The Long Journey Over There

First Sergeant Sam Avery left Camp Bartlett with men of the 103rd’s 1st Battalion on September 24, 1917 and traveled by train to Hoboken, N.J. where they boarded the S.S. Saxonia and set sail for Halifax, Nova Scotia the next day. They arrived safely in Halifax 3 days later. After spending one night in Halifax Harbor, the Saxonia sailed in convoy across the Atlantic to Liverpool, England, arriving on October 9, 1917 after 10 days at sea.

Correspondence written by Sam while at sea was not mailed back to the United States until after his arrival in England.  As we begin this new adventure, Following are some notes from Sam’s pocket diary regarding his long journey Over There:

This company left Camp Bartlett Sept. 24/17 at 5.30. Borded train at 6.15 to proceed to transport at Hobacon. Got under way at 5 pm 25th St S Saphonia. Arrived at Halifax Harbor 7 am Sept. 28/17. Left Halifax Harbor at 4.15 Sept 29, arrived at Liverpool and disembarked at 12 midnight Oct 9/17 and boarded train at 2 am oct 10/17. Arrived at Borden at 11 am Oct 18 and left train marching to Camp Borden, arrived at 1 pm same day. Left Camp Bordon at 9.20 on Oct 20, arrived in Southampton at 1 pm same day. (Leaving Borden with 260 counting 5 attached. 8 men going with last section. 2 men G.D. at Liverpool. 6 men left back sick..) Left Southampton at 4.30 same day. PM marched in river until 4.15 pm Oct 21 and then got underway for France. Arrived at Havre France at 3 am Oct 22, disembarked at 3 pm and hiked to Camp Hudsfield. Left Hadsfield Camp, France at 7 pm Oct 23/17 and marched to the Havre R.R. station and intrained at 10 pm and left station at 11 pm Oct 23/17. Arrived at Liffol Le Grand at 7 am Oct 25/17. Left Liffol Le Grand 11 am…


© Copyright 2008 by Richard Landers, All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

Camp Bartlett, Westfield Mass. 9/22/1917

Hdq. Co 103rd U.S. Inf.


Dear Em.


Here we are at this camp yet, but not a man in the whole regiment is allowed to leave camp under any consideration. We are all ready to pull out at any minute. Every thing has gone but the tents, cots and one stove, and only enough rations are drawn to feed us for one day. The tents and cots are to remain here for some one else to use I guess. Our passenger list is all made out and take it from me Em it was some job. By this list every man is checked up as he boards the boat and as he gets off on the other side. On these sheets is the man’s name, address, rank, and nearest relative or friend and their address. Then we had another form to make out, one each for every man. On these lists is a man’s whole history. I worked two days on this list alone. Any body would think that all a soldier had to do was make out and sign slips, as to when he was born, where he lives, etc.


They say if we are not on the boat by the first of the month we will receive no pay until Dec. because they don’t pay any soldiers in Europe only every three months. There is another job Ive got when muster for pay time comes round. And of coarse the pay roll will follow this muster roll up. You’de never dream there was so much paper work in the army. We are still handling equipment, for some of these N.H. & Vt. men were in an awful condition for clothes and mess outfits. We sure are going to be well outfitted when we leave.


My barrack bag is crambed full now, and yet I’ve got leggins, slickers (rain coats) trench shoes, more woolen under clothes and another blanket to find rooms for yet. We can only take a pack roll with us (on our backs understand for the barrack bag will not be seen until we land) besides an over coat two blankets, and other articles that will be needed on the boat. My field desk and typewriter is going with me and I may be able to crowd some stuff in with the typewriter, and in the desk.


Ive just completed tacking on a tag addressing my typewriter to my stateroom. Yes, I get a stateroom. I dont know how big it will be or how many accomidations it will have, but all men from top soldiers up are to have one of these. We are planning on doing a lot of paper work on the boat, and I guess it will break up the long, lazy hours that will be spent on our trip. Here is hoping against hope that the trip never materializes but I guess it is a happy hope. As much as Id like to go visiting Id just as soon postpone this trip until Im about 75 years of age. I think this war will be over then anyway.


