1st Battalion, Trench Artillery:
(1) Asine-Marne offensive, France: Batteries A, B, C, and D, 18 July-6 August 1918.
(2) St. Mihiel offensive, France: 12-16 September 1918.
Batteries A and B, 12-15 September 1918.
Batteries C and D, 12-16 September 1918.
(3) Thiaucourt sector, France: Batteries C and D, 17 Septembcr-20 October 1918.
(4) Meuse-Argonne offensive, France: 26 September-11 November 19l8.
Batteries A and B, 26 September-11 November 1918.
Batteries C and D, 30 October-11 November 1918.
The 1st Trench Mortar Battalion was formed in December of 1917 at Jackson Barracks, LA. The 5th (I) Company, C. D. of Mobile, which was first organized in October of 1917, and the 4th (I) Company, C. D. of Mobile, first organized in August of 1917, were combined in December of 1917 at Ft. Morgan, Alabama and re-designated as Battery "B", 1st Trench Mortar Battalion. On March 24th Battery B left Fort Morgan on the L&N railroad traveling on the A&WP Southern Railroad for Washington D.C. and a final destanation of Camp Merritt, New Jersey to await sailing orders.
Battery A sailed aboard the America on January 4, 1918 from Hoboken, New Jersey with 3 Officers and 184 enlisted men. Battery A was under the command of Captain John G. Donovan, with 1st Lt. Malcom W. Force and 2nd Lt. Lawrence Dwight. 1st Sgt. Edward H. Hinson was the senior non-comissioned officer.
On March 30, 1918 aboard the Kursk 16 officers and 671 enlisted men of Batteries B, C and D of the 1st TM Bn sailed from Port of Embarkation Hoboken, NJ. They were at sea on the HMS Kursk from April 1st to April 13th and on the 14th disembarked at Saint Nazaire, France and arrived at Base Camp No.1, from there they marched 3 kilometers to Base Section No.1 where they had camp duties. From Langres they marched to Fort de la Bonnelle where they had more training. The entire Battalion (HQ Co., Medical Detachment, Batteries A, B, C and D) sailed on the battleship USS Virginia and arrived back to the States at Newport News, VA on February 27th, 1919 and were being demobilized during March of 1919 at Camp Upton, NY.
Photo of the entire 1st Trench Mortar Battalion taken on 28 February 1919 at Camp Stuart as they returned from France. The photo was from the estate of Pvt. William E. Rogers who was in Battery C. His story is profiled below.
This is the story of the first American Trench Mortar Battalion to go into action in France.
It came near being a Rainbow Battalion for Battery A came from New York, Battery B from Fort Morgan, Ala., Battery C from New Orleans, and Battery D from Fort Crockett, Galveston, Texas. They did not even sail together. Some of them went over in January 1918, and the rest came in March. But they all got together under the command of Major J. D. Donovan, in the fortified city of Langres in the Department of the Haut Marne. There they completed the details of the organization and the officers attended the Army Trench Mortar School then established at this place. It was a tedious time; that stage of the game always is.
The order finally came sending the Battalion into billets at Rolampont. Their most vivid memory of that station is that the beds were wonderfully soft, which is indicative of much bunk fatigue during the little time they were there.
In June they were unceremoniously dumped into another small village known as Gernigny l'Eveque, which lies between Paris and the famous Chateau Thierry. And thus it happens that they were in the big show that was pulled off there shortly after. Here they saw their first German plane. It dropped some bombs that were evidently intended for them, but the aim was poor and they struck in the next village.
The outfit was equipped with the old wooden platform type of 240mm mortar, and the lines were beginning to shift so suddenly and continuously that it was impossible to prepare positions. No one could tell where the next firing would be done. So they sat and waited.
Then came the attack at Chateau Thierry. And with it came the order to prepare to go forward as infantry. So the Battalion put its mortars away and fell in, in double rank and squad righted, full pack and all. On the way they picked up a casual detachment of Engineers and went on, finally arriving at Belleau Wood, where they lay all the following day under constant shellfire.
