Definite action was soon to follow. It was decided to evacuate No. 11 General Hospital and transfer Base Hospital No. 5 to the Casino at Boulogne (No. 13 General Hospital). The personnel of No. 13 General Hospital which was entirely British R. A. M. C. were moved to No. 11 General Hospital, which was sent to Italy for duty with the British Army on the Piave. ,
The formal transfer was made on November 1, 1917.
Upon arrival at the Casino, the officers, nurses and men found an abundance of work ahead of them. The hospital, which cared for about six hundred and fifty patients, was taxed to its capacity. It was evident that the former staff had been unable to give a great deal of attention to the cleanliness of the wards or special care to the patients. It was necessary, therefore, to evolve an efficient system of management in our new home and to conduct a thorough cleaning of the hospital wards and surroundings.
Formerly No. 13 General Hospital had been regarded as an evacuation hospital owing to its easy access to the hospital ships in port nearby. However, owing to the excellent shelter that the one-time brilliantly illuminated and gayly thronged halls, cafes and ballrooms of the Casino afforded to the seriously wounded patients, and to the fact that Base Hospital No. 5 had an expert corps of surgeons and physicians, it was decided to change No. 13 General Hospital into a heavy surgical hospital, with provisions for caring for as many medical cases as space would permit. Four huts, A, B, C, D, on the Casino grounds were filled with medical cases. Two others were assigned as sleeping quarters for the men. The officers were billeted in town and the nurses were located in the Marine Hotel, directly across the street from the Casino.
Early in the first week of occupation the sergeants, cooks and night men were removed from E and F huts and installed in the battleship gray bathing wagons, which were placed around the band stand in the circle. This was a distinct innovation in housing accommodations "on active service." Some of the men made comfortable homes therefrom. Sergeants Campbell, Miner and Newhall set the precedent for the French people by having electric lights installed in their "bath-house" homes.
Sergeant Bartlett and Sergeant Tobey, assisted by a small staff, made an important contribution to Base Hospital No. 5, by producing for general distribution the first issue of "The Vanguard," a real magazine, edited by members of the unit for themselves and their friends. This little publication, which continually increased in size and popularity among the friends and relatives of Base Hospital No. 5, has been eagerly read by all who have seen it. Its pages, which will be preserved in the Harvard War Library, will testify to at least one permanent contribution of the personnel of the Harvard Unit in the Great War.
During November the first furloughs were granted to members of the unit. Bartlett and Couture were the two lucky men to be first selected. Paris was the "Mecca" to which leave tourists journeyed. The brilliant tales of adventures on the boulevards of the great metropolis which were brought back by those returning made every one anxious for his turn to come.
The first Thanksgiving in France was properly celebrated by all members of the unit. Turkey dinner with all the fixings was served in E hut. Food Controller "Pop" Steffens told everyone that "all youse need is a knife, fork and spoon, tres bon." After-dinner speeches were made by Sergeant Donovan, Butch Hall and others. When the festivities of the dinner hour were concluded an old-fashioned "horrible parade" was arranged for the entertainment of the patients. Later in the day the D.D.M.S. attempted to stop the parade in the downtown streets, because it attracted too much attention. The astonished medical director failed to account for such antics and inquired of Colonel Patterson over the telephone what sort of a holiday the men were celebrating.
On December 3, the Whizzbang Concert Troupe, composed of artists of Base Hospital No. 5, gave a concert in the Church Army Hut, for the personnel, patients and others who were able to gain admission. A real American minstrel show with up-to-date songs and jokes was a distinct novelty to Englishmen and a great deal of praise was extended to those whose efforts made it a success. Several concerts were given later by the members of the troupe at the various hospitals, Y.M.C.A. and convalescent camps.
On the evening of December 22, Boulogne suffered the misfortune of experiencing an unheralded air-raid. It occurred early in the evening while there were many people on the streets. In the brief interval of three minutes, bombs had been dropped at several points in the Basin Loubet and along Rue Constantine. On the latter thoroughfare, there were many casualties, among them men, women and children. The personnel of Base Hospital No. 5 and No. 2 Canadian Hospital were kept busy long into the night caring for the wounded and removing the dead from the streets. Though this was one of the briefest raids on the Boulonnais, it proved to be one of the most costly in both lives and property.
