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


[January 1919]

Jan. 1, Wed[nesday], 1919
Reville [sic] at 4:30 [A.M.], formation at 7:15 and had to be shaved and policed [polished?] up. Whole regiment in O.D. [olive drab] uniforms marched to Pontanegers [sp?] barracks, where colonel marched reg[iment] to Brest and each man including sargents [sic] got a duck-board and carried it to big store yard near No. 1 kitchen. Got our dinner then about 1:30 [P.M.] and back to tent about 2:00. Letter from Kerman. Raining this P.M. and no formation.

Jan. 2, 1919 [Thursday]
Went to docks to work. Were taken on trucks. Helped unload a Japanese ship of U.S. commissary supplies. Hoisted from hole by ship’s derricks and engines on deck. Ate meals at kitchen near docks where negroes cook. Good dinner. Negro stevedores working also at docks but not as hard as detailed troops. Trucks came for us about 6:30 and didn’t get to supper till late as [there was] traffic on the poor, muddy roads.

Friday, Jan. 3
Detail counted off for K.P.s and just missed me by one but as no names were taken I stayed in kitchen after breakfast and helped wash some things, working with Barnacastle, and didn’t give them my name. In P.M. about 1:30 went to Y.M.C.A. and stayed awhile and wrote a letter home first one since day before Christmas. I didn’t write very good letters, either, I’m afraid, and not half thanked them for things sent me for birthday and Christmas. Hope to be able to make up for it soon in Kalkaska. I pray God that they all keep well till I get there. Rainy all evening and mud is deep.

Jan. 4, 1919, Sat[urday]
Went on sick report. Sick to stomach. Had to stand in rain 3 hours waiting for doctors. Was given some pills and marked quarters. So am lying in bunk and have been looking at pictures of folks and reading last letter from them, dated Nov. 27 [1918]. Sun is shining a little now for a big surprise. [A] Very sick man would die here in no time, where we never have dry feet or warm place. And in wet muddy tents sleeping on ground in Jan[uary].

Sunday, Jan. 5, 1919
Inspection by a colonel and captains, all stuff out on bunks. Were well pleased with battery and regiment. In K.C. after dinner all 51st [Artillery] men were told to report to camp at once as they had sailing orders. Great shouts and a rush for camp followed. At camp [we] were told to get some sleep as detail would go out at night. Went to sorting yards near docks and worked all night till 4 in morning. Ate at 12:00 [midnight]. Trucks took us and brought us back. About 50 in a truck and jerking all the time, nearly throwing us out. No breakfast till 6:00 [A.M.] so most of us came up and went to bed.

Jan. 6 [Monday]
Formation at 10:30 [A.M.] for physical inspection. Slept little more after dinner. Detail went in kitchen tonight and rest of battery in camp. I heard inspectors reported to C.G. [commanding general?] that 51st [Artillery] was cleanest reg[iment] that had come through Brest. In [news]paper of Jan. 4 was paragraph saying investigation of Brest conditions was in progress, set in motion by a George Brown in an article in [The] Washington Post, in which he describes the camp in country[side] where 70,000 men live in tents and the streets as rivers of mud overflowing into tents, etc. Pretty good, only there are more men than he stated. Got letter home censored and mailed at K.C. yesterday. Letter and postcard from Aunty and Marshall came yesterday also.

Tuesday, Jan. 7
Worked at officers mess down town, quit at 4:00 [P.M.] and got called down by a general for not saluting while waiting for a truck.

Wed[nesday], Jan. 8
Went to warehouse No. 1 on Brest road where we fixed up bales of overcoasts. Was at commissary in A.M. and bought jam, sardines and candles for about 50¢. Would have cost 10 francs from frogs [French]. All dope [news] about leaving is false and all sorts of stories [are going] about.

Thursday, Jan. 9
Went on sick report and [was] marked light duty. Sat in Stone and Thomas’ tent by fire all day. Heard once that [we] would stay here and be in S.O.S. [?] or relieve the marines who are on police duty. It may be all false as the rest. Got paid after supper, 33 dollars. Have 89 dollars. Bomka paid me $5.

Friday, Jan. 10
Changed mess halls, now eat at No. 5 where permanent parties and men in billets mess. Went with Stone, Smith, Hoffman to farmhouse north of camp and got deux bottaye [sp?] cognac. Got knife off Peatfield when [he] came back and [we] were in his tent. The knife had been in my Xmas package and had come out and he found it in mail sack. Got stove in tent.

