Friday and Saturday, we spent in packing up our luggage and walking around the town and saying good bye to our friends and acquaintances. I went up the Groupement Headquarters and shook hands with my friend Captain Emmet who expressed himself as being very fortunate in making friends among us American boys and said that if Frenchmen in general could understand us, all would appreciate more. I will tell you more of Captain Emmet when I see you again.
At our last roll call, 1:30 P. M. Saturday we received orders that we would leave at 4 A. M. Sunday, Nov. 18 and to pack up and be ready. We needed no urging. However, as my luggage was all packed, I walked up to the other side of the town and told René Champsavin, my old friend, good-bye, and I hated to leave him, believe me. He is a good friend. Then I looked around the old town once more, recollecting my first incidents here and there, and laughing the with boys at our smash-ups here and there and so forth. For we were really leaving and will I ever see the place again? If so, it will be changed. My old friends, officers and poilus will either be home or gone from this earth. Anyway, my experiences and souvenirs of one of the most helpful periods of my life will never leave me.
Saturday night we turned in at 8:30 and at 4 A. M., 40 of us, our section, left in two camions [trucks] with our luggage to take the 7:00 A. M. train from M. N. D. for Paris. We arrived in the Solemn-Gay City at 2 P. M. and went down to the Hôtel des Etâts-Unis on Rue d'Autin. Here we were glad to welcome a normal life once again after spending 5 months in rustic ways, necessitated by war.
And so, our experiences stop here with the French Army."
Well, our news came today definitely that we are to be released so we are beginning to pack our things. Orders came today to turn in our yellow identification cards so we turned those in and at the same time received our pay of 2F 50 for 4 weeks work. After supper we gave our last concert at the Y. M. C. A. and here we gathered together in a bunch for the last time.
Rosais, our favorite violinist, gave us selections and Baldy gave us a number of sketches and with several numbers from Busby we were able to while away a few last pleasant hours. At 10:30 we came back to the barracks and piled into our bunks."
Had breakfast at 8:00 after piling on an overcoat and shoes over my pajamas, for the old bunk was so warm it was hard to leave yet the taste of omellette was strong enough to tempt me to be the last one in line before the call "Gichet fermé." [counter closed]
In the morning rumors floated about as to our release but I guess in every camp, military especially, they are not much believed, yet we must have something to talk about.
Anyway, we had a roll call after dinner, and were ordered to be at the Y. M. C. A. tent at 8:00 as Captain Mallet would speak to us. Yes, we are to be released. After supper, the boys "moved" down to the tent and I guess about 500 of us were there. All the boys of 133, 526 and 184 reported so when Captain Mallet walked in, we gave him a great hand-clapping--for he is our favorite Captain.
He read his speech in English and tho' simple in style it was very frank but impressive. He thanked us for our services and stated the experience was one we would forever cherish. True enough! So, before closing, we were given our definite information, we were to leave when he finished. The barracks--tent fairly rocked with our cheers. Then we went back to bed, 10:00!"
Up at 7:30 for omelette. Hung around up town and paid a short visit to Champsavin at my old camp. After dinner, I found a package waiting for me from Muddy Marsh, "Old Pal". She surely is a dear girl to be so thoughtful. 4 packages tobacco, gum, candy, cloves, (buttons and string)--the last triplefold welcome.
After dinner, Ab and I took a walk and there was a most wonderful sunset,--red sun, black-violet kills and a blue mist over the valley which was truly wonderful as we stood on the hill overlooking J.
After supper, I wrote letters, the last ones from France before I see all my friends, I hope. Read some K. N. and went to bed 9:30.
There is one diary section I know was sunk, but I must have something to tell you when I get home.
Mother's birthday. Yes Mother I thought of you today as usual, but I just can't remember whether you are 32 or 33, anyway you are still young and happy. Please accept my loving congratulations.
Got up at 7:30 and had my omelette, jelly and hot coffee. I do enjoy jelly in the morning, and I hope you can have some for me "de temps en temps" [from time to time] when I am with you once again. All morning we boys cleaned our shoes, suits etc. for at 2. P. M. we went over to S. where the Medaille Militaire was given to a soldier, Capt. Mallet, head of our Autos Convoy and Capt. Geuin, Capt of our Groupe here received the Legion of Honor, then Buzby's section received the Croix de Guerre as did the boy who lost his hand, the account of which I sent you about a month ago. After we paraded around the field we came home in our camions [trucks] again. There were some U. S. troops there too, men who enlisted from our sections here. They had on their "Tommy" helmets and indeed looked queer.
