Worthy Son: Harold Loud’s Military Training, Part 6

Part 6: Enroute to France; Indoctrination at St. Maixent, France

Introduction 

Harold Loud arrived in New York City on July 14 and was immediately involved in arranging for his passage to France.  The port at Hoboken, New Jersey, was the point through which nearly all military personnel traveled across the Atlantic.  Traveling in casual status, that is, not as part of a larger military unit, he had to make the necessary travel arrangements himself.  He was also occupied with purchasing supplies and equipment that he thought he would need once he arrived in France.  In spite of his busy schedule, he found time to entertain himself by attending some Broadway musicals.  He was also entertained by Leonard Volk, Adele Volk’s father, who was in New York on business and who accompanied Harold to dinner and to breakfast.  Volk’s attention to Loud suggests that the relationship between Harold and Adele was serious.

Harold Loud sailed on 21 July and arrived in England about the 4th of August.  He had no time to enjoy life in England, for he and the small group of pilots with whom he was traveling were hurriedly transferred to an English coastal port and found themselves in France by 6 August.

After a wait of only a day or so in a French port (probably Calais, France), he was transported by train to Saint Maixent, France, approximately 300 miles to the south, where he arrived by the 10th of August.  A journey that should have taken one day required the better part of four days, due to delays for trains with higher military priority.  Saint Maixent was the location of the American Headquarters Replacement Battery for Air Service personnel.  All new arrivals were sent to Saint Maixent, where they received instruction in the French language and military subjects.  Today we would call his training “in-theater orientation.”  Harold referred to it as the “Camp Dick” of France.  At Saint Maixent American aviators and support staff were assigned to their next station, which for Harold meant a brief review of advanced flying training at the American flying school at Issoudun, to which he reported on 16 August.

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Hotel McAlpin, New York City[1]

Monday, July 15, 1918

Dearest Family:

What a busy forenoon this has been!  There is so much red tape to go through in reporting.  This morning I took and passed a physical examination, and I must go back in a few minutes to go through the rest of the requirements.  It will take all the afternoon I feel sure.  Tomorrow I shall write you all about it.

We pilots from Camp Dick all met here this morning, just as we had planned.  My train was only one hour late.  We passed at least five large troop trains on the way.

I was so excited when I left you yesterday, that I know I forgot to thank you all for the many things you have done for me.  The socks will be wonderful and I am sure a lucky boy to have so many.

It looks as though we might be here for several days, but we have no way of knowing that until we get our orders.  Some of the boys have had a whole week here.  The boys are waiting for me to go with them and I cannot write more now.

Loads of love to you all, Harold

hotelmcalpin

Diary Entry

New York City

July 16, 1918

At last I am all through with reporting and have done most of my shopping.  Don’t know when I am to sail but will get my orders in the morning.  I find, much to my disappointment, that we shall not be able to cable back our arrival.  They tell us a cable may only be sent in case of serious illness.  I shall leave a card in Hoboken to be mailed just as soon as we have arrived.  I fear that is the only way.  Have been to a few good shows—saw “Tiger Rose” last night and am going to see “Going Up” in a few minutes.[2]

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CONFIDENTIAL

WAR DEPARTMENT

OFFICE OF THE GENERAL SUPERINTENDENT TRANSPORT SERVICE

TRANSPORTATION DIVISION, PASSENGER BRANCH

PORT OF EMBARKATION, HOBOKEN, NEW JERSEY

VESSEL NO. 119

FILE NO. 38

(This is not your cabin number)

 

July 17, 1918

  1. Having reported at this office, this date, in compliance with order from Headquarters, Port of Embarkation, Hoboken, you will report at officers’ gangway, Vessel No. 119, Pier No. 62, North River, 10:00 AM, July 21, 1918, Foot West 23rd Street, New York City, ready to go aboard vessel.
  2. Baggage will have vessel number plainly shown on tags, or label securely attached to each article, and must be at the pier not earlier than two days before sailing, or you may bring baggage with you when reporting at pier.
  3. If baggage has been forwarded to the Quartermaster, Port of Embarkation, Hoboken, New Jersey, it will be forwarded to the pier.
  4. Assignment to stateroom is made at officers’ gangway. Before reporting there, claim your baggage at baggage desk near officers’ gangway, to insure it being placed aboard.
  5. No information will be given by telephone.
  6. THIS INFORMATION IS STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL.

