March 20th, 2019

Continuing the Search at the United Kingdom’s National Archives

Last Wednesday, I ventured out of central London, where I’ve been studying this semester through the Boston University London Internship Program, to pay a visit to the United Kingdom’s National Archives in Kew. My goal was to see whether the archives have any documents or photographs of our two ambulance units, the 524 and the 525, or of Katherine Baker, Institute Class of 1892. Although both our ambulance drivers and Ms. Baker served with French army units, we remained hopeful that the British Army may have retained some artifacts from when these French units crossed path with British soldiers, since […]

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January 12th, 2019

A Remaining Mystery

The final stop on this trip was the archives at the Château de Vincennes, an old fort which houses the Service Historique de la Défense. I was very confident I would find what I was looking for here – I had reserved the relevant documents related to the 137th regiment ahead of time and being directed here by the officer in Fontenay-le-Comte confirmed (in my mind) that this would be a successful mission. Well, long story short, it was and it wasn’t. After arriving at the reading room, grabbing my reserved documents and setting up my station, I delved into […]

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January 9th, 2019

No Luck in Fontenay-le-Comte

As every historian knows, unfortunately not every lead turns up positive results. Such was the case with my visit to the Centre Militaire de Formation Professionnelle in Fontenay-le-Comte. I was set to visit the CMFP because it is listed as the “keeper of the regimental flag and traditions” of the 137th infantry regiment, with which Katharine served. I wrote a letter asking whether or not they had anything that would be of use to me, but having received no answer, I decided to go ask in person. After being turned away at the gate, I spent some time exploring the […]

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January 7th, 2019

Visiting autochir 7

The next stop on the path in Katharine’s footsteps was the Porte Rouge farm. Just behind this farm, which still exists today, was the base of “Auto-chir” 7 (“ambulance chirurgicale automobile” or mobile surgical ambulance) in which Katharine was involved from roughly August through November 1917. These auto-chirs were a sort of midway point between the front lines and the distant convalescence hospitals. Wounded men who could afford to wait long enough to be taken to safety but could not necessarily wait long enough for a true evacuation were brought here. Despite the deceivingly implied mobility, these hospitals were quite […]

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January 5th, 2019

Touring the Chemin des Dames

Joined by my knowledgable guide Madame Teyssier and chauffeured by her husband Louis, I spent the morning driving along the Chemin des Dames battlefield. Here, the 137th regiment of the French infantry, as well as many others, served. Katharine Baker was a corporal in this regiment so seeing this site was crucial to understanding her war experience. The battles along the Chemin des Dames were notoriously difficult and deadly because of the spot’s geographic features. The Chemin des Dames itself runs across the top of a hill. Anyone at the top of this point had an uninterrupted view of the […]

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January 3rd, 2019

First Stop: Toulons

Over the next week and a half or so, thanks to the  Leanne Freas Trout Travel Exploration Grant, generously provided by the French department, I will be visiting sites related to my quest to re-discover the story of Katharine Baker, class of 1892’s service as a nurse. The first stop on the trip is Toulon, a rather large port city in the south of France. Here, Frances Baker cared for her sister when she fell ill. In winter of 1918, Katharine Baker contracted pneumonia and chose to continue working rather than rest and heal. As a result, she became seriously […]

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May 26th, 2018

A Surprising Wealth of Information at the BDIC

The Bibliothèque de Documentation Internationale Contemporaine sits on the slightly secluded campus of Unitersité Paris Nanterre. It’s a bit difficult to find using public transportation, as the archive itself is nestled into the university’s library building, but the trip was certainly worth the effort. Julia Stevens (‘20) and I arrived at the archive not quite knowing what to expect. After receiving our researcher ID cards and receiving some help from the staff, we began searching through BDIC’s archives for information on Katharine and Frances Baker, Bucknell sisters who served as dedicated volunteer nurses, and Service Sanitaire unités 524 and 525, […]

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June 1st, 2017

Reflecting on Charles O’Brien

This Memorial Day, our group of eight visited the burial site of First Lieutenant Charles O’Brien, a Pennsylvania native and a Bucknellian in the Class of 1909, at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery. Lt. O’Brien was one of the countless men and women to put their country and its values above all else and serve in the First World War. Lt. O’Brien’s story in WWI was short but powerful, because of his dauntless courage and inspiration. These qualities are some of the reasons why I was compelled to learn more about him and his pre-war story/life. It was haunting to stare […]

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May 31st, 2017

Bucknell, the Liberal Arts, & WWI

Where did history happen, what history do we consider to be significant, who are ‘we’, and what can history do for us? As a geographer involved with this project, I have found myself considering these essential and interrelated questions, as we have all struggled to make sense of the massive scale of death associated with WWI, and to somehow find some meaning in it. So where did WWI history happen? Here I would argue it’s all about perspective, and for most people in the world, WWI history happened somewhere else -far beyond respective nation state borders. The result is that […]

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May 31st, 2017

In Flanders Fields Museum

On May 30th, our group took a drive into the Belgian city of Ypres where we visited the museum that now inhabits the reconstructed Cloth Hall. Personally, I had mixed feelings about the museum and its presentation of the conflict. The museum is made very dark due to subtle shades that cover the building’s windows. As you walk through the exhibits, solemn, dramatic music plays through speakers overhead.  Each display features haunting descriptions of the many recovered artifacts and their uses, stressing the deadliness of each item. The central piece, to me at least, is the film which shows actors […]

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