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The First World War Memoirs of Sampson J. Goodfellow, Part 7: Off to France!

I’m posting the First World War memoirs of my grandfather-in-law, Sampson J. Goodfellow, a few pages at a time…

(Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5. Part 6.)

I heard very soon that Company Sgt.-Major had been reduced in rank and left our Unit. He was the only real soldier among us.

I got up and waited for an opportunity to get posted to another job.

Finally, it came that they wanted a N.C.O. for Office Duty; and I got the job. It suited me fine. I could sleep at night in the Office by clearing off the table, wrapping myself in a blanket and then go to sleep. I had an alarm to wake up just before Reveille. I got washed, had breakfast and was ready for work.

A draft of Truck Drivers were made up to augment for the Divisions Supply and Ammunition Columns in France.

When I got the office job, I had taken off my Lance Corporal Stripe so if a draft was going to France, I would be on it.

Lieut. Brouse had just returned from France so I knew what was required for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Truck Columns.

We were going over the list of Drivers that had come from Canada as the 3rd Columns. He came across the name Corporal Goodfellow and said, ” Who the devil is he? I have never met him.”

I said nothing until he said, “Is that you?” and I had to admit it

Then he said, “Where is your Stripe?” I told him I had removed it when I got this job so I would be on the first draft for France.

He said, “You attach it or I will take you to the Orderly Room for misbehavior.”

” But Sir, if I put it on, my chances to go to France with this draft will be nil.”

He laughed and said, “You really want to go.”

I begged him to allow me to put my name on the draft so finally he said, “Okay, place your name on the list, but I will certainly miss you as you know everything about the Camp.”

I thanked him most sincerely and I was the only one of the original 3rd. N.C.O. to go to France.

During my time with the Drivers of all the Divisions, I did not see any of our former N.C.O. They all had good jobs at the Depot.

We left for France, Sunday, Sept. 24, 1916, marched down with full Equipment to Shorncliffe Railway Station at 9:00 a.m, changed trains at Redhill and reached Southampton at 2:30 .p.m. We departed from the Dock at 10:00 p.m. for La Havre.

We were at Semi-Attention on the main Deck all night. I found a wonderful corner and went to sleep, the submarines didn’t worry me.

We reached La Havre at 5:00 a.m., had breakfast of Bully Beef and Hard Tack (24 hours Bully Beef and Hard Tack emergency rations), then got off the Boat at 8:30 a.m.

The Military at La Havre did not know what to do with us as they were not notified of our draft coming to La Havre.

When all our papers were checked by our Officer and the Officers at the Port, it was found that we had disembarked at the wrong place and we should have gone to Rouen.

We marched to the Army Service Barracks, but they had no room for us, so we marched through the town of La Havre and through the woods to the Canadian Rest Camp. Again they had no room for us. We marched to a Valley where they had a pier built into the Valley on wooden bridge work and a pavilion at the end.

Our Officers told us to stay here for the night. I found a nice place under the structure, wrapped myself in my blanket and went to sleep.

Reveille was blown at 4:30 a.m. but we only got up in time for a breakfast of bread, cheese, and a mug of tea. It tasted like cake after eating Bully Beef and Hard Tack.

Roll Call was at 8:45 a.m. then we were dismissed to loaf around until noon. We then had bare bread and another mug of tea for dinner. We still sat and walked around until we started at 6:30 p.m. for the station, marching seven miles to the station at La Havre.

During this journey, it was the worst of my career. We had to go down a medium incline. The street had no sewerage, and the waste matter was carried away with a gutter on each side of the street.

It is a peculiar thing that the inhabitants of this part of France have not forgotten their hatred of the British for the burning at stake of Jeanne d’Arc.

They showed resentment at us and threw their swill of the previous night at us. We had to jump and duck from side to side to miss their body rubbish. I was lucky as I jumped to the other side of the street but some of the troops got a sprinkling.

We marched through the main parts of the City of La Havre to the station and we were assigned to French 3rd Class Carriages which are like the British type sitting opposite one another but wooden seats.

The Imperial Troops returning from leave and going to the front at the Somme got a meal but there was no food for us. We purchased cake from the French Civilians who were selling it at the station. We departed, then by train for Rouen at 1:30 a.m.

Two of our men slept on the floor between the seats. I tried to sleep sitting up, but it was impossible on the hard wooden seats. It was a terrible night so I was glad when we reached Rouen at 5:30 a.m.

We were marched to a Barrack outside of Rouen, and saw some wonderful sights of the place.

Jeanne d’Arc, 1412-31; Saint; The Maid of Orleans; French National Heroine Martyr was burned at the stake. Today, we, with our new line of Thought on Life, consider this a dreadful mistake on the part of the British.

We saw a great Drawbridge over the dirty, filthy Seine.

Again no place for us as they had not been notified about our draft. After a meal and roll call, etc., we were dismissed. I was lucky as I found a two-wheel French Cart full of straw with the shafts resting on the ground. I circled myself up among the straw and had a wonderful afternoon snooze, but what a cleaning up job I had afterwards.

I always blessed the Medical Profession for our inoculations; otherwise, we soldiers would be dead ducks for what we had to go through.

A place was found to quarter us for a few days.

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