As the Christmas holidays approached many preparations were made to entertain the British patients as well as our own personnel, for the Christmas season means more to the Englishman than any of the other holidays. Christmas trees were placed in all the wards and each was tastefully decorated by the nurses and men. Through a representative committee presents were provided for each patient in the hospital and every one was given a good Christmas dinner with English plum pudding for dessert. A repetition of the "horrible parade" was given for the amusement of the patients. Members of the unit formally dedicated the new recreation hut, which had been presented by the American Red Cross. A splendid dinner served under the direction of Sergeants Cook and Steffens was enjoyed by all. Souvenir menu cards in red, white and blue were presented to each man. The Christmas number of "The Vanguard" was also ready for distribution. During the festivities in the hospital it was noted that many of the nurses accidentally found themselves dangerously near scattered bunches of mistletoe which had been tastefully placed in the different wards. No untoward incident occurred to mar the holiday and every one from the commanding officer to the last "buck" private on the list enjoyed the day in true spirit of Christmas.
Early in the year 1918 the American Red Cross sent to Base Hospital No. 5 a splendid moving-picture machine which was installed in the recreation hut. A movie operator who furnished two or three shows a week made long winter nights in camp quite enjoyable.
The staff and personnel learned with great regret, late in February, that their commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Robert U. Patterson, had been summoned to headquarters at Chaumont for reassignment. His departure marked the beginning of several transfers which followed shortly after. In March Sergeants Kennefick and LaFayette were sent to Langres to take the examination for commissions in the Dental Corps. They were soon raised to the grade of first lieutenant. Kennefick was sent to the 14th Engineers for duty while LaFayette remained attached to Base Hospital No. 5. Busy days were soon in store for the unit. On March 21 the Germans opened their long-deferred offensive on the Somme front. In the brief space of ten days the Germans tore asunder the Allied defense systems and hurled the British and French Armies back for a depth of thirty-five miles on a fifty-mile front. In April the drive for the Channel ports through the Armentieres Sector was made. Losses were heavy on both sides and every hospital in England and France was taxed to its limit of capacity.
Shortly after the fury of the first German offensives had spent itself, and while preparations were being made to renew further attacks, American troops began to arrive in Northern France via England. Calais was the port of debarkation for large numbers of infantry troops. The first American division to arrive was the 77th from New York City. They were soon followed by the 78th, 28th, 79th, 33d, 80th, 27th and 30th. The last three divisions performed great work with the British Army during the May and June defensive actions in the Armentieres and Arras sectors. The 33d, "Prairie" Division, from Illinois performed valorous deeds at Chipilly Ridge and in front of Albert during the August offensive of the British. They were later transferred to the Forest of the Argonne where their splendid reputation was meritoriously maintained. The 27th and 30th divisions remained with the British Army during all the summer of 1918 until after the armistice. Their work contributed much toward the capture of Kemmel Hill and to the breaking of the Hindenburg Line between Cambrai and St. Quentin.
The anniversary, commemorating one year's active service in France, was celebrated by Base Hospital No. 5 on Memorial Day. A representative party of officers, nurses and enlisted men went to the military cemetery at Etaples, where the graves of our beloved comrades who had made the supreme sacrifice were decorated with fitting exercises.
About this time Miss Hall was called to take command of the American Red Cross in England and Miss Rose K. Butler was appointed chief nurse in her place.
During the month of June there was renewed activity of German air raiders over Boulogne and vicinity. No. 1 Canadian Hospital and No. 24 General Hospital were partially destroyed by raid on Whitsunday.
On June 6 the Casino was severely shaken by concussion of heavy aerial torpedoes that were dropped on the beach and pier. Much glass was broken in the hospital windows and some of the huts were considerably damaged by the concussion and fragments. Several of the patients and a few of the personnel were slightly wounded.