 

A. C. Dalton,

Colonel, Q. M. C.

By:      R. E. Shannon,

Major, Q. M. C.

CONFIDENTIAL

————————————————————————————————————————————-

Hotel McAlpin

New York City

Thursday, July 18, 1918

Dearest Family:

My days in New York have been busy ones, with hardly a minute to spare, but now I am all through and have my orders.  I wish I could tell you everything, but of course I cannot until I get on the other side.  As I have already telegraphed you, I shall be here the rest of the week and then we go to the steamer.  Just when we are due to sail I do not know, but I presume it will be within a few days of that time.

Our bunch are going to some school in France.  We go by way of England, but I haven’t the least idea how long we remain there before going to France; I imagine it will not be long.  We will be in training in France for at least two months, and then we shall, very likely, be used to fly ships from the port of arrival to the numerous airdromes.  They give this job to us in order that we may thoroughly acquaint ourselves with the ships.

I had some more photographs taken here.  I went primarily to have one taken with my overseas hat and belt on; but he was bound to take one with my [regular] cap on.  It turned out very good, much better than those taken in Dallas, and so I have ordered some to be sent to you, and you may send them out as you desire.  I am having one sent direct to Adele.[3]

I think that I have just about as complete an outfit as I could ask for.  I have purchased the most wonderful coat; it is not an overcoat, but will do for one and will be much warmer.  It is the regulation trench coat and cost me $65.00.  It is absolutely waterproof and is made in this manner: the coat proper is composed of two layers of cravenetted goods with rubber between them, which makes it not only waterproof but windproof as well.  Then there is a heavy wool lining that buttons into the inside, and this is very soft and warm.  The Quartermaster advised me to buy this coat, if we did not have a rain coat.  You would hardly imagine it, but the coat is awfully good-looking too.  We do not get a new suit on this side.  Our flying outfit we get over there also.  I have a “canned heat stove outfit” with instantaneous coffee, sugar, and condensed milk.  I also have a cot, canteen, and numerous other little things such as a first aid packet, etc.  I have been vaccinated again and it rather feels as though it was going to take.  It will be a good time for it to do so, as we shall not have any work to do on the way over.

About my money.  The Guaranty Trust and The Farmers Loan & Trust Company together have a system whereby we open an account here and then continue it over there at their foreign branch.  In this way we can send money home or have it sent to us.  It is the best system I have heard of and the Government endorses it.  They do not wish us to take cash out of the country with us.

I have had rather hard luck in getting in touch with Mr. Hardy.  He is not in his office very much these days.  I had a talk with his secretary and he told me that Anton was across and gave me his address.  I shall try to see Mr. Hardy tomorrow.[4]

Your letters all came, also the socks from Gordon and the Lawrenceville letter.  I was so glad to get them and thank you very much.  I have been unable as yet to find any of the small silver wings.  I have been to a number of jewelry stores, but they do not seem to have them.  I shall try Tiffany’s in the morning.

I have met quite a few Detroit boys here.  Most of them sailors who are on the convoys.  Leslie Clark was one of them; he has been back and forth six times and says it is an awfully tame trip.[5]  He says he is going to transfer to aviation if it is possible.  New York is still the same big city, but I imagine not what it used to be.  The theaters are mostly closed for the summer and the restaurants seem quiet and for the most part filled with men in uniform.  There are many slackers around and it makes one mad to see them.  Of course, some have good excuses but the majority do not.

I ran into Mr. Volk today and we dine together tomorrow.  He is here on a business trip.  Mother, I wish you would write to Adele.  I am sure it would please her.  She is such a dear and she is very sensible.  She is worrying quite a bit and I know a letter from you would cheer her up a lot.  I enclose her address.

