Letter in Patchogue Advance

After leaving Washington barracks we hiked to the depot and were loaded with all our equipment on a troop train for the point of embarkation. There we waited all one Sunday in the broiling hot sun, with packs and arms, until things could be arranged to get a place on one of the out going troop ships. We finally marched single file aboard the ship. My! It was hot in the hold of that ship. The ship soon left the wharf and crept toward the open sea amid the deafening cheers of thousands of people along the shore. The air became cooler as we sailed north towards Halifax. After two days there we resumed our voyage across the deep blue sea. We only had two days of rough weather on the whole trip. We made our first landing on this side in England, where we stayed in camp three days. The people both old and young, gave us a royal welcome. From England we sailed in a small steamer for the nearest seaport in France. After landing safely we were sent to a "rest camp." I fail to see why it is called a "rest camp." In less than three hours after arriving there we had orders to roll up our packs and move on. So we hurriedly ate our "chow" and moved out without our much needed rest. At the station they loaded us on one of the French freight trains. The French box cars are about half the size of our cars and on each one is stenciled words that mean "40 men, 8 horses." Mt sympathy is extended to the 8 horses that have to ride in such close quarters. They took a little pity on us and allowed us to travel with 30 men in each car, including our packs, rifles and barrack bags. Even then we were cramped for space. In this condition we traveled five days- day and night. We saw a great deal of the country and found the people eager to greet us along the way. At our destination we went in large auto trucks to camp in one of those little French towns. Here we were "billeted" in farm houses, haylofts and barns, with all sorts of domestic animals for neighbors, awakening each morning with sheep, pigs, cows and chickens adding a pleasing accompaniment to the bugler's first call. After taking a two week course in the use of the French pontoon equipment we were set to work, transporting pontoon material and actually building pontoon bridges. Our company has built a number of bridges across the Moselle river and a few across the Meuse. Straight away pontoon and narrow foot bridges are used for the infantry and heavy reinforced pontoon bridges for artillery to cross over. The people over here treat us mighty well and they have a pretty country, but- I long to get back home in good old U.S.A. once more

Letter provided by
Mrs. Grace Shaw
April, 2000

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