Clayton M. Sherwood:
Diary of Foreign Service, August 1917 to February 1919


[September 1917]

Sept. 1. [Saturday]
Left Bantry Bay. Land looks pretty this morning in sunlight. High rocky hills with streams running down them. Farms lying on hillsides and valleys in green clusters. White farmhouses and pretty groves. Out of sight of land again. Going up Irish Sea thru St. George’s Channel.

Sept. 2. [Sunday]
Land again sighted. High rocky mountains. The coast of Wales. Church held on deck. Very good services, Catholic. 7:00 P.M. are in Mersie [Mersey] River between Liverpool and New Brighton. Both nice-looking cities, no wooden buildings. Crowds on ferries cross and cheer. English all glad to see us. Got off boat of 8 or 9:00 P.M. and walked with equipment and barracks bags to train. Each squad in section of little cars, two seats. Beautiful moonlight night and fine country thru which we are passing.

At right: The Andania in dry dock in Scotland. Clayton was on this ship 19 days.

Sept. 3. Monday.
Arrived at camp Holacx in pretty place north of Borden [Bordon Camp still exists in Hampshire, roughly 40 miles southwest of London on the southern edge of the North Downs southwest of Farnham; Clayton later changes spelling to Bordon]. Ate breakfast of bacon, rye bread and coffee. Tasted fine after ship’s grub. Five men in a tent, board floor. Barnacastle and I took walk to Borden. Passed thru English camp where recruits were drilling. Noticed military appearance of guard. Saw many who had been wounded and told much of horrors at front. Met Australian who was very interesting. Are very fine appearing men, these Australians, more like Americans than the English. Wrote letter home and to Homer Chaney. English money presents some difficulties at first but get on to it quickly. Have two canteens and Y.M.C.A.s. Expect will be here about five days before going to France [they leave for France Sept. 15]. English troops here are of Royal Engineers. Got some American money changed at canteen. Instructions given for conservation of food. All waste food sorted for use in ammunition. Are in most beautiful county in England, Hampshire.

[Entry from “The History of the 57th Regiment”: “... we were received with open arms by the British and sent to Camp Borden, England, arriving there at 9:50 A. M. on the morning of the 3rd of September, 1917, after an all-night ride in those quaint old-fashioned cars that are still in use in England. Upon our arrival at Camp Borden we were greeted by the British soldiers, who had a good substantial meal prepared for us, which we certainly did relish and enjoy, as it was the first real good meal that we had since we left the dear old U.S.A. We got the rest of the day off to straighten ourselves out and get our land legs back again.”]

Tuesday, Sept. 4.
Reveille at 6:00 A.M. Hiked several miles along pretty English roads. High hedges along roads, some holly or mistletoe. Little stores, tea shops and eating houses along road. Very pretty country but didn’t see much cultivation. Saw scarcely an able-bodied man except in uniform. Feet rather sore after march but washed them and are feeling pretty good. Washed clothes and leggin[g]s after supper. Had wig wag drill an afternoon and first-aid instruction by Lt. Sprague. Went to Y.M.C.A. with Barnacastle but couldn’t get table to write letters.

Sept. 5, Wednesday.
Went on hike, started on west side of camp and went several miles around and came in on east side. Get plenty to eat but meat is mostly mutton, which is so greasy that it is not very well liked. Slum[gullion/stew], head [toilet] and coffee is pretty good. Wrote card to Jim [Burwell of Kalkaska, with the 26th Infantry in France.]. Air raid on London last night, search lights seen last night by us in camp. Barney [Barnacastle] and I went to army beer garden and had beer and sandwich and met Gunner Clancy at a table, he showed us a flag and said it was the one he carried on his bayonet at Vimy Ridge. First time U.S. flag was carried in this war. Had picture of self cut from U.S. paper and is expecting a U.S. commission. [The Battle for Vimy Ridge, beginning April 9, 1917, gave the Allies control over a heavily fortified ridge, an action considered a major victory.]

Sept. 6. [Thursday]
Took another long hike east and south of camp, came through Borden and other towns south and east of it. Took bath in afternoon and washed clothes. Met fellow of English army wounded several times and now thru, who told interesting stories of war tonight. Wrote letter home, sending song, “Keep the home fires burning.” Loaned Frenchy [Arsenält] a dollar.

Sept. 7. [Friday]
Had hike in the morning and went fast and a long time without rest. Other companies bought things on the road from some family selling. We couldn’t, as officers wouldn’t allow it, and grumbled a lot. Drilled in afternoon and signaled. After retreat had inspection of hats, blouses and blankets to find one someone lost on boat. Also angered company. Barney [Barnacastle] and I went to Borden and on to [pub] Prince of Wales, place had something to eat and drink. Didn’t get in till after bed check.