Sat[urday], Jan. 11
Pretty sick and marked quarters. Shantz’ shoes [?].

Sunday, Jan. 12
Company on fatigue, part in kitchen quarters again today. Detail went out at night but turned in early.

Sunday, Jan. 12 [date repeated]
Beaucoup blacks’ infantry came in lately, a lot of them decorated and with service stripes.

Monday, Jan. 13
Not much doing during day. Rumored [that] colonel gets on strip [one stripe?] today. [I] Put in for [a] pass with Stone. Had cootie [lice] bath a blinges [?? sp?] too.

Tuesday, Jan. 14
Got pass but Stone didn’t as he missed revielle. Went with LaFevre and R. [Red?] Smith. Ate at Y.M.C.A. restaurant. Got “ice cream” and American chocolate and a few little souvenir[s]. Good time for kind of day as twas [it was] rainy all day. Battery on fatigue but [was] called in at 12:00 [noon] and had orders to cut hair off body as cooties [lice] held us from sailing today. Are to get bath and salvage clothes and blankets.

Wed[nesday], Thursday, Jan. 15
Rifle inspection in the morning. At supper time went to warehouse and got bale of clothes to two men and carried [it] back here about a mile. Then went to supper. Have to march back to came from meals in squads.

Thursday, Jan. 16
Salvaged all blankets and extra underwear and socks. Took bath and put on clean underwear and socks. Got blankets new issued in P.M. and another suit of underwear and O.D. [olive drab] shirt and towel. Corraled a bunch of wood left by Ohio troops in next plot. Thot [thought] [we] would leave today but didn’t 83rd or Ohio troops go out ahead. Colonel gave talk and said we’re supposed to leave on [ship] Adriatic and would have gone before [now] but had to get paid once, and cooties another time and too small a boat once and now bef because Ohio troops must go out first.

Friday, Jan. 17
Took hike with rifles in morning and had inspection in afternoon. On guard at night, 1st relief. Got letter from Ma and Edna written day after Xmas.

Sat[urday], Jan. 18
50 men on K.P. Fine day, best since we’ve been here. 330 days rained last year, so Stars and Stripes says in Brest.

Sunday, Jan. 19
Nothing doing in A.M. Carried some tent floors in P.M.

Monday, Jan. 20
Carried some board.

Tues[day], Jan. 21
Inspection in morning and instructions to fix for general inspection tomorrow. Carried couple loads of two by fours in afternoon. Bunch of K.P.’s went on at night. Men who wished and were between 5’7” and 5’9” and 1st class privates could put in for M.P. [military police] job, 400 wanted. Stone wanted me too but nothing doing. [I] Want to get back to the woods and make the harvest next summer [in Kalkaska].

At right: The Kaiser Wilhelm II, later the U.S. Agamemnon, was a German cruise ship launched in 1903. This pre-war postcard shows the ship docked at Dresden.

Wed[nesday], Jan. 22
Hear [we] are to leave this morning. Drew shoes after breakfast. Orders to pack rolls and empty and turn in bed sacks and salvage shoes. Took stoves in tent by marines in charge of plot. Had formation in packs and rolls and everything about 10:30. “Right face” and started. Cooks absent but sent after and came in truck with Top [commanding officer?] who always rides when all but him walk. Threw away Abegglen’s cane on [the] way. Arrived at dock and waited with pack on till went on lighter [ship]. Some pack to carry about 4 miles to Brest and to ship, 3 blankets, underwear, two O.D. shirts, several socks, raincoat and overcoat, extra shoes, bag of toilet articles, etc. Got on board Agamemnon, once the German ship Kaizer [sic] Wilhelm II. A paradise, it seems to us [who are] used to living in mud and the eats are finest we’ve had since leaving the States. Started coaling ship at night but was on guard in sleeping quarters at night.

Thursday, Jan. 23
Went on coaling detail at 12: [noon] and on till 6:00 [P.M.] way down in bunkers shoveling to keep shoot [chute] open so we could have air and a place to get out, nearly stopped up when 6:00 came as sailors who were helping us left about 5:00 [P.M.]. Sure are good eats, puddings, sausage, fine bread, oatmeal, rice, sardines, etc. Even had some fine apples, first in a year since leaving Mailly. Canteens sell all kinds of candy, cakes and cookies, and tobacco, almost anything one wants. Soda fountain and barber shop amidships above our mess hall.

At right: The German vessel Kaiser Wilhelm II in dry dock in New York in 1917 after its seizure by the United States.