They found themselves acting as reserve infantry, held in case of a counter-attack. But that never developed. So they followed up the front line and arrived at Fere-en-Tardenois and again waited for a counter-attack to develop. But as luck would have it they were doomed to wait in vain. The Infantry continued to advance victoriously. But the Battalion found it a busy time, for it was employed in taking prisoners back to the pens. After a strenuous period of such work, it was finally ordered to the rest billets for a period of three weeks. The rest turned out to be one of three days instead, and the men donned the full pack again and hiked overland to the St. Mihiel sector, a distance of over a hundred kilometers.
The last three days of the hike were done under cover of darkness, without lights, over roads that were shelled intermittently. It was a tired crowd that pulled into Pont-a-Mousson, and the order to prepare positions for their mortars immediately was not the most pleasant in the world, especially when they found that the positions were to be in advance of the infantry support line. But they got the mortars in, with nothing in front of them but an infantry outpost.
From here they fired under the protection of their own artillery on the village of Norroy and a quarry that had been converted into a stronghold. The targets were demolished, according to the reports of the firing. Because some of the mortars could not be fired, a part of the Battalion was utilized on the French 105's that were brought into position directly in rear. If there had been any cavalry action the chances are that the Battalion would have taken a hand at that too!
When our Infantry had advanced beyond the positions, the Battalion was moved to the Argonne, where it did its best firing. Major Donovan was made Lt. Colonel and relieved by Major Tucker Pendleton. The task assigned here was demolition fire on the forest; the reports showed that it was excellently managed and very destructive. And there they were on the morning of November 11. 1918.
When the Battalion came home they sailed on the USS Virginia. Below are the names of the officers and numbers of men in each battalion. This list comes from a dinner menu that was held on the USS Virginia. There was also other units the ship that are listed on the menu, ther were the 305th Trench Mortar Battery, 488th Aero Squadron and Casual Officers. This menu was from the personal effects of Pvt. Lynn Fred Simmons of Battery D.
On the trip back there was a dinner held on President Washington's Birthday February 22, 1919. This is a menu from the papers of Pvt Lynn F. Simmons of Battery D and he has written a note on the front. It reads: "On the boat 17 days with scarlet fevor in Newport News, Virginia, till discharged in Battle Creek" (Michigan). The USS Virginia was a Battleship and at the time was being used to carry troops back home from France as shipping was scarce at the time. This was the USS Virginia's second trip. Brest, France to Newport News, Virginia February 12-27, 1919.
|FIELD AND STAFF
Major Randolph T. Pendelton, C. A. C.
1st Lt. Guy B. Irby, C. A. C.
1st Lt. James M. Rumple, C. A. C.
2nd Lt. Paul B. Dunkle, C. A. C.
Capt. Henry C. Osborne, M. C.
1st Lt. Charles B. Rentz, M. C.
13 Enlisted Men
Capt. Malcolm W. Force, C. A. C.
1st Lt. Richard. J. McLaughlin, CAC
2nd Lt. George B. Geib, F. A.
2nd Lt. Charles K. Graeber, F. A.
2nd Lt. Allen A. Donnel, F. A.
160 Enlisted Men
Capt. William B. Blocher, F. A.
1st Lt. James B. Bell, C. A. C.
2nd Lt. Elliott R. Weeks, C. A. C.
2nd Lt. Arthur L. Goodman, F. A.
2nd Lt. Van D. Sarles, C. A. C.
169 Enlisted Men
Capt. Allen Wright, C. A. C.
1st Lt. Douglas J. McLachlan, C. A. C.
2nd Lt. Niel E. Gardner, Jr., F. A.
2nd Lt. Harry W. Sibley, F. A.
168 Enlisted Men
|488th AERO SQUADRON
2nd Lt. Eugene Cotter, A. S.
2nd Lt. Charles L. Hubbard, A. S.
140 Enlisted Men
2nd Lt. Theodore A. Mooring, Q.M.C.
Capt. James L. Collins, INF.
2nd Lt. H. C. Gilbert, A. S.
2nd Lt. Ed. P. McCuistian, A. S.