They are sending an awful lot of men over now; more and more every month.  I understand they plan to transport 450,000 men this month.  Think of it, almost half a million!  Isn’t the latest war news great?  I don’t see how the Germans will be able to hold out much longer.[6]  I think Doctor Talley is right and that it will be all over but the shouting by Christmas.  Let us hope so at least.

I shall wire you just before I go to the boat on which I am to sail.  Don’t worry, for it will be all right and I shall leave a card for both you and Roxane, so you will be sure to get word as soon as I arrive across.  It takes quite a while, so don’t worry.  It was two weeks and a half before Mrs. Volk heard about her son.  Always remember that no news is good news.  I shall try to write you again tomorrow.

Always with greatest love, Harold

 

Diary Entry

New York City

July 19, 1918

At last I have had a day to rest in and I have surely done it full justice.  I did not get up until two PM.  Am I not the lazy one?  But really, I needed the sleep.  I thought “Going Up” was the best ever.  It was the funniest musical comedy I think I ever saw and what made it double good was the fact that it was so clean throughout.  So many of the modern hits are so vulgar that it is pleasing to find one like this.  “The Tailor Made Man” will be my next venture.[7]

goingup

 

Hotel McAlpin

New York City

Saturday, July 20, 1918

Dearest Family:

I think I have quite a job in store for tonight, with all my packing to do.  Luckily I have not disturbed the bottom of my trunk, so that can remain; but I have so much stuff I hardly know where I am going to put it.  I think that my bedding roll must be my salvation.

This morning I went to Hoboken and drew my pay voucher up to the twentieth.  Then I fixed up my bank account as follows: first I opened an account with the Farmers Loan & Trust Company of New York, who have branches in London and Paris.  This provides a way to transfer funds back and forth between there and you if necessary.  The amount of my deposit was 500 francs or $88.00.  I can draw checks against this account.  Second, I took out 500 francs in service checks which are issued in a form similar to American Express checks and are payable almost anywhere.  Both of these systems are approved by the Government.  After paying my hotel bill, I think I shall have left about thirty or forty dollars, and this I shall take with me.  You can see by this that I have not been spending much money foolishly.  I am sure that I have everything I need and perhaps a little more, but one can never tell what will be needed.

I think I told you that the socks had arrived, but if not, I want to thank you again.  They are the one thing we cannot get too many of.  I had dinner tonight with Mr. Volk.  We went down to Father’s favorite German restaurant, and the pigs’ knuckles were still on the menu.

About writing on the transport; I think I shall write a little something every day, just a sort of a diary, and then mail it at the first chance I get.  I shall be very careful not to write anything that the Censor can object to.  Before I forget it, if for any reason you wish to cable me, my address will be: Amexforce, London, Harold E. Loud, Air Service, Unassigned.  Such a message would be sent to me from London by mail and reach me in due course of time.  It is not very speedy but it is the best way that I could learn of.  Perhaps when I get over there, I may be able to arrange some better way.  If you ever receive any word which you think Adele would want to know, I wish you would please wire her.

This last drive [Allied offensive in France] begins to look like the beginning of the end.  We all hope it is and although we won’t plan on it, I am sure it would be very nice to have our Christmas dinner at home.

Tomorrow morning I shall board the steamer.  How long we shall lay around here, I do not know.  Sometimes it is three or four days and again we may pull right out.  I do not know the name of the boat I am going on, but one of the transport Lieutenants told me it was a large one.  It will probably be three weeks before you get any news of my arrival, but don’t worry, for we are in a big convoy, well guarded.

Greatest love to all, Harold

 

Hoboken1916

Loading docks, Hoboken, New Jersey.  Looking north up the Hudson River.

 

New York City

July 20, 1918

[Dearest Family:]

This will be my very last letter for we are to go on board tomorrow.  I hardly have the nerve to start in packing.  What a job it looks to be.  I positively do not see where I am to put all my stuff.  Things are piled all over the room and there my trunk sits, full up, staring me in the face.  It is a problem and I fear I shall just about finish in time to keep my appointment for breakfast with Mr. [Volk].  I need not worry about sleep though, for we shall lay around in the harbor for at least a couple of days and there will be plenty of time for sleep then.

