Today we read about Thomas Vander Veen’s military activities in France from November 1-10, 1918 along with Natalie Fulk’s comments.
Friday, Nov. 1:
● “Today was our third day of our vacation and a fine day it was, like the last two days, nice and sunny. We are very lucky in that as lately it had been colder and rainy and there even was a foot of snow on the highest peak around here as the “Y” men told me. Today, Koetye and I and 13 others went out with the “Y” men, in rigs, to Lake du Guéry, and we sure had a fine trip and saw some beautiful scenery. We started out shortly after 10 A.M. taking our lunch with us. We arrived at the lake at about 12:30. It was all up grade and we had to go slow. We stopped on the way to look at a waterfall. Grand scenery everywhere. The lake is about 4000 feet above sea level and is about 8 KM from Mont Dore, it is not very large, it is said to be an old time crater and the mountains ground are of volcanic formations but do not contain many minerals. We left the wagons at the hill and proceeded on foot farther beyond and did some mountain climbing up to the top of a great massive rock. Great scenery from that point although the air was a little hazy. Pretty cool way up there. The climbing tired me out a little as I am not in a condition yet to do these things much. After a little while we went back to our Rendezvous at the Lake Hotel. Had a little boatride on the lake with a couple of other fellows before leaving for home. We arrived in town again before 5 P.M. The trip cost us 4 Fr. a head, but we sure had our money’s worth.”
● Comments: Vander Veen chose to go on an excursion as part of his leave and explore the scenery around Mont Dore. Lake du Guéry, in French spelled Lac de Guéry, is still a popular hiking and fishing spot in the Auvergnes mountains. The soldiers’ leaves were meant to be like vacations and many soldiers took advantage of the time to explore parts of France that they would not have seen if not for the war.
Wednesday, Nov. 6:
● “We left Mont Dore on Wednesday morning about 7 A.M. and went some 10 miles to Laqueuille and then we were sent back again to Mont Dore for some reason or other. We don’t know what but we did not care anyway. We all were willing to go back to Mont Dore again and all cheered coming in again. But we did not remain there long though, only one day…”
● Comments: Laqueueille is a town about 10 miles from Mont Dore that is also known for tourism. Vander Veen went on day trip there and then back to Mont Dore.
Thursday, Nov. 7:
● “…we left again Thursday at 11 A.M. Niggers coming in on furlough to take our place.”
● Comments: Vander Veen left Mont Dore on this day.
Saturday, Nov. 9:
● “On the train we are on the way back from our vacation, but at the rate we are going it may take us a week yet before finding our Co. again. Since about 6 P.M. last night we have gone only about 20 K.M. We have been here stopping now for several hours. We were in Is sur Tille last night for a long time. We were served hot coffee there by the Am. Red Cross. Copped some more jam there too…. We have been going nearly 2 days now and are only about two thirds the way to Nanay, but we may not go there as we hear our division has moved again. We also hear a lot about peace but we have not been able yet to find out anything definite about the news that armistice has been signed with Germany. But from what we can get out of the papers it seems to be very near. We are all hoping it will be true. We had a fine vacation at Mont Dore and all hated to leave. I did not feel very good the first days but improved a whole lot since and except for a little cold yet am O.K. now. Have a good appetite now and I sure proved it too on the table in the hotel. We have so far good to eat here too on the train bits of good bread and I managed to get a couple of pails of good jam at Clermont and it goes good with bread. We are having fine weather, very mild for this time of the year. I had bad luck at Mont Dore as my pocket book with all the money I had, about 80 francs was stolen from me by somebody in our Co. Either Cirus or Pooks or Jim Maretti. I suspect Maretti and I think he also stole my pair of glasses and sold them. He is a regular New York crook anyway. It left me completely broke and I had to borrow 40 franc from Koetye to get around. Soldier who owes me 25 franc has gone to the hospital in Mont Dore and could not pay me as he had his money turned in. We meet American soldiers all over the country in the towns and they have it pretty soft here by what we had at the front. So far we have been going the same way back as we came up on. Some of the towns we passed through are Clermont, Cannal, Gilly, Moet Chandon, Dijon, Is sur Tille.”
● Comments: As Vander Veen and his companions left their leave, they stopped in different cities along the way as they had on the way to Mont Dore. Vander Veen’s trouble with the theft of his wallet was fairly common in the AEF, even though there were rules against it that were enforceable by the Military Police.
Sunday, Nov. 10:
● “After being on the train yet all day yesterday and all night we got off this morning at about 6 A.M. Almost 3 days and nights on the train. We did not ride much last night stood still most of time. Passed Charmont in afternoon yesterday, from there went North first and some said we were going to St. Dizier, but we branched off again at Joinville and went east and this morning when we woke up we were at Sorcy depot. We got off the train there and hiked to Siray where we had a little for breakfast, started out again but we did not go far, changed riders came in and we finally ended up in Vertusey only a couple of miles south. Got here in afternoon, billeted in farms which were pretty good outfitted for the purpose with bunks. Our Co.’s somewhere around but I don’t know just where. From what we hear our Division had been started toward the lines again about 3 or 4 days ago, but they just came back again or are on the way back, now with all the peace negotiations going on. Seems to be certain peace is very near and according to latest reports tonight the Germans have signed the terms of the armistice and down before them by Gen. Foch they had till tomorrow 11 A.M. to sign them and if they have not signed them yet I think they will sign them alright. Revolution is going on in Germany and it is not possible for them to fight successfully any longer and the German Empire is liable to be all split up. And the Kaiser and the rest of the Hohenzollern are done for too! We got only one meal today, this evening at 7, but I rounded up enough eats at the ration dumps here to give me and some of the others a good feed. We may stay here a couple of days and then I hope we can go to a good town farther to the rear. We all hope anyway peace has been declared by that time.”
● Comments: Vander Veen finally reached the place where the Fourth Division was stationed, which was in the rear. The Divisions were very big, with about 28,000 men in each. Therefore, it would have been difficult for Vander Veen to find his specific company within that many people. At this point the end of the war was very near, as all the German government had to do was sign the armistice before 11:00 AM the next day. There seemed to be many rumors going through the camp about the conditions in Germany concerning revolution. Vander Veen’s spirits seemed to be up as the war seemed to him and the rest of the men to be drawing to a close.
For earlier journal entries visit the Joint Archives of Holland.