It is very chilly and windy here to day and I guess we are in for a little colder weather. It has been very comfortable latly and Ive put in some good sleep, since I got back from my leave last week. I thank you very much for the pictures, and I think they came out very good. Has Henry called again yet? I suppose it is the last you will see of him for about another six months. I hope he shows up once in a while, and if so tell him I was asking for him. The old dust is flying around here in great shape now, and Im getting chilly sitting here writing, I’ve got a sweeter on too.


This is some buisy place now I tell you this is the first chance Ive had for a couple of days to write to you. At night either the oil runs out so that I cant see to write or there is such a croud in the tent talking, singing, and joking, that it is almost imposible to write and I join them to kill the night. There is some one from the old company over to see us every night. The only reason Im writing such a long letter today is because it is Saturday and all there is to do is stand inspection in the morning. The rest of the day is given over to sports (but no pass). Sunday is a holiday. They are just piling the equipment in here by the ton, and they are drawing and issuing it as fast as it comes in. I guess tomorrow (Sunday) will be used for nothing else but issuing clothing and other paraphanalia (I guess that’s the way you say it).


I received your letter of the 19th and as you say you want that poem. Well in looking through my desk I find that I havent even got a duplicate left. The last one that I saw I sent to Lil and I hope you are interested enough in it to meet her and have her let you read it and copy it. If you dont know her address it is Lillian Ambrose, 897 E. Broadway S. Boston. I hope you will thank her, or rather I hope Lena will thank her for her congradulations. Probably you can write and plan on meeting her in Roughan’s some Sat. night. Ive got to close now with love to all




P.S. There is a form that we can sign allotting part of our pay to some one. We are all run out of them now but when we get to France the Capt. will get some more and I will do the best I can for you. Let me know how you come out on the $10 State money.


© Copyright 2008 by Richard Landers, All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

Camp Bartlett, Westfield Mass. 9/17/1917

Hdq. Co 103rd U.S. Inf.


Dear Folks.


Received your letters of last and as I have a little time Im going to answer them. I just dropped a card for Pa lest than a half hour ago saying I hadn’t heard from you. This will correct me.


Im glad you had such a good time these last two weeks and wish it was only starting. Here Ive started a letter and as much to say as time to say it in, no more. Tell Burt I got his letter also and was very glad to hear from him.


It is getting kind of winterish these days, and I can even feel the night air cooling now. Tomorrow is inspection and Ive got to clean up for it. Im in the spy department of the 103rd pretty soft job now, but when I find out what Ill have to know probably it wont seem so easy.


Well Lena, Em, and Mary (also Burt) this is to let you know I got your letters, and as it is about all I have to say Ill close. Yours truly,



XX Mary


© Copyright 2008 by Richard Landers, All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.

In Memory of “Old Company K”, 1917

Here you have a copy of a poem written by one of the old K men after they pulled, split, and smashed our happy family all to pieces. It is the sentiment of every man. He has written another one about how us twelve sergeants stuck to Tobey even though we reduced ourselves by so doing. Let me say right here that it was an awful mistake when they broke up the best Regiment of them all.


It was July the twenty-fifth,
That K received the call,
And the boys of dear old Somerville
Assembled in the hall;
We all were bright and happy,
And our folks, tho’ sad, all knew
It was the highest honor,
Our duty thus to do;
We may have looked quite awkward,
When we answered to our name,
But after one month’s training,
We couldn’t be called the same.

On July the twenty-seventh,
We left our dear home town,
To keep the German Kaiser
From hauling “Old Glory” down;
Mayor Cliff addressed the boys,
And our people all were near,
And while he spoke those farewell words,
In many eyes were tears,
On my left I saw a mother,
Wipe the tear drops from her eye;
On my right I saw a father,
Who could hardly say Good-bye.

And when at last we started,
We could hear them say “Be Good”;
Our voices were pretty shaky,
As we answered that we would;
It’s not a streak of yellow
That makes the tear drops flow,
It’s the love that’s in a fellow,
For his home and folks, you know;
It’s a man that has this feeling,
(A brute that’s otherwise)—
Even tho’ his voice is shaky,
And the tear drops fill his eyes.

