2 THE RHINEBECK GAZETTE RHINEBECKERS AT FRONT WRITE OF WORK IN EUROPE'S GREAT WAR Letters From Henry M. Suckley and Miss Ethel / Douglas Merritt
We referred in our columns a short time ago to the fact that our fellow townsman Henry M. Suckley has been decorated by the French government for his work in connection with the American Ambulance service in France and we take great pleasure in publishing below two letters which were sent by Mr. Suckley to the editors of his school paper Horae Scholasticae published by the boys of St. Paul's School, Concord, New Hampshire. These letters give some idea of the splendid work Mr. Suckley has been doing and we feel sure will be of great interest to our readers: In Alsace, July 4th, 1915. Gentlemen: Very appropriately the glorious Fourth happens to be the first moment of rest for your car and for its driver, myself, and I am taking this morning of leisure to write a few words about your Ford and the work that it has done during the French attack in the valley of the Fecht, and along the hill-crests to the south of Colinar, of which you have undoubtedly read in the French "communiques." For a month before this attack began, about the middle of May, our section had been trying to get in a regular run over the mountains, over roads that were considered impassable for roads that were considered impassable for motor ambulances. Ou[r] principal reason for this agitation wa[s] to attempt to alleviate in some measure, and to shorten as much as possible, the period of agony which the badly wounded have to undergo on mule-back, or on man-carried stretchers. I am glad to say that the test made by two of our cars was successful. and when the attack began, we were put on a mountain road to carry wounded down from the second First Aid Post. This post was situated at an altitude of about 4,000 feet, which made the rise from the valley about 3,000 feet in a bit over four miles. You can see that such a climb is quite a job for any car. For three days and nights I drove the St. Paul's car up and down this narrow lane, passing every sort of convoy, from six inch guns pulled by teams of 22 mules, to fast staff cars bearing generals. The stopping and starting on precipitous grades, on a road only wide enough for one car, with one wheel within inches of the slope, was work that at the start was car-wrecking and nerve-wracking. Notwithstanding the strain to the car, your Ford went through the week we made this run without a single mishap, unless you count various chang[e]s of brakes. During this period your car carried about 100 badly wounded cases, and carried them very comfortably. After this work we were withdrawn from this run and put on a much stiffer one, rising to the same altitude but in a much shorter distance. Not only did we climb up to this Firs[t] Aid Post but continued down on the other side to the head of the Fecht valley, within a kilometre and a half of Metzeral, around which the hottest fighting has been going on. For a couple of miles this run had to be made without lights at night, as the Germans hold a height not more than three miles away, from which they could easily shell our cars and possibly blow up the road over which pass all the supplies for the civil population as well as for the army. For the last two weeks we have been making this run day and night pretty steadily, carrying only the lying cases as we have not enough car to permit our taking all the slightly wounded cases, which usually come over on mules. Altogether, the work that we have been doing during these last three weeks has be eminently satisfactory, at least to ourselves. We are doing work that the French, with present facilities, cannot do. We are saving, on this run, about three hours in getting the men to the hospital where they can be operated on, and, I am sure, are making their journey much easier. In fact, on several occasions, badly wounded men have thanked me for bringing them over, and have expressed appreciation for the comfort which the Ford gives them. We hope always that we can get more cars out here, Heaven knows that they are needly [sic] badly at times in this work, and the suffering they alleviate cannot be expressed. Yours sincerely, (Signed) Henry M. Suckley. October and November With the St. Paul's Ambulance in Alsace Since the last time I wrote you, some two months ago, our work has been, if anything, harder: it certainly has been of greater interest. The weather has been steadily growing colder—in the early part of October we had to contend with severe frosts, and even three snow-storms in other mountains. The number of sick has been increasing proportionately with the severity of the nights, frozen feet being very frequent, particularly cases where amputation is necessary. The middle of October saw a series of attacks and counter-attacks, by both sides, for the possession of the summit of the Hartmannsweilerkopf, the most southerly mountain of the battle line and the one which has seen as much hard fighting as almost any point of the French front. Before the war the crest was densely wooded, but now it is as drear and devoid of trees as the desert. The terrific bombardments both by French and German artillery have dug holes and craters, which in turn have lost their individuality by fresh and more recent shell bursting. Trenches honeycomb the whole summit of this much contended hill. On the occasion mentioned above, the Germans had broken through the French lines and had captured the crest. A battalion of "chasseurs Alpins" was already on its way up and after a terrific bombardment captured the lost trenches. The Germans again attacked the next day and captured a part of the summit, after preparing the way with shells. Once more the French bombarded with their heavy artillery and the chasseurs took back the lost ground at the point of the bayonet, together with a block house that had formed a salient into their lines. The Germans attacked again and again from their trenches, which are, in places, only six yards away, but each time were hurled back with terrific loss. Unfortunately, this skirmishing was also costly to the French, although our losses were very inferior to those of the enemy, and in three days and nights we were all running steadily down to the valley.
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