2nd Lt. John W. McMurphy, A. S.
1st Lt. Hurbert M. Holton, C. A. C.
1st Lt. Samuel Mustain, A. S.
1st Lt. Jerome Wrenn, Engineers
2nd Lt. John E. Clarke, A. S.
Sec'y Raymond D. Havens, YMCA
|Mar 24, 1918: Leave New Orleans, LA
Mar 27, 1918: Arrive Camp Merritt, NJ
Mar 29, 1918: Leave Hoboken, NJ (H.M.T. Kursk)
Apr 13, l918: Arrive St. Nazaire, France
Apr 18, 1918: Leave St. Nazaire,
Apr 21, 1918: Arrive St. Langres (Marched to Ft. Bonnelle, and here received training at Army Trench Artillery School)
Jun 16, 1918: Leave Ft. Bonnelle
Jun 16, 1918: Arrive Rolampont.
Jul 8, 1918: Leave Rolampont.
Jul 9, 1918: Arrive Trilport. (Arrived by march to Germigny, same date)
Jul 16, 1918: Leave Detachment of 80 men left Germigny on DS to hospital at Coulmiers.
Jul 19, 1918: Detachment returned to Gemigny. Joined Battery at Paris Farms Jul 21,1918.
Jul 18, 1918: Battery left Germigny.
Jul 19, 1918: Arrive Montreul. (2nd Battle of the Marne) (First time under shell fire)
Jul 20, 1918: Leave Montreul.
Jul 20, 1918: Arrive Paris Farms. (2nd Battle of the Marne)
Jul 23, 1918: Leave Paris Farms.
Jul 24, 1918: Arrive Barre Woods (North of Belleau Woods). (2nd Battle of Marne) (Participated in 2nd Battle of the Marne Jul 19 to Aug 4, 1918, as Infantry)
Aug 2, 1918: Leave Barre Woods
Aug 2, 1918: Arrive Halloudray Farm.
Aug 6, 1918: Leave Halloudray Farm.
Aug 6, 1918: Arrive Rocourt. (Coincy Aviation Field -Big Bertha emplacement near here)
Aug 11, 1918: Leave Rocourt.
Aug 12, 1918: Arrive Germigny (2nd Time).
Aug 16, 1918: Leave Germigny (Passed General Liggett, who stopped 1st Sgt. and inquired condition of men, saying they were a fine looking bunch.)(Started first big hike, lasting four days.)
Aug 16, 1918: Arrive La Ferte.
Aug 16, 1918: Leave La Ferte.
Aug 18, 1918: Arrive Charley.
Aug 19, 1918: Leave Charley.
Aug 19, 1918: Arrive Essomes.
Aug 20, 1918: Leave Essomas.
Aug 20, 1918: Arrive Chateau Thierry and entrained
Aug 20, 1918: Arrive Vignory.
Aug 21, 1918: Arrive Arancourt. (Marched from Vignory a distance of 40 kilometres)
Aug 26, 1918: Leave Arancourt. (Here started 2nd hike of three days and three nights duration)
Aug 26, 1918: Arrive Joinville.
Aug 27, 1918: Leave Joinville.
Aug 27, 1918: Arrive Houdelain Court.
Aug 29, 1918: Leave Houdelain Court.
Aug 28, 1918: Arrive Pagny sur Meuse.
Aug 31, 1918: Leave Pagny sur Meuse.
Sep 1, 1918: Arrive Jaillon. (Passing thru Toul)
Dog Tags and Discharge papers of Private 1st Class Robert W. Weidgenant, 725897 of Battery B, 1st TM BN
|This is the back side to Pvt. 1cl Weidgenant's discharge papers. It states that he enlisted November 28, 1917 at Jefferson Barracks, MO. He left the States on March 30, 1918 which is exactly the date of the sailing of Battery B on the KURSK listed above. He was in the Asine-Marne offensive from 18 July, 1918 to 6 August, 1918 and the St. Mihiel Offensive from 12 September-16 September, 1918 and the Toul Deffensive Sector from 20 September-26 October, 1918 and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive from 1 November-9 November, 1918. He recieved no wounds and was in good physical condition at time of discharge. On 7 June 1921 he was approved for the WWI Victory Medal with Clasps. On February 24, 1919 he was given travel pay to Chicago, IL and a $60 bonus.|
Uniform and medals of Pvt. 1cl Weidgenant. The information and photos of Pvt. 1cl Weidgenant was provided by Ron Leverenz who is a frequent contributor to this site. Many thanks as always Ron!