It will be borne in mind that according to original agreements, Base Hospitals 2, 4, 5, 10, 12 and 21 were to be loaned to the British Expeditionary Forces for one year. At the end of the year, which terminated in June, 1918, an urgent request was made by the London War Office that the six General Hospital units might be retained by the British forces for duration. Though the American Expeditionary Forces were sorely in need of experienced medical men for advanced stations, the request of the British was granted with reservations. These reservations would permit the withdrawal of small numbers of experienced officers, nurses and men, from time to time, for temporary service in the American Expeditionary Forces while the existing vacancies would be filled by newer men of less experience and training. Major Cushing, Captains Cutler, Harvey, Keenan and Lieutenant Terhune were among the first officers to be called for service with the American Expeditionary Forces. Major Cushing was soon advanced to the rank of lieutenant colonel and then to colonel, while nearly all the others were also advanced in rank.
It was on July 18 that the tide of battle was turned in favor of the Allies. For weeks the German High Command had been planning for their last grand offensive which they thought would mean the fall of Paris. Mustering all their available reserve troops, Field Marshal von Hindenburg struck two simultaneous blows on the morning of July 15th against the French Armies on either side of the city of Rheims. The American 33d Division, mostly men from South Chicago, were operating with the British on the Somme. Though the losses were heavy the position was carried and held until the British advance had caused a general retirement toward the Hindenburg Line between Cambrai and St. Quentin. Several convoys of American patients from the 33d Division were received and cared for by Base Hospital No. 5 at Boulogne. Australians and Americans who lay wounded in the same wards were strong in praise of each other.
During this same time the 27th and 30th American divisions were active around Kemmel Hill and Messines Ridge. Both positions were occupied by the New York and Virginia troops in co-operation with the British. While the fighting was heavy and severe in the advanced positions, the Germans by no means neglected to menace the lines of communication of the British whenever weather permitted aerial observation. Air raids upon Dunkirk, Calais and Boulogne became nightly occurrences. For the purpose of defense Boulogne was divided into fifty-nine defensive zones. The Casino was in Protective Zone No. 37. Therefore, if the port or Basin Loubet were menaced by the enemy; all guns in the area were concentrated over the Casino.
During August, following the example set by the French Command, the American Expeditionary Fonces organized six Mobile Hospital units for advanced service during an offensive operation. The embryo of each unit was to be formed from each of the six General Hospitals doing service with the British Expeditionary Forces. Mobile Hospital No. 6, which was composed of members of Base Hospital No. 5, was under the command of Major Towne. The following members of our unit were detailed for this advanced service: Nurses Jefferson, Dacey, Gregg, Thompson, Parker, Walsh, Cunningham, Wilday, Trueworthy, Hawkins, Brooks, Liebreich, Praetorious, Pollock, Price, Bunnie, Laurin, Wahlen, Sedlack and Burns. Among the enlisted men were: Sergeants Langdon, Ginger and Donovan, Corporals Greeley, Freeley and Pickett, Privates Barry, Danforth, Cannier, King, McGann, Oppenheim, Silva, Wood, Mahoney, Barrett, Hensey, Madison, Chamberlain, Harwood, Holmes, Houlihan, Hundley, Banker, McCaffery, Miner, Getchell, Monroe, Dunn, Dowdell and Coleman. These transfers were made late in August and early in September. After a brief stop in Paris where the unit was mobilized, they were transferred to the Forest of the Argonne, where valuable service was rendered. After the battle of the Argonne Forest many promotions were made among the enlisted personnel of Mobile Unit No. 6 as a recognition of their splendid service.
On September 6, Lieutenant Colonel Roger I. Lee, who had been our commanding officer since February 16, 1918, was called for duty in the First Army of the American Expeditionary Forces. His place was filled by Captain Henry Lyman, who had been acting as our adjutant. He was soon advanced to the rank of major.
