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TRANSPORT SHIP SS KERESASPA, VETERINARY HOSPITAL NO 18 JOURNEY TO FRANCE 1918 WW1
The below is taken from the book Veterinary Military History of the United State 1935 Transcribed by Greg Krenzelok February 2006
HEADQUARTERS VETERINARY HOSPITAL NO 18Sougy (Nievre), France A.P.O. 908
ACTIVITIES IN THE UNITED STATES Veterinary Hospital #18 was authorized in July 1918 and organized September 6 1918 at the Veterinary Training School, at Camp Lee, VA. It consisted of seven veterinary officers, one medical officer, three hundred enlisted veterinary personnel, eleven enlisted medical personnel. It was completely equipped for oversea duty September 15, 1918 and arrived at Camp Mills. Long Island, October 28 1918. From the date of organization until date of embarkation, officers and enlisted personnel were instructed along lines pertaining to veterinary medicine in addition to military training. It will have been noted that, for the journey to France this unit Veterinary Hospital #18 was split into 15 sections to serve as veterinary personnel on board 15 overseas transport ships carrying mules and horses. That such duty may be devoid of veterinary and general interest is shown by the following account of the experiences of the Veterinary Hospital #18 headquarters section in charge was Major Daniel C Martin. He was on the Steamship Keresaspa carrying a cargo of horses, mules and miscellaneous freight.
ARRIVAL IN EUROPE The unit was divided into fifteen detachments, taking overseas approximately 11,012 horses and mules on fifteen ships. The detachments arrived in France in November and December of 1918. Detachment No 1 arrived December 12: Detachment No 2 on November 25: Detachment No 3 on November 12: Detachment No 4 on November 19: Detachment No 5 on November 21: Detachment No 6 on December 15: Detachment No 7 on November 25: Detachment No 8 on November 23: Detachment No 9 on November 29: Detachment No 10 on November 29: Detachment No 11 on November 27: Detachment No 12 on November 27: Detachment No 13 on Detachment No 14 on December 6 and Detachment No 15 arrived on December 8 1918.
On completion of duty on the ships each detachment reported at Nievre, the first detachment reaching there November 22 1918 and the last Detachment on December 22 1918
OVERSEAS TRIP TO FRANCE, NOVEMBER 27, 1918
Keresaspa (SP 1484), formerly Franconia, was launched 1903 by Northumberland Shipbuilding Company Ltd. Newcastle, England. The cargo ship was acquired by the Navy from the Franconia S.S. Company Ltd. and commissioned 31 October 1918, Lt. Comdr. James J. Boyce in command. Assigned to NOTS, Keresaspa departed New York with a cargo of 400 horses and mules for transport to France. She discharged her cargo at La Pallice, France, and returned to Baltimore 20 January 1919. Following repairs Keresaspa decommissioned 11 February 1919 and was returned to her owners. In 1922, while employed as a merchant ship, she was renamed Pannonia.
The S/S Keresaspa left dock at Pier 3, Brooklyn to go to anchorage at 2:00 PM on Wednesday November 27 1918. At 4:00 o?clock she began to take on a cargo of horses and mules. The quarters for them consisted of four lower holds between decks and both upper decks forward and aft. Loading was completed at 8:30 PM. All animals, apparently, were in good condition and free from contagious diseases. Blanket, shanks and halters were then placed on board. Loading of the animals took place in the harbor just off the Statue of liberty. At 1:19 AM Thursday November 28 we lifted anchor and maneuvered about the harbor. At 5:55 PM we preceded full speed ahead for the port of debarkation, France.
Thirty-one men had been placed on board ten days before sailing to prepare for and the taking care of the horses, mules and building stalls. They consisted of 20 veterinary enlisted men and 11 medical enlisted men from Camp Mills
The fact that the stalls were built of shabby materials and put together with to small of nails and very little reinforcements was mentioned to the executive officer of the ship by Major Martin, but at this late hour nothing could be done to change it.
