Friday, November 11, 2011

Denny's Diary -- One Soldier's Story

In honor of Remembrance Day, I am posting a transcript of my grandfather’s diary, kept while he was serving in the front lines during World War One with the 102nd Machine Gun Battalion of the Yankee Division.
While at the front, Private 1st Class Benjamin Franklin Denison (Denny) made brief (and sometimes nearly illegible) entries onto the 1918 Standard Diary and Daily Reminder diary booklet he carried with him.  The diary recently came to me from my Aunt Ann, Denny’s oldest daughter, who was entrusted with its keeping.  I made a few notes for clarity and spelled out some of the words he abbreviated but otherwise kept the words as he wrote them--including his best-guess spelling of place names.  The diary is not exciting, but it is a true account of a soldier’s life during The Great War.
NOTES: 1) The term "fatigue" refers to any work that does not involve going to the trenches.  2) The abbreviation G.L appears throughout and I cannot, with any certainty, claim to know what it means.  However, Denny does make a few references to “Got L.” and “Got Lit” so it is safe to assume those entries are a code meaning he got drunk, which is certainly in character.  He was, after all, my grandfather.

Diary and booklet about the Yankee Division on a photograph
of a commemoration of the 102nd Machine Gun Battalion
Tue 01-Jan-1918
Got L. Had day off
Wed 02-Jan-1918
Thu 03-Jan-1918
Fri 04-Jan-1918
Sat 05-Jan-1918
Sun 06-Jan-1918
Mon 07-Jan-1918
Tue 08-Jan-1918
Wed 09-Jan-1918
Thu 10-Jan-1918
Drilled at trenches, no dinner.  Skipped and came home.
Fri 11-Jan-1918
Trenches.  Cold.
Sat 12-Jan-1918
Drilled at trenches.  Had hot dinner there.  Inoculated.  Barracks
Sun 13-Jan-1918
Short AM inspection.  Bemis came down in PM.  G.L.
Mon 14-Jan-1918
Drilled in AM.  Got "busted."  On stable guard.
Tue 15-Jan-1918
Pay day.  Change of quarters.  Rained all day.
Wed 16-Jan-1918
Drilled on hill.  Had dinner there.  Went to town.  G.L.
Thu 17-Jan-1918
Drilled, same place.  Dinner.  Went to town.  G.L.
Fri 18-Jan-1918
Drilled and had dinner same place.  Sun and I went to town.  G.L.
Sat 19-Jan-1918
Drilled at trenches.  Went to town.  G.L.  Made Private 1st Class.
Sun 20-Jan-1918
Inspection.  Breiver came over.  Went to town.  Very warm.
Mon 21-Jan-1918
Shot on range.  Went to town and Emersons and I G.L.  Warm.
Tue 22-Jan-1918
Fatigue at corral and cook shack.  Late for reveille.  Raining.
Wed 23-Jan-1918
On range and field practice.  Warm.
Thu 24-Jan-1918
Fatigue at cook shack.  Pretty soft job.  Warm.

A WW1 Cookshack
Fri 25-Jan-1918
Drilled.  Warm.
Sat 26-Jan-1918
Fatigue.  Warm.
Sun 27-Jan-1918
Reveille at 5:15.  Shot on range with both 168 guns at once.  Warm.
Mon 28-Jan-1918
Reveille same time.  Shot on range again.  Saw all the old boys.  Warm.
Tue 29-Jan-1918
Went to range.  Went to town and got feed.  Not feeling well.  Warm.
Wed 30-Jan-1918
AM sick call.  Did nothing today.  Had bath.  Warm.
Thu 31-Jan-1918
Went out with mules in AM.  Gas house in PM.  Got rubber boots.  Warm.
Fri 01-Feb-1918
Drilled with bombs.  Went on guard at night.
Sat 02-Feb-1918
Stayed on guard (indistinct) on range.  Came off guard at 7:30.  Warm.
Sun 03-Feb-191
Reveille at 6:45.  Pease and Abbot passed in stripes.  Fine day.
Mon 04-Feb-1918
Filled ammunition strips.  Easy day.  Fine and warm.
Tue 05-Feb-1918
Fisk and I skipped drill and explored caves.  Fine weather.
Wed 06-Feb-1918
Made packs and had inspection.  Packed Bar. Bags.  Started to rain in PM.
Thu 07-Feb-1918
Hung around in day.  Left R'irlle at 8 PM for Chat. arrived at 11:30 and loaded cars.  Felt fine.
Fri 08-Feb-1918
Train left Chat. at 8:30 AM.  Slept all day.  Fine weather.
Sat 09-Feb-1918
Arrived at Brainsine at 4 AM and began to unload.  Hiked to Chaserny.  Got to (indistinct) at  10 AM.  Slept in dugouts.  Saw air battle.
Sun 10-Feb-1918
Company left for front at 2:30 PM.  I stayed back to guard supplies.  Band is playing.
Mon 11-Feb-1918
Left Chas. for Valley.  Town in ruins.  Went over battlefield.
Tue 12-Feb-1918
Fisk and I got lost on battlefield.  Saw Bosche plane bring down 3 French balloons.  Hell of a place to live in.  Had bath.

