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Gordon Van Kleeck's war journal - part 4 - train and Sexey-aux-Forges, France

Ancestral Photographs of Upstate New York

by Roxy Triebel

Pvt. Gordon Van Kleeck

Co. F. 51 Pioneer Inf.

American Expeditionary Forces

Part 4

Railroad train France
Aug. 14.

Got on train and started early this morning.  It is made up of third class cars and we have nine men in our compartment.  There is some nice scenery along the way but I am suffering from cramps and cant enjoy it very much.  At St. Brieut (St. Brieuc) we were given coffee.  We have food in each compartment. Ours is hard tack, corned beef, beans and jam.  I think the trip will be about four days.  We are going southeast.  I see plenty of German prisoners and at one station there was a trainload of slightly wounded Germans.  The prisoners are working on the railroad.  None of them seem very unhappy.

Sexey-au(x)-Forges, France
Aug. 17

We have arrived.  It was some trip taking nearly four days.  There seemed to be American camps and barracks every where and near Bourges we saw an areoplane station and about twenty planes in the air.  Some of them came near us.  At one station there were a lot of peaches in boxes and we swiped some of them.  Then the officers had guards posted at each car when ever we stopped and we could not even get off.  I am sorry I did not take more peaches.  After passing Verizon (probably "Vierzon" per a French correspondent familiar with the area) a man named Doberstien went on the step while the train was running and was knocked off by something. By the time we could get the train stopped it had left him several miles behind.  Word was sent back but it does not seem as if he could be alive.  At Dijon we got our gas masks and helmets after dark.  Today we detrained somewhere near Toul.  Were given dinner on the bank of a canal and are now billeted in a nearby town.  I with nineteen others are quartered in the loft of a barn.  We have cots with a bed sack filled with straw on each.  It is very dark and dusty and I hope we will be sent to some other place soon.  Anyhow there is plenty of water here and we can wash.  Water has been a valuable thing for the last ten days.

Sexey-au(x)-Forges, France
Aug. 19.

We are still at Sexey.  The first night Ray, Charlie and I went out for a walk and tried a bottle of wine that France is so famous for.  I dont want any more of it for it is sour and made me dizzy.  Some of the fellows drank to(o) much of it and the serge(a)nt in charge of the place where I sleep came in last night so drunk he could hardly walk.  I see plenty of areoplanes and sometimes we can hear guns.  We must be close to the front.  The 18th was Sunday but it made no difference to us.  Tomorrow we have field inspection and yesterday afternoon we did our first drilling in about four weeks.  I had to take my squad out and drill it myself.  We dont get any bread here only hard tack but plenty of that.

Sexey-au(x)-Forges, France
Aug. 20

Had field inspection today and this afternoon drill.  We are getting plenty of open order drill.  This evening a battalion of field artillery and a supply or quartermasters corps passed through the town towards the front.  The(y) said more were on the way.

Sexey-au(x)-Forges, France
Aug. 20.

Last night we were kept awake by areoplanes overhead.  They were fighting and by the sound we think they must have dropped some bombs.  Machine guns could be heard and some fellows went out and said they could see the flashes in the air.  I was too tired to even get up and look.  Am hoping it will be quiet tonight for I need some sleep.  Had drill all day.  We are getting gas mask drill now.  Ray and I went down to the canal tonight and took a bath.  A little different from our old shower baths but alright at that.  I saw fifteen or twenty areoplanes today.  They are getting old to me.

Sexey-au(x)-Forges, France
Aug. 22.

We had drill in the morning as usual.  Last night was quiet and we heard no areoplanes.  Saw a Boche plane go over today.  Some battery fired on it but did not make any hits.  In the afternoon we had a sham battle in the woods and hills near here.

Sexey-au(x)-Forges, France
Aug. 23.

We had a pretty hard day today.  Plenty of drill in the morning and a sham battle in the afternoon.  Otherwise things were the same as ususal.

Sexey-au(x)-Forges, France
Aug. 24.

We had the regular Saturday inspection of rifles this morning.  In the afternoon Ray, Charlie and I went for a walk.  We found a plum orchard with lots of blue plums on the ground.  Had more than we could eat.

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Gordon's Journal part 5:  Ropage, France

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