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AMERICAN EXPEDITIONARY FORCES
Tuscania Survivor’s Diary - Island of Islay, Scotland 1918
17th Co. 20th Engineers
HARRY A. KELLEY

 

Dec. 6, 1917   
Enlisted: 20th Engineers Forestry Regiment, Company E.; Location: Fort McDowell, Angel Island, California.
 
 
Dec. 15, 1917 
Departed Fort Mc Dowell; boarded Train for Washington D.C.
 
 
Dec. 1917       
Arrived at American Camp University, Washington D.C. after an interesting trip, we narrowly escaped being wrecked.
 
 
Dec. 27, 1917 
Promoted to Mess Sergeant
 
 
Jan. 22, 1918 
Departed American Camp University, Washington D.C.; destination New York. Hiked five miles in the snow with full pack, then boarded a train, traveled all night.
 
 
Jan. 23, 1918 
Arrived in New York harbor, boarded the transport ship Tuscania which remained in harbor all night.
 
 
Jan. 24, 1918 
Left New York harbor, all hands ordered below decks for trip hours. Good weather on Atlantic.
 
 
Jan. 25, 1918 
Traveling up New England coast, fine weather.
 
 
Jan. 26, 1918
We arrived in Halifax and saw the results of the great explosion. Halifax has a very fine harbor, though a trifle narrow.
 
 
Jan. 27, 1918 
At 1 o’clock we left Halifax in company of 11 freighter and transport ships, and a British cruiser. It was a grand sight.
 
 
Jan. 29, 1918 
All’s well, fine weather, smooth sea.
 
 
Jan. 30, 1918 
Sea is getting rough.
 
 
Jan. 31, 1918 
To most of the boys, the sea seems very rough.
 
 
Feb. 1, 1918   
The Tuscania crew sprinkle quarters with evil smelling disinfectant which makes me sick.
 
 
Feb. 2, 1918   
I am still sick. The quality of food aboard this ship is very poor.
 
 
Feb. 4, 1918   
I remain sick; have been moved to state room. I volunteered for submarine guard duty, but too sick to do it.
 
 
Feb. 5, 1918   
Tuscania has been attacked by enemy submarine, time: 5:30 p.m., got into a lifeboat, floated around for 11 hours; remained pretty cool.
 
 
Feb. 6, 1918   
At 5:30 a.m. our lifeboat with 32 men landed on Islay, an Island off the coast of Scotland. Ireland can be seen in the distance. The people of Port Ellen are very, very kind to us.
 
 
Feb. 7, 1918   
We are resting up after our exposure. My ankles and legs are very painful. In good spirits, these people are so hospitable.
 
 
Feb. 8, 1918   
Left Port Ellen this morning, we saw more of Bonnie Scotland, great scenes that I’ll never forget. The town of Tarbert welcomes us.
 
 
Feb. 9, 1918   
After traveling all night we passed Glasgow and London, we arrive at an English rest camp near Winchester. I am hospitalized with the Mumps. Scanty rations.
 
 
Feb. 11, 1918 
In Hospital
 
 
Feb. 16, 1918 
Still in Hospital
 
 
Feb. 18, 1918 
Became acquainted with another terrier dog fancier who is a good all around sport.
 
 
Feb. 19, 1918 
The ward master in this hospital is a fine fellow; he wants to get in my company. I will do my very best for him. I was discharged from the hospital today.
 
 
Feb. 20, 1918 
On this day we went to Southampton.
 
 
Feb. 22, 1918 
The people of Southampton, England give us a wonderful entertainment show, the best I ever saw.
 
 
Feb. 23, 1918 
Forgot that yesterday was George Washington’s Birthday. Our company moved to another line of barracks.
 
 
Feb. 25, 1918 
Took over cookhouse feeding of 1,300 Tuscania Survivors.
 
 
Feb. 26, 1918 
We relieved some overworked British cooks, the Men say they like the food better.
 
 
Feb. 27, 1918
To busy to write.
 
 
March 2, 1918
The British officers are very jealous of our success. We can see why the Irish hate the British.
 
 
March 3, 1918
Very busy, it’s been a hard day.
 
 
March 4, 1918
The Major General inspected the kitchen. Turned the joint over to the British.
 
 
March 5, 1918
Let me see, oh yes, I took that bath. No airplanes around today. We drilled today, I was a guide. Hope our company starts mess soon.
 
 
March 6, 1918
Visited friends in the hospital this evening. Enjoyed the drill today. I wrote a letter to Ethel. Put in for a pass to town (Winchester, England) for Saturday.
 
 
March 7, 1918
Nothing much doing. The boy’s all want their pay, I’m broke too. We all want to get out of England. Perhaps the food is better in France.
 
 
March 8, 1918
Tomorrow I will go to Winchester on my pass. Many thousands of men have arrived in England. Many of them have arrived in this camp.
 
 
March 9, 1918
Today I went to Winchester and I ate much food. Harry Keeler lent me 5 shillings and 3 pence. We drank milk and had ham & eggs, apples etc. A fine day.
 
 
March 10, 1918      
I had a long conversation with Bennett.
 
 
March 11, 1918      
Gathered greens in the morning. We were all invited to a great show in Winchester.
 
 
March 12, 1918      
We ate the greens today. Saw a movie show. Beautiful evening, feeling great, guess it’s from eating greens.
 
  
March 13, 1918      
Went to Winchester again. Visited King Arthur’s Court and saw the round table. It was a great day. See my booklets on the Winchester relics.
 
 
March 14, 1918      
Saw a good show in the Y.M.C.A. They gave us California apples. In the morning we gathered greens and sprouts etc.
 