Ron Leverenz restored this grouping of Pvt. 1cl Weidgenant's medals and such. Ron writes this about this group:
The patches and all medals are original to Pvt. 1cl Weidgenant and his paperwork and tags, but I have put them on a tunic to preserve his belongings in a proper fashion. Usually I would just shadow box them, but in this case of such a nice unit and set he was worth the effort to restore on a uniform. All period thread and stitching was used and like mentioned these ARE his original patches (a Pvt. artillery patch is on the right sleeve also). He has 2 overseas chevrons and the desired trench mortar patch. I really like this set due to I was a 81mm mortarman in the Marines. I hope this can be of a great help in your page on the unit. He was born in Chicago, but lived in several places after the war as the discharge was logged in many court houses for land purposes and such. He was quite a mover after the war and the depression probably was part of that also. The collar disks are nice to know they are original with the fakes all over the place, but worn and true they are.
Peggy Carroll Young contacted me about her father who was a bugler in Battery B, 1st TM Bn. His name was Edward Britton Carroll from Perry County, Mississippi.
Bugler Edward Britton Carroll probably taken at Fort Morgan, Alabama where Battery B was formed.
|Edward Carroll was 16 when he enlisted in the Army. His first duty was in the Garrison at Fort Morgan, Alabama from March 1st-23rd, 1918. The 5th (I) Company, C. D. of Mobile, which was first organized in October of 1917, and the 4th (I) Company, C. D. of Mobile, first organized in August of 1917, were combined in December of 1917 and re-designated as Battery "B", 1st Trench Mortar Battalion. On March 24th Battery B left Fort Morgan on the L&N railroad traveling on the A&WP Southern Railroad for Washington D.C. and a final destanation of Camp Merritt, New Jersey to await sailing orders.
On March 29th, 1918 the orders came and the following day 16 officers and 671 enlisted men of Batteries B, C and D of the 1st TM Bn went aboard the HMT KURSK at the Port of Embarkation Hoboken, NJ. They were at sea on the HMT KURSK from April 1st to April 13th and on the 14th disembarked at Saint Nazaire, France and arrived at Base Camp No.1, from there they marched 3 kilometers to Base Section No.1 where they had camp duties. From Longres they marched to Fort de la Bonnelle where they had more training. During April Bugler Carroll celebrated his 17th birthday in France.
Peggy Carroll Young grew up hearing all about WWI, the Germans, the French, the Artillery and the 240 mm Trench Mortar, etc. from her father. She loved to hear these war stories and memories of his encounters with the Germans and how the French families saved him a number of times by hiding him in their basement, etc. And about how her dad slept in the trees rather than in a pup tent and how bad the weather was at times and how wet they were, the rations they had to eat, etc.
|John Rogers contacted me about his grandfather, William E. Rogers who was in Battery C, 1st Trench Mortar Battalion, C.A.C.
The book on the left belonged to Pvt. Rogers and was entitled "A New Course of French." Pvt. Rogers made some notations on the inside cover and it states: " W.E. Rogers Battery C, 1st Bn T.A. American E.F., France." Dated 18 May 1918.
The notation on the left states: " Left Fort de la Bonnelle on June 9, 1918. Bonnelle is near the old historic city of Langres (France)"
The panoramic photo of the entire 1st Trench Mortar Battalion above was provided John Rogers.