It was during the latter part of the summer that Base Hospital No. 5 added an American canteen to the list of their many activities. Its operation, under the management of Sergeant Butterworth and Corporal McClelland, was a remarkable success. Catering to British and American patients as well as to the personnel, and drawing from British and American canteen bases, it was possible at all times to carry a large and varied assortment of good things that were patronized by all. One feature entirely original in canteen management was the home-made cakes furnished by George Cahoon as also was McClelland's coffee when the sugar ration permitted. These were among the most popular innovations of the canteen.
The personnel of Base Hospital No. 5 was greatly enlarged and somewhat strengthened during September and October by the arrival of three lots of reinforcements numbering nearly seventy men. In addition, it was necessary to add four new men to the quartermaster corps staff in order to attend to the clothing issue for the area.
By the middle of September it had become evident that the war was of weeks and not months. The enemy had been forced to withdraw to his old fortified positions which he had held for the four preceding years. His resources and man power were fast becoming exhausted. Directly behind the famed Hindenburg Line was the double track lateral line of communication extending from Lille, Valenciennes, Maubeuge, Hirson, Sedan and Metz. This railway line, along which moved practically all of the supplies and reinforcements of the German Armies, was connected with German territory by railways running across Belgium from Lille and Valenciennes as also with lines running from the City of Metz into the Rhine Provinces.
Along the Franco-Belgium frontier from Valenciennes to Sedan lies the famous forest of the Ardennes. This country is heavily wooded and sparsely populated. Few roads suitable for the transport of troops and no railways are available in this barren country. The supreme effort of the Allies was to break the German lines on the north and south simultaneously and force the northern flanks back upon Valenciennes while the southern flank was being forced back upon Sedan or Metz. With the capture of the railway junctions at both ends of the forest of the Ardennes, all German troops defending the salient within these two points would be without means of supply or an exit for escape save through the forest, which was next to impossible.
The glorious success of the Allies has been written in letters of blood in the volumes of world history. British troops, assisted by the 27th and 30th American divisions, broke the Hindenburg Line between Cambrai and St. Quentin and fought desperately day after day until late in October when they successfully surrounded the city of Valenciennes, thus cutting the German railway communications on the north. At the same time the Americans were fighting their way through the heavily wooded forest of the Argonne and along the banks of the Meuse River up to the outskirts of Sedan, finally permitting the French Army to have the honor of capturing the city itself.
Meanwhile the French Armies were engaging the German Army heavily in the center. Their aim was not to capture ground but rather to prevent the withdrawal of Germans from the salient being formed by the advancing allies on either flank. Just how many troops were within this salient or what would have been their ultimate fate remains an uncertainty, for on November 11 hostilities ceased. The Allies were everywhere advancing when the signing of the Armistice brought to a conclusion the bloodiest of all wars in the world's history. Victory Day will long be remembered by the men of Base Hospital No. 5. Boulogne, which had been in gala attire since the capture of Lille by the British, went wild with joy. Some of the men, having absorbed quantities of two and three-quarters per cent, and stronger, also went wild. Removing flags and bunting from the buildings and leading patriotic parades through the city to the Grand Café and back to the Casino seemed to be a favorite pastime until late in the evening. During this time Section Four had a convoy of over three hundred stretcher cases, mostly Americans from the 37th and 91st divisions that had been recently transferred from the Argonne to the Flanders area. About six men assisted by as many officers handled the entire convoy.
Base Hospital No. 5 had a splendid record throughout the influenza epidemic which assumed a world-wide menace. Mortality was high at the outset, but after careful study and experiments by Captains A. V. Bock and G. P. Denny splendid results were shown in the handling of the cases. Much credit must be given to Misses Conklin, Cummings, Clements, Gerrard, Leavitt, Moir and Parmelee, who were the nurses responsible for the care of patients in quarantine wards. Every precaution was taken to safeguard the health of the personnel, and Major Lyman should consider it a record of which he can justly be proud that none of his men were victims of the great plague.
