STEAM ENGINES IN FRANCE WORLD WAR I -1918


| March/April 1979



Mill under construction

Mill under construction near Mees, France, April 1918. Using manpower to put the smoke stack base on the boiler.

106 S. Elm Street, Newkirk, Oklahoma 74647

When General Pershing reached France in the early summer of 1917 with the vanguard of the American Army, one of the first requests was for lumber. First, enormous quantities of heavy plank and timbers were needed to repair and build docks for the army and supplies to land on. Railway cross-ties for sidings were needed; also, ordinary building lumber for building barracks, warehouses, and the like, was a necessity.

At that time the 'U-Boats' were sinking about sixty ships a week, and our people were having all they could do to keep the Allied Armies supplied with food and ammunition; so, no ships were available for carrying lumber. However, it was learned that timber was available in France. In fact, Canadian Engineers were at that time cutting timber for the British Army in the French woods; so, the decision was made to recruit American Engineer troops for lumber production.

The first regiment formed, was called the Tenth Engineers. It consisted of six companies of 250 men each. The men were selected with the idea of taking only men who had experience in logging and saw-mill work. Of course a few banker's sons managed to slip in; but, most of the enlisted personnel were qualified for the job. The officers were nearly all 'Ninety Day Wonders' and utterly useless, but people of that kind are always with us. The Tenth took basic training for about two months at Camp American University near Washington, D.C., and was sent to France in September, 1917.

As soon as the Tenth Engineers were out of the barracks, another regiment, the Twentieth Engineers, started forming six companies at a time, taking basic training for about six weeks before going overseas. This continued until the Twentieth consisted of 30 companies. Later, the two regiments merged, making 36 companies altogether.

Many people might be surprised at the amount of lumber that was cut. The production for the month of October, 1918, was over fifty-million board feet of sawn lumber. In addition, a considerable amount of round timber was cut.