Today we read about Thomas Vander Veen’s military activities in France from October 28-30, 1918 along with Natalie Fulk’s comments.
Monday, Oct. 28:
● “We left next morning and hiked all the way to Jony, after waiting there for more than an hour we finally left on trucks. I was not feeling very good. Weak from diarrhea and a bad cold and that waiting and riding on those trucks made it still worse because it got awful foggy and misty and we had to doubletime to get to Jouey and I was wet from sweat. That waiting part in the army is always a nuisance. We passed through Foul and arrived in Nancy shortly after noon. Swell place, big YMCA there with all kinds of entertainments and lots of good things to sell. Which things that the men way back of the lines get most of the benefits of the YMCA etc. We were outfitted with new clothes for the most part and also got paid for 2 months. We had not been paid for 3 months as we still have 1 months pay coming when we go back. I drew 287 francs. We left in afternoon at about 4 on the train. Got more iron rations on the trait in addition to what we had taken along from camp. We traveled all night and the next day on the train, although the train stopped every once in a while.”
● Comments: Vander Veen was chosen to participate in a leave, which was like a vacation. Leaves were when commanders would “grant seven days of leave every four months for officers and men ‘of good standing’ in their units.” The YMCA would help organize these trips and men would be able to go on a vacation to tourist spots around France and relax for a few days in appreciation of their good service. They received other benefits besides the trip itself during their leave, such as money and clothes, as Vander Veen experienced. Leaves were supposed to help boost morale within the AEF.
Tuesday, Oct. 29:
● “We traveled all night and the next day on the train, although the train stopped every once in a while. We passed through some very nice and good farming country. It was a fine day and the country looked indeed very pretty. Everything looks more neat and clean and up to date than the villages in the northern part of France. Cattle in this part of country all white without a black spot on them. We arrived here in Mont Dore at about midnight but had to hang around for about 8 hours before we finally were checked off and had passed the medical inspection.”
● Comments: Vander Veen’s leave took place in Mont Dore in the southern part of France. Mont Dore was a resort village known for the mountain scenery and activities such as thermal springs and hiking. Now, it is still a tourist destination, especially for winter sports like skiing.
Wednesday, Oct. 30:
● “This is quite a change here by what we have been used to for the last months. Instead of marching every day or laying in holes to duck shells. I am here now in a famous resort living the life of a gentleman at leisure. The change came very sudden and unexpected…. Most of us in C men were assigned to Hotel Bardel and we were marched to the place and assigned to our rooms there. Swell place, dandy rooms. Occupy a room with Cirus the cook. Feather beds and unknown led in after we had breakfast at almost 11 this morning. But I did not sleep very good, am still feeling punk today, got an awful cold and headache and I haven’t got much pep left as me. But I guess I will straighten out soon after being here for a couple of days. Swell place this town is, although not very big and busy. It is one of many towns here in this Auvergne resort district. We have lodging and board and transportation on trains free. The YMCA has a swell big building with casino where all kinds of entertainments are given free also and we can buy candy and drink etc. there at small cost.”
● Comments: This was Vander Veen’s first day getting to explore Mont Dore and what it had to offer, even though he was feeling sick still. Soldiers from all over France had come to Mont Dore on leave.
For earlier journal entries visit the Joint Archives of Holland.