I shall write every day except when duty prohibits it.  Don’t expect my letters at any special time, for probably a big bunch will come at once.  Always remember that no news is good news, and please do not worry.  Good bye—

Loads of love, Harold

 

At Sea, [Tuesday] July 23, 1918

Dearest Family:

What a sight it was when we left New York!  Our ship is loaded with troops and these were lining the rails while their band was playing.  Each passenger ferry we passed would cheer us, and let me tell you, it made one feel good to be a part of the whole thing!  There is so much that would interest you that I could write, but I am not sure just how much I would be allowed to tell, and so I must content myself with telling very little.  When it is over and I come back, I can tell you how wonderful it all is.  This much I can say, I feel sorry for the submarine that shows itself anywhere near us.

For the trip across, I have been attached to a company of troops and act as inspector and guard officer.  We are all very comfortably quartered and the food is very good; in fact we could ask for nothing better.  The life on board ship seems quite monotonous, just the same thing, day in and day out.  The diary idea for my letter would never do at all, for there is just nothing to write about.  I shall, however, keep this letter open and whenever something of interest does happen, that I can tell you, I will jot it down.

When we were once aboard the ship in New York, we were not allowed to leave it again.  I left several cards and a telegram to be sent as soon as we arrive on the other side.  I hope that these may reach you promptly and that you are not worrying about me.  Just this minute I had a little thrill.  A bunch ran to the rail and appeared to be greatly interested.  Of course, all the boys, myself included, jumped up too; but the only thing in sight was a school of porpoises.

I am in a stateroom with Carl Lobdell, the boy I bunked with at Fort Sill.  I think I was mighty lucky to draw him, for he is a peach and we get along very well together.  Last night I was on guard duty, and a beautiful night it was.  The moon was full and it was very clear until along toward morning, when it misted up somewhat and grew rather chilly.  I went off duty at twelve o’clock today and will probably go on again at noon tomorrow.  It is rather funny, but they have picked the aviators to take the lookout post in the crow’s nest, and it is laughable to see them climbing up the rope ladders.  The sea has been calm and I have not seen a single person sick.  I hope it remains so, because if it were rough, I imagine it would be very disagreeable.

There is quite a contrast between this trip and our crossing in 1913.  Although monotonous, it is much more thrilling; but if it were mine to choose, I would surely take the old peace time method.  I would not miss this for anything in the world though, and I think it will be a journey, at least the beginning of one, that I shall always remember.

I hardly realized what I said to you in my last letter, as I was rather excited and then I was somewhat in a hurry, for it was very late.  The next morning, Mr. Volk awakened me and we breakfasted together.  He was awfully nice to me and I like him a lot.

 

[At Sea] Saturday, July 27, 1918

It is somewhat of a contrast to when I last wrote.  The swell has increased, and it is quite cold.  The decks are not crowded and there are plenty of vacant deck chairs.  Not many men seem to be missing at meals but between times there is a great deal of sleeping.

Nothing of interest has happened, just the regular routine.  I am on duty twelve hours and then off twenty-four.  All there is to do when off-duty is to sleep and study French.  We do quite a bit of both.  Gambling is absolutely forbidden, so there are no card games going on—a mighty good thing too.

Later

Nothing of importance has happened since I last wrote, but before many hours, if all goes well, we shall be on shore.  The last few days, when off duty, about all we have done is to sleep and well you know how good I am at that.

One of the boys had a birthday, and to kill the time and also to have a little fun, we each bought some little five-cent candy from the canteen.  We wrapped these up and with a little note we had written, presented it to him.  It was a surprise to him and we had quite a lot of fun out of it.

I hope you got the pictures all right that I had taken in New York.  Don’t you think the large one is an improvement on the Dallas picture?  How is everything at the Lake?  By the time this reaches you, August will be well on its way.  I can hardly realize that such a space of time separates us.  I hope that my mail reaches me OK and that I do not have the trouble in this regard that Cousin Fred had.