With the exception of a little seasickness all went well with both the men and animals until the night of December 6 1918. At 6:45 PM the wind was blowing about 60 miles per hour and the ship seem to still be in good control. Watches had been placed in the alleyways of both upper and lower decks and also forward and aft to look after the animals. Suddenly at 7:00 PM the ship listed to starboard a full 45 degrees, hesitating a few seconds before righting itself. The animals on both forward and aft upper decks, port side were thrown through the front of their stalls and across the hatchways into corners, winches and into stalls on the starboard side and were left in every conceivable position. Several fell through the open hatchways into the hatch covers of the decks below, both forward and aft.
The officers had just finished dinner and were sitting in the wardroom. As soon as Major Martin could regain his footing he and the executive officer went forward to see what could be done to relieve the animals. They found horses floundering above, loose over the decks and the stalls and mass wreckage strewn about in every direction. The lights were out and the wind blowing at a terrible speed making movement on the deck impossible. Reports came in that men on watch in the aft hold, lower deck had been hurt by horses falling against them and pinning them to the sides of the stalls and lying on them. Doctor Long the Army Officer on board the ship with the troops at once went to their assistance and found the injuries to be only slight lacerations about the faces and arms. One man was pinned in a corner for an hour and a half with a horse kicking him in the stomach and legs, but even this did not prove to be serious.
Just after Doctor Long stepped of the gang planks leading to the storage holds aft a wave came over the stern breaking down and completely demolishing the 24 feet of stalls on the starboard side and knocking the horses that had been left standing there to the deck in one big pile. With the wind blowing about 80 miles per hour at this time the enormous waves falling over the stern boards, ropes lifeboats and life rafts were flying in every direction. And with the electric current cut off further relief was impossible. It was several hours before it was safe to appear on deck and then repairs of any kind or assistance of any nature to restrain or relieve the sufferings of wounded animals was futile. At daylight all the men on board including the officers both Navy and Army set to work clearing away the wreckage and removing the dead animals. As fast as the work could be done the stalls were repaired and the loose horses were put in these. By night the stalls forward were repaired so that the animals could be fed and watered. All animals were tied up close but not enough lumber was left to repair the stalls sufficient for all of the animals. Those tied up were fed and watered and a watch placed.
The following is an extract from the ships log stating the conditions from 8:00 PM to midnight on December 6 1918
8:00 PM Watch relieved Commanding Officer on bridge in charge. Ship lying to heading about North 40 East and rolling violently, wind blowing at force 10 and sea extremely heavy. Ship is not responding to the rudder and breakdown lights being rigged up. Many horses are out of their stalls due to breakage of stanchions and front boards as horses surged against them. Hatches partially open for ventilation and it is reported that certain horses are loose about the decks were falling through hatches as the hatch covers were shifted by there falling against them.
9:00 PM Sea and wind unabated and conditions similar as reported earlier. Barometer steadily rising and ship is headed westerly with the wind on port broadside. Breakdown lights are about to be hoisted suddenly went out and all efforts to repair them failed. Ship still continuing at a slow speed and in trough of sea
9:00 to 10:00 PM Violent rolling caused the horses to surge against their front boards of their stanchions. These gave way and the roof of the horse stalls and gangway aft broken loose, particularly aft, and horses had fallen about the well deck and some down into the hatch. Wreckage strewn about in all directions causing the fallen horses to suffer severe lacerations.
10:00 PM Ship put on a course of East South East full speed.
11:30 PM Wind and sea had quieted sufficiently to admit of working way aft among wreckage and securing of men for watch. The soldiers injured on the previous watch were rescued and cared for early in this watch. But it is impossible to do anything for the horses and mules. Likewise movements about the decks during the watch were attended with considerable danger.
12:00 Midnight Wind and sea comparatively quiet although ship continued to roll, storm was about over.
