August 14, 1918 – Full diary entry:
“Experienced real heavy artillery fire. We lost 4 killed.
On guard all night.
If Elinore knew, how she would worry. Fire lasted all night.
Married 6 months tonight.”
This is the first time in the diary that Robert mentions anyone being killed. It wasn’t the first time the 140th lost a man, but it really seemed to hit closer to home this time. Chaplain Edwards, in From Doniphan to Verdun, writes sadly and beautifully about the losses:
A hundred yards down the mountain-side from Regimental P. C. Larchey is a beautiful little French Military Cemetery. A hundred yards lower still is a lake reflecting the trees and shadows of the mountain-side.
In this cemetery we left the men who were killed while we were in the trenches, and the record is given to show how accurately the Government kept its papers. It may take a great while for clerks to sift out the facts from the great mass of documents, but there is no reason why we should not ultimately know the definite location of every American grave in France.
A sad and difficult duty devolving on the Chaplain was that of undertaker. The bodies of the dead were consigned to his care.
One day a man proudly showed him a photograph of his wife and two handsome children, which had just arrived in the mail from overseas. Two days later, it was a great shock to recognize this photograph in the pocket of one of the bodies brought for burial! The men were buried reverently, their bodies laid to rest with loving care. These were all buried in coffins, and there was a service even when the shells were dropping over.
Here’s a map from the era – the Regimental HQ at Larchey is on the left, the lake to its right and the trenches are farther east.
It turns out there is an active effort to commemorate the men who died and were buried here, led by a historical society in Alsace. Here’s the soldier mentioned on this web page, as recorded by Chaplain Edwards:
Thanks to this, I can tell exactly where this cemetery – or at least the nearby lake – was:
And because of this I can verify the chaplain’s report of how beautiful and serene this place is.
I can’t be certain which four men Robert was talking about above. But I can show the men Chaplain Edwards reporting burying between August 14-16:
What Chaplain Edwards didn’t know is that this would not be the final resting place for some of these men. More on this tomorrow.
Where was Robert today? See the timeline.