When in England, I shall try to look up the Bayldons and also Margaret Killmaster.  I am afraid, however, that I will not have time to do this.  I hope I may be lucky enough to see Dr. Talley when I reach France.[8]

I shall cable you just as soon as we are landed.

With greatest love to all, Harold

 

At Sea

July 30, 1918

Dearest Family:

“At sea” is right, for that is about all we know of our position.  Try as much as we will, we can find out nothing certain.  We are almost sure though that we are nearly at the end of our journey.  Not one of us will be peeved either, as life on board is so monotonous.

Before me I have a letter to you written day by day, but I cannot send it, for I find that I have told some things about our routine on board ship that we are forbidden to mention.  Moreover, it reads so funny.  You see our days are so much alike and so little happens that I am sure the letter would be boring.  In addition to personal news, about all one can say is “bright and fair.”

It was a wonderful sight as we pulled out from Hoboken—all the troops on board and the band playing such pieces as “Over There,” “Good-bye Broadway,” “Long Long Trail,” etc.  All the passenger ferries we passed cheered us on our way, and one excursion boat ran alongside for a long while.  It sure did make you glad to be a part of it.  Nevertheless, as the old skyline faded away, a sense of loneliness came over us and the first evening was rather quiet.  What a different feeling it will be when we next see that skyline; that and home looming up instead of fading away.

The first few days out were wonderful.  We went around in our shirt sleeves, of course a life preserver on, and were not in the least cold.  The ocean was like some huge pond—hardly a ripple on it.  But a few days brought a change, and we woke up one morning to a nice swinging motion.  Some of the men stayed right where they were, but I managed to get up and eat breakfast, although I did not eat with the same zest as on previous mornings, and I must admit I felt a little shaky.  A few hours on deck in in the cool, fresh air, with the spray mixed in, and I began to feel myself again.  Since then, I have felt fine and have not missed a single meal.

For the journey over, we have been attached to an infantry company and do our turn as officer of the guard and inspection.  It is not bad and it helps to pass away the time.

Today one of the boys had a birthday, and to break the monotony, we gave him a little party.  We all bought little nickel candies at the canteen, and with appropriate verses wrapped them up in newspaper.  We got them all together in the dining hall and then sent some First Lieutenant after the man.  He told him he was under arrest and must report to the General in the dining hall.  He came in with a long face, and a Captain preferred the charges—numerous packages found in his bedding roll.  These he was told to open and account for their presence.  The whole thing went off fine and the poor fellow began to think something really had happened until he opened them up.  It all sounds rather simple, but it shows how little it takes to amuse a lonely man.

My love to you all, Harold

 

France

August 6, 1918

Dearest Family:

At last we are off the boat and can bathe in something besides that sticky salt water.  It also seems good to sleep with one’s clothes off.  Since landing we have been very busy.  We pulled in at the piers, after a very uneventful voyage, at five in the morning, and disembarked at seven; then stood around the pier until noon, when we were told to take an hour and a half to get something to eat.  We were told to be back by 1:30 and we were on a train from that time until 1 AM, when we detrained and marched two miles to a rest camp.  There we stayed until 4:30 PM, when we left, and now we are in France.

We arrived here this morning and shall probably remain where we now are for several days.  Then we go to some flying school, to finish our training, and that will take about two months.  It is three weeks since I left Detroit; but as I look back, it seems such a short time.  Although we are all very comfortable here, I think we shall be glad to get back.  Also we shall be glad to be settled in our permanent quarters where we can have our trunks.  I have not seen my trunk since disembarking, and I am praying that it comes along with me.  When we arrive at our permanent quarters, I hope to receive my first mail, and maybe that won’t be a happy day!

I have been greatly impressed, in the few days I have been here, by the wonderful way in which people over here take the war.  They go about their tasks cheerfully and never do you hear a grumble.  Their hardships are a hundred times greater than those of the folks in the States, but you never hear about them.  You at home can’t possibly realize what people over here are giving up.  We ourselves are not living as we did at our home fields, but we are all in fine shape, with plenty to eat and a good place to sleep.  We will know better how to appreciate many little things when we get home.

