Many of the 2,500 ambulance and camion drivers who served with the American Field Service (AFS) during World War I spent a holiday season away from home. The men celebrated the holiday in different ways, depending on where they were stationed.
In 1915, AFS Ambulance Driver Philip T. Cate celebrated the holiday with the French brancardiers (stretcher bearers.) He noted in his diary that “there was wine, which they always have in great quantities,” as well as plum pudding. The brancardiers lit small candles and sang Christmas songs, led by their Sergeant. Just two years later, AFS Ambulance Driver Edward Ross noted in his diary that he helped to gather mistletoe on Christmas Eve before a dinner the following day that included vegetable soup, turkey, turnips, carrots, and string beans, among other treats.
In 1917, after the organization was absorbed into the U.S. military after the entry of the United States into the war, 157 former AFS Drivers gathered together for a Christmas Eve celebration at 21 rue Raynouard in Paris, France. The walls and ceiling of the villa were hung with holly and Christmas greenery, and many candles were lit and placed on several Christmas trees (one of which is pictured above.) The AFS men drank champagne, and ate plum pudding and turkey, ending the evening with songs.
Click here to contact the AFS Archives if you would like to schedule a research appointment to view either of the World War I diaries, or here to view more photographs from the AFS headquarters at 21 rue Raynouard.