Diary entries
Wed 13-Feb-1918
Stable guard.
Thu 14-Feb-1918
Made 2 trips to trenches.  Got back at 4 AM.  Some mud.
Fri 15-Feb-1918
5 G. airplanes came over corral.  3 came down.  On guard again.
Sat 16-Feb-1918
Hung around kitchen.  Got new dugout.  Cool.
(Margin note at top of page beginning 17 Feb 1918)  One G. came down.
Sun 17-Feb-1918
Heavy firing going on.  Went to trenches on saddle.  Saw a fine air fight.
Mon 18-Feb-1918
Fred and I took Capt. Trunk to Base.  On stable guard.  Heavy bombardment at 12:30 AM.
Tue 19-Feb-1918
Hung around all day.  Cleaned harness.  Warm.
Wed 20-Feb-1918
Went after Co.  Got back at 12 AM.  Raining.
Thu 21-Feb-1918
Had bath.  Hung around.  Got letter from Glad. and Clyde.  Lots of mail.
Fri 22-Feb-1918
Hung around.
Sat 23-Feb-1918
Hung around.
Sun 24-Feb-1918
Walked to Chavonine with Fisk and Asgood.  Turkey for dinner.
Mon 25-Feb-1918
Company went to trenches.  2nd platoon stayed here.  Cold and Rainy.  Got mail from Ava. (his wife)
Tue 26-Feb-1918
We left for trenches.  Quiet.
Wed 27-Feb-1918
Quiet.  Went for chow in PM.
Thu 28-Feb-1918
Heavy barrage from 9 to 10:35 AM.  Many wounded and few killed.  Quiet.
Fri 01-Mar-1918
Heavy artillery fire at right of section.   Raining.
Sat 02-Mar-1918
Pretty quiet.  Some snow and cool.
Sun 03-Mar-1918
Quiet, cold and wet.
Mon 04-Mar-1918
Pretty quiet.  Cold.
Tue 05-Mar-1918
Quiet.  Cold.
Wed 06-Mar-1918
Quiet and cool.
Thu 07-Mar-1918
Some artillery and air fights.  French relieved us.  Glad to get back.
Fri 08-Mar-1918
Went to trenches for AM.  Got back at 2 AM.  Hell of a time.  Big air raid and lots of mud.  Pay day.
Sat 09-Mar-1918
Moved to Chaseniy. Fine place.  Airplanes.  Hung around at supply line.
Sun 10-Mar-1918
Cleaned up and went to trenches for carts in PM.  Saw plane come down.  Got some of it.  Fine and warm.

The Trenches
Mon 11-Mar-1918
Hung around.  Fine weather.  Got box from Borne.  Don't feel good.
Tue 12-Mar-1918
Got letter from F. Cole.  Fine and warm.  Stomach on the burn.
Wed 13-Mar-1918
Hung around.  Not feeling well.
Thu 14-Mar-1918
Great weather.  Nothing doing.
Fri 15-Mar-1918
John Harvey came back.  Not much doing.  Not feeling very good.  Cool.
Sat 16-Mar-1918
Laid around.  Had inspection of helmets and masks.  Wass came back.  Warm.
Sun 17-Mar-1918
Hung around.  Warm and nice.
Mon 18-Mar-1918
Left Chessemy at 7 AM for Braine.  Warm.
Tue 19-Mar-1918
Left B. at 7:30 AM.  Raining.  AM guard in car.
Wed 20-Mar-1918
Arrived at Brainsine (indistinct) chateau at 2 AM.  Unloaded and hiked to villa la Teire.  Raining.  19 Kilo
Thu 21-Mar-1918
Laid around.  Fine place here.  Warm.
Fri 22-Mar-1918
Went through church.  Parked wagons.  Had feed.  Fine day.  Got ready to move.
Sat 23-Mar-1918
Hiked to Dommatry St Piere and camped.  Fine place.  Warm.  14 Kilo
Sun 24-Mar-1918
Stopped at Nome court.  Fish and I had feed.  Warm and nice.  15 Kilo
Mon 25-Mar-1918
Hiked to Armonville.  Fine and warm.  19 Kilo
Tue 26-Mar-1918
Went to (blank).  Cold and snowy.  Carried packs.  14 Kilo