Today almost a gale is blowing.  First it rains and then the sun comes out.  Wonderful weather to lie around in and rest.  We really do need rest, for all are pretty tired.  It was not possible for me to look up the Bayldons or Margaret Killmaster, and I missed Dr. Talley too.  I was very sorry for this as I would very much have liked to see them all.

My last American bill left me today.  I had it changed into francs and when they are gone, I must use my banker’s checks.  As soon as we get to a Quartermaster, we can draw last month’s pay.

Don’t worry and don’t expect letters too regularly; at least not until we get settled down to somewhere, because when we are on the move, we do not have a chance to write or mail our letters.

Loads of love always, Harold

 

France

August 6, 1918

[Second letter]

At last we have finished our boat journey and we are now at a rest camp awaiting orders.  How good it seems to get a real bath and clean up again.  There were five days on the ship when we could not remove our clothes, not even our boots.  The trip was not nearly as exciting as I had expected it would be.

It is impossible to realize until one arrives here how little we in the States are doing in the matter of saving food.  Here one has a card with his daily allowance, and when he eats in a restaurant, this card must be punched.  Then, too, the restaurants are only open during certain hours of the day.

Until I get settled down, it will be mighty hard to write regularly; in fact quite impossible.  For this I am sorry, but you see we can only post mail in certain places.

We got off the boat at seven AM yesterday.  Had to stick around the pier until noon, with no comfortable place to sit down.  Then we were given an hour and a half in which to go uptown for lunch.  After that we boarded a train and traveled until 2:30 this morning.  Then we marched two miles to a camp where we remained until afternoon, when we left for here.  Of course, we are all hoping to be sent to a flying school where we can settle down and get to work.  We were sent over to finish up our training and then get to work, and now that we are here, we are all darned anxious to get into it.

The blooming money that we have to use now is rather puzzling.  It is quite amusing to see one of the boys hold out a handful and let the waiter take what he wants.  It usually costs him about twice what it would in consequence.  Almost everyone here has something in the way of wine or liquor to drink with the meal.  The bars are open from 6:30 to 9:00 PM.  You see no drunkenness, but everyone, women included, drinks.  Total prohibition would seem a long way off, but the way it is handled here seems really better than prohibition.  I hardly think it could be worked that way in the States.

There are many things of interest that I would like to write about if I were allowed to do so; but you know how strict they are.  Do not worry when you do not hear from me, for there will be some good reason for it.  Last night’s rest seemed to fix most of the boys up, and it is a much more congenial bunch to live with.

Our orders have come, but we are not told our destination until we board the train.

 

St. Maixent, France

August 11, 1918

[Dearest Family:]

What a trip the last four days has been!  It was very tiresome indeed, but our journey took us through the most beautiful country I have ever seen.  Three nights on a train with nothing but a seat to sleep on.  It was something like a camping trip for us with four in our compartment.  Fortunately I had my little cooking outfit with me, and we fared very well as far as food was concerned.  Eggs were plentiful and we had bread with us, also corned beef, beans, and coffee.  Now we have very good quarters—large stone barracks with fairly good bunks, concrete floors, and wash rooms.  The last are the greatest luxury we have, and we consider ourselves very fortunate to have them.

All the boys who were at Camp Sill and Fort Worth are here—and who do you suppose is bunking right next to me?  Our old friend Sid Grant!  Also near me is Coward.[9]  Before I leave here I expect to see quite a few of my old friends as all must come here before they go any place else.  Excuse the blot; someone just called that the mail was in, and I made a mad dash for the mailbox; but to my disappointment, there was no mail for me.  I know it is too soon to expect it, but one always has hope.

This is the most beautiful country I have ever seen—all is so fresh and green and the houses are so picturesque.  As I sit in my window and look out across the valley, there is the most beautiful old chateau on the hillside.  We are located just outside a small town where hardly anyone knows a word of English.  This is a very good thing, for it gives us an opportunity to practice our French, and it is really surprising how fast you can pick it up when you are obliged to do so.  We do much of our talking with our hands, it is true; but the French are great at understanding that.  The town of St. Maixent is about ninety miles north of Bordeaux.  It is so small a town that you will probably not be able to find it on a map, unless it is a large one.