Jerry & Dottie Simmons Piechocki contacted me about Dottie's grandfather Lynn Fred Simmons who was a member of the 1st Trench Mortar Battalion during World War One. I had ask her if she would share with me the story of her grandfather and she was so kind to do so. This is Lynn's story.
|Lynn Fred Simmons was born 11 October 1898 in Belding, Ionia Co., MI, to Ai M. Simmons and Lettie McElroy Simmons. He was their fourth surviving child. Eldest brother McElroy (Roy) Simmons served with the YMCA at Camp Kearny during the War, as he had very bad eyesight. Brother Lyle was in France with the Army, also. I do not yet know what unit he was with.
When Lynn returned to Belding, he went back to work in his father's broom factory. He was also a painter and an auto mechanic. Later, he served many years as custodian in the Belding elementary schools. He married Thelma Nostrandt of Honor, MI, in 1920, and became the father of Donald Lynn Simmons, my Dad. Lynn and Thelma divorced in 1928. Lynn later married Anna Hull, but they had no more children. Other than his time in France, Lynn lived his entire life in Belding, passing away in April of 1982. He is buried in River Ridge Cemetery, Belding, Michigan.
Lynn came from a long line of patriots. His grandfather Benjamin Wheeler Simmons was with the 146th New York and saw action in several of the severest battles of the Civil War. Benjamin was shot through the wrist during the siege of Petersburg and died of his wounds in Washington, D.C., in 1864. Benjamin's grandfathers had both served in the Revolution. Lynn's son, my father Donald, was in the Army Air Corps during WWII, serving on Okinawa. Now my son, Nathan, is in the Army Intelligence Division, currently learning Arabic at the Language Institute.
Pvt. Simmons 635609, enlisted into the Regular Army at the Columbus Barracks, Ohio on January 30, 1918 at the tender young age of 19. His occupation prior to enlistment was as a mechanic and his home was at 121 Isabelle Street in Belding, Michigan. Pvt. Simmons first unit was with the 2nd Trench Mortar Battalion, C.A.C. (2nd TM Bn). This was known as it states this on his discharge papers that he was with the 2nd TM Bn and sailed to France on May 28, 1918. On a list of ship sailing listed by date that I have it states that the 2nd TM Bn sailed from Port of Embarkation Hoboken, New Jersey on May 29, 1918 with 20 Officers and 886 enlisted men aboard the Shire Line Steamer HMS CARDIGANSHIRE. Also on the same ship were 32 officers and 726 enlisted men of HQ CO, Supply CO, Batteries E and F of the 309th Field Artillery, 78th Division. The CARDIGANSHIRE arrived overseas on 12 June 1918. While with the 2nd TM Bn Pvt. Simmons was in Battery D.
|At some point Pvt. Simmons was transferred to the 1st TM Bn, Battery D. It is known that he was with Battery D, 1st TM Bn on 26th September 1918 as on his discharge papers it does state that he participated in the Opening of the Muese-Argonne Offensive actions on 26-30 September (This probably refers to the Thiaucourt sector, France: Batteries C and D, 17 Septembcr-20 October 1918). And participated with Battery D, 1st TM Bn in actions around the Meuse River on 31 October-7 November 1918. Pvt. Simmons returned to the States with Battery D, 1st TM Bn. The Battalion Left France on 12 February aboard the US Battleship USS VIRGINIA and arrived back to the States at Newport News, VA on February 28th, 1919 and were being demobilized during March of 1919 at Camp Upton, NY. It was noted by Dottie Piechocki that her grandfather Pvt. Simmons along with several others were quarantined with scarlet fever for 2 weeks and couldn't leave the ship after they had reached port at Newport News. Pvt. Simmons was discharged on 16 April 1919. On the left is Pvt. Simmons WWI Victory Medal with two bars. Top bar is for the Meuse-Argonne Offensive and the bottom bar is for the Defensive Sector.|
A dashing young 19 year old Lynn Fred Simmons
Pvt. Lynn F. Simmons
The picture captioned "Lynn Simmons trio" is of my Grandpa on the left, with his buddies Harmond Palmatier (middle) and Earl Cowles (right). Grandpa mentions in one of his letters that he and Harmond are "still together" but that Earl is about 20 miles from them (in France).
The photo studio on the back of this picture says Delaware City, Delaware.
