It is known that Americans went to France during the First World War long before America officially joined the fray in April 1917. The American people very often do the right thing long before the American Government gets around to it. Clarence V. Mitchell an American who went to be a volunteer Ambulance Driver. He wrote, With a Military Ambulance in France, which is a collection of letters he sent to his parents. Crossed to France on the SS Sussex in October 1914. Richard Norton the founder of the American Volunteer Motor-Ambulance Corps, also known as the Norton-Harjes Ambulance Corps also crossed from Folkestone in October 1914. At the end of May 1917 America was in the war as an Associate Power fighting along side the British and French.
One of the first US military organisations to embark from Folkestone after the declaration of war was the United States Military Railway Commission to England and France. The commission had travelled down to Folkestone from London by rail and crossed to Boulogne on the SS London. The following day the Commission continued their journey to Paris by motor car. One of the first US Army units to go to France via Folkestone was, No.5 Base Hospital US Army. Not yet known if they went directly to the harbour or if they spent sometime in one of the rest camps. Both the Commission and No.5 Base Hospital crossed towards the end of May.
Soldiers with an American connection who embarked from Folkestone during May include:
Lance-Sergeant 1145 George Joseph Richard Brown M.M., 28th Infantry Battalion, Australian Imperial Force. Returning to the front after being wounded. George joins the Australian General Base Depot the following day. Marched out to 3rd Australian Division Artillery, Rouillers, on the 2nd June. He is taken on Strength, Division Trench Mortars, 6th June. Transferred to, and taken on strength of 28th Infantry Battalion on the 10th August. George is killed in Action on the 4th October 1917. George was the son of George and Mary Brown, born in Concord, Northampshire, USA. He was married to Alice Oliver Brown who lived at, 129 Brighton Road, Surbiton. His Military Medal was Gazetted on the 27th October 1916:
“HIS MAJESTY THE KING has been graciously pleased to award the Military Medal for bravery in the Field to the undermentioned non-commissioned officer:- No. 1145 Corporal GEORGE JOSEPH RICHARD BROWN.” He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Menin Gate.
Private 3156 Earle Nelson Gates, ex 15th Training Battalion, Australian Imperial Force. Taken on Strength 57th Battalion ex 8th Reinforcements/57th Battalion. Born in Allegahanny City, Pennsylvania USA, enlisted in Broadmeadows, Victoria, Australia on the 17th October 1916.
Private 6948 Albert Fred Hass, ex 3rd Training Battalion, 10th Battalion. Australian Infantry, Australian Imperial Force. The son of Peter Heinrich Hass, of Peterborough, South Australia, and the late Lisette Hass (nee Lohmann). Born in Greenville, Wisconsin, U.S.A. He was killed in action between the 20th and 21st September, Aged 24. and has no known grave. His brother, Walter Theodor Hass also of the Australian Imperial Force was also killed in action and also has no known grave. Both are commemorated on the Menin Gate. Walter also embarked from Folkestone but not in May 1917.
Private 6785 John Charles Marchant, ex 2nd Training Battalion, Australian Imperial Force, he arrived at 1st Australian Division Base Depot the following day. Taken on Strength by 7th Battalion ex 22nd Reserves/7th Battalion on the 28th May. He is killed in action on the 4th October 1917 during an attack on Broodsiende Ridge near Zonnebeke. It is believed that 1st Divisional Burial Party, buried him. His grave can not be found and he is commemorated on the Menin Gate. John’s widow Mrs. Q. U. M. Marchant, lived at 822, Prarie Avenue, Wilmette, Illinois, U.S.A.
Other non American or Australian Units and men that crossed from Folkestone in May 1917 include man from an Artillery Brigade.
Mamiel Vincent Uzzell, farm carter and ploughman, he worked with his farther at Lower Barn Farm, Chaddleworth before his enlistment. He enlisted in the Royal Berkshire Regiment on the 12th February 1916. He is posted to the 3rd Reserve Battalion 20th January 1917. After training he is sent to France on the 7th May. The first eleven days in France are spent with 46 Infantry Brigade Depot before being posted to the 1st Battalion. Uzzell is reported missing on the 30th November 1917. He was most likely captured by the Germans on either the 29th or 30th . On the 29th the 1st Battalion is west of Bourlon Wood during an advance of 200 yards by C Company. The next day from about 8:45 am the, Sugar Factory where the Headquarters of 1st Battalion is the centre of a box barrage. During the barrage the Germans attacked the rest of the Battalion along the line Bourlon Villiage Quarry Wood. The attempted breakthrough is stopped by a combination of artillery and Machine Gunfire. Although the Germans continue attacks on the battalion all through the afternoon. For Uzzell the war is over. He is to spend the rest of it as a Prisoner of War. It is not until the 10th December 1918 that he is repatriated to. It will be another 10 months before he is demobilised and transferred to the reserves an the 12th October 1919. Mamiel Vincent Uzzell is awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal
Private 90681 Alfred Babbage, Machine Gun Corps. Alfred lived in. Dartford. He first enlisted in the 22nd Battalion London Regiment on the 2nd June 1915. He was then discharged on the 21st January as being “Not likely to make an efficient soldier. On the 18th December 1916 Alfred Babbage is enlisted into the Machine Gun Corps. He is 21 years old. At first he is posted to the Rifle Depot in Winchester. Two months later he is posted to the 5th Battalion Rifle Brigade. A year later on the 3rd April 1917 he is transferred to the Machine Gun Corps. Following this he is posted to France and embarks from Folkestone on the 26th May. After spending just under a fortnight at the Machine Gun Corps base Depot at Camiers he is posted to 152 company in the field. On the 13th July 1917 when cleaning his rifle he “negligently discharged same. Thereby wounding himself.” He is to be tried on the 25th for neglect to the prejudice of good order and military discipline. Before the trial Babbage is sent at first to 61 casualty Clearing Station then 5 days in hospital. Babbage is found guilty at his Field General Courts Martial and sentenced to 60 days Field Punishment No.2. This is commuted to 28 days by the General Officer Commanding 51st Division. On the 5th September he is sent to 35 Field Hospital with an “old” gun shot wound to his left hand. The 8th sees him at 63 Casualty Clearing Station, the 9th at 14th General Hospital and on the 11th he is sent back to England on the Hospital Ship St David. Babbage spends the next two months at the Ontario Military Hospital in Orpington, Kent. His pension record also shows him as been posted from No.1 Northern General Hospital Newcastle to Somewhere on his journey between his unit and his release from hospital the second finger of his left hand is amputated. His last posting appears to be to the Base Depot at Grantham. On the 25th April 1918 he appears before N0.2 TMB (Temporary Medical Board?) Grantham. Apart from the Gunshot wound to his left hand he has some mental problems, described in his records as “mental deficiency” Three months later Babbage is discharged as being physically unfit to be a soldier. Alfred Babbage is awarded the British War Medal, and the Victory Medal.
Plus others. Research is on going and proceeds as fast as funds and mugs of tea allow.