Sept. 8. [Saturday]
Had inspection of equipment and was asked about not being in tent at 10:00 last night. Nothing else was said. Regimental bath in afternoon and no more to do till 11:00. Went to town with Barney and [Lawrence] Peatfield and met Australian. Had pictures taken with some English and Canadian soldiers. Went to Palace [theater] movies and back before eleven.

Sept. 9. [Sunday]
Had to scrub tables for missing check on 7th. Is Sunday and [I] would like to go to Protestant church but too late now. Will have a good dinner, I guess, beef instead of mutton. Meals are usually very slim. Was supposed to have been KP [kitchen police] today but didn’t know it till after breakfast as wasn’t in yesterday afternoon or evening so didn’t go in all day. Guess wasn’t reported so got away with it all right. Barney and I took walk in afternoon. Frenchy [Arsenält] and I went to an inn north of the main road. Had beer and gin, also good feed at restaurant there. Bread, butter and jam, cheese sandwiches, pies and cake and coffee and cocoa. Three bob [shillings], two pence.

Sept. 10, Monday.
Went on hike south of Borden across south and northwest Railroad past a British rifle range where men were firing. Must have plenty of ammunition to engage in target practice. When we came back eventually [? word unclear], had left. Expect to leave tomorrow or Wed[nesday]. [Actually, they don’t leave for another five days.] Drilled, had signaling in afternoon. Supper of mutton slum[gullion], bread and cabbage. Walked with Frenchy [Arsenält] and Eastman after retreat south and east of camp. Frenchy and Eastman cracking jokes on each other pretty personal.

Sept. 11. [Tuesday]
Hiked around north side of camp and south to big hill and back. Feet are getting tough and am used to sleeping on boards now. If [I] ever get home [I] will know how to appreciate it better than ever before. Haven’t had mail here yet and am anxious to hear how folks are. Company on guard tomorrow but I missed it by lucky chance. Haven’t done guard or KP since leaving [Fort] Andrews [in late July]. Had infantry drill and semaphoring in afternoon. Rained just before retreat and found tent leaked some. If ever get in America again, I will eat myself to a natural death, after living on mutton, boiled spuds and black coffee. The old farm for me and never leave again. Major told of overhearing a British colonel telling his regiment that they would do well to follow our example of military bearing and he desired it. Quite a compliment for us as regulars over those who were here before and were not regulars and who were not complimented on their appearance.

Sept. 12. [Wednesday]
Hiked way north to halfway house about 5 miles north of camp. Feet are fine now. Had infantry drill and feet inspection in afternoon. Feed found to be short because British are beating U.S. government out of half of rations. Company on guard so no formation, I think. One fish for supper and no bread. Some jam and little potato. Report Sweden declared war on U.S. and Japan about to do so. Certainly hope not, especially the Japs. Nothing of Sweden or Japan’s declaring war in papers so guess there was nothing to rumor.

Sept. 13. [Thursday]
Company on guard, didn’t get up to start reveille, only three in tent and none got out. Was not reported. Eats still poor, very little meat and little boiled spuds, little bread and bad coffee. Did nothing all day. At night went to Bordon [spelled correctly] with Barny [Barnacastle] and had feed. Eggs, french fries, bread and butter and apple and custard.

Sept. 14. {Friday]
Hiked to Frensham Pond [northeast of Bordon Camp] and back, about 9 miles in little over two hours. Expect to leave tomorrow for France and camp about 30 miles from Paris. Paraded in P.M. for movies. Lancejack Lt. Dunn in charge all day. Lent Arnold half a crown. Went to Borden and bought stuff for lunch tomorrow, bread, jam, meat pies and some candy for I and Barny to carry tomorrow.

Sept. 15. [Saturday]
Morning. Ate breakfast 6:20 and received three sandwiches, jam and meat for today’s rations. Everything packed up and barracks bags and English blankets taken to end of street for taking away. Rations and things bought, placed in a heavy marching order. Are to wear overcoats and will be rather hot. Beautiful morning, looks like a late September morning at home when going to school. Left camp about 10:00 A.M. for station, which we left at 10:20. Some stations we pass thru: Bordon Station, Bentley Junction, Medstead, Homestead [Hampstead?], Itchen Abbas, Walton, Shawford, Allbrook, Eastleigh, St. Denys, Southampton [this route heads west from Bordon Camp and veers south past Winchester into Southampton]. Arrived in Southampton about 2:30 and waited in depot or sheds at docks. Ate at counter in train sheds, cake and coffee. Boarded ship “Londonderry” about 5:00 and shoved off at dusk. Pretty harbor and go down river to the sea. Were packed on boat like sheep. Boat dirty with coal dust and hardly standing room. Slept awhile or tried to on deck with head on Barney’s [Barnacastle] side, he sleeping on his life preserver.

