Of the many things I’ve learned as I blog about Grandpa’s WW1 experience, here’s an obvious one: I can’t make a good map with legends! I’ve relied on contemporary maps from Putnam’s Handy Volume Atlas of The World, 1921, as a template, adding notes to follow Grandpa’s journey to the battlefields in France.
He often wrote that he and his group were “on the move,” not being able to tell Grandma details of when they were moving, or where. I’ve been able, using various histories of the 89th Division, to imagine his journeys.
In Europe, Grandpa wasn’t permitted to give any details of place or movement. What I’ll provide here remains a best guess. To get a lay of the land, have a look for the famous sites of war events on this map.Starting in the lower right corner, you can see Sarajevo below the “s” of Yugoslavia. This was the site of the assassination that many historians mark as the beginning of the war. The northern border of Italy with Austria was the front described in Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms. Above, the tiny state of Luxembourg shares borders with France, Germany, and Belgium. Much of Grandpa’s war activities took place in this area.
Look for Paris and then locate the town on Brest on the Atlantic coast. Grandpa was hospitalized near Paris. And on his birthday–March 11, 1919–he sailed home from Brest.
But back to his journeys from the British Isles to the Western Front.Here’s the same journey shown in colored lines.From Liverpool, he was transported, I believed by train, to Southampton (along the purple line). He made the (rough) Channel crossing by small boat from Southampton to Le Havre (yellow line). From there, and along a route I don’t know, he was transported at night by train, following the blue line.
Over thousands of miles and lasting many weeks from late May to August, the long journey brought Grandpa (as well as many of the American forces) to a small area between Toul and Verdun, a distance I calculate to be about 50 miles. For Grandpa, the battlefields occupied an area only slightly larger than the familiar distance he knew back home, along country roads between the farm and the next biggest town of St. Joe, Missouri.
And now, as promised, my attempt (with apologies) at rendering a map. Grandpa fought in battles at Toul, St. Mihiel, and Verdun, where he was injured. The next blog posts will feature letters related to each of these battles.
If you enjoy maps and want to see how the professionals map out the various fronts and battles of World War 1, here’s a link I recommend: “40 maps that explain World War 1” @ http://www.vox.com/a/world-war-i-maps.