Caught in the act of painting!
We here at Portraits of War have spent countless hours scanning and editing the photographic work of Alva, but have neglected to post a series of photos relating to what he looked like while stationed at Kennishall nearly 70 years ago. I hope you enjoy seeing the face of the man responsible for recording the everyday activities around Knettishall.
As I’ve mentioned before, one of my favorite areas of collecting is the mascot photo. Almost every unit had a mascot; commonly a dog or puppy, or sometimes a woebegone French or Belgian child. In this case, a young boy poses in a well-tailored uniform as the mascot for the 31st Engineer Regiment. What a stellar find!
Sometimes a true gem will turn up among the pages of boring WWI eBay listings. In this case I was able to purchase a small lot of photos and letters for less than $10, and discovered an amazing field written poem by a battalion runner in the 103rd Infantry Regiment of the 26th “Yankee Division” (my favorite division BTW). Although the photos that came with the grouping are unrelated to the 103rd, I thought I would post the poem and transcription as a memorial to all those who died in the trenches of France. Memorial Day is only a few days away and I think it is a fitting tribute to the men and women who served during the First World War.
Please visit Soldier’s Mail for other photos and interpretations of further 103rd Infantry Regiment related material.
Written at Apremont France by Battalion Runner Blanchard of Company F of the 103rd Infantry Regiment of the 26th Division
Somewhere in France
A soldier boy lay dying,
On a road “somewhere in France;”
he had tried to get through a barrage
Tho he knew he stood no chance.
A pal knelt down beside him
While the tears ran down his cheek
For this soldier was his lifelong friend
And he longed to hear him speak.
When the dying soldier opened
Up his eyes, and look around
And saw his dear old pal
Kneeling side him on the grounf
He smiled and said “They got me Jim
Yes got me with a shell.”
“My orders were to take this note
Through water, fire and hell.”
“Take this message Jim and run it thru
Do not stop for me
It means two hundred lives and more
Its for our company
Fritz made a fake attack this morn
Just it break o’ day
If you can only get it rhu
We’ll make those dam Huns pay”
“And when you get around to it
Just write a line or two,
To my mother and my sweetheart Jim
Old pay so good and true;
Tell them I tried to make it
Thru gas, barrage, and shell
That my resting place is heaven
For I when there thru a hell.”
Then the dying soldier closed his eyes
His pal with tender care,
Gently laid him down
And smoothed his bloody ruffled hair,
And with a sob of anguish
He started down the road,
In his hand he held the message
That was written out in code.
Jim got the message there in time
To quell the Germans’ bluff,
He told the story to the boys
How the blood got on his cuff,
The dying words of Bill his pal
A runner dead and gone
And the company paid their last respects
To the brave but silent form.
~Wrote at Apremont by Batt. Runner Blanchard
At the conclusion of a dream – YD Co. F 103. Inf.
Earl Denzil Reese
I recently purchased a mystery grouping of WWII photos off my favorite internet auction site and stumbled across the wonderful story of Earl Reese and his wartime experiences while with the 99th “Checkerboard” Division during WWII. The full story starts out on a sad note, but I hope to honor Earl and his life achievements by publishing his story here on PortraitsofWar.
After purchasing a grouping of 50+ images from an eBay dealer back in April, I became interested in the details pertaining to the man who took the photos. He had a knack for writing blurbs on the back of photos, something not many soldiers did at the time. The content was first rate; the unknown soldier seemed to be in a front line unit that saw a good amount of action. I contacted the seller in hopes of finding some additional information to help me piece together the identity of the unknown GI. I’ve done this in the past with varying amounts of success. Most of the time the seller knows nothing about the photos, or maybe only a first name or general geographical area the fellow was from. In this case, the seller had a small treasure trove of information about the soldier.
After attending an estate sale in Santa Barbara the friendly eBay seller was rummaging around through some paper bins outside and found the life memoirs and photos of Mr.Reese. Some family member or estate executor threw away the entire life work and memories of Earl! He generously sent me the complete memoir manuscript and photo collection as a gift. I plan on digitizing the wartime section of the memoirs, which constitute three or four chapters of the 30+ volume.