WW1 Barracks
Wed 27-Mar-1918
Reached camp.  Cool.  14 Kilo
Thu 28-Mar-1918
Hung around.  Went to St. Blin at night.  S.O.L. on B.  Cool.
Fri 29-Mar-1918
Raining.  Packed up stuff.  Ready to move.
Sat 30-Mar-1918
Raining.  Started trip.  Stayed in farm.
Sun 31-Mar-1918
Company went on in trucks.  We went to Maryey.  Cold and raining.  Only 1 meal.
Mon 01-Apr-1918
Had breakfast.  Left M. at 5 AM.  Got in (indistinct) at 8 PM.  Hung around.  Cold and rainy.  No grub.
Tue 02-Apr-1918
Got in bed at 4:30 AM.  Still raining.  Got up at 9 AM.  Breakfast.  Left at 9:30 AM.  Arrived at 12.  No grub.
Wed 03-Apr-1918
Hung around.  Some mud.  Raining.
Sun 07-Apr-1918
Hung around.  Peggy got hit and 4 of Eddy's mules killed.
Mon 08-Apr-1918
Went to trenches with Hanson.  Got by OK.  Raining.  Got back at 1 AM.
Tue 09-Apr-1918
Hung around.  Cool.  Worked for Barrows.
Wed 10-Apr-1918
Fish and I went to trenches.  No trouble.  Got back at 3 AM.
Thu 11-Apr-1918
Hung around and slept most of day.  Warm.
Fri 12-Apr-1918
Hung around.  Garfield came up.  Warm.
Sat 13-Apr-1918
Hung around.  Cloudy.  Went to Battalion headquarters to guard.  Peggy came back.
Sun 14-Apr-1918
Went back to own quarters.  Pretty quiet.
Sat 20-Apr-1918
Raid started at 3 AM.  We lost 6 killed, 9 wounded and 22 men and 1 officer are missing.  On Battalion guard at Ar'ville.

Mon 22-Apr-1918Company came out of trenches.
Mon 29-Apr-1918
Emmon and I went up on ration cart.  Quiet.
Tue 30-Apr-1918
Hung around.
Wed 01-May-1918
Hung around.
Thu 02-May-1918
Hung around.
Fri 03-May-1918
Went to town.  Saw Garfield.  Had feed in stable.  Got 10 francs from Jack.
Sun 09-Jun-1918
Fine and warm.
Wed 17-Jul-1918
Stared out with rations.  Got lost and hiked all day.
Thu 18-Jul-1918
Drive started.  Lost 5 men at Vearix.  I found the train near Chateau Thierry.
Fri 19-Jul-1918
Camped at Veiddlywith company.  Some shelling.  Friedman and Norton were killed.
Sat 20-Jul-1918
Hung around Veidilly
Sun 21-Jul-1918
Bosche shelled Verdilly.  Lost 10 mules.
Mon 22-Jul-1918
Moved from V. up to the company.  Stayed in woods.  Lots of shelling.
Tue 23-Jul-1918
Got relieved.  Saw a plane come down.  American.
Wed 24-Jul-1918
Camped in woods near Chateau Thierry.
Thu 25-Jul-1918
Still in woods.  Raining.
Thu 08-Aug-1918
Wrote home for $50.
Fri 30-Aug-1918
Rode on train load at night.  Wet and cold.
Sat 31-Aug-1918
Unloaded.  Had lots of beer.  Hiked all night to woods.  Cold and wet.
Sun 01-Sep-1918
Lost job of driving mules.  Put in 3rd (indistinct).  Hiked all night.
Mon 02-Sep-1918
Fine weather.
Fri 20-Sep-1918
Father died at1:3 AM.
Sat 19-Oct-1918
On guard.  2-6 AM.
Sun 20-Oct-1918
Got $50 from Muriel (his sister).  Raining.
Mon 21-Oct-1918
Good day.  Hung around.
Tue 22-Oct-1918
Good day.  Hung around.
Wed 23-Oct-1918
Fine and warm.  Sully came back from hospital.
Thu 24-Oct-1918
Jim Tahanan was killed.
Sun 03-Nov-1918
Kitchens moved back to Beville.  We moved back to barracks.  Slept in stable.
Fri 08-Nov-1918
Went to barracks with Wilkins.
Sat 09-Nov-1918
Got ready to move.  Went to trenches on ration detail.
Sun 10-Nov-1918
Shorty's birthday.
Mon 11-Nov-1918
I am 23 years old.  All hostilities stopped at 11 AM.  Went to Verdun in PM.

