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Date Original

1917 December 14

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Article from the Arkansas Gazette by Paul Remmel, discussing his experiences in France during World War I.

Transcription

Lieut. Paul Remmel Writes
of His Training Under Fire
Little Rock Boy, Now Over There, Tells Graphic and
Thrilling Story of His Experiences at the
British Front in France.
Some interesting details of the
training that is being given young
American army officers in France.
In preparing them to lead the United
States armies against the Huns next
summer, are given in a letter receiv
ed here last week from Lieut. Paul
Remmel, a Little Rock boy and a
graduate of the Fort Roots training
school, by his uncle, H.L. Remmel.
The letter follows:
A Dirty Little Town in France,
November 13, 1917
Wonderful experiences have crowd-
ed down upon me since I wrote you
last, at the termination of our five
weeks' schooling with the British
army. At that time, I wrote you that
I was off to witness, and perhaps
take a part in the biggest thing in
the history of the world, a world's
war. I have seen it and it is more
gigantic, more ruthless, than one can
dream, even in one's wildest fancy.
The trenches, those avenues of death
and safety combined, miles of them,
of which thousands of men have been
sacrificed.
At the close of school, each Ameri-
can left with a British officer (his
friend) for a different division which
held a different sector in the ever
changing boundary line of war -- the
trench. It was my good fortune to
visit in company with a fine young
English officer, Captain Bond, a sec-
tor upon which caused enough excite-
ment for any live American. After a
day and a half of traveling by train
we arrived in the war area, eight
miles from the German lines, the di-
vision headquarters of the British
army (First army). Here my friend
took off his finery and put on his
trench clothes and we both were fit-
ted out with steel hats, gas respira-
tors and the long, Webly pistols, to
take our last lap to the trenches'
edge. We were given two horses and
two soldiers to accompany us to the
remaining eight miles.
Villages in Ruins
We passed through several French
villages, through which raced back
and forth English ambulances, am-
munition carts and huge automobile
trucks bearing fresh fuel (men to the
hell that is forever waging on that
front). As we came close, we passed
through villages in which there stood
no house that was not completely
ruined by shell fire. These villages
you would easily recognized if I could
only tell you their names. Village
after vilalge, ruins after ruins, ut-
ter desolation mutely spoke of wild
barbaric treatment at the hands of
the Germans. Not one soul did we
see in these villages as we drew near
or the distant booming of the guns we
could so distinclty hear.
In the heart of a deserted vilalge
we were compelled to leave our
horses and strike out on foot, and
after a three-quarters of an hour walk
along a camouflaged wood we reach-
ed at last the mouth of the trenches.
As we bid farewell to level ground
and walked down into the trench, I
looked overhead and saw seven Brit-
ish planes flying overhead observing
for the artillery that was at that mo-
ment sending scorching shells into
the German lines.
The entrance into the trench was
situated smack in the center of a
ruined and deserted village, in which
two months previous was waged one
of the fiercest battles of the year, at
which time the English succeeded
with the help of those wonderful
fighters, the Canadians, to take a
hill which is a wonderful point of
advantage for the allied forces. I
found out that the trenches through
which we passed were the old Ger-
man trenches, they were well made
though somewhat battered up by con-
stant shell fighting. It was about 14
feet deep and wound round and round
like a horrible snake. We were con-
stantly drawing nearer the German
lines and the artillery fire of the
English and the retaliation of the
German guns were deafening.
All the Comforts of Home.
At last after walking around and
around we finally reached the bat-
talion headquarters (it was then 4 p.
m., and gradually growing dark),
which was quartered as everything is
[unreadable] 45 to 50 feet under the
ground. After climbing down the
steep steps I came in the dugout and
it was certainly a surprise. The
first thing that greeted my eye was
a long table, upon which was a cover
of spotless linen, with silver placed
all around, and grasped around were
five English officers drinking too.
Oh, these English, you can not beat
them. They go to war with a tea
cup in one hand and a revolver in
the other.
This dugout was an old German one,
which consisted of four rooms, a large
dining room, a signal room, a kitchen
and bedroom. Imagine that if you
can, all fixed up with huge [unreadable]
lounging chairs, stoves, lighted candles
in brass holders. These men were