As you doubtless know, the water in France is far from good.  Wine, as far as I can gather, is the evening’s entertainment.  The way I wrote the last line looks bad, I confess; but it simply consists in going to a hotel or café, and sipping a few glasses of light wine.  Everybody drinks it, but very conservatively and no one gets drunk.  To do so would be a very serious offense.  Champagne is only $2.00 a quart.  In our mess no wine is served, but instead they give us some sort of chlorine-cured water.

We are not flying here and we do not know when we will get to a flying field.  This place is the Camp Dick of France.  It is run along the same lines, but in a much better way—more like a real military post.  There are tennis courts and a ball diamond here and when I get rested up, I think I shall enjoy using both.  The train ride sort of got the best of me, but a few days’ rest will fix me up fine.

Our crowd did not get to Paris.  The other boys did and we hear some wild stories.  However, most of them are broke and as I am trying to save money, I am glad we missed the gay city.

I am so anxious to hear all the latest news from home and the people I know.  What do you hear from Billy, Heine, and Mac?[10]  If you see them, be sure to give them my best and say that I hope to see them soon.

We have no light in our barracks at night except candles or lamps that we furnish ourselves.  I shall write more tomorrow.  It is hard to write this afternoon as I am so tired.  I think my little old bunk is the best place for me.

With loads of love to you all, Harold

 

St. Maixent, France

August 12, 1918

Dearest Family:

I am now settled down at a Camp in this quaint little town in southwestern France, about ninety miles north of Bordeaux.  It is really the most beautiful country I have ever seen, and the four days’ slow train ride that I had to get here was a beautiful one.  We passed many picturesque villages at the foot of hills, with the imposing chateaux overlooking them.  The only trouble with the trip was that we had to sleep in our compartment seats and could not take our clothes off.  My little cooking outfit came in very handy, for we fried eggs and warmed up our corned beef and beans with it.  Yesterday I was so tired that I slept most of the day.  I arrived with a cold, but the medicine I took yesterday has just about broken it up, and today I feel fine.

We have wonderful quarters here.  Our barracks are large stone buildings, constructed especially for the purpose, with running water etc.  Instead of beds with springs, we have double-decker bunks, and they are very comfortable.  The evenings are delightfully cool and the days comfortably warm.  They say it rains a great deal but I have not seen any of it so far.  We are doing no flying here at all and I do not know when we shall start.  There are ample opportunities for exercise here for there is a baseball diamond, a tennis court, and about a mile distant is a river where we can go in swimming.  The boys say that the water is pretty cold though.

I am doing much better with my French than I had thought I would.  The little work I did on the boat was a great help and the people here in St. Maixent cannot speak English so that helps too.  I hope to get into a French conversation class here in the village.  It is taught by a lady who is a professor in one of the French colleges who is home on vacation.  Six of us are going to try to get a class a day with her.

Our food here is very good; not fancy but substantial.  The water is not good as it must be medicated before we drink it.  There are no movies or shows here and the main amusement in the evening is to sit around the barracks and write until dark and then go down and sip a little vin ordinare.  It is very mild stuff and tastes much better than chlorine-treated water. The shops close at nine-fifteen and then all must go home and turn into bed.

If you look on the map for St. Maixent, you may not find it for it is a small place.  However, it is near Noir and Poitiers is not far away and these cities you will be able to find.

I am glad that I did not get a new suit when in New York.  You can get wonderful whipcords here which fit much better and are a lot smarter than those we get at home.

I have run into several of the old Dayton boys here who went across last summer.  One has a Boche to his credit.  I shall write again tomorrow but must leave off now.

Greatest love always, Harold

 

Diary Entry

St. Maixent, France

August 12, 1918

What a beautiful day this has been and tonight finds me a little lame and tired from my tennis games this morning.  The month of idleness on the boat and trains put me in pretty bad shape, but it won’t take long to round me into condition again.  My cold has left me and I feel pretty good.

