Monday, February 4, 2008

Historical WWI photographs

Because Section 625 was attached to the French Army, there were no restrictions on taking and having photographs, unlike the U.S. forces, where strict censorship prohibited the troops from taking pictures for private use.

Somewhere in France, Spring, 1918, Ambulances of Section 625, U.S.A.A.C. cross a field en route to pick up wounded soldiers.

Stretcher bearers carrying a wounded soldier to one of the Sec. 625 ambulances.

(Note red cross armbands)

Interior of a Church, being prepared to be transformed into a field hospital.

Churches, being some of the largest buildings in any area, were often utilized as hospitals and Military Headquarters buildings.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Fortunes of War: Items taken from Bosche POW's

Rex often told the story that common practice was for the Bosche POW's to be lined up and walked through a single gate into the compound where they were held before being sent behind the lines. Rex and his fellow medics and the French Poilus (soldiers) would strip the POW's of any hidden weapons, insignia, belts, medals, accoutrements, or anything that might later be used for a tool for escape.

In his diary he recounts the story of a Bosche POW who had a hidden grenade, and then threw it at a group of officers. The grenade failed to explode. A French Poilu "dispatched" him straight away with his pistol.

Upper left and top: Three helmet "trimmings” denote the particular regiment to which the soldier belonged. These were attached to the front of a leather spiked helmet.

Lower left: (Rectangular shape) Infantry belt buckle, with the saying "Gott Mit Uns" meaning "God With Us". Ironic that in war, both sides claim Divine approval....

Bottom: Two Iron Cross medals, issued to Bosche soldiers for service and bravery.

The other items are epaulettes, worn on the shoulders of the uniform. The different trimmings identify the branch of service and regiment. The plain grey ones are for the lowly privates!
And may I add: I mean no disrespect for the German soldier during The Great War by my use of the term Bosche, admittedly a "slang" term of negative connotation. However, this is the term my granddaddy always used, and I will continue to use same.

Serving with the French Army, 1917 - 1919

Rex R Forsyth, from Bloomington, Indiana, volunteered with a group of other Hoosiers who were mustered into the Army, and did their training in Allentown, Pa. This is where he learned to drive the Ford Model T vehicles. The training took place at the Fairgrounds in Allentown.

Upon deployment, his unit was attached to the French Army. He wore a US Army uniform, but wore a French Army helmet, and was issued other items from the French. Rex kept a daily diary, in which he recorded all of the areas in which his unit was stationed. This diary, containing concise and detailed accounts, does not graphically describe the horrors of the war, but mainly recounts where they were, when, and details of the life of the unit behind the lines. Underlying these words, however, one can sense the horrors that he witnessed.

In the photograph you see some of the items that Rex carried. Note the helmet issued by the French. The red cross arm band is stamped from the French quartemaster corps, as well. His dog tags are the small round dics, lower right, resting on a song book of US military songs. The folding knife was used to cut bread, often dipped into coffee poured into the drinking cup also shown. The khaki cloth with Rex's name inked is his "housewife", used by soldiers for decades to hold their sewing kits, small personal items, and pens or pencils. Under the small bible you can see his straight razor and metal shaving mirror.

This photo shows his diary, a snapshot of him next to his Model T Ford ambulance, and his French Quoix de Guerre, or Cross of War, of which he and some of his fellow Unit members were awarded for bravery while crossing a field under heavy artillery fire while picking up wounded.

Please click on the photos to open them in a seperate window for detailed viewing.

More stories and additional photographs will follow in other posts.