Gordon Van Kleeck's war journal - part 6 - Toul, France to Fey en Haye, France

Ancestral Photographs of Upstate New York

by Roxy Triebel

Pvt. Gordon Van Kleeck

Co. F. 51 Pioneer Inf.

American Expeditionary Forces

Part 6

Toul, France.
Sept. 18.

I went to the Aviation (Station) again last night and saw a plane that had fallen down near there.  Have a piece of one wing for a souviner.  When I got back about eight oclock and found everyone was nearly packed up as we had orders to move at once.  Our barrack bags went on a truck but did not start until about ten oclock.  Now we are in Toul in barracks and all of the other companies are here too.  I dont know what we are going to do but am certain we wont stay long.  This is the replacement camp for the 4th Army Corps and we must be attached to that.

Toul, France.
Sept. 20.

We have had two days here and I think are going to start away this afternoon.  It has been raining most of the time lately.  We were given a list of things to keep and the rest was put in our barrack bags and turned over to the Quarter Master.  Also we were paid this morning and many of the fellows are drunk already.  It has been some fun to watch them for they have been reeling around all over the place.  I drew 28˝ francs for two months.  There is a Red Cross Station near here and I have been there several times and bought hot chocolate and doughnuts.

Puvenelle Woods or
Foręt de Puvenelle.
Sept. 22.

We left Toul about eight oclock on the 20th and hiked all night until 5 A.M. when we stopped in a small village named Saircrais (Saizerais).  Our kitchen was there and our extra equipment.  We had breakfast and dinner and at 3 P.M. started out again.  Are now in a little wooden barracks in the woods near the front.  On the hike at night we were on the wrong road and went up a long hill through a woods.  The mud was very deep and a lot of the fellows had to fall out.  We only had about one hundred left when we stopped.  All are here now except three or four.

Fey en Haye
Sept. 23

It is Sunday today but not much like the Sundays in the States.  We got up this morning and had to hide again.  My platoon was away from the rest of the Co and and by the time we heard anything about breakfast it was all over.  I swiped some bread and and syrup and ate some of my reserve rations.  It is late in the afternoon now and we are in our shelter tents in a woods near the front on ground formerly occupied by the Germans.  A truck is here with our kitchen and we will probably get something to eat soon.  I am fixing my tent to get a good rest for I think we hike again in the morning or some time tonight.

Fey en Haye
Sept. 26

I have found out what the Pioneers are for.  We are a working crew.  For the last three days we have been working with pick and shovel on a new road the engineers are putting in to the front.  The dirt has to be dug out and the road is filled in with rock brought from a village near here that has been destroyed by artillery fire.  We are in range of the German guns all the while and shells often go through the woods we are camped in.  And along the road they are quite plenty.  We are fast learning how to duck when we hear them whistle.  One fell this morning about twenty yards from a group of fellows I was in.  And lots of others further away.  Our artillery fired a few shots over and all is quiet now.  We saw an areil (aerial) battle this morning.  One of the machines landed a short distance from here and I was told the aviator was wounded.  It was a French machine.  We have to keep very busy on the job from morning to night.  I am writing this noontime as we are not allowed to have any lights at nights on account of Boche planes.  Water is scarce.  I have not had enough to wash my face or hands for three days.  The Red Cross has a station in an old house near camp and some of us go there every night and get hot chocolate and eat hard tack.  Rations are not very large here now.  It has been clear weather for two days but the ground is still damp and I have caught a bad cold.  Well this is war and we do the best we can.

Fey en Haye
Sept. 28.

This is my first chance to write anything again.  I had a candle burning a while one night and started a letter to Roxy but have not been able to finish it.  Mail came yesterday and the day before I got six letters.  Two were from home and one was a notice from a bank in Paris that Everett had sent me one hundred and nine francs.  I have most of my pay left and no place to spend it.  Dont know what I will do with it all.  I am sick today and have not been out to work.

Fey en Haye

I was out to work on the road again yesterday.  The Germans threw a lot of shells over but as usual they did no damage.  The Americans made an attack a couple days ago and a large number of wounded have been brought in over this road.  The papers state they have made a big advance near Verdun and captured eight thousand prisoners.  Last nights papers said Bulgaria was asking for a separate peace.  I am sick again today and am staying in my tent.  It is only a bad cold and sore throat but the docter is treating it and the weather is too cold and windy for me to go out much.  I fail to see why this country is called Sunny France.

Fey en Haye
Oct. 3.

We are still working on the road and things are the same as before.  It is shelled every day as usual.  Yesterday fourteen shells came over in about ten minutes and only one exploded.  It was lucky the rest did not for some of them fell right where a bunch of the boys were getting out stone in the ruined village today and once this morning got orders to go in dugouts when shelling was a little heavy.  Just now we have the same orders and I am sitting in an old trench writing this.  A trench is a much pleasanter place than a dug out although it may not be so safe.  I mailed a letter to Roxy through the Red Cross a couple days ago but dont know when I will get a chance to write another.  We are all glad to hear Bulgaria has surrendered.  It brings us a little nearer home we think.  Most of us have an idea Turkey will be next.  In fact we expect to have Turkey for Thanksgiving.

Fey en Haye
Oct. 7.

Yesterday was Sunday and we had the day off.  Ray, Charlie and I went to Mamey where there was a Y.M.C.A. and bought cake, chocolate and jam.  Last night the Germans threw a few shells pretty close to us an(d) some of the boys spent the most of the night in a trench.  I was on gas watch watch the later half of the night but the first half my blankets felt to(o) good for me to leave them no matter how many shells came over.  I did not know if my tent would stop the shells or not but took a chance and came through alright.  Today we got paid and I got one hundred and forty-five francs.  I have about three hundred and seventy-five francs on hand besides the money in Paris the folks sent me.  We move today and I am nearly all packed up.  I dont know where we go.

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Gordon's Journal part 7:  Bois du Four to Xivray

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