[From “History of the 57th Regiment”: “At 8:40 A.M. on the morning of the 15th of September, 1917, we left Camp Borden for Southampton, where we took the Steamer Londonderry, at 7:30 P.M. for La Havre, France, crossing the English Channel, and arriving at La Havre, France, at 3:30 A.M. on the morning of the 16th of September, 1917, after one of the worst nights that we had ever put in up to this time. The steamer would accommodate comfortably about twelve hundred, and there were seventeen hundred and fifty of us on it, so you can imagine the crowded condition. But we never growled or grumbled because it had to be done.”]

Sept. 16, Sunday.
Arrived in [Le] Havre, France, and after much confusion finding marching order, and carrying it about deck, we at last marched off and went thru town to big rest camp on north side. Many large cranes unloading supplies at docks and all kinds of American goods piled up. Observation balloons going up here and hangar side of camp. Frenchy [Arsenält] and I went out on street where he began talking to some French and Belgian girls and women. Lots warmer here than in England and get more to eat than Bordon and better quality. Bread, butter, jam, meat and some eggs. Went downtown with Croswell [later spelled Carswell] and Barney [Barnacastle] at night on pass. Nigger [an arrow is drawn from this word back to the name Croswell] and I had fun in cafe making French bar-maids understand us. Was surprised at the lack of modesty of people on streets. Little kids asking for pennies and souvenirs and catching us by the hands. See few men except in uniform.

Sept. 17. [Monday]
Drew meal tickets and ate breakfast. Received each a can of corned beef and few hardtacks for a 24 hour trip. Boarded train, 9 in a compartment, and small ones at that. Very slow train as they carry heavy loads, run three long tunnels and have to watch track all the time. Saw guards all along road and at ends of tunnel and bridges. Trenches and barbed-wire entanglements at each end of bridge across Seine. Land extensively cultivated though old men and women prevail in working soil. Soldiers work and both town and country, even help on railroads. Came thru Rouen, Scotteville [Sotteville], Mantes[-la-Jolie] and will go thru Paris, I think. See old buildings of brick and stone to wood and plaster, some of which are very ancient looking, peaked roofs and patched in many places. Engines are as a rule small and queer looking as are also the cars which joined by chains or shove each other by means of round bumpers. English larger engines and some large passenger cars used largely. Stopped some time in Mantes, where were given coffee, being about 7:00.

[A corresponding entry from “The History of the 57th Regiment, 2nd Battalion,31st Brigade, Coast Artillery Corps During World War One”: We disembarked at 8 A.M. and marched to Rest Camp No. 2, where we remained until 8:45 A.M. of the morning of September 17th, 1917, when we left Rest Camp No. 2 and entrained for the mobilization camp known as Camp Mally, arriving there at 10:45 A.M. on the morning of the 18th of September, 1917. This camp is a real good camp and is situated thirty-five miles from No Man's Land and is used principally for mobilization purposes.” According to a "history of events" for the 56th Regiment, the Army Heavy Artillery School was established at Mailly-le-Camp. In May 1944, the Royal Air Force bombed and destroyed Mally-le-Camp, which had been occupied by German forces.]

Sept. 18, Tuesday.
Went thru Paris early morning shortly after midnight. Saw large glass covered building and big railway yards and what I thought were walls of Paris. Couldn’t see much of city, however. Passed scene of battle of Marne about 70 miles from Paris east and north. Buildings battle-scarred and shell holes in ground. Many wooden crosses on sides of track indicating graves of soldiers fallen in that battle, which checked the German advance on Paris. Saw many guns mounted on railway carriages such as we will have and painted in camouflage-style green and brown like trees and shrubs. Arrived at Camp Mailly [Mailly-le-Camp, southwest of Paris and south of Chalons] where French R.R. [railroad] artillery camp is, and which was shelled and held by Germans during first of war. Went up town with Frenchy [Arsenält], who talks like a native and saw it was quite a little town. No men except in uniform. Women run stands and stores and cafes. [The rail trip is heading southeast from Le Havre in the direction of Verdun.]

