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

Friday, July 12, 2019

A Medical Memorial at Fleury-sur-Aire

By Christina Holstein

To the east, west, and south of the city of Verdun are traces of the former wartime hospitals and medical units that served the French Army during the First World War and, in particular, during the ten months of the Battle of Verdun 1916. As many of these units were housed in tents and wooden huts the only traces visible today are earth embankments, remnants of old railway lines and extensive cemeteries.

The Hospital Grounds Viewed from the Temporary Cemetery

Such a place is the site of the former hospital at the small village of Fleury-sur-Aire, which treated some 116,000 wounded between May 1916 and February 1919. Lying some 25 kilometers southwest of Verdun city and served by an extensive road and rail network, this hospital was one of the most important in the Verdun region. As such it attracted eminent personalities in the medical world—experienced surgeons, medical professors, and highly qualified nurses, among them Madame Jacquemaire-Clemenceau, the daughter of the president of the French Republic. 

Today near the site of the former hospital, about one-half mile west of Fleury-sur-Aire, is a three-person sculpture, a 1999 installation depicting a meeting between a doctor, a nurse, and a seriously injured patient. The nurse is Mme Jacquemaire-Clemenceau and the patient is John Verplanck Newlin, age 19, an American volunteer ambulance driver from Princeton University, whom she cared for. 

John Newlin at Princeton
Newlin was the son of Mr and Mrs R. M. Newlin of Whitford, PA.  By portraying the French nurse and the American volunteer together, the sculptor, Francois Davin, sought to render homage to Franco-American friendship both during the First World War and at the present time. The body of John Verplanck Newlin now lies in the American military cemetery at Romagne-sous-Montfaucon. On 3 August 1917 John Verplanck Newlin was seriously wounded in the performance of his duties and died two days later. He had been twice decorated for bravery. In 1945 an ambulance of the American Field Service was named in honor of John Verplanck Newlin. AFS records show that WD# 1324611 AFS# 174 "John V. Newlin" served with the 14th Light Field Artillery, the 168th Light Field Artillery, the 52nd New Zealand MDS, the 3rd Light Field Artillery, and also on detachment with the King's Dragoon Guards. During this period the John Newlin ambulance carried 186 patients and traveled 6,056 miles.

American Staff and Patients at the Hospital

On 25 January 1918 the hospital at Fleury-sur-Aire was transferred to the American Army and re-designated Evacuation Hospital #114. It saw heavy service during the St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne Offensives and was utterly swamped when the Spanish influenza peaked in the midst of the AEF's heaviest fighting.

1 comment:

  1. My cousin Grover was there, died of the flu and was interred in the cemetery there.