This photo is my grandpa Lynn Simmons with the motorcyle he bought after he came home. He has my grandma Thelma Nostrandt, in the sidecar. She was from Honor, in Benzie County Michigan.
He used to drive her (and my infant father) up there in this motorcyle to visit her family. I do not know whether it was exactly like the ones he said he drove in France, but it must have been enough like them that he wanted it.
Horace Baker was born 25 January 1890 in Ammie, Kentucky and still lived there when he enlisted into the Regular Army at the Columbus Barracks, Ohio on 3 November 1915. He served in the Army as an enlisted man until he was discharged on 14 August 1917 to accept a Commission as a 1st Lt. in the Coast Artillery Corps. From 15 August 1917 through 24 April 1918 he was a unassigned Officer in the Coast Artillery Corps. He sailed to England on 12 September 1917 with a group of 501 Casual Officers on the transport Kroonland and landed 2 October 1917 in Liverpool, England. He crossed the English Channel to France and on 25 April 1918 was assigned to Battery D, 1st Trench Mortar Battalion, C.A.C. He was with Battery D until 15 June 1918 when he was listed a being a Casual Officer in the Hospital for an unknown reason, until the 20th September when he again rejoined Battery D. He was with Battery D while they participated in the Meuse-Argonne Offensives 30 October-11 November 1918. But on 2 November 1918 1st Lt. Baker was advanced to Captain and ordered home to the Coast Artillery School. On 24 November 1918 Captain Baker took passage back to the States and went to Fort Monroe, Virginia to attend the C.A.C. School there until he was Honorable Discharged from the Army on 25 February 1919.
By F. C. Tenney, formerly 1st Lt., 103rd Trench Mortar Battery and Captain C. A., 1st Trench Mortar Battalion.
The ____ T. M. B. was in echelon eight kilometers behind the line, hoping for another chance to give "Jerry" a taste of the 6-inch bomb. Rumors had filtered back that the ___ Infantry had reached the top of a commanding ridge but had there been hindered in their progress by concentrated machine gun nests in the woods below. An attempt had been made on the two previous days to advance behind a smoke and thermite screen laid down by a gas and flame company of Engineers, but without success.
At ten thirty a runner brought a message to the P. C. directing that the C.O. and two lieutenants report at once to the Division Headquarters, which was located in a secluded little village three kilometers behind the point of contact. It looked as though the chance so keenly awaited had come, so no time was lost in starting for the Division P.C. in the light Dodge truck used by the C.O., in lieu of other transportation.
The road led past the munitions dump, where it was found that no bombs were available, so word was sent back to the echelon to send trucks back to the previous position to bring up the bombs left behind. With good luck one trip could be made by midnight.
From the munitions dump only one road led forward, a road badly congested by traffic of all sorts, a road made almost impassable by the perversity of French camion drivers whose ambition in life seemed to be to jam traffic. M. P.'s were everywhere, darting in and out among the trucks and wagons, and notwithstanding the aid of over-zealous officers a passage was finally opened up.
The miniature chateau used by the General as Headquarters was readied a little after twelve, but the Staff was lunching. An hour later the three officers entered the operations room where they were greeted by:
"Trench Mortar Battery? Have you completed your reconnaissance?" from the General.
"No, Sir," replied the Captain, "we were directed to report to you, Sir."
The General pointed to a map upon the table.
"The Infantry are there on that ridge; machine guns below are holding them up. Go up, make your reconnaissance so as to put in twelve guns with two hundred bombs each, and be ready to fire at daylight. That road is under direct observation and machine gun fire, so find a good way to get in."
"That is impossible, General," spoke up a Lieutenant, a man of marked incentive and energy.
"I dont like that word impossible," flared the General. "Where is Captain ___"
"Here, Sir," meekly replied the Captain, who had remained in the background.
"Well, hurry up, now, dont waste any more time, make your reconnaissance so as to put in six guns, at least, if you cant get twelve in and report when you are ready; thats all."
It meant three to four days work to be done within ten hours of darkness, with the only access to the position by a road, enfiladed for two kilometers by hostile machine guns and artillery.