In Remembrance
Wed 13-Nov-1918
Went to barracks for stuff.  Left camp slept in small barn.
Thu 14-Nov-1918
Went to Wixeirlle for rations.  Left camp for new place.  Slept outdoors.  Had feed.
Fri 15-Nov-1918
Left for Nubecourt.  Slept in barn.  Cold.  Damp.
Sat 16-Nov-1918
Stayed in Nubecourt.  Saint Berry  G.
Sun 17-Nov-1918
Left Nubecourt for Belrain.  Slept in barn.  Fine place.
Mon 18-Nov-1918
Left Belrain for new place.  "Bon"  Slept in wagon.  On guard.  I did no G.

Barracks and Cookhouse
Tue 19-Nov-1918
Left for new place.  Fine weather.
Wed 20-Nov-1918
Left for Lymirth.  Had feed from woman.  G.L.
Thu 21-Nov-1918
Left for La F.  Went to dance.  Saw Tray.  G.L.
Fri 22-Nov-1918
Left La Frenche for Consighy.  Fine day.  Had feed.
Sat 23-Nov-1918
Left for Poylangny.  End of hike.  Fine place.
Sun 24-Nov-1918
Hung around stables.  Signed payroll.  Saw 101st boys.  Jack and I got lit.
Mon 25-Nov-1918
Hung around.  Went on guard at night.
Tue 26-Nov-1918
On guard.  Company washed carts.  S. was drunk and didn't do his guard.
Wed 27-Nov-1918
Went to Mense on horse detail.  Some ride.
Thu 28-Nov-1918
Came back from Mense on truck.  Swell feed.
Fri 29-Nov-1918
Finished cleaning up.  Hung around.
Sat 30-Nov-1918
Fine day.  Inspection.  Pay day.  G.L.
Sun 01-Dec-1918
Went out with carts in AM.  Fine day.
Mon 02-Dec-1918
Drilled with company in PM.
Tue 03-Dec-1918
Warm.  Drilled with company.  Fine day.
Wed 04-Dec-1918
Thu 05-Dec-1918
Drilled with company.  Missed retreat and fell asleep on guard.  May be shot.
Fri 06-Dec-1918
Sent 12 mules away.  Got letter from Ava.  Had fatigue in PM.  Washed carts (Co).
Sat 07-Dec-1918
Don and I went to next town.  G.L..
Sun 08-Dec-1918
Fatigue.  Went to next town.  G.L.  Fine day.
Mon 09-Dec-1918
Fatigue.  Café all closed.  G.L.
Tue 10-Dec-1918
Fatigue.  Saw 4 girls in PM.  On guard.  Raining.
Wed 11-Dec-1918
Thu 12-Dec-1918
Fri 13-Dec-1918
Sat 14-Dec-1918
Raining.  Inspection.  Fatigue.
Sun 15-Dec-1918
Fine day.  Walked fatigue.  Went to Fonlain.  Had feed.  Came back and had feed.
Mon 16-Dec-1918
Went on range.  Raining and cold.
Tue 17-Dec-1918
Shortarm inspeciton.  Fatigue all day.  Got Xniax boxes.
Wed 18-Dec-1918
Drilled.  Got off fatigue.
Thu 19-Dec-1918
Fri 20-Dec-1918
Went on guard.  Had feed at Laula.
Sat 21-Dec-1918
Inspection all day.  On guard.
Sun 22-Dec-1918
Some (indistinct) got pay.  Started to clean up town.  Don and I got lit.
Mon 23-Dec-1918
Hung around.
Tue 24-Dec-1918
Started on hike.  Got there at 3 PM.  21 kilo.  Abbott and I G.L.  On guard.
Wed 25-Dec-1918
Went to see President Wilson.  Came back.  Some hike.
Thu 26-Dec-1918
Had Xmas dinner.  Got paid.  Got (indistinct) from Clyde.
Fri 27-Dec-1918
Sat 28-Dec-1918
Kitchen police.
Sun 29-Dec-1918
Kitchen police.
Mon 30-Dec-1918
Kitchen police.
Tue 31-Dec-1918
Wed 01-Jan-1919
Got transferred to C Company.
Thu 02-Jan-1919
Drilled in AM.  Packed up in PM.
Fri 03-Jan-1919
Hiked from Ponlangy to Enoirisveaux.   Rotten place.
Fri 28-Mar-1919
Went to all our friends to say good-bye.
Sat 29-Mar-1919
Left Mansigne in AM.  Left Mayet in PM.
Sun 30-Mar-1919
Reached Brest in AM.  Hiked to camp.  Slept in beds in tents.  Some sleep.
Mon 31-Mar-1919
Had inspection and bath in AM.  On K.P. at night.
Tue 01-Apr-1919
Came off K.P. at 4:30 AM.  Some job.  Saw Laudeu and Peabody.
Wed 02-Apr-1919
Had inspection in AM and inspection at 2 PM and inspection at 7 PM.  First one in 5 minutes.  Some day.
Thu 03-Apr-1919
On detail at 15 kitchen.  Soft job.  Saw Tony M.  Fine day.
Fri 04-Apr-1919
A company left for the boat in AM.  Went to see Peb. in PM.  Hung around.
Sat 05-Apr-1919
B Company left for boat at 8 AM.  Got paid in PM.  Had some beer.
Sun 06-Apr-1919
Left camp in AM.  Got on Patricia in PM.  Left France at 6 PM.
Mon 07-Apr-1919
First day out.  Fine weather.
Tue 08-Apr-1919
Second day out.  Stormy.
Wed 09-Apr-1919
Third day.  On guard.
Thu 10-Apr-1919
Fourth day.  Off guard in AM.  Pretty stormy.
Fri 11-Apr-1919
Fifth day.  Emergency.  Stopped 2 hours in AM.  Good weather.

