Our Trip Across
Here are excerpts from soldier’s diaries in these they recount the crossing from NY to Liverpool on their way to serve in France during World War I.
Our trip across the "big drink" was highly interesting but uneventful. None of the dreaded "U" boats were sighted and after some twelve days of cold and squally weather we sighted the coast of Scotland and Ireland and all breathed freely again. We put in to the harbor at Liverpool, England, on the 16th and debarked on the 17th day of June 1918, from where we hiked to Knotty Ash, a so–called rest camp. We spent several days here in the rain and mud and were glad when an order came for us to entrain for Southampton. This journey will long be remembered by us as a most interesting one. Or itinerary led through a picturesque part of England to the coast. Spent a miserable night in the rain at Southampton and on the next day, June 20th, we embarked on the speedy boat "Viper" and took a thrilling ride across the English Channel to La Havre, France, arriving there at 3 A.M., June 21st. An interesting hike thru this old coast city gave us an opportunity to see the wonderful morale exhibited by the French people as they went about their daily tasks while a million or so vandals were pillaging and plundering their cities and murdering their men, women and children. On June 22nd we piled into our "8 chevaux or 40 hommes" cars and after a day and night ride found ourselves at Liffol le Grand, France, which was to be our training sector for the next six weeks.
89th Division U.S.A. 1917-1919By Maj. C. J. Masseck, 353rd Infantry http://www.usgennet.org/usa/mo/county/stlouis/89thdivision/89th-history.htm#Brief%20History
On the 23rd day of May, the Company boarded a train for Camp Mills, Long Island, New York; but no one knew the route of the destination, and many were the wagers made as to the probable port of embarkation. Many tips of information were sold the boys and acting on this they sent telegrams to sweethearts and relatives only to find that the train took an entirely different route. The trip on the whole was uneventful save when the train was detained by a wreck ahead at Homer, Illinois. The hospitality of the people of that little town will never be forgotten by our men, and many of the lads made the acquaintance of some delightful correspondents. In fact, it is rumored that one half of Company "B" ‘s mail comes from Homer, Ill. It was during this trip that one platoon was exposed to measles and later, when the Company sailed, these men were left at Camp Mills, under the command of Lt. Miller, all of whom later joined the organization in France. The Company spent one week at Camp Mills and many passes were granted for New York City. Some additional equipment was drawn and the Company took boat on June the 3rd, 1918, at the Cunard pier, New York City.
It was one o’clock on the afternoon of June 4th that the good ship "Corona", "gently eased away" and slipped out past the Goddess of liberty with thousands of Doughboys on board. It was a moment never to be forgotten by those on board knowing that they were passing into a sea filled with dangers, and then into the chaos of war and that many of them would never see their native land again. Notwithstanding that the submarine menace along the Atlantic seaboard, as well as the usually infested seas was very grave at that time, the journey was very quiet and uneventful. The necessity of hurried transit made crowding necessary and the men had to endure many privations. The food was not of the best and the wormy bread and half spoiled rabbit meat has furnished a fruitful topic of conversation ever since. It was not many days out that "Snake Baublits" [Corp. Charles R. Baublits of Parnell, Mo.] proved that his stomach was not weak by putting his lunch the furthest overboard. During the passage many hidden qualities and talents developed in some of the men, while many of the lads learned to "read ‘em and weep". Some of the men replenished their purses by buying fruit etc., at wholesale prices at the canteen and retailing to the other men. Owing to the fact that we were lined up every day for boat drill and chased about to allow the crew to scrub deck, it became a common thing to hear, "Get off this deck. You can’t stay here". –
The Coronia was one of the fleet of nine English vessels and a few hundred miles off the Irish coast, the fleet was met by a flotilla of submarine chasers. From their northern course, the ships came down through the Irish Sea between Ireland and Scotland and it was some of the rugged headlands of those countries that gave the men their first sight of land. Anchors were dropped at Liverpool, England on the 15th day of June 1918, and the troops were unloaded on the 16th. The trip had taken eleven days and an average speed of about eleven knots per hour had been attained. The troops were marched through Liverpool to a supposedly rest camp, named Knotty Ash, which in the opinion of most of the men did not belie its name. It was a camp notorious for its lack of food. A few cases of illness developed and these men were left to rejoin us later, and in two days the troops moved by train to Southampton, England. They had disembarked at Liverpool in a rainstorm and they were again drenched at Southampton. After the men had finally crawled into some open sided tents on empty stomachs the news was spread that a hot supper awaited them at the upper end of the camp. A rush was immediately made for same, which proved to be over a quarter of a mile distant and was nothing more of less than a half cup of very bitter tea. For once "B" Company was on the verge of mutiny.
On the night of June the 19th the Company sailed on board H.M.S. Viper for Le Havre, France, and landed on the morning of the 20th. The troops marched to another rest camp on a high hill behind the city for Le Havre where they stayed until the evening of the 22nd of June. It was there that the boys made their acquaintance with "Vin Rouge" and "Vin Blanc", and many were the dollar bills they passed out for a twenty-five cent bottle of wine. This trade was forbidden by the authorities; but splendid business relations were established through the high barbed wire fences by means of a piece of cord tied to the neck of a bottle. On the evening of the 22nd the troops boarded the French trains some riding "8 chevaux –40 hommes". Such a ride! The men floundered and snored and cursed and groaned, trying to sleep. Some of the men rode in cars having seats and they invariably crawled beneath the seats and made their beds.
Sergeant M. WALDO HATLER [Medal of Honor] 256th Infantry http://www.usgennet.org/usa/mo/county/stlouis/89thdivision/1bat89-cob.htm
We arrived at Liverpool , England, 6:30 P.M., July 17. Here we saw and felt the effect of war for the first time. We set up a rest camp at Knotty Ash for a short time. Then we moved on through Oxford to Southampton, England. There we were loaded on the "St. George" boat and crossed the English Channel.
We reached LeHavre, France, July 22. Here we were loaded in boxcars - twenty nine men per car - small cars at that. We stopped at Avrecourt, France – a quaint old fashioned village. The people there were very good to us. We camped here for quite some time. I was still a Cpl. but I was in charge of my platoon. At this camp I drilled several new recruits. We had hard drills all through the month of August, about 9 hours a day.
We were loaded in 6 trucks and moved to Chalindrey Then we went by train to Houdlecourt.
BY George Douglas (Doug) McMullin
June 12th 1918. Left New York Boat Canopic, White Star Liner.
June 24th 1918. Arrived at Liverpool England. Rest Camp Knotty Ash.
June 27th 1918. Left rest camp for South Hampton.
June 28th 1918. Arrived at La Havre France. Night trip.
July 3rd 1918. Left La Havre, arrived at Messac. All night in cattle cars, hold forty men, room for twenty.