sitting around calmly drinking tea
and whiskey while 45 feet overhead
the shells were screaming by. I was
introduced as the American who was
attached for a few days for education
and I was made quite welcome.
Such a welcome I had never had be-
fore anywhere. My hosts were a colo-
nel, captain, two majors, ably assisted
by several privates whose only duty
seemed was to look after me and
to be sure I saw everything in the
way of excitement, and believe me, I
did. I was just in time for tea, so
I sat down after taking off my tin
hat, as the steel helmet is called.
As I drank my tea I was plied with
education, for I was the first Ameri-
can officer they had seen. I seemed
to be refreshing to them because they
were constantly laughying at my an-
swers. If one could have seen us
at that table little would they
have thought that a war was waging
just 45 feet above our heads. Just
before dinner I was led by the colo-
nel and the two majors, the captain up
the steps to see the heavy guns
[unreadable] into the night, sending huge
[unreadable] of death into the German
[unreadable] also the heavy guns of the
[unreadable] would grunt in rotation.
[unreadalbe] first night in the trench was a
[unreadable] never had before. After a
wonderful dinner, consisting of fresh
meats, sugar, cream and a whole
course dinner, even down to cheese
and coffee -- think of that if you can
on the firitng line. These "blooming
Britishers" certainly do live.
Peaceful Slumber at Front
About 9 o'clock, I went to bed in
an adjoining room, about 20 feet
square, and my bed was a berthlike
affair, with heavy blankets, and I
slept soundly in spite of the fact now
and then I could get the jar of a
German shell lighting overhead. I was
awakened next morning by the colo-
nel's servant hadning me a cup of
steaming hot tea, which I drank down
with much gusto. I was also brought
hot water for shaving and for wash-
ing and was told that breakfast was
ready. And such a breakfast! You
would think that this was some hotel
instead of a dugout on the western
front -- wonderfully cooked oatmeal --
fresh eggs and ham, hot coffee and
tea, jam greeted me.
After breakfast, I was furnished
with two runners (privates with full
equipment) and a fine daredevil lieu-
tenan, for the purpose as the colonel
expressed it, of seeing the whole
show.
So I started out with my tin hel-
met, gas respirator, a cabe [?] and a 45
revolver just as a German machine
gun spat out a welcome, the bullets
coming 100 feet away. My guide took
me down one trench into another, ev-
ery one named, down into dugouts,
bomb dugouts, out into observation
posts, looked into periscopes overlook-
ing the German lines, saw Germans
walking around, peered into German
wire entanglements, saw dead Ger-
mans lying in captured dugouts (this
hill has been only captured two
months). As we walked on the Ger-
mans were sending huge shells over
us, and the English were giving them
tit for tat, overhead eight English
planes were flying, observing for the
artillery. One especially caught my
attention. It would fly around and
around, then suddenly swoop down
straight for the German trench, get-
ting about 100 feet above the Boche,
then let fly his machine gun, which
would pop-pop-pop certain death in
their trench, then we would yell. It
was wonderful!
Praise English Gunners
Up on the top of this famous hill
in my ramblings I came upon an artil-
lery officer directing his battery and
he was most kind to me. They are
very picturesque, these artillery offi-
certs -- with their glasses to their
eyes directing the fire of their heavy
guns 1,500 yards behind. When I
came up he was shelling the houses in
a tiny village held by the Germans
not 800 yards away. He stopped and
shook my hand most heartily and
seemed most glad to meet me. He
explained everything to me, showed
me the tiny telephone his orderlies
used to give the range to his battery
at his command. He then asked me
if I would like to see him make a
few hits and of course I said that I
would not mind, secretly tickled to
death.
He told me to put my glasses to my
eyes and pointed out a red brick
house on the extreme left of us, a
house which he pointed out on his
pocket map which was reported to
billet a German company. I instantly
glued my glasses to my eyes and I
heard him yell to his orderlies who
stood four feet behind him with the
tiny telepyhone something which sound-
ed like "two degrees to the left re-
peat." Then suddenly I heard a dist-
ant boom and a screaching through
the air, and after a few seconds at-
other boom, and, bless you -- the house
which I had confined within my
glasses blew up into the air and fell
back in smoking ruins. His had been
a perfect hit. The British artillery
is wonderful. It is in perfect liaison
with the infantry; they work hand in
hand.
I remained with the artillary offi-
cer for 15 minutes and I think just
for my amusement he must have
blown up six or seven houses.
