January 3 to
March 15, 1918

Part of the Bourmont Training Area in 1918
showing the 6th MGB billeting area.

January 3

At 6 a.m. the 1st Machine Gun Battalion arrived at Damblain in the foothills of the Vosges Mountains, and detrained. Upon detraining, all Lewis machine guns, including tripods & carts, were turned into the Brigade Quatermaster and stored in Damblain. Headquarters Detachment and 77th Company then marched to nearby Germainvilliers and were billeted, while the 81st Company marched to Chaumont-la-Ville, where they were billeted.

January 12

Hotchkiss machine guns were issued to the two companies to take the place of the Lewis guns turned in; 24 gun and ammunition carts also issued.

January 14

Orders issued forbidding fires in billets except between hours of 2:30 & 8:30 p.m.

January 15

1st Machine Gun Battalion officially assigned to 4th Brigade.

Detailed orders issued to remedy "great carelessness (by men of the 2nd Division) in the cutting & gathering of firewood ... injurious to the conservation of the forests and their future growth...".

January 16

Wrapped puttees to be issued in future in place of canvas leggins.

January 18

Ammunition to be issued to all men to fill belts, and full belts to be worn on guard, at drill and inspections.

All animals put on half rations until further notice.

January 20

In accordance with Memorandum from Headquarters, Fourth Brigade, pursuant to instructions contained in General Orders No.4, Headquarters, Second Division, dated January 15th, 1918, the designation of the battalion changed to the Sixth Machine Gun Battalion. This order designated the 15th and 23rd Machine Gun Companies of the 5th Regiment, Marines, which were stationed at Gondrecourt, as part of the Sixth Machine Gun Battalion, from January 15th, 1918, being detached from that Regiment.

January 29

"Until further orders received, Corps device will not be affixed to helmets. Officers will not wear winterfield cap as previously advised, until further notice".

All enlistments extended; no discharges to be given.

February 2

In response to complaints by French authorities regarding unauthorized hunting by troops of the 2nd Division, orders issued prohibiting hunting in specifically designated woods in the Bourmont Training Area.

February 6

"Passes permitting departure of enlisted men from the area occupied by this division will not be granted." Local stationmasters requested to refuse boarding of trains to any enlisted man unless proper authority shown."

February 7

In response to accidental burning of several barracks in the training area, HQ Second Division issues orders specifying inspection of stoves & stovepipes, & the prohibition of fires in unoccupied billets.

February 15

Serial numbers assigned to enlisted men of 2nd Div., and aluminum discs & stamping outfits distributed among the units for the making of dog tags.

February 20

~~Companies instructed to withhold emergency rations from distribution to men.
~~ Quartermasters instructed "to collect all beef tallow not absolutely necessary for use of troops, to be shipped by the Regimental Quartermaster to the Salvage Depot in empty vinegar, oil, or similar containers.... tallow to be used to make dubbin for the preservation of shoes..."
~~ Battalion commanders instructed, on completion of live grenade practice, to collect all unexploded grenades, place them in a hole, and explode them.

February 21

HQ Second Division issued orders regarding distribution of rations & forage. Rations & forage to be issued at the railhead in Bourmont, beginning Feb 25. Distributing point for field trains of the 6th MGB to be at Damblain (11:20 a.m.), except for 81st Company (assigned to the 6th Marines), for which the distributing point would be at Blevaincourt (12:10 p.m.). Organizations to submit ration returns daily at their refilling points to Supply Train Truckmaster who will deliver them on return to Bourmont to the Supply Officer Second Division. The issue for the following day to be based on these daily ration returns.

February 24

French law went into effect forbidding the sale of meats, bread, cheese, butter, chocolate and confitures of all kinds to all except French civilians.

February 25

Rubber boots to be held by each Company as trench stores, & issued by Company Commander only for special use where work in mud and water is necessary. They are not to be worn within the limits of towns.

February 28

Second Division issues ordered specifying measures to be taken by mess officers for procurement of fresh foods in light of French law of Feb 24.

A General Description of Life in the Bourmont Training Area

In Jan 1918 the Sixth Regiment, the 6th Machine Gun Battalion, and the remainder of the Fifth Regiment, employed until then on construction and police missions elsewhere in France and England, joined the Second Division in the Vosges, occupying the towns of Blevaincourt, Robecourt, Germainvillers, Championeulles, and Chaumont la Ville.

The billet villages of this new area were typically French. Almost every house had its steaming stack of manure piled high to the right or left of the front door. Surface drainage from these stacks moved thickly in shallow ditches, on both sides of the unpaved streets, to a creek running through the center of each village. Human excrement was disposed of in a soakage pits of the privy type except when homes bordered the town creek. Then the privy houses straddled the creek, and sported the "a.m.c." factor: running water. This was soapy water that flowed underneath and came from the public roadside laundry farther upstream. These factors gave the odor of home to the sheepherder but provided many basic hygienic and sanitary problems for the brigade medical department to solve in making the respective towns habitable for troops.

Native social activity centered around the potable water

"Morning Washup" by Offical AEF artist Capt Wallace Morgan:
a typical morning scene in French villages throughout the Vosges
where American soldiers were billeted.
A few weeks after making this sketch, Capt. Morgan
would be sketching Marines at Belleau Wood.
~ Smithsonian Institution ~
source where, not only human drinking water was obtained, but all animal life was watered from a trough built to catch the overflow from the human tank. This animal trough in turn emptied into the washing tank where the village laundry was pounded out by women of various ages.

Drinking water was obtained from small creeks. In its conservation for human and animal purposes, frequently odd engineering skill was seen in spreading the supply through a series of tanks and spillways, all concentrated in a surprisingly small space. To protect the washer-woman from the sun and weather, the washing pools of these water systems are sometimes covered with a crude circular and domed construction.

Billets for troops, usually in haylofts, were totally inadequate. To take care of this need, "Adrian" barracks were constructed in sufficient number to accommodate the men comfortably. Ice, snow, sleep, and thaw prevailed during most of the stay in this area. While here, everybody in the brigade "turned-to" in the serious business of training and shaking-down preparatory to entering the lines. ... Gas mask drills were carried out with the French mask and the British respirator. The drills involved exposure to chlorine in chambers and marching, running, carrying, and transmitting verbal orders with the masks in place...

During this period, the plan of training centered around building and occupying trench systems, trench raids, grenade and bayonet attacks, Chau Chau and Hotchkiss gun drills, laying field communications, airplane signals, Very lights, 37 mm firing, day and night marches, bivouacs and practice billeting, with full field equipment, and the use of animals and motorized equipment. This training thoroughly adapted and prepared the Marine Brigade for active service.

Strenuous activities were carried out to prepare the troops for occupation of a trench sector. This started first with small detachments and later involved regimental and brigade units. A great deal of the training was along lines essential for participation in a highly specialized form of warfare. Although the tactics and drills practiced were especially of the types for carrying on position or trench warfare, the possibility that the character of warfare might at any time be changed to one of movement or open warfare, made it necessary for the training to include drills for both methods. Regimental, brigade, and divisional maneuvers were conducted in the open country under all kinds of weather, characterized by " the rain, the cold, and the mud; the mud, the cold, and the rain." Practice trenches were occupied by successive battalions for 24-hour periods. The weather during this particular stage of training duplicated that which is said to have existed at Valley Forge.

Lt. George G. Strott, Hospital Corps, USN (Ret), The Medical Department of the United States Navy with the Army and Marine Corps in France in World War I, Its Functions and Employment, U.S. Navy Department, Washington D.C., June 1947.

NEXT: In transit north to the Verdun Front

6th MG Bttn
in WWI