|The History of the 103rd Regiment
of the 26th Division of the U.S. Army
during World War I
|Table of Contents|
O(J'l`()BElt lst saw the convoy all iogether and from then on it was ship lifc for nine days. There were boat drills each day, setting-up exercises, inspection of the men and quarters, elHeers’ and noneommissioned ofi‘icers’ schools, guard duty; withal the voyage passed quickly. The ships changed direction, the convoy varied its formation and manoeuvred enough to keep up interest and speculation. Of course the men were crowded, perhaps the food was not over abundant, but those things are forgotten. No subinariues were encountered, though a considerable sense of relief was felt when, arriving in the danger zone at ten o'cloek the morning of October 7, the convoy was picked up by the Hotilla of submarine chasers which was to guide and guard the way into Liverpool. Veritable watchdogs, these little boats with their carnoufiaged sides, seemed literally to bob up from all sides at once, forming a cordon of safety. Land was sighted on the morning of the eighth, and the lighthouse at the outer entrance to Liverpool harbor was passed about noon on the ninth. Ono at a. time the ships drew into their docks; the 2nd Binttahon debarked on the ninth, the 3rd Battalion at 3 a. ru. on the tenth, and the lst Battalion and Headquarters at nine o’cleck on the tenth. The unloading of men, barracksdaags, and other baggage went through swiftly. For the heavy and bulkier freight a baggage detail was left. Headquarters, the lst and 2nd Batialions, entrained for Borden, the 3rd Bat- talion for Southampton. The trip from Liverpool was made in passenger coaches and was very interest- ing, for the route passed through some beautiful country and through cities and villages famous in literature, history, and industry. For the first time our men saw girls and women‘ doing men’sj work. The general impression was of a country busy at work for some great end. Near Winchester our first Hospital Train was seen. The troops going to Borden went into Oxney Camp, Borden lzlaunts, near Kingsley, the battalion going to Southampton, to the rest camp on the heights outside the city limits. All were under canvas. Though Borden and Southampton are some miles apart, both are situated in southern England, the latter, South· ampton, being one of England’s largest ports and an cmbarkation and debarkation point for channel traflie. The stay of the regiment in England was a short one but not without value. The men rubbed shoulders with Tommies, Cmmdians, Aiistrulimis, New Zeal:md— ers, and picked up some information from men who had been "therc." They saw what it meant, at nation at war, reflected in life about them; women doing meifs work, restrictions 011 food and food allowances, cities in total darkness at night. Then, too, they learned im little of English history from their wandering; to historic places. The weather was bad, rain and more rain, which meant mud.] The ration situation was a difficult one as was also the housing of the men. Taken all in all, knowing too that their training was not to be received in England, all were glad when the next inove was made across the Channel. _ The 3rd Battalion crossed on the night of the lGth-17th; the 2nd, on that of the l9th—20th; the lst Battalion, the 20th—2lst. The crossing was made on fast ehannel boats and was "usually rough." All troops landed at Le Havre, a tremendous center of activity, for it was one of the principal debarkation ports. There were located large Britisli rcst camps and prison camps. Our troops, how- ever, spent less than twenty-four hours there; each unit moved out the night following its arrival, and then it was that the rncn had their first troop-train ride, after the manner of veterans, in box ears, “(`hevaux 8, Hoinincs 40," lt was a hard but interesting trip lasting two nights and a day. Liffol—le—Grand, which was to be thc home and training area of the regiment until February, was reached the second morning after leaving Le Havre. Along the route the reception of thc French was typically enthusiastic. The struggle that France was going through seemed to he reflected on the land and the people, for it must be remembered that northern and western France were paying dearly. The war was very near to them not only from the lives lost but from the resultant tying up of industry and agriculture. · Liffol-le-Grand is a village of fifteen hundred inhabitants, situated in the Department of the Yosges. Ncufchateau, the nearest city of any considerable size, and Division Headquarters during the divisienls stay in the area, lies ten kilometers to the north on the Meuse River. Chaumont, General Headquarters, is about forty kilometers to the south. The nearest part of the line, the Toul front, from which occasionally the artillery could be heard, was to the northwest about forty-five kilometers, The village of Liffol»le-Grand is old, dating back to the period of Roman influence if not of Roman rule. The main road, Route Nationale, which passes through thc village from Chaumont to N eufchateau is said to have been built by the Romans. Vvlith its houses all of stone, built right out to the streets and roads, its men, women, and children with their noisy wooden shoes, its sheep, goats, cows, hens, chickens roaming at will in the streets, this village presented a strange contrast to the "homc villages " of New England men. Brigade and Regimental Headquarters, the Headquarters and Supply Com- panies, the lst and 3rd Battalions, and the Maehine—Gun Battalion were billeted at Liffol. The second battalion and one machine—gun company went to Villouxel, a small village about three kilometers distant. For the most part the men were billetcd in stables and lofts; ofhcers were lodged with the villagers. Some of the companies did, however, have Adrian barracks for their mess-halls. There were no young men left in the village, a few middle-aged men were all that remained, and the women and children. Beforc the war (and how often that expression, avant La Gacrre, was heard) the district was fairly prosperous, farming and the making of wooden shoes, and beautiful and high»grade chairs, and cabinet work being the principal industries. The welcome of these people was genuine; they received thc 103rd Regiment into their homes and hearts and have kept them there.
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