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The War Diary Of Clarence Richmond

Episode 12

Marines Anticipate Front Line Action; Troops March
August 16 - Sept 11, 1918

All was quiet as we left the trenches, going back out the way we came in. Had the Germans known that we were taking a relief, no doubt we would have gotten a good shelling. Hiking till about sunrise we fell out alongside the road, in an open field. We lost no time in rolling up and getting a little sleep. We moved a few hours later over a little farther in a more concealed place. Had a hot meal at noon. In the afternoon we went through a cootie delouser, having every ankle of clothing, blankets, etc. steam heated, and a shower bath for ourselves. It felt mighty good to have a shower bath once more. This was the first real bath since leaving the ship, excepting the few minutes in the Marne river, July 5th. We felt clean for a little while, after leaving the cootie delouser.

Soon after dark, we continued on towards the rear. A few minutes after we started, a German night bomber dropped some bombs, which seemed to have fallen very near where we had just left. Had we been just a little later in getting started, no doubt we would have been shaken up somewhat. The plane came right over us, and as the moon was full and shining very brightly, we could see it very plainly. I held my breath for fear the aviator would see us and open his tail gate, though we hovered as close to the side of the road as possible. He evidently did not see us, or had already dropped all of his bombs, for he flew on without disturbing us. We surely did some hiking during the next hour. Our road led us up on top of a plateau, which was considerably higher than the valley we had just left. At one time we looked down on a river, which had made a deep gorge in the plateau. The moon shining on the water made a very beautiful night scene, though I was too tired to enjoy it. We passed through several villages, one of which was located on a rather steep hillside. The street we passed through on was about the steepest I had ever seen. On one side was a large castle that looked as if it had been built for centuries. It was a regular fortress, with a large tower, high walls, and everything that goes with those old historical buildings.

Was having much difficulty in hiking on account of pain in my right knee. It bothered me most in going down a hill; could hardly hold up my weight. I decided that as long as I could stand up, I would not fall out. It was a welcome order that had us to all fall out at three o'clock. We slept till six, when our kitchens caught up with us and served hot coffee and bread. A very substantial breakfast after hiking nearly all night. At seven o'clock, we continued the march. Hiking steadily till one o'clock in the afternoon we again fell out for a hot meal, hastily prepared- We reached camp Boix de l'Aveque about four that afternoon. This camp was on top of a plateau, and we had to climb a long hill to reach it. This was a French camp, but it was used at this time by American troops. The first thing we did after arriving was to take a shower and hunt for something to eat. There was not much to be bought in the camp, but we got what we could. The camp was ideally located on top of a high plateau, with a small river running through the valley below.

The next day we had instruction in throwing hand grenades. These were the first grenades I had ever thrown, though I had been in two engagements already. The hand grenade is held by means of a small lever, which, when released causes the grenade to explode in about five seconds. The fellow who holds the grenade in his hand after the lever is released, or even lets it fall near him does so at great risk, for they explode with considerable force. One fellow got excited and let one fall near him instead of throwing the thing. An ambulance came and hauled him away. The next two days we spent firing on a rifle range. I always enjoyed firing on the range, or anywhere, for that matter.

On the afternoon of Aug 21st, we received orders to move again. The afternoon was very hot, and before we packed up, word was passed around to wear blouses. This meant that we would have to hike, as hot as it was, with our blouse on. Everybody from the General down got cussed pretty freely. The order was changed and we didn't have to wear them. We did some cross country hiking, the sweat just pouring off us in streams. The sun was boiling hot. We finally struck a main highway, and after going about a mile further, had supper alongside the road about six o'clock. We continued by moonlight, and reached the town of Gollivers at eleven o'clock, and billeted in a hayloft. The building in which we were billeted was one of several which were connected together. A middle aged woman lived alone in the building where we were billeted. Her kitchen was right underneath us, and a cow stall just across the unfloored hall. There was one main street running through the town.

During the time we remained in Gollivers we drilled every day, except Sunday, devoted considerable time to athletics, and the rest of the time to maneuvers. Our battalion commander was daffy on parades and maneuvers. Of course being Marines, we had to keep in form, regardless of the war. Every day, the companies would be lined up in combat formation, and take some imaginary stronghold. One whole day was devoted to divisional maneuvers. On this occasion, we left early in the morning and hiked about five miles, and with the aid of airplanes pulled off a divisional attack; that is, the whole division took part in the maneuvers. One day I went on a water detail while we were drilling. On account of there being so many others getting water ahead of myself, I did not get any water for some time. When I did get hack, the Capt said to give two hours E.P.D. for being so long.

There were plenty of plums to eat and I ate them to my heart's content. The "Y" got in some supplies, but not enough for everybody. There was always a line for what we did get. One night two entertainers gave a short program for us. These were the first American women I had seen since leaving the states. Was overjoyed one day to receive a letter from my oldest brother. This being my first letter, could scarcely wait till I got the letter open to read it. I had two German caps that I wrapped and mailed home, one to Mr. Lang of the Cleveland National Bank and one to cousin Inez Bacon, Newcastle, Ind. We signed the payroll for August and drew July's pay while at Gollivers.

