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5 mai 1918 : Hameau d'Ancerviller Texte en langue anglaise

L'évènement du 5 mai 1918 (capture de prisonniers allemands au Hameau d'Ancerviller par une patrouille américaine), relaté par la presse locale (Est-Républicain du 13 mai 1918, Journal de la Meurthe du 14 mai 1918) aurait-il été quelques peu grossi ?
On constate d'ailleurs que dans les écrits américains d'après guerre (The Sun, 27 avril 1919, The story of the Rainbow division - New York 1919...) on ne retrouve pas cette attaque « au couteau. - La lutte fut âpre et farouche », « les crosses des fusils dont l'ennemi voulut se servir pour se défendre [...] largement entaillées par les lames » et les américains montrant « avec fierté leurs couteaux rouges de sang ».

Dans son journal, le chapelain Francis P . Duffy relate aussi plus simplement cet événement, sans mentionner « Le caporal chef de groupe fut grièvement blessé »,  mais on y apprend que deux soldats, la caporal Joseph Brown et Charles Knowlton, se sont égarés dans la nuit dans le no man's land et ont été fait prisonniers par les allemands.

Father Duffy's story
A tale of humor and heroism, of life and death with the fighting sixty-ninth
by Francis P. Duffy Chaplain, 165th Infantry


April 25th, 1918
On April 23rd, and a miserable day of rain and mud it was, we relieved the Ohios in the positions on the left of our Division Sector. Looking east from Baccarat one sees only a steep hill which forms the valley of the Meurthe and blocks the view in the direction of the combat line; but a road from the north of the town leads through an opening in the hills to undulating country with small villages dotting the landscape every two or three miles. One of these is Reherrey, which is to be our regimental P. C. during our stay in this section. The next village to the east, called Migneville, shelters our support battalion, the P. C. of the advance battalion being at Montigny, still farther on.
The trenches are more varied and more interesting than those in the Forest of Parroy. Those on the left of our sector run along the front edge of the Bois Bouleaux, which gives its occupants the shelter of trees, but leaves them in a position to see an approaching enemy. The trenches to the right run over open ground and finally straight across the eastern tip of the town of Ancervillers, utilizing the cellars, broken walls, etc. Machine gun nests have been established in some of the cellars which dominate the open spaces, the guns being raised to be able to fire at ground level through carefully concealed concrete openings. The 1st battalion is in line, the 3rd in support, while the 2nd is in "Camp Mud," a group of barracks to the rear of us in surroundings which provoke its title. Poor fellows, they would much rather be in a battle.

April 28th, 1918
Went over Saturday to St. Pol where Companies L and M are in support positions and passed the night with Merle-Smith and his Lieutenants, Carroll, Baker, Givens and Knowles. The village church is pretty badly wrecked, parts of the walls and most of the roof being tumbled down in crumbled ruins. One shell went through just in front of the altar, but the roof above the altar is fairly well intact. I had doubts as to whether I could use it for services, but Cornelius Fitzpatrick and Frank Eustace offered to have it cleaned up and put in shape for me by next morning. When I arrived to say Mass I was delighted at the transformation they had effected. The half ruined reredos of the altar was a mass of bloom with big branches of blossoms which they had cut from the fruit trees in the garden. It is one of the pictures of the war that I shall long carry in my mind.
One of the men told me that Joyce Kilmer had been out here on his duties as Sergeant of the Intelligence Section to map out the ground with a view to its defence if attacked. As his party was leaving the ruined walls he said, "I never like to leave a church without saying a prayer," and they all knelt down among the broken fragments under the empty vault and said a silent prayer - a beautiful thought of a true poet and man of God.

May 5th, 1918
Headquarters, both American and French, have been very anxious for somebody to take prisoners, and we were all very much pleased this morning to hear that a patrol from Company D had gone out and bagged four of them. Out across No Man's Land from Ancervillers there is, or used to be, a few houses which went by the name of Hameau d'Ancervillers. There was some reason to believe that a German outpost might be found there; so at midnight last night a patrol of two officers and twenty-four men, mainly from Company D, went on a little hunting expedition. They crossed No Man's Land to the old German trenches, which they found to be battered flat.
Lieutenant Edmond J. Connelly remained with a few men in No Man's Land to guard against surprise, and Lieutenant Henry K. Cassidy took the rest of them, including Sergeant John J. O'Leary of Company A, Sergeant Thomas O'Malley of Company D and Sergeant John T. Kerrigan of the Intelligence Section to examine the ruins of the hamlet. Part of the wall of one house was left standing. O'Leary led three men to one side of it, and O'Malley three others to the other side, while Lieutenant Cassidy approached it from the front. They were challenged by a German sentry and the two Sergeants with their followers rushed at once to close quarters and found themselves engaged with six Germans, two of whom were killed, and one wounded, the survivors dashing headlong into a dugout.
Lieutenant Cassidy, pistol in hand, ran to the opening of the dugout and called on them to surrender. If any one of them had any fight left in him we would have had to mourn the loss of a brave young officer, but they surrendered at discretion, and our whole party, with no casualties, started back as fast as they could, carrying the wounded prisoner and dragging the others with them. It was an excellent job, done with neatness and dispatch. Valuable papers were found on the wounded man and other information was obtained at Division by questioning. The only thing to spoil it was that two of our men, Corporal Joseph Brown and Charles Knowlton got lost in the dark coming in, and have not yet reported.*

* These men became confused and wandered into the German lines where they were made prisoners. Information concerning their fate came to us through the Red Cross about two months later, and both rejoined the regiment after the Armistice.



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