Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Remembering a Veteran, Capt. T.C. Montgomery, AEF, District of Paris

Captain Thomas Carlisle Montgomery, AEF, had a most interesting war. A lawyer in civilian life, he was commissioned as an infantry officer, but was reassigned to the the Headquarters of the Lines of Communication for Pershing's forces.  This led to his spending most of his WWI years in Paris.  Monty as he was known (but apparently as Carl for his mother)  wrote over 100 letters, typically weekly, typically Sundays, that chronicle detailed observations and constitute a diary in their entirety. The letters give a unique rear-echelon view of the wartime experience. They have been collected by Monty's nephew Merrill Boyce at the blog:

In this early section from the series, we find Lt. Montgomery on his was to France.

On board S.S. Carpathia – at sea 
Sept. 30, 1917 

RMS Carpathia

Dear Mother —

This is our tenth day at sea and we are supposed to dock tomorrow or the next day so this might be on its way back to you soon.

Our destroyer escort met us yesterday afternoon and I think everybody felt better to see them coming over the horizon and very quickly thereafter get up to and take a position around us. Our ship is one of a bunch of fourteen coming over together all of which mount from 1 to 5 guns and we’ve also had a cruiser escort but, now that we are in the real submarine zone, all protection is welcome and the destroyers very comforting. 

Monty in Paris
I left Port—New York—the day I expected—Sept.10th—but also, as I thought, didn't come directly over. We went to another port where we waited on board ship for over a week for the convoy to assemble. There we officers were allowed to go ashore two days after first giving our word of honor not to attempt to communicate with friends or relatives. There are a bunch of troops aboard besides some 75 of us unassigned officers and the enlisted men certainly looked envious when we went to shore and they couldn't go. Felt sorry for them but they couldn't all be trusted not to give information which might have endangered all of us.

This ship is, as you may know, English—a Cunard liner, being the one which picked up the Titanic survivors several years ago. The officers and crew are typically English and have been an interesting type to me.

There are four of us to a stateroom and I consider myself lucky in my roommates. The senior is a prominent Boston lawyer of 43—Stackpole—and a Harvard law man. One of the others is also a Bostonian and a Harvard man of about my age while the third is a Yale man from New Haven of about the same age. 

Luckily we were quite congenial and also all fond of bridge so I have killed a lot of time very pleasantly at bridge. We have an hour conference on some military subject every morning, an hour of French and half an hour of physical exercise in the afternoon. The rest of the day is at our disposal and there's nothing much to do but read and play bridge. We also have a boat drill about once a day at the sound of the steamer’s whistle all running to our stations with life belts. It has become so much a matter of habit now that I believe if we were torpedoed we’d all go to our stations with very little excitement. 

The weather got rough the second day out and lots of the fellows were seasick but luckily I escaped. Didn't feel any too easy the first day of rough weather but after getting by that day, was all right. It calmed down a couple of days ago and is very smooth today.

Tell Kate I’ve lived in the sweater she gave me almost ever since coming aboard—it has been most useful. It will be hard to go back to a stiff collar and blouse when we land.

Two Columbians [i.e. Columbia University graduates] are on board who know Kate and Frank—Dr. La Bruce Ward and Captain Chisholm of the Engineers.

Three days later—as I write we are drawing up to the dock at Glasgow. Have been on deck since breakfast watching the hills of Bonnie Scotland. 

The next day—Didn't write any further yesterday as scenery was too interesting and I stayed on deck until we docked. Am now in Glasgow getting up town from the ship last night, and we go on to London tonight. Am very glad we got this opportunity to see Scotland for it has been most interesting. We are the first American troops to be in Glasgow and are a sight for the natives. They welcomed us with open arms and you hear expressions of good will from all sides. Haven't done any sightseeing yet but expect to go out on a tour this afternoon. Will write you again in a day or two when I find out where I’m to be.
Love to all, 


From:  Lieut. Thomas C, Montgomery,
Inf. - U.S.R. - American Expeditionary Force.

1 comment:

  1. The "Stackpole" he mentions would have been Pierpont L. Stackpole, who went on to become aide-de-camp and adviser/confidant to LTG Hunter Liggett through Liggett's time as I Corps commander and subsequently as CG, 1st Army.