Why some American Troops went to France Via Folkestone in the #FWW

At the end of January beginning of February 1918 a series of conferences and discussions were held with the Americans over the transport from America  and the training of six American divisions by the British.  To serve with the British Army. The letter is from the GHQ. AEF (General Headquarters of the American Expeditionary Force.)

 

G-3. GHQ. AEF: Fldr. 685: Letter
Transport of American Divisions
121/Transport/893 (S.R 1.) March 7. 1918.
Sir:
I am directed to refer to the question of the transportation and arrival in France of American divisions and other troops to be carried in British tonnage. You will be aware that the arrangements made at Versailles is as follows: (a) The British Government are to carry in British tonnage or in tonnage provided by Britain. 12.000 American troops per months destined for the American army direct. (b) The British Government are to carry in British tonnage or in tonnage provided by Britain the personnel of 6 divisions (American) totalling 150.000 men. to France. the infantry of which are for training with the British army. A provisional program of the shipping available has been drawn up. which shows that from march 15 to April 15. there should arrive on this side. vessels with a total carrying capacity of about 42.000 all ranks.

This means that there will be 12,000 men for the American army area, and about 30,000 Americans for the British army area arriving between these dates. This information has been communicated to the authorities in America who have been asked to inform us of the designations of the divisions, the units comprising them, and their order of despatch. As soon as these particulars are received, you will be informed accordingly. The principles being followed in shipment is that as far as possible the men both for (a) and (b) shall be taken direct to France. This is practicable at present only to a limited extent, but it is hoped to increase the numbers carried direct, month to month, Arrangements have been made for such vessels as can go direct to France, up to a total cany1ng capacity of 12,000 men per month, to take American troops for the American army area, and to discharge at Brest. During the period March 15 to April 15 referred to above, two vessels with a total canying capacity of about 3,000 men will be sent direct to Brest, the remainder of the vessels coming first to ports in the United Kingdom. The two vessels should arrive at Brest about the end of March, and as indicated above will cany troops destined to go direct to the American army. With regard to the onward despatch from England of the American troops which are brought first to this country, the numbers destined for the American army direct (in the period referred to above, say 9,000) will be sent as hitherto via Southampton-Le Havre. It is also proposed to use this route as far as possible for the 6 divisions destined for training with the British army, but it is possible that the limitations of this route may render it necessary to send some of these troops via Folkestone-Boulogne in order that their undue detention in England may be avoided. I am therefore to request that you will inform me whether you foresee any difficulty in this arrangement which would, as far as possible, be confined to those formations destined for attachment to the northern line. In this connection I am to ask that as soon as you receive the desIgnations of the formations comprising these 6 divisions you will communicate with this office as to the allocation of the various formations in order that this principle may be followed. A copy of this letter is being sent to Brigadier General C. M. Wagstaff, C. I. E., D. S. 0., R. E., British Mission attached American Expeditionary Force.
lam,
Sir,
Your obedient Servant,
The Field Marshal                                                                     SAM FAY.                                            Commanding-in-Chief,                                                             Director of Movements                    British Armies in France.

(Letter reproduced from Order of Battle of the United States Land Forces in the World War Volume 3 “Training and use of  American Units with the British and French”)

As can be scene from the letter, the intention was to use the Folkestone-Boulogne route as a temporary back up to the main movement of American troops through the United Kingdom. With the eventual aim of moving all American troops directly to France from the continental United States.

In the event the following four units are known to have been transported to France via Folkestone, after March 1st 1918, under this arrangement: (1)

The 117th Infantry, part of 30th division U.S. Army.

120th Infantry “3rd North Carolina” 30th Division, U.S. Army.(2)

311th US Infantry.  (78th Division?)

312th US Infantry. (78th Division?)

Were the French happy with this too? It appears not. The French could not understand why the Americans seemed to be so eager to help the British. At the time.  The American special relationship was with the French not the British. This was vocalised by Colonel Charles Stanton the year before,  “Lafayette, nous voilà”. Petain said on the 28th April 1918, Recorded in a letter sent by Major Paul Clark, AEF. to the Commander in Chief, AEF from the French General Headquarters, Sarcus, Oise.
“With regard to the first if General Pershing or the American Government see fit to send those six divisions to the British Army. it is not my affair. There is no doubt but that those divisions will contribute to the general need of the Allies. As for the second question General Pershing has believed stories that are not true. I know what I am talking about. The British should have a million more men in France now than they have. Why did Gen. Robertson resign? Because his government would not send over the 500.000 men asked for by Gen. Haig and Gen. Haig would have resigned at the same time if he had known …,  … Look at the map. Here is the French front (indicating). here is the British front (indicating). the British have 48.000.000 people in England. Scotland. Wales and Ireland. and the French have 39.000.000 in France. and think of all the British colonies. and yet France can put 1.000.000 more men on the front than Britain. Why? Because we make more effort. because in England a man is excused from service upon slight cause. whereas in France he is not excused for slight cause. ”

“If they are not soldiers they ought to be. The men are there. but Lloyd George and the others are afraid to act. Ask Gen. Pershing if he does not recall the day at the Supreme War Council when Gen. Foch made a comparative statement of the effort made by the two countries. It was illuminating. even Mr. Lloyd George said it was convincing. No “Jamais. jamais. jamais” (with emphasis) England has not made the effort that France has made. She has produced only about 1/2 of the soldiers that France has produced. though she has 10.000.000 more population and her colonies to draw from.
The General spoke with emphasis. even feeling. and while perfectly polite gave the impression of one who is profoundly sure of what he said. He looked in perfect physical and mental condition. I plan to come to Chaumont tomorrow a. m.
PAUL H. ClARK. Major.

By the Armistice nine American Divisions had been trained either entirely or in part by the British, these were

4th, 27th, 28th, 30th, 33rd, 35th, 77th, 78th. and the  80th.

Three American Divisions served operationally in British Armies, these were the:

27th Division which served in the Second, and in the last few weeks of the war, Fourth Army.

30th Division with Second and Fourth Armies

33rd Division with Fourth Army.

 

(1) Information about other units welcome.

(2) The 120th went into the line on the night of the 17thth-18th August.

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