Read through first-hand accounts of ambulance drivers who served with the American Field Service during World War I.  From the fields of Flanders to the trenches of France, the diaries depict their daily activities, including ambulance evacuations and shared meals with soldiers, as well as their thoughts and impressions of the war.

David Annan

David H. Annan’s diary consists of daily entries written between May 14 and October 1, 1917, during his service as an ambulance driver with AFS unit SSU 65. The entries describe his voyage to France, contain vivid depictions of his activities overseas, and document his trip.

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Joshua G.B. Campbell (with his dog, Khaki), Giles, Kingsland, Francklyn, and Cunningham in Flanders, 1915.
Joshua G.B. Campbell (with his dog, Khaki), Giles, Kingsland, Francklyn, and Cunningham in Flanders, Belgium in 1915.

Joshua G.B. Campbell

Joshua G.B. Campbell’s diary provides a personal account of his service as an ambulance driver with AFS unit SSU 1 between June and August 1916 in Belgium and France. His diary includes detailed passages of his activities, places where his unit was stationed, being shelled by the enemy, and places he visited. He also notes how the war changed him.

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Philip T. Cate

Philip T. Cate’s unbound diary is a typescript copy of his original handwritten version, and contains detailed narrative entries for most days between October 5, 1915 and March 11, 1916. The entries describe his experiences as an AFS volunteer in Alsace, France, with unit SSU 3.

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Lawrence B. Cummings wearing a gas mask in Ippécourt.

Lawrence B. Cummings

Ambulance driver Lawrence B. Cummings wrote his diaries for his two sons, in order to give them a vivid picture of his work overseas with AFS units SSU 3 and 4 along the Argonne and in Verdun, the environment, living conditions, responsibility, and detailed descriptions of his fellow ambulance drivers. His first diary was written between September 15- December 2, 1916, and includes mention of his motivation for joining the American Field Service before his own country was at war.

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Lawrence B. Cummings

In his second diary written while in France, ambulance driver Lawrence B. Cummings describes the trenches, AFS unit movements, care given to the wounded, and his own response to the work for his two sons back home. The entries are dated between December 23, 1916 and August 13, 1917, and include information about why he joined the U.S. Army in 1917.

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A damaged SSU 2 ambulance.

Mahlon W. Davis

Mahlon W. Davis’s diary gives a very detailed account of his activities as an ambulance driver with AFS unit SSU 2 in France between March 6-July 16, 1915. The entries include information about the health of his fellow drivers, ambulance repairs and upkeep, bombardments, the weather, unit inspections, a conversation with a German prisoner, and the activities (including sounds) and aftermath of battles.

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Samuel P. Fay

Ambulance driver Samuel P. Fay documents his time with the Paris Section of the American Ambulance Hospital in his first diary, which contains entries between May 8-July 5, 1915. The accounts include his trans-Atlantic voyage, anecdotes related to purported German atrocities,living conditions at the Hospital, retrieving wounded at the Gare du Nord train station, transporting patients, impressions of the wounded, and details of medical treatments and operations.

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SSU 1 volunteers in Belgium in 1915.

Samuel P. Fay

Samuel P. Fay’s second diary documents his experience as an AFS ambulance driver with unit SSU 1 in Belgium. His detailed entries, dated between July 6- August 27, 1915, describe retrieving the wounded from dressing stations, German artillery bombardments, the novelty of airplanes, and general impressions of the war.

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Luman H. Tenney

Ambulance driver Luman H. Tenney documents his service as an ambulance driver with AFS unit SSU 12 near Souilly and Bar-le-Duc, France between February and June 1917. The diary contains a log of his activities, including injuries he observed, meals he ate, camp activities, book he read, and includes few personal opinions or emotions.

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French Army Photographic Section PUBLIC DOMAIN
AFS SSU 2 ambulance drivers in Verdun in 1916. Photograph by the French Army Photographic Section.

Oliver Wolcott

Oliver Wolcott‘s diary contains entries written between February-July 1916, when he served with AFS unit SSU 2 in Verdun, France. His diary includes descriptions of gas attacks, weaponry, aviation equipment, experiencing being shelled by German troops, interactions with both civilians and servicemen, his time off-duty, as well as straightforward and detailed descriptions of injuries and death.

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