We are doing no flying here, but are having a sort of ground course, studying foreign motors and types of planes that we will come into contact with in our work over here.  I don’t know how long it will last, but this is a mighty nice place to be in.  I ran into some of my old ground-school friends here today.  They have been to the front and one has a Boche to his credit.  They have not had the number of hours in the air that I have, and from this I surmise that our stay in flying school will not be a long one—just long enough to acquaint ourselves with the planes and then we will go to the front.  I am sure anxious to get there.

Today I got my bunk fixed up.  It is a double-decker and I have the lower.  At the head I have a little gasoline lamp to go to be by, and at the foot I have the barracks roll hung up.  I have fixed up a little shelf and am indeed quite comfortable.  It is getting dark now and we all go to bed with the sun, even though we do have candles and lights.

 

Diary Entry

St. Maixent, France

August 13, 1918

Today we had four classes, and in about half an hour we have a little ball game scheduled between the 1st and 2nd Lieutenants.  It promises to be an awful contest as to who can drop the ball the most.  Our little French class fell through because our teacher was called away.  Now we are trying to find a new one.  I am going to write Harold and I hope in some way we may get together for a weekend.[11]  This is rather doubtful, but then it might be possible.

 

St. Maixent, France

August 15, 1918

Dearest Family:

We played baseball most of the morning and went to classes this afternoon.  We are studying motors and types of airplanes here and also French.  This place is a sort of Camp Dick although it is much better because it is run in a more military manner.  We must be on the Post from eight in the morning until five-thirty at night.  We are at the Post most of the time for that matter as the little village has few if any attractions.

The length of the course here is ten days but we may stay much longer or be ordered out sooner.  From here we go to some flying school.

Hereafter I shall number my letters so that you can tell if any go astray.

Always with greatest love, Harold

 

Notes:

[1] The Hotel McAlpin, in New York City, was built in 1912 by Edward McAlpin.  When it was completed it was the largest hotel in the world.  It was located on Herald Square, at the corners of Broadway and 34th streets.  At the time that Harold Loud stayed there, it would have been six years old.  It was conveniently located near elevated railway tracks and transportation to any part of the city would have been easily accessible.

[2] Tiger Rose was a play written by Willard Mack and produced by David Belasco.  It was a romantic comedy set in the Canadian northwest.  It opened in the Lyceum Theater in October of 1917 and closed in September of 1918.  It was later made into a film.  Going Up was a musical comedy set in modern-day Massachusetts.  It was based on a 1910 play, “The Aviator,” by James Montgomery.  Going Up would have especially appealed to him, because the plot described the adventures of a young aviator who attempted to win his love through the use of an airplane.  It featured a full-size biplane on stage.  The music was written by Louis Hirsch with dialogue and lyrics by Otto Harbach.  It opened in the Liberty Theater in December 1917 and ran through October of 1918.  It was later made into a film, and was revived in the 1970s.

[3] The photograph of Harold Loud in his military uniform which appears in this book is probably one of the photos taken in New York City.

[4] Anton Hardy, Mr. Hardy: presumably friends of the Loud family; not further identified.

[5] Leslie Clark: apparently a Detroit friend of Harold Loud, serving in the U. S. Navy; not further identified.

[6] War News:  The Allies had initiated a counter-offensive against the Germans on 18 July, and were experiencing success in pushing the Germans back.

[7] The Tailor-Made Man was a comedy written by Harry James Smith.  A poor man appropriates an expensive suit of clothes to attend a party for upper-class people and wins the support of the owner of a steamship company.  It opened in the Sam Harris Theater in August of 1917 and ran until August of 1918.

[8] The Bayldons apparently were friends of the Loud family in Detroit.  Margaret Killmaster was an Oscoda friend.  Dr. Talley was in France, but whether in a military or civilian capacity is not known.

[9] Sidney Grant was a pilot in the 88th Aero Squadron from September 17, 1918, until the Armistice.  Raymond Coward was a pilot in 1st Aero Squadron from October 7, 1918, until the Armistice.

[10] Billy, Heine, and Mac: apparently these were friends of Harold Loud; not further identified.

[11] Harold: Harold Volk, Adele Volk’s brother, who had arrived in France a week or two earlier.