We remained at GoIlivers until September 4th, the first time we had remained in one place over two Sundays. We though this was to be true of this place as we received order's to pack up late in the afternoon of the second Sunday, and "stood by" until near midnight, before we were told to unroll. The following night, however, we bid farewell to Gollivers, about eight thirty, and headed for new quarters. Nearly everyone in the platoon was partly drunk or drinking. After we had hiked for several hours, one rather small, young boy name Tormy, who had imbibed too much for proper hiking, came along side of me, and put his arm up on my pack, leaning on me rather heavily. As I had about all I wanted to carry, this act did not appeal to me very much, so taking his arm off me, I gave him a shove, nearly making him fall down. Two or three of his friends, practically in the same condition as he, thinking I had hit him, jumped on me. Someone hit me in the back of the head, but could not find out just who it was. The war clouds soon passed away, with a threat to beat me up in the morning, but when morning came, and they all sobered up, not a one mentioned the subject. There was more or less confusion all night on the hike, until we fell out about four o'clock and rolled up. I could not sleep, as I was to tired and stiff. As soon as daylight came I got up, and bought some grapes from some French wagons that came along.

We had a hot meal about noon, and in the afternoon we did some practice skirmishing in the woods. Just at dark, we left this place and going down a steep embankment, crossed a narrow valley, through which a railroad ran. A German night bomber came over just as we crossed the railroad and dropped a few bombs near. We did a little double time and got away from the railroad. About midnight we bivouacked in a woods, but not until we had spent some time in getting in the right place. The billeting officer but us in the wrong place and we had to pass along to another.

The surrounding country seemed to be full of troops at this time. All the villages were occupied and much of the wooded section. It became evident by the number of troops on the move that some very important work was scheduled for an early date. Of course there was no advance information passed around as to what the work was to be. All day troops and trucks hauling "75's" passed where we were. Artillery was not hauled to the front just for a pastime. At night we took the road, a main highway, and hiked all night. We fell out just before daylight, and I bunked with Sgt. Heran. It began to rain just about the time we got asleep. We had to get up and pitch our "pup" tent, and then went back to sleep while it rained.

We remained here until late in the afternoon of Sept. 9th. It rained every day and almost every hour of our stay. The first day I washed a shirt and some underwear, but had some time getting it dry between showers. Our Regimental band gave us several concerts, which were very much enjoyed. The Chaplain gave us a nice talk on Sunday morning. There was an aviation field near. Made a visit to it on the afternoon of the second day here. All day long places did their stunts overhead, not for our benefit however, but their presence had the effect of encouraging us.

As a further evidence that we were to see some action pretty soon, I was detailed along with eleven others of the company as stretcher bearer. We turned in our rifles and ammunition and were given some instructions as to carrying wounded. Heretofore we had had no organized group to do this work, and as a result many of the wounded were often left on the fields longer than they should have been. Under new arrangements, each company would have twelve stretcher bearers and three stretchers.

The Paymaster came around to see us just after noon on Sept. 9th, after we had received orders to move. As I did not want to make an excursion to the front with very much money on me, I promptly gave the "Y" man nearly all my pay to send home. We rolled our packs shortly before night, and it immediately began to rain. Our helmets were the only means we had to turn off the water, and they were really good umbrellas.

When we fell in and called roll, we had one man A.W.O.L. named Seig. No one knew anything about him. We took the main highway in the general direction of the front. Soon after dark, we found the road congested with other troops, artillery, and truck trains. When passing or meeting other troops, we invariably hailed each other with "What outfit, Buddy?" The firing of a railroad gun had us guessing for a while, but we finally came close enough to find out what it was. When it went off, we had at first thought that it was an ammunition dump going up.

The nearer we got to the front, the muddier the roads became. We had now left the main highway and were traveling cross roads. We would almost mire up at times. Just at dawn we fell out at the edge of a this woods pretty near the front. Shells were falling not far away. None of our guns seemed to be firing, anyway near us at least. A battery of 8 inch guns were being put in place right where we fell out. As it was not yet good daylight, I rolled up right along the edge of the woods, but as soon as it got light, we all had to move back in the woods for protection.

Everything was pretty quiet during the day. When night came, we packed up again, but after "standing by" for a long time, we unrolled and remained for the balance of the night where we were. It continued to rain ever so frequently. The next day the work of getting the heavy guns in position was almost completed. The fact that heavy guns were being brought up so close to the front meant only one thing, and that was an early attack. No information had as yet been given out as to the day. It was always this way, we never knew the day or hour until the last minute.

About mid-afternoon of Sept. 11th, we continued on closer to the lines. At intervals, the sun shown through on the low hanging clouds. Before we had gone very far, we began to see the real preparation for the coming attack. Artillery and ammunition such as I had never seen before was being rushed Into position. Battery after battery of 75's were being put into position, and ammunition dumps were everywhere. There was no longer any pretense of concealment, everybody worked right out in the open, it seemed now only a matter of speed. It was a known fact that guns would not be placed out in the open to remain there unused the next day. Besides 75's, there were four and six inch guns, and horwitzers, guns with short muzzles and large caliber. The latter were being placed along side the mud at the base of a steep hill. With muzzle elevated, they could tire, and be sale from return artillery fire.

The road was so muddy that we waded it like water. Just before sundown, we entered a communication trench leading to our positions. We soon entered the front line trenches. These trenches showed signs of having been constructed for a long time. No material advance had been made by either the French or Germans at this place for two or three years. The dugouts were old, as well as the trenches. What wasn't trenches, was barb wire. It looked as if there was enough strung around there to reach around the world.

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The War Diary of Clarence Richmond
Posted April 28, 1997 By Robin Richmond