Welcome back to the WWI journal project. The image above is the first scanned page of my great great uncle’s journal from his time as a medic in the trenches of France during World War I. His journal accounts his time overseas and also includes poems and detailed sketches.
If you’re just joining this story, click here for the first post. The first post has been shared and retweeted far and wide. So far, no one has chimed in with a connection to his direct descendants, so keep it up!
The longest part of this process is scanning each individual page of the notebook. My little HP scanner is performing admirably, but I’m scanning at the highest resolution possible, which makes it slow-going.
While I wait for each page to scan and save, I am doing some research to figure out where exactly he was while he served. He doesn’t reference many actual locations, and when he does, the handwriting makes it hard to decipher. Luckily, a few helpful hints have pointed me in the right direction.
Most of the relatives in my grandfather’s generation claim that Percy was in the Red Cross, but his journal proves otherwise. On the inside flap, he wrote “Med Dept 101st Inf,” and in the photo provided by a cousin (below), he’s in an army uniform. On February 17, he wrote, “Last night a number of volunteers from W.C. 101st Inf. led by Leuit. Driscoll, whom I know quite well, went ‘over the top’ accompanied by a group of Frenchmen.” The 101st Infantry Regiment was under 26th Yankee Division, which was comprised of regiments from all over New England. Fortunately, when the Division returned home, a parade was held in their honor. The Governor of Massachusetts and the Mayor of Boston appointed a committee, which published a long pamphlet detailing the activities of the Yankee Division throughout the war, which could be purchased for twenty-five cents. I tracked it down. According to this little tome, on the date quoted above, Percy was located in Chemin des Dames.
Known for the plateau that stretches between the valley of the Aisne and Ailette rivers, this region fits Percy’s description, “Standing in front of the table you could see the valley and River for miles, in the distance the long wooded hills marked the horizon.” He sketched a church and labeled it “Vailly,” which is also in this region of the front, Vailly-sur-Aisne. He also provides a hand-drawn map, which highlights the Aisne River. So, at least part of his time was spent in that area.
In terms of David’s biography, most of my information comes from snippets from relatives. Nobody knows much about him because shortly after the war he moved to California to pursue his acting and singing career.
According to my relatives, David’s father, David Thomas Percy II, was a doctor. The Percy family, my mother’s branch on my family tree, has been in Sagadahoc County, Maine since the 1700’s and still makes up a large portion of the year-round residents of Popham Beach. My subject, the author of this journal, was one of five siblings and volunteered for the war effort with his two brothers, George and Fred, each of whom joined a different branch of the military.
David is on the far right of the photo in his army uniform and campaign hat. I’m guessing Fred, the one in the middle, was Navy. Does anyone recognize the uniform George (far left) is wearing? Air Force, I think.
The other image is compliments of my aunt Leila. It’s the cover of a program with his photo.
Stay tuned for more updates on this exciting project, and please keep sharing. Hopefully if this story spreads far enough, we’ll reach his grandkids.