An inspection at 1:00 PM December 1918 disclosed eight dead or hopelessly injured animals and four suffering from severe though not fatal injuries. Many of the stalls however were smashed and there were insufficient scraps of lumber to repair them.
With nightfall the wind had calmed down considerably and we expected good weather. All was going well until about 10:30 PM then suddenly the wind blew a gale and the ship gave about three 40-degree lurches to both sides of the ship and sent the animals off their feet in piles. Major Martin went to them at once and worked until 2:00 AM trying to better their condition.
Sunday December 8 1918: Every available man went to work clearing away the wreckage and building stalls as they could be built with the material aboard. The sea was still high, at least 45 feet high astern and every few minutes a wave would come over the aft deck and each one knocking down more of the stalls leaving the horses beneath with broken backs and legs. Major Martin was standing inside the door of the men?s mess room and just outside of which the men were working when a wave came over and knocked him flat on the floor. By this time there were fully two feet of water in the room. The Major getting up found that his right knee was badly mangled and he could not walk a step. As quickly as possible the Army doctor was called and the Major was taken to his room and treated. This happened at 11:30 AM and at 11:45 AM another wave came over knocking all the remaining stalls on the port side aft into pieces, with the exception of about 20 feet. One of the horses suffered a broken back and another a broken left front leg. The one with the broken back died shortly after and the one with the broken leg was shot on order of Major Martin. Several animals had deep cuts on their backs and sides the rest were tangled in the debris and winches. By nightfall after a lot of hard work the debris was all cleared away and the remaining animals made as comfortable as possibly then they were fed and watered. The sea was still high but not coming over as regularly as before. Watches of three men each were placed both forward and aft with orders to report to the officer of the deck every half hour.
Considering the condition of the animals the extremely strong wind and the gusts of rain and Heavy Sea all went well during the night of December 8
Early Monday morning all hands both seamen and soldiers were hard at work clearing away the debris. The winches on the after deck were started to hoist the dead animals overboard. Counting four horses and on mule thrown overboard Saturday December the 7th and one horse jumping overboard Sunday December the 8th 39 horses and six mules were thrown overboard December the 9th. It gave us a total of 51 animals killed by the storm outright, shot or jumped overboard. This day the weather was fine. The remaining horses on the weather decks were kept in the best condition as possible and the watches placed in each hold for the night with orders to report conditions to the officer of the deck every half hour.
Tuesday morning there remained 47 horses on the upper after deck. The wreckage was cleared away and the hatches opened. Twenty-three of these animals were placed in the lower holds and extreme aft. This was completed at 11:30 AM. The animals were rather crowded but it was the only thing that could be done. At 11:35 AM an enormous sea came over the stern carrying with it all the remaining sheds on the after starboard side except ten feet or one stall. Several horses were knocked flat but the wrecked stalls were taken off as quickly as possible and the animals sustained only minor injuries, so far as could be ascertained from outward appearances. Immediately following this wave another came over injuring a soldier and a sailor but not seriously. During the afternoon the remaining 24 animals were placed in No. 4 lower hold aft deck. The animals in here were rather crowded but in most cases were in good condition. The aft deck was cleaned off by the soldiers and wrecked timber was piled and lashed down between the sides and hatches. Three badly damaged stalls were all that remained on the upper deck, aft
The work of cleaning the stalls and alleyways now took up to about three days since no time could be given to this work during the storm. The farrier treated the injured animals to the best of his ability during the absence of Major Martin owing to the injury he and sustained. Wednesday one of the injured horses died and was thrown overboard on Thursday. Another died Thursday nigh and this one being put overboard Friday morning.
On checking over the animals it was found that there remained on board 154 horses and 193 mules, a total of 347. Killed: 35 horses, destroyed: 8 horses, Jumped over board: 1, died from injury: 2, Killed: 7 mules, thus making a total of 53 killed on the oversea trip to France.
END OF REPORT
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