The officers went as far as the trucks were allowed by daylight, where the truck was left by the side of the road, camouflaged by branches, and the officers proceeded on foot, directed by a series of runners, who bobbed out of their little holes in the ground like field rats, to Brigade P. C.
The path led by some shacks on the side of a hill, where a machinegun company was in reserve. That company had received a direct hit the night before, resulting in heavy casualties, and was down in the mouth. When they heard that a Trench Mortar Battery was to come in, the C. O. remarked:
"You'll draw their fire, and we will get Hell, now."
The Infantry Commander sat at his desk in an abandoned German recreation hut, on a densely wooded knoll. With his chin on his chest, his arms stretched out before him, calling on lhs reserve strength to keep awake after three days and nights of effort, he was giving instructions to his company commanders for another effort to be made that afternoon, again assisted by a smoke screen. He explained the situation to the T. M. B. officers, but made it plain that they were not wanted, as they would only draw fire on his own men, who had already suffered severely, and, anyway, they would "get those damned machine guns down in the cemetery," in the pocket below the hill, that afternoon.
The hour for that attack arrived, but, unfortunately, the smoke bombs did not, so there was still work for the un-welcomed trench mortars, if it would be physically possible to locate the right position and get the guns and bombs in before daylight.
Unfortunately, the Infantry C. O. could give very little information as to just the point he wanted cleaned out, so the three officers started out to find a spot that could be readied with as little carrying of the heavy platforms as possible, and yet be within range of the place where the Boche were holding up the Infantry. Daylight was gone by the time the position was chosen on the side of the ridge where there would be defilade from direct machine gun fire, but not from indirect and "Minnie" fire, as was evident when the data was being secured.
Before returning to the echelon the officers hunted up the commander of the adjoining brigade so that liaison might be secured. His men were resting in a shallow, sandy gully, through which a bit of narrow gauge led to an abandoned German engineer dump. A low hedge of bushes topped the slope, but offered no over-head protection. The men had dug nests in the ground, which they covered over with strips of corrugated iron provided by the Boche. A few minutes before the T. M. officers arrived a German shell got five of them, their mangled bodies still lying about the shell hole. The C.O. was found at the end of a tunnel dugout, lately occupied by the Germans. The blue light from a Hun acetylene lamp exposed his haggard face and troubled eyes, which seemed on the verge of tears as he told how his men had suffered. He pointed to a rip in his blouse sleeve, where a splinter of the last shell grazed him as he had made his rounds.
The return to the echelon was even slower, as every movable object, including whippets, seemed to be going forward, against which the little truck had to buffet its way. It was midnight when they arrived at their destination, only to find a message stating that "H" hour would be at three hours following.
A hurried trip on foot, it now being impossible to move a car against the tide of trucks, was made to the Artillery Brigade Headquarters, located in a vaulted wine cellar of a house mowed down by shell fire in the town of V____, where the conditions were explained to the General. He had a fair knowledge of trench mortar equipment, its possibilities and limitations as he was ably advised by a French Lieutenant; and realizing that the T. M. Lieutenant's "impossible sir," given earlier in the day to the Division Commander was the truth, sent the three officers off to bed, after telling them that a battery of 75's had been moved up on the flank, and would clean out the machine guns.
The three officers were awakened at daylight by the barrage being laid down, and judged by its intensity that their chance was being swept away with it. They had almost believed the General, when he had told them, a few hours earlier, that the Field Artillery could do the work that the trench mortars should have done.
Before noon word arrived that the Infantry had not advanced, the machine guns still holding them up, and that the trench mortars were to go in that night to prepare the way for another attempt the following morning.
Three hundred and twenty bombs had, in the meantime, been brought up from the old dump. These were started forward up the road, while in other trucks the equipment for four mortars, with their personnel, followed to the point where motor transportation stopped until dark. From there they had to proceed under cover of darkness up the exposed road, and finally to turn off at the foot of the ridge, so as to go as near as possible to the positions picked. Lieutenant "Impossible Sir" was in command of the platoon. It seemed like an impossible proposition as the steel trucks went jolting over the shell-ridden road with a rattling and banging which the Boche must have heard, unless they were deaf. Fortunately the Boche shells were falling on both sides of the road, first to the right and then to the left.