 
March 15, 1918      
Drilled today both in the morning and in the evening, fine weather.
 
 
March 16, 1918      
Nothing new today. Excellent weather. Expect pay tomorrow.
 
 
March 17, 1918      
Church
 
 
March 18, 1918      
Had detail pick greens. Our company went to a football game. We were paid yesterday. I bought chocolate candy like a kid.
 
 
March 19, 1918      
Went to town, ate much. Red Doyle told me how he was saved and about the big fish.
 
 
March 20, 1918      
Went to Kingsworthy this evening.
 
 
March 21, 1918      
Wrote a letter to Ethel. Nothing new happening, saw a game of baseball.
 
 
March 22, 1918      
We were notified to get ready to move out to France.
 
 
March 23, 1918      
Reached Southampton this evening got on board a vessel, departed for France. Boys got scared when winches worked during the night. We laid upon the decks and got very little sleep during the night.
        
 
March 24, 1918      
We landed at Le Havre, France today, a fine city.
 
 
March 25, 1918      
Leaving Le Havre by train, for parts unknown in 18 cattle cars – 30 men in each.
 
 
March 26, 1918      
Traveling through beautiful country. One boy said, “I’m glad we don’t have to sleep another night in this cattle car.”
 
 
March 27, 1918      
Last night we landed here in Angers, France and arrived at a U.S. Post. Read much mail today, mostly written in January.
 
 
March 28, 1918      
We are glad to be in a U.S. Post. Dug trenches and drilled today.
 
 
March 29, 1918      
Dug trenches and drilled
 
 
March 30, 1918      
Dug trenches and drilled
 
 
April 1, 1918  
This city is called “Anjea” by the French.
 
 
April 8, 1918  
Have been told to pack up. Some of us, go on, prepare camp. We leave at 3 a.m.
 
 
April 9, 1918  
At 3 a.m. we got up, ate and hiked to the railroad station; rode all day in a 2nd Class Coach.
 
 
April 10, 1918
Still riding the train in the same 2nd Class Coach.
 
 
April 11, 1918
Arrived in Castets, France in the province of Landes near Spain; 15 miles from the coast.
 
 
April 12, 1918
Started cook house. The trees here are small and will make very little saw logs.
 
 
April 15, 1918
All is well. The site for Company D’s mill is being cleared and timbers are being harvested.
 
 
April 16, 1918
Got much mail, 12 letters in all; from Mother, Ethel, Law, Babe, Benedict, and Cannon.
 
 
May 9, 1918   
Have been going to the city of Dax for provisions, while there, I took sulphur baths.
 
 
May 10, 1918 
Have been in a real Bull Ring. Visited the town of Villa Francesca & Saint Giron.
 
 
May 11, 1918 
Have been in the town of La Linxe, an old church built by the English is there.
 
 
May 13, 1918 
Throughout this part of France, the English have left many monuments of their ancient occupation.
 
 
May 14, 1918 
Received a nice package from home. A prayer book was in it from Ethel.
 
 
June 3, 1918  
Many of us boy’s wish to transfer to other regiments.
 
 
June 4, 1918  
I would like to get into almost any other outfit. I don’t like the Captain, he is a little crab.
 
 
June 5, 1918  
Have met John Burns, a man in the Canadian Army. His cousin (same name) is a neighbor in San Francisco.
 
 
June 10, 1918
The Captain has been kicking at me lately.
 
 
June 11, 1918
The Captain has made several threats to break me very often. If he does, it will be a great relief.

 
June 12, 1918
A little Belgian refuge came to me and asked for food (he got it).
 
 
June 28, 1918
Received mothers letter from Maybelle Neistrath. Wrote a few letters home.
 
 
June 29, 1918
Everything is o.k.
 
 
July 13, 1918 
Oh, these flies are fierce.
 
 
July 14, 1918 
Hundreds of our boys are sick with the Spanish Flu.
 
 
July 17, 1918 
This sickness is like the gripp. Some say it was started with poison shells released up at the front.
 
 
July 18, 1918 
Sent some pictures home, I am taking Spanish lessons.
 
 
July 19, 1918 
Dined out and sampled some 20 year old wine, tres bien oui oui.
 
 
Aug. 31, 1918 
Have got in wrong with the little skipper, he will break me soon.
 
 
Sept. 2, 1918 
I have been broke busted.
 
 
Sept. 3, 1918 
I’m a private now.
 
 
Oct. 1, 1918   
We are preparing to move camp.
 
 
Oct. 18, 1918 
General Order 47, Headquarters of the services of supplies, reorganized the forestry forces into one regiment, the Twentieth Engineers, with 14 battalion headquarters, 49 forest companies, 28 engineer service companies (forestry), and two attached engineer service battalions.
 
Our regiment is now designated as: 20th Engineers 17th Forestry Co.
 
 
Nov. 19, 1918 
We leave La Bat tomorrow for Verdun on an American train. Zas ess goode.
 
 
Nov. 21, 1918 
We passed Bordeaux going North.
 
 
Nov. 22, 1918 
Passed Olois also Tours.
 
 
Nov. 23, 1918 
Passed through Orleans. I beat it to the French Croix Rouge (Red Cross). Bought some coffee and bought some gingerbread.
 
  
Nov 24, 1918  
Arrived at Souilly
 
 
Nov. 25, 1918 
This camp is near Verdun, it’s a very muddy region.
 
 
Nov. 26, 1918 
Airplanes are thick as bees in the air.
 
 
Nov. 27, 1918 
The boy’s are collecting bou coupe souvenirs
 
 
Nov. 28, 1918 
Thanksgiving! Went to Verdun, its all shot up. Ate a corn beef sandwich for dinner.







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