At right: This 1916 postcard image shows Russian troops marching through the town at Mailly-le-Camp, France.

Sept. 19. [Wednesday]
Started on hike but didn’t go far, won’t hike anymore as are close to line, and aeroplanes spotting troops could conduct raid on camp. [As seen below, hiking nonetheless goes on.] Fine country and looks like Michigan plains about here. All tillable land cultivated as grazed. No waste land as in England. Got two letters from home yesterday and was very glad to hear that all are well. All took bath today, fine showers as are all buildings, things well fixed up all about. Got straw tick for bunk also. Wine can be bought for 22 cents a large bottle. That is [“]un franc[”] and about 13 centimes. Beer also be obtained cheap. Am in Y.M.C.A. where letters can be written and latest English and New York papers read. Games played here of all kinds. Sunday the 7th Reg, played first ball game ever played in village. Fine field Y.M.C.A., electric lights, tables, musical instruments and counter of soldiers’ wants at cost. French lessons are free to all by Frenchmen who talk English, and are very good. Met a fellow from Kalamazoo High School, a McAlister, who knew Lambke and a number of the college fellows [at Kalamazoo College]. He is the first fellow that I have seen since joining the army that I ever saw before, except [Orel] Champney, who enlisted with me but was in the company left in Boston as provost guard. [Orel Champney, of Rapid City, Michigan, was Clayton’s basketball teammate, who later married Clayton’s cousin Nettie Sherwood; he remained with the armory at Boston.]

Sept. 20. Thurs.
Hiked again today north and east of camp. Many new buildings put up since were in place of those destroyed by Germans. Report of no more hikes, just S.O.S. Major said some time ago that we were the first U.S. regulars ever in Eng[land] and are the first heavy artillery to land in France. Fine feed at dinner today, beef, a kind of soup, potatoes, bread and coffee and stewed prunes. Appreciated by all. The barracks here and nearly everything is built or helped to be built by German prisoners. Most buildings here and in country about are of brick or stone with red tiled roofs. U.S. barracks are wood for most part, a company in each long shack where there are two tiers of wooden bunks and nails for clothes, shelves for toilet articles and men's kits. A fellow, Weis, just had a fit and was carried out in air. Had one last night, I think, also, which didn’t last long. He is better and lays asleep on his bunk. 300 German prisoners brought in today, and French report more gains. Nothing done this P.M. except inspection of quantity of clothes. Went to Y.M.C.A. where several hundred had come to hear a Frenchman talk about Belgium. Said all atrocities heard of in America were true and could not be exaggerated. Put blame on German officers rather than soldiers themselves.

Sept. 21. [Friday]
Hiked north of Mailly about five miles, and heard big guns firing and shells whistling thru the air, seemed close but must have been miles away, for a corporal on motorcycle was near the artillery line and estimated distance at about 40 miles. In afternoon, had skirmish drill and signaling. Shaved and got ready for inspection. Went to look for trenches with Parrish but didn’t get to see much before dark. People (old men, women and soldiers on leave) working in fields till dark. Country in evening made me think of walking in fields at home. Air and climate seem same, and country resembles Michigan lands.

Sept. 22. [Saturday]
Had inspection in of heavy marching office order, but did not pitch tents. Fellows getting disgusted with way things are done. Too much show and monkey business without learning anything. Many go on sick report, apparently to get out of duty and don’t blame them at all. Frenchy [Arsenält] has bad cut on his skin, which lets him out. Parade this afternoon, or review before Col. Chamberlain, who is source of all these orders, or at least is blamed for them. Some are talking of transferring to 7th regiment. Several chauffeurs and repair men have transferred to other camps, Pershing’s I think, to drive trucks. Saw a chauffeur tonight and inquired if he knew the whereabouts of 26th Inf[antry] in which Jim [Burwell] is. He thought they were at Bordeaux or Grandicourt, if they are spelled that way. Was lonesome and blue all day and kept longing to be at home and see folks again. All hope this war will soon end and we can get out of the army and home before long. Have prayed for it myself, and others do I expect, and hope so anyway.

Sept. 23, Sunday.
Went to Catholic services in morning and saw rites gone through. Ate French fried potatoes in little sacks at French canteen. In afternoon went to trenches of three years ago with Croswell [Carswell], picked up shells and pieces of grenades. Great network of trenches out in solid rock in places. Trees cut off by shot. Walked to little town northeast of camp and got apples, plums and walnuts. At night went thru town with [??] Kreps and Croswell, and down to the Y.M.C.A. before lights out, intending to write but didn’t.

