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The War Diary Of Clarence Richmond

Episode 9

Soldiers are Homesick; First Paycheck Arrives
July 26 - August 4th, 1918

The next day I allowed myself to be fooled into rolling up my pack on a fake order to pack up. I had my pack nearly rolled before I caught the joke. However, we did move later on in the day, going to another village named Boullancy. We were billeted on a farm about five hundred yards from the town. The buildings were all grouped in a rectangular shape, and in some places connected with a high wall, making a rectangular fortress, having a courtyard in the center. We entered through a gate, which connected two buildings. The buildings had the appearance of having been there a good many decades, maybe centuries. We had a good hay loft, but not such a good ladder leading up to our beds.

We drilled about three and a half hours in the morning and had instruction on the automatic rifle or Chautchaut (sho-sho). We would take it apart and then put it together again. The idea was to learn as much as possible about the gun.

While there was nothing much in the way of eats in Boullancy, we could get figs, nuts, and a few other things. A good American grocery store would have been as welcome as a bubbling spring in the heart of the Sahara Desert. The French towns did not have anything that even resembled an American grocery store. There were some ducks running around the place, and two other fellows and myself pooled our resources and bought one for ten francs. This was too much to pay for a duck, but we had the money and were hungry and the woman had the ducks and needed the money, therefore we traded. We had the duck roasted at our galley, and with our regular meal, had a good square meal once. But few of the fellows had any money, or probably all the ducks would have died while we were there. Such a thing as pay day had not been hinted at since I had been with the company.

Our daily routine while here was practically the same. There were two new dugouts in some trenches near. These were specially prepared dugouts, deep down in the ground. Many, like myself, had never seen or been in a dugout of this kind. The entrance was from the trench, and sloped down like a stairway for about ten feet. Wooden bunks were fitted out in the bottom of the dugout.

Just about dark on July 30th, we received orders to pack up and "stand by" till one o'clock in the morning before we moved. Hiking till seven the next morning, we entrained at a small town named Nanteuil in our regulation "40 Hommes and 8 Cheveaux." This time our units were so thin, due to the heavy casualties we had suffered, that we rode fairly comfortable, or rather, were not so crowded. It would not be correct to say comfortable, even if there were only one to a car. We passed through some very fine wheat country, some already cut, some not yet harvested. We took turns sitting in the doorway, where we could let our feet hang outside. Every time we saw anybody, we waved and yelled. French troop trains were always quiet, but not so with ours. Probably if we had had four years of war, we would have been more serious than we were. However we did not figure that there would be four more years of war, or even two more. A pretty mademoiselle would bring forth an extra wave and a yell. By night we had subsided somewhat, but sleep was out of the question almost on a journey like this. But there were those who could sleep with their heads six inches from the mouth of a "75". I didn't sleep much during the night. When morning came we were still traveling.

About noon we detrained just outside of Nancy. Marching back through Nancy, which was the largest town I had been in so far, we hiked to a small village about three miles away, called Vandoeuver. This little village was on the side of a hill, from which we could see Nancy lying in the valley below. We were billeted in the upstairs of a two story building, there being six of us up in the attic. A good many towns have public wash houses where water is furnished by a fountain. There was one just across the street from us. I never saw a French woman boil her clothes. She always washes in cold water, and beats the clothes with a paddle. Here we did our washing, along with the inhabitants.

Spent some of my spare time writing letters home. I could not understand why I had not received any mail from home. Not one letter had reached me as yet. Was getting pretty homesick for a word from someone.

During the morning we drilled and had games for a past time. In the afternoon we washed and cleaned up in general. Leaves were given to Nancy, but I did not get one. One night the Germans bombed Nancy, and all the anti-aircraft guns around opened on them. There were several batteries and search lights near us. We could see the beams of the search lights chasing over the sky, trying to locate the planes. On Sunday night, August 4th, about ten o’clock we were called out to be paid. Believe me, we did not have to be made to turn out either. However it did take us by surprise, for no one had ever heard of payday at ten o’clock at night. For me, this was the first payday I had had since May 1st just before leaving Parris Island, S.C. We were paid in French money, and it took me several days to figure out how much money the three hundred and forty franks I received amounted to. Gave nearly all of it the next day to the "Y" man to send home. I let him do the figuring.

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