Our shelling was probably due to some artillery fellows firing a captured "77" right beside our positions. Our platoon commander, Lt. Stokes, who had only recently been made from a Top, offered a sergeant a hundred francs for his "hole", but the sergeant said he would rather have the "hole" than the money.
The 36th Division relieved us, and undertook to carry on the attack. As they filtered through us, I talked with several of them. They were from Texas and Oklahoma, and had a good many Indians among them. They said that they had not yet been under shell fire, and this was evident from their actions when shells came anyways near. They attacked on two successive mornings while we were there. The report was that they did not make much headway at first. Remember on Indian buck going to the rear, who did not seem to be wounded anywhere. I asked him what was the matter, and was much surprised to hear him say that he was gassed, as he had a cigarette in his mouth at the time. When a person is gassed, smoking is out of the question. Several of our original stretcher bearers turned up about this time. No one seemed to know where most of them had been.
Our chow was pretty poor at this time, and we did not get it sent up to us as often as some or the others. The 23rd Machine gun company was mighty nice to is, letting us have all they had left and sometimes letting some of is eat as they did. Our kitchens were located about a mile to our rear. I made two trips back to see if I could get a little extra to eat, but failed of much success. While back there heard that a shell had hit almost under our kitchen one morning, and failing to explode. Jimmie, the ant bear, made a dive for it to see what be could find. Lucky for everybody concerned, that the shell was a "dud".
On the morning of the 8th, a French battery of 75's opened a barrage right close to us. It was amusing to watch those Frenchmen fire those guns. They were cooking their morning meal, and eating while they fired. One would hold a piece of bread in one hand, and fire the gun with the other. A battery of 155ís of the 17th Field Artillery was located at the foot of the hill in the rear of us. Their shells passed right over our heads on the way to Boche Land. I went on several water details. Water was scarce, and difficult to get.
On the night of October 9th, we rolled up and headed for the rear, going back almost the same way we came to the front. Near Somme-Py, we passed a Field Hospital. It was reported that the Germans had shelled the hospital. Some long range guns dropped a few shells very near us as we left Somme-Py. Several were "duds". The report of the gun could be heard a few seconds before we could hear the shell coming. Again passing through Souain, we rolled up for the night alongside the road a short distance from where we had camped on Sept 30th and Oct 1st. Early the next morning we resumed our journey towards the rear. Just as we were starting, a truck left some mail sacks for us, but no mail was passed around until we reached our destination, which was Camp Normands. It was certainly a joy to get a letter from the folks at home, and the joy increased with each letter.
After reading my mail. I answered each letter, as was my custom. Our camp was just an ordinary French billeting camp: wooden barracks, fitted up with double deck bunks, roughly put together. They were much better than the ground, and most everybody enjoyed a good nightís sleep. I had a habit of sleeping very lightly for several nights after coming out of the lines. I just didn't have any desire to sleep. After several days of rest from the front, I could sleep very well. Usually when I got so I could sleep, we were ready to go hack to the front again. But such was war. Everything only tended to confirm Sherman's view of war.
On the 11th, was put on a salvaging detail to go hack to the front from which we had just come. I was glad of the opportunity to get to see the scene of our fighting, under more favorable circumstances. We were divided into two details, a burying detail, and a salvaging detail. I was assigned to the latter. We loaded into trucks and for once rode to the front, or rather, where it had been a few days ago. This sector had been the scene of four years fighting, and it certainly showed it. What had originally been the front lines and No man's land was nothing but trenches and shell holes, with enormous mine craters sprinkled in between. Somme-Py seemed to be the assembling place for details from all the other units. The C.O. took our names and numbers,. As I had never been given a number. I made up one when be asked me for mine. He looked at me and said, "You are an old timer, I see.
Arriving on the crest of Blanc Mont ridge just before night, we found some buildings for a bunking place. Before our barrage had hit this place, it had been a rather nice camp, evidently some corps headquarters. We found a telephone center down underneath the ground, giving indications of a modern telephone exchange. Was very careful not to "monkey" with any of the wires, for fear of being blown up by a mine.
For our rations we had all the pork and beans we could eat, and I certainly did eat my share and then some. Pork and beans was like a dessert to us. The next morning, we formed into details and began the work of gathering up all clothing and equipment that had been discarded or thrown away during the fighting and afterwards, such as rifles, ammunition, belts, packs - we picked up anything that could be of service again. We went over the same ground we had covered in the attack, only this time we did not have to dodge lead bullets and shells. The front was moved considerably onward. Even the observation balloons were up away on past where we were now. That meant that the front was some six or eight kilometers farther on past the balloons.
I found an officers blanket roll, with a note attached, to not bother it. With the chances that he might be killed or wounded, I took it, keeping one new blanket, some new wool socks, and some other articles I needed. The burying detail worked along with us, and I saw many of the boys put away. I was mighty glad that I was not on that particular work. It was bad enough to see them killed and wounded, much less have to help bury them. Most of them were buried side by side in a long grave, a Chaplain being in charge of the work. Having the opportunity, I visited my own "little hole" that I used what little free time I had had when not carrying wounded.
Examined a French plane that had fallen near where we bunked. Also found a small French automatic that I was glad to get possession of.
We finished our work and took trucks back to our respective companies. During our absence, the battalion had moved to camp Carrieres, only a short distance from Chalons. Barracks were scattered all around over the surrounding country. It had the appearance of being a sure enough "rest camp". But of course we did not rest any. The name "Rest Camp" meant nothing to us.