Sept. 24. [Monday]
Colonel, Major and several officers took trip to firing line. Capt. Grace of I Bat[tery] took batt[ery] on hike and gave us an unmerciful trip. Everybody growling and cursing the army. All make up our minds never to be roped again nor induce any friends to, but to do the opposite. Hope we get a chance to have better idea of army before long. Lieut[enant] told us not to put anything in letters about treatment, for it would be censored, which shows even some of the officers realize what dog’s treatment we get from orders of higher officers. This P.M. had infantry drill and watched Frenchmen work a six-inch R.R. [railroad artillery] gun. Saw a group of 30 or 40 French officers there. Nigger and I went to French canteen after supper and ate fried potatoes, apples, and then to Y.M.C.A. and got N.Y. Herald printed in Paris. Report of another draft in U.S. from [ages] 19 to 20. That won’t take [17-year-old brother] Elmer in, so won’t affect us.

Sept. 25. [Tuesday]
Went on sick report for first time in army. Had kind of grip [influenza] and got lots of pills to take, three every three hours. Helped [to] police shack, all bunk floors and movable boards taken out and washed. Fixing shack back of this for co[mpany?] kitchen and storehouse. Will have our own cooks and live better then. Went uptown with Nigger and watched Barney [Barnacastle] and Frenchy [Arsenält] sell shirt or pants though they didn’t know it. Tried to see what they did with cash but didn’t see them enter any place. Got apples and gingerbread cake for 80 centimes, made good feed. Wrote letter home and one to Jim [Burwell in the 26th Infantry].

Sept. 26. [Wednesday]
Had instruction in guard duties in morning, didn’t all know general orders, so several including myself had to learn them in P.M. Took baths in afternoon. After retreat went to town with Carswell, and got wine thru a Frenchman who talked some English. Had to watch that no officers or guards saw it, as U.S. soldiers are forbidden wine and can get only beer. Got back the letter to Jim [Burwell] as I didn’t think I would have to stamp soldier’s mail not leaving country but seems one must. Nigger told me about his life before entering the army and what made him join. Seems to have been a moonshiner in N.C. [North Carolina] and nearly got caught.

27 Sept. [Thursday; entry reverses the date]
Co[mpany] on regimental fatigue. Went on detail to Q.M. [quartermaster] storehouse and helped sort and file various heavy material, field stoves, pails, cans, etc. Received three letters and two papers from home at noon, and at night two letters and a paper that had been forwarded from Lt. Adams and were dated Aug. 26. Others were sent about 5th and 8th of Sept. They had received my cablegram all right, school had started and the kids were driving in each day, I believe. Letters from [sister] Edna with one from Martha, Alice C[aldwell] and Ruth C. inside. One from [Mendel] Keith and one from Bernice W[hite].

Sept. 28. [Friday]
Hiked in morning to fine grove some two miles away and rested there nearly an hour. Pay day announced by Captain and will get money this P.M. Last night several drunk and one vomited in shack, expect will be worse tonight. Nothing doing in P.M. so reread letters and read magazines. Had to carry some stuff for Headquarters from q.m. [quartermaster] storehouse. Paid about 5 o’clock, drew 95 francs. Received 10 francs from Barney [Barnacastle]. Ate supper in own mess quarters and didn’t stand retreat. Went up town with Carswell and got cake, apples, and chocolate and beer. French marching about and throwing colored fire bombs and celebrated a victory. Several in co[mpany] drunk but all quiet.

Sept. 29, Sat.
Inspection in heavy marching order. French band played in front of Reg[imental]. Headquarters. Some fine pieces and excellently played. Troop of bicycle soldiers and several officers and buglers mounted on bikes. Not much done in P.M. and several quite drunk, one cook in guard house. Went up town after supper and had few glasses wine but resolve to stop drinking much of that as don’t taste good and sets bad on stomach. Several more drunk and another in mill, caught in French uniform. Signed payroll after supper. Very soon after payday it seems but hope to get paid sooner this month.

Sept. 30, Sun.
Mustered in morning, by roll call and physical inspection. Each drew another blanket. Attended Protestant services before dinner and came out here past creek northe[ast] of camp in grove to write letters. Reread letters received other day and will now start to answer some. Is nice to sit here, and reminds me of grove at Log lake, but if [I] should start in direction for home as if [it were] there, would wind up in trenches. Wish I could be there instead of here and pray God that this time next summer will find me there or near there.

Original text © 2002-2004 by, Willowshade, West Grove, PA


Foreword and Summary

August 1917 | THIS PAGE: SEPTEMBER 1917 | October 1917
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