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A Doctor in France, 1917-1919

The Diary of Harold Barclay

211 pages
Library of Alexandria
June 30th. At last, after six weeks' waiting and more or less uncertainty of the time of departure, the call has come in the form of "Confidential Order No. 5" from the War Department. Hustle into uniform and report for duty to Major Hansell at Roosevelt Hospital. We are told to go home and report again Sunday, July 1st. July 1st. It really looks like business. The courtyard of the Hospital is full of enlisted men having their outfits handed out to them. The whole dispensary is littered with coats, trousers, blankets, etc. The men are having identification discs given them and are packing their kits and rolling blankets. They are really a fine-looking lot of men, and from their general appearance a good many college men are among them. We are told that we are really going to sail the following morning, and that we must go home, pack and have everything on the pier (Pier 60) before sundown that night. Max is packing my things for me—an officer's trunk, a Gladstone bag and a canvas roll with poncho blankets and a "Gold Medal" canvas cot. We hustle them down to Pier 60 and leave them standing there with a feeling that they will not be seen again, as the whole pier is a mass of motor trucks and boxes of every description. We are to sail on the S.S. "Lapland" on the south side of the pier. The "Baltic" has just docked and is discharging cargo at a tremendous rate. The rattle of the winches is deafening and there are literally hundreds of stevedores at work. With a silent farewell my baggage is left, and then back to the house where Helen and I lunch and start for Mt. Kisco for the afternoon. One still feels terribly conscious and queer in uniform. My memory keeps going back to the days when Rob and I enlisted for the Spanish War, a thousand little details keep coming up that I had long forgotten. Camp Alger and its chaos, Newport News, and the transport "Mississippi" and all its horrors. July 2nd. The order was to assemble at the Hospital at eight a.m. I got there at 8:20 and everything was stirring. There is really nothing for the majority of the officers to do. Rolfe Floyd is the busy one. The regular Army men, Major Hansell in charge, and his Adjutant, Captain Trinder, seem most efficient. They have really handled the whole affair wonderfully, never once getting excited and every one asking them hundreds of foolish questions. The amateur soldier is really a horrible thing. No one can appreciate the difference between military and civil life who has not tried them both. The enlisted men leave on sight-seeing coaches at 9:30, after a preliminary line-up in the courtyard, and cheers for Colonel Mackay and every one connected with the outfit. The officers get down as best they can, so I go down in Dr. Dowd's motor with Floyd, arriving on the pier at ten a.m. The "Lapland" has been painted war gray and is fitted with a new mine-sweeping device, of which more later. There was quite a crowd of people down there to see us off. Mrs. Vanderbilt, Clarence Mackay,—and dozens of others whom I do not know. Except for the uniforms and the gray paint on the ship, it seems just like a summer vacation trip. Our baggage is wonderfully handled and everything put on board in the same manner as in peace times. We are supposed to sail at twelve sharp. The heat is intolerable. Our staterooms are fine; No. 33, upper deck room. My lot was first cast with the Chaplain, but I told him McWilliams and I were old Spanish War veterans, and so he let McWilliams bunk with me. At one o'clock we are still at the pier. Two hundred and sixty-five, or some such number, of cots have not appeared and our indefatigable Quartermaster Ward will not leave without them, so sweat on, and the poor devils who came down to the pier wait on!