Friday, Jan. 24
Didn’t work last night. Went out but was turned in with a big bunch. Formed for inspection by port inspector but had no inspection. Good wash in fresh water to get coal dust off. Boat coaled before morning today. Library on boat. Got a book, the “Broad Highway.” Also movies and soda fountain. Detail went ashore tonight for Barrack bags and colonel came on today so [I] guess we’ll stay on all right.

Sat[urday], Jan. 25
Rest of regiment came aboard and big bunch of casuals [casualties] and base hosp[ital] unit. A lot of three-stripers. Canteen line tretches now half the length of ship. Bought some candy, cake and cookies. Officers have second and first class passage but gaze around as if they never saw anything before and [I] guess they never have. Quite a few casuals [casualties] with legs or feet off and otherwise crippled.

Sunday, Jan. 26
Understand we sail this morning. Will be glad to look for last time at shores of France. Started about 10:00 [A.M.] and was washing woodwork on 2nd deck near soda fountain at the time as co[mpany] is on all fatigue details. Good to see rocky shore of France disappearing in distance. On detail most of day. Saw some movies amidships and ate a bunch of sweet stuff that will be bad for seasickness. Quite a lot sick and feeding the fish but I feel pretty good yet. Got some salt soap.

Monday, Jan. 27
Worked amidships again most of day. Little Philippino in charge of that stuff wants us to do some before breakfast but nothing doing.

Tuesday, Jan. 28
Didn’t do as much as yesterday and saw movies in evening. Read some in magazine [I] got at canteen.

Wednesday, Jan. 29
Camouflaged most of day and read Blue Book. Pretty rough [sea]. Lower deck washed and a lot of soldiers soaked.

Thursday, Jan. 30
Are about halfway across now, I guess. Make 408 miles a day except when pretty rough. 72 tons of coal every 4 hours to put her through. Pretty rocky but saw a little sailing vessel with two small masts a couple days ago. I didn’t see how she kept above the waves. Appeared little bigger than rowboat.

Friday, Jan. 31
Usual work, no muster but signed payroll. Big storm. Waves 60 and 70 feet high. Beat some old timers.

[The following information is from The German cruise ship “Kaiser Wilhelm II made her first Atlantic crossing in 1903 and, for a decade, operated with speed and efficiency between Bremen and New York. She was at sea, en route to the United States, when World War I began on 3 August 1914. … On 6 April 1917, the day the United States entered World War I, the collector of the Port of New York seized Kaiser Wilhelm II — along with 26 other German vessels — in New York harbor to prevent the ships' destruction at the hands of their crews. … Agamemnon's crew had nicknamed her ‘Rolling Billy,’ and she lived up to her nickname while returning from Brest on 30 January 1919. A North Atlantic gale caused her to roll heavily; seas swept her decks and smashed ports. Thirty-three soldiers were injured by splinters of flying glass. The transport ended her last Navy voyage at Hoboken on 18 August 1919. During her period of service, she had carried 37,979 soldiers and sailors to Europe and brought 41,944 back. On 27 August 1919 Agamemnon was decommissioned as Hoboken and turned over to the War Department. Her name was struck from the Navy list the same day. Agamemnon served as an Army transport until the mid-1920s, when she was inactivated and placed in reserve at Solomons Island, Maryland. Though she was renamed Monticello in 1927, she saw no further service but remained at her moorings with transports Mount Vernon, George Washington, and America in the custody of a caretaker crew. All four ships were sold for scrapping in 1940; the former Agamemnon was towed to the breakers in September of that year.”]

Original text © 2002-2003 by, Willowshade, West Grove, PA


Foreword and Summary

August 1917 | September 1917 | October 1917
November 1917 | December 1917

January 1918 | February 1918 | March 1918 | April 1918
May 1918 | June 1918 | July 1918 | August 1918
September 1918 | October 1918 | November 1918 | December 1918

THIS PAGE: JANUARY 1919 | February 1919

Battle analysis | Definitions | Names | Family

WWI and the CAC in general
History of the Great War | Trenches on the Web | WWI Links Page
WWI: Western Front | 59th Coastal Artillery | Coastal Defense | Doughboy Center
Railway Artillery information | WWI Photos and Artillery | WWI documents notes and archives
WWI Document Archive | The Soldier's Experience of WWI

Camp Bordon, England
Bordon map | Bordon main site | Bordon Today | Hampshire record office

Other personal recollections
List of memoirs via

Why did WWI end?

John C. Sherwood's Bibliography

Send E-mail to John C. Sherwood

Hosting by WebRing.