After November 11, No. 13 General Hospital gradually underwent a period of evolution, during which several heavy surgical wards were turned into medical wards. Late in December there were only two surgical wards remaining. The celebration of Thanksgiving Day, 1918, was not as marked as that of 1917. Most of the men who had expended their money and energy on Armistice Day had not fully recovered their equilibrium at this time. King George V was an arrival at Boulogne on the preceding day. Many men braved the rain to get a glimpse of the King and Prince who were on an official visit to France. Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, the Prefect of Calais and the Sous-Prefect of Boulogne were among those who welcomed the King to Boulogne.
Following the example of the preceding Christmas, Base Hospital No. 5 devoted their energies to the entertainment of the patients. Christmas trees were heavily laden with gifts and candies and placed in every ward. A splendid dinner including the old-fashioned English plum pudding was served to all. Mistletoe was quite as popular as in 1917. Certain men carried a supply with them to use during any "period of emergency." The Mobile Unit No. 6 returned from the Argonne early in January bringing with them all of their reinforcements. These men were soon returned to the American Expeditionary Forces for reassignments.
Some time later all other replacements, numbering in the vicinity of seventy, were also returned to the American Expeditionary Forces. Late in January, the hospital was emptied of patients and the hospital was officially closed on February 1, 1919.
During the twenty months of active operation of a General Hospital, Base Hospital No. 5 had cared for approximately 48,000 patients. This record would have been greatly exceeded had we remained in Camiers, where our capacity was much larger. This, coupled with the fact that the cases of No. 13 General Hospital were mostly heavy surgical, served to keep our record below those of Base Hospitals 2, 4, 10, 12 and 21, who averaged between 50,000 and 60,000 each.
After the official closing of the hospital, the men had ample time to develop the friendships that had sprung up between the W.A.A.C.'s and themselves. Several dances were given at "Windy Hut," Rue Thiers and Wimereux for the Americans. In return the personnel entertained the W. A. A. C.'s at a dance in the Grand Salon of the Casino early in February. A "farewell" thé dansant was given to the British officers and nurses of Boulogne by the officers and nurses of Base Hospital No. 5 a few days later. Soon after this the nurses departed for Vannes, and for the first time in almost two years the unit was broken up.
When the "cattle cars" ("Hommes 40---Chevaux 8") which were to transport the personnel of Base Hospital No. 5 from Boulogne S/M to Vannes (Morbihan) moved out of the railway station on the evening of March 8, there remained on the platform many young women with eyes full of tears. Some were civilians, natives of Boulogne, but the larger number were the girls from England who had worn the khaki in France with such splendid credit to themselves and their nation. Their friendship with the Americans will long be a pleasant memory to the men of Base Hospital No. 5.
The sojourn of Base Hospital No. S at Vannes lasted from March 11 to 21. Life was one inspection after another. Many men who were formerly a part of the "Whizzbang Concert Troupe" were transferred to the Entertainment Section of the American Expeditionary Forces. A few men remained to complete an unfinished college year at the French universities of Paris or elsewhere. Therefore it was a much smaller personnel that left Vannes than had arrived ten days previous. Base Hospital No. 5 found itself billeted at Camp Pontanezan, Brest, on the morning of March 23. From this date until April 7, during which the 26th Division arrived at and departed from Brest, it was a series of kitchen police, inspections or sanitary detail every day.
At last on the evening of April 7, when the German Armistice Boat "Graf Waldersee" left the harbor of Brest, among the casuals were numbered the much-thinned ranks of Base Hospital No. 5. After an uneventful trip, the "Graf Waldersee" docked at Hoboken on Easter Sunday morning, April 20, 1919. A dinner of sauerkraut, frankfurts and apple pie was served by the Red Cross, after which an official photograph was taken. The officers and men were billeted at Camp Merritt, from Sunday, April 20 to Saturday, April 26. They were then transferred to Camp Devens, Mass., where the tedious process of demobilization took place.
In conclusion, it may be said, that every man who served with Base Hospital No. 5 is proud of its record of "active service" in France. It is hoped that this history and the pages which follow will be kept by each man and woman of the unit and cherished by them as a memory of former associations with each other across the seas during those months when we labored to bind and heal the wounds of those who fought to make the world "safe for democracy."