We left the artillery officer and
took a nice looking trennch named
Heaven (all the trenches are named),
which led up to the tiptop of the hill.
Gaining the top, we stood out wholly
unporotected for 15 minutes while my
intrepid guide showed me what a won-
derful point of vantage this hill com-
manded. And it did, even to me, who
had very little military knowledge.
The English by acquiring this hill had
the Germans on three sides, and a
town held by the Germans could easi-
ly be taken any time. but the hill
upon which I stood had cost the Brit-
ish 17,000 men and as I stood upon
the tiptop I could see countless shell
holes, Canadians and English unbur-
ied, lying, just where they had fallen
nearly two months ago, German ri-
fles, helmets, hand grenades, arms
and legs stocking out of holes. I shall
never forget the sight or the odor of
decompositng humanity.
Has a Close Call.
I was abruptly brought to by a
German shell, which burst barely 100
feet from me, which scatterd clay
over me and I then realized that I
was standing out against the sky a
good target for a German sniper. the
lieutenant, my guide, thought it a
good joke and told it afterward about
the crazy American who got almost
in No Man's Land looking for Boche
helmets, German bayonets and other
souvenirs.
As I passed down another trench,
which proved to be 100 yards from
the boche, there passed a stretcher
party having two dead soldiers, who
had just been killed by pieces of shell.
I got quite used to seeing dead men,
arms and legs and such. Just before
lunch I was taken down into a part
of the line which had been captured
by the English the night before af-
ter quite a scarp, in which the Ger-
mans lost 300 men. As I climbed
down the slope I was in the midst
of it before I knew it and there burst
upn my sight dead men lying all
around, huge stock of bombs, rifle
grenades and stores captured by the
English. Going down to this place
you had to pass an open space fac-
ing the boche lines, 200 feet away,
so my guide told me to run for dear
life in a [unreadable] direction, and I com-
plied straightaway and I afterward
learned that in minutes prior to my
coming the German sniper had killed
a Britisher.
I saw many things of interest, too
numerous to mention, and wound up
my day's sightseeing by taking lunch
with anoher friend of mine who was
with me at the British school. This
lunch was in another dugout and the
food was excellent. The British idea
is wonderful. they believe in giving
their officers and men good food,
even better than the rest of the army
recieve in most areas. their dugouts
are mostly old German ones and are
made like everything German, com-
plete in every detail. Our army will
do well to pattern everything British,
for they have gone through the mill
and ought to know. I will cut this
short, if I ever get to mail it. I have
loads of other things to tell you all,
but must go easy.
Tells of McLaughlin's Deeds
I will tell you in my next letter
about returning here to join my regi-
ment, the old 16th Infantry, to find
Heber McLaughlin from Toltec, Ark.,
who came out with me. He is in a
next company and has ably represent-
ed Arkansas. He was commanding
the platoon which was raided by the
Germans. he had a terrible time,
was knocked senseless twice and bare-
ly came out with a whole skin. he
was in the first fight for the Ameri-
cans and while in hospital was inter-
viewed by French and American gen-
erals. He did many heroic things and
will perhaps recieve the French hono-
rary cross . He is still suffering from
shell shock but is all o.k., being in
the hospital only six days. He didn't
write his mother anything about it.
You might get in touch with his
family, McLaughlin, Toltec, Ark.,
planters, and tell his mother what a
hero she has for a son. It won't
come out in any news, so I am sure
I am writing things I should not
write. I have not receieved a line
since I arrived. Our letters are held
up somewhere. Am working hard
now. Will go to Paris next Satur-
day. Will write tomorrow. Love to
all.
Paul.
Co. G, 16th Infantry, France

Physical Description

Microfilm

Subjects

World War I, 1914-1918

Contributor

Arkansas Gazette

Geographical Area

Arkansas

Language

English

Identifier

MFILM NEWS 000431 Roll 0149

Collection

Newspaper microfilm collection

Publisher

Arkansas State Archives

Contributing Entity

Arkansas State Archives

Recommended Citation

"Liet. Paul Remmel Writes of His Training Under Fire," Arkansas Gazette, December 14, 1917, Newspaper microfilm collection, Arkansas State Archives, Little Rock, Arkansas.

Rights

Use and reproduction of this lesson plan supplemental material for instructional purposes is allowed without prior written permission. For further information on reproducing images held by the Arkansas State Archives, please call 501-682-6900 or email at state.archives@arkansas.gov.

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