We pitched our Camp at Lynnfield,
A place we’ll ne’er forget;
We were loved by all its people,
And we’re lonesome for them yet;
We had just become acquainted,
When we were ordered on our way,
And there’s many a girl in Lynnfield,
For a soldier boy will pray;
We found them to be ladies,
They found us gentlemen;
And we know that we’ll be welcome
If we’re down that way again.

We then entrained for Westfield,
On the train we had some fun;
And we landed there next morning,
After twenty-three hour’s run;
Beside the track we had our breakfast,
There was plenty for the men;
I captured nine good helpings,
And I tried to make it ten;
But Lieutenant Lunn was on the job,
And he said “Oh, Murphy’s here”—
And our old friend Corporal Marshall,
Escorted me to the rear.

Then we marched into our Camp,
To join the others there;
And for the beginning of the end,
We started to prepare;
Last night came our dividing line,
And now we realize,
What parting in the army means,
To a crowd of regular guys;
They may have torn us all apart,
But in spirit we are one;
And whatever Company we are in
We’ll be behind the gun.

We’ll ne’er forget each other,
Nor the ones we left behind;
And the people we met in Camp,
Will be always in our mind;
The time has come to go to France,
Now K boys don’t forget,
We still belong to Somerville,
And the pace we’ve got to set;
We’ll get together at the end,
Those who do not fall,
And have a hell of a picnic,
In the Somerville High School Hall.

By Private D.D. Murphy


(Editor’s Note: See Postal from Camp Bartlett, Westfield Mass. 9/9/1917) 


Camp Bartlett, Westfield Mass. 9/9/1917

Hdq. Co 103rd U.S. Inf.


Dear Em


Received all the post cards today and they did look good. I havent got anything to say only, that Im feeling tip top. It is very cold here nights and chilly here even now 5.10 P.M. It is hard telling whether we will stay here very much longer or not. All the horses and mules have been shipped (some where) the drivers have gone with them. They packed the animals on cars for a four day trip. The men have got two days rations.


I suppose your all burnt up like myself and I hope you and the rest feel as good as I do. We had chicken and ice cream today, but I will say that we have been feeding rotten of late. I went down town last night for a hair cut and had a feed while there. Im getting fat. That’s no kidding either. You mentioned about it being cold well youd ought to come out here and sleep in one of these tents on a cot. Im the only one in the tent that gets down to the underclothes, and OH it is fine when 5.30 comes and I have to roll out of bed. –But Im getting fat.–


I hear that the long passes are to be discontinued but if we get paid Im going to make one awful attempt to get home to see you folks again. Two other fellows and myself, (who were the only ones left in the tent this morning) the others being on a pass had a fine job lugging sand for the floor of our tent. Say a tub of sand is some heavy and we must have carried about 25. It was worth while though, for it makes the tent look as though it was pitched on a beach. Believe me it will feel as though it was, too in the morning. Cold. But I don’t think we’ll weaken yet.


Tell the Holland’s I was asking for them and that I’ll send them a letter when I find time. Ive got charge of a thousand dollars of canteen books, and it is some job keeping track of the dough when it is split up amongst 294 men. I suppose Lena has been working her head off cleaning up after the house was left, for two weeks. We are all to get two new O.D. uniforms 3 suits of heavy winter underwear, five pairs of heavy winter socks, and two pair of hob nailed shoes. Overcoats have been issued, and we are waiting now for a long cold winter.


I suppose Mary will be starting to go to school soon. Tell her I send her a big X every night. I know I should send Madge and Molly a card or some thing but you see I never know just when I have time. For instance since starting this letter Ive been stopped four times already to report at the head of the street or some other such junk. The old boys of K. come over every night and we have quite a reunion. We use to give them the devil and make them step around pretty lively but they seem to wish we were over them again.


I guess Ill stop this chatter for the present and give you a chance to do some thing that you might be more interested in. We have got to be innoculated and vaccinated very soone and that is more trouble. Some of the fellows thats had it say it leaves you very sick. I won’t weaken




P.S. Here you have a copy of a poem written by one of the old K men after they pulled, split, and smashed our happy family all to pieces. It is the sentiment of every man. He has written another one about how us twelve sergeants stuck to Tobey even though we reduced ourselves by so doing. Let me say right here that it was an awful mistake when they broke up the best Regiment of them all.


© Copyright 2008 by Richard Landers, All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.