A WW1 Troopship
Sat 12-Apr-1919
Sixth day.  One-half way home.  Fine weather.
Sun 13-Apr-1919
Seventh day.  Fine and warm.
Mon 14-Apr-1919
Eighth day.  Fine sea.  Foggy.
Tue 15-Apr-1919
Ninth day.  Cold and foggy.
Wed 16-Apr-1919
Tenth day.  Foggy.
Thu 17-Apr-1919
Eleventh day.  Landed at 2 PM.  Some time.  Went today to land.  (Indistinct)  Had bath at 1 AM in camp.  Slept in tent.
Fri 18-Apr-1919
Finished bath at 5 AM.  Slept.  Moved to barracks in PM.
Sat 19-Apr-1919
Bill and I went home.  Ava came down in PM.
Sun 20-Apr-1919
Stayed at home with Ava.  Back to camp at night.
Mon 21-Apr-1919
Hung around camp.  Went to Fitchboro in PM.  Saw Clyde.
Tue 22-Apr-1919
Sick.  Got up at 2 PM.  Big (indistinct).  Saw Clyde.  Wrote letters.
Wed 23-Apr-1919
Hung around.  Fine weather.
Thu 24-Apr-1919
Hung around.  Raining.
Fri 25-Apr-1919
Went to Boston.  I went to hospital.  Fine place.  Cold.
Sat 26-Apr-1919
Ava and father came up in AM.  Cold.
Sun 27-Apr-1919
Fine day.  Saw Eustance.
Mon 28-Apr-1919
Transferred to 151 Brigade.  First lot got discharged.
Tue 29-Apr-1919
Rest of boys left.
Wed 30-Apr-1919
Hung around.
Thu 01-May-1919
Got pass to go home.
Fri 02-May-1919
Hung around.
Sat 03-May-1919
Hung around.
Sun 04-May-1919
Hung around home.
Mon 05-May-1919
Hung around home.
Tue 06-May-1919
Came back to hospital.  Saw Larry and Betty.
Wed 07-May-1919
Went to Dept. Brid.
Thu 08-May-1919
On K.P.
Fri 09-May-1919
Hung around.  Shaved.
Tue 13-May-1919
Day set to get out.

Private 1st Class Benjamin Franklin Denison

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