Not a truck was hit. At last they all arrived, were unloaded and started back. Then the real task commenced: that of assembling the platforms in the darkness of an inky black night, and light could not be used.
The platforms had been made hurriedly at an Engineer dump, the bolts holes were not true, so the bolts had to be driven with sledgehammers. Each blow of the sledge was answered by the "put-put-put" of a machinegun, or the bark of a "Minnie" searching them. That couldn't continue, or the position would be discovered, so the men stood with poised sledges, waiting for the crash of a gun to muffle their blows. Had these men known of the push cart modification, with reinforced steel bases, used at the "Center," they would have envied the batteries in training.
At two o'clock the Captain and the other Lieutenant started up the road with the B. C. detail. On reaching the exposed road they strung out in a single column, at safe intervals. A sound like swarming bees was ever in their ears, but they knew too well the sound of passing machine gun bullets to linger there. Had that not been enough in itself to hurry their steps, the "whiz-crump" of seventy-sevens would certainly have done so. At each whiz they dropped in their tracks; after the crump, the Lieutenant in the lead called to the man in the rear, and on receiving the answering "ok" resumed the double-time. When they reached the positions they found that the impossible had been accomplished: the mortars were in place and ammunition ready.
Shortly before "H" hour, a Lieutenant with a runner reported to the Infantry P. C. to which a phone line connecting the P. C. and the battery had been stretched. This P. C. was a tunnel dugout leading into the side of the hill, with a room opening off of it that had been fitted up as a dressing station, and abandoned, with a complete outfit of German surgical instruments. The passage was crowded with sleeping men, but at the further end candle light exposed iron cots for the officers, a telephone switchboard and a curtain, beyond which the Major sat at a table studying a map showing the German positions and the objective for the coming shoot.
The firing data had been figured from the map, but, as it was known that the maps were inaccurate, the Battery Commander desired to secure direct observation, if possible. The Infantry C. O. directed one of his runners to take the Lieutenant, with his runner, to their most advanced machine gun position. This position was on the extreme edge of the ridge, overlooking the German positions below, which was then obscured by mist and fog. While the Lieutenant was talking to the machine gunner a shell from our lines fell short of the German lines. On questioning the runner, he said that shells had been falling short since daybreak and that it was probably those damned trench mortars.
Because of the heavy fog, the Lieutenant could not pick up the burst of the trench mortar bombs; so he lay flat on his back hoping to catch their trajectory and thus check the direction. No sooner had he done so than a tree nearby was cut off as clean as though cut by a razor. From the fall of the leaves it was evident that the shell, probably a 75, was from our own lines. A moment later another shell burst on impact ten feet away. These shorts so demoralized the machine gunners that they took cover.
The Lieutenant sent his runner back to their position to check their data, and he himself returned to the Infantry P. C. to report that some battery was shooting short.
The Field Artillery liaison officer called up all his batteries to check data, but could find no errors. The trench mortars were then blamed for the shorts, notwithstanding the emphatic denials of the T. M. Lieutenant. In order to vindicate his battery he gave them "Cease Firing" for five minutes. During these five minutes shells continued to fall short.
Shortly afterwards a French battery was located on the ridge in the rear, who had assigned to them the top of the Chin Tondo ridge as their target. They were told of the error, and ceased fire. The T. M. Battery resumed fire, continuing for a half hour, when word was received that the Germans were pulling out, and that the Infantry would go over. The gunners stood by the mortars until word came back that the Germans were on the run and out of range.
The vision of "beaucoup" souvenirs caused the men to follow after. They not only found the souvenirs: belt buckles, pistols, etc., but also the demolition caused by the bombs.
They finally came back a happy lot, for the "impossible" had been accomplished-not with twelve mortars and twenty-four hundred bombs, but with two mortars and two hundred and sixty bombs.
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