After a late supper I received my mail and are as follows:- Mother, Oct. 12, Beth, Oct, 11, Dotty Haskall, Oct. 8, Marion Jewett and Theo, Oct. 5 and Irving Marshall Oct. 8. Marion sent me a picture of my new second cousin but at her stage of the "Game of Life" all little ones look alike to me. She seems very cute.
We hung around as usual, nor orders or anything. Bed 8:45."
Up at 8:00, and after breakfast, roll call, a briquet-man came around while we were all reading so we cracked some bargains. After dinner, read and wrote a bit and took a few pictures of camp. It is so muddy, I didn't go for a walk, but staid around camp reading and writing. After supper we hung around and did nothing but build castles of smoke and dreams when we got home, and of home. Bed 9:30."
Up at 7:30 and had omelette and confiture [jam] for breakfast. (Our grub is swell here) then after roll call we just hung around reading, talking, etc. At 11 had dinner, then I wrote till 4 o'clock and as it cleared up, a bunch of us went down to the Y. M. C. A. to arrange a program. Bottomley and I then went down to our little restaurant whose sign reads "autant ici qu'ailleurs" (as much here as any place else.) Here 9 of us had a swell feed cooked for us, mutton, potatoes, green peas, fresh bread, confiture and jelly, coffee with condensed milk and some good "Bull Durham". Believe me it was some lunch-feed. Just think we sat on real stools, ate with real honest to goodness forks, spoons, plates, tumblers, but we had to use our own knives as you probably can imagine where extra house-hold steel is.
After the food, the bunch of us went out to the Y. M. C. A. again and we gang gave a concert. Fat Bottomley sang and he was a scream. After we came home and got to bed 11:30."
Up at 7:45 and got to roll call just in time only to hear read to us one of the most dastardly orders I ever heard. A captain down here, tho fulfilling his duty I suppose, but not understanding the nature and calibre of Americans threatened to put into prison with one blanket, bread and water anyone who did anything contrary to his orders or rules. Well, in the course of our morning, we were informed six of our boys were ordered to the "jug." This was our limit. We have been used hard and been "sat on" and our high motive to serve with which we came over has gradually been turned to hate toward men who refuse to acknowledge our motive and to understand us, but treat us as if we were 2nd class low down poilus. The climax came this morning when the captain came down and took six of our men, one of whom was Georgie Pratt, my old remorque-mate [trailer-mate]. We got the boys together and chose a committee and signed a statement (88 in all) that if these boys were not released and real military punishment given them instead of this monarchial action, after the boys had been told for what reason they were being punished, we would hereafter cease offering our services. Anyway, the boys had to go up to the jail, and stay there all day, but in the P. M. we got the chefs busy and our captain was forced to release them by orders of Captain Mallet, the head of this transport service. He is a wonderful man, anyway, and this action made him all the more our favorite. Well, to come back to Georgie. The sergeant of our new section here, Winslow, and I started up to "prison" with a good feed for our boys (we were going to smuggle in the grub if they wouldn't let us by) when we no sooner got started than they came past us and sprung us the dope they were released from the service and were leaving for Paris at 1 A. M. So I was helping George pack up when he was all of a sudden sent for to report to the bureau. On his return we found he was free, that he had gone to prison for nothing and that it was another Pratt they wanted and not George. Believe me, I was relieved but I was sore for the error they made. Anyway, Alberts, formerly of our section 184, was sent but still I don't know for what reason and I guess he doesn't. He is a good sort of a boy, so I am sending him out to the house to call with the preceding papers of this.
After supper we played cards and turned in, 9:30 after someday."
Nothing much all day. Couldn't work on the car as the boy who had the car before me had the keys to the tool and side boxes so was free as he was away. Hung around the Y. M. C. A. but came back for supper and read, then bed 10:30."
Was awakened at 6:30 to go up to north of O. and take some plaques tournantes or revolving switches for the many miniature railways here. Two cars left here at 7:00 and it took all day to "ship" them some 40 kilometers by our transport camions [trucks]. We saw little as a drizzly rain fell all day and it was disagreeable riding. Got back at 4:30 and had supper then dried out around the fire till 8:45, then went to bed and read a bit. (The Woman Gives, by Owen Johnson) interesting but weird) then I guess I fell asleep with the candle still burning about 10:00."