Saturday, 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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Wednesday, 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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Monday, 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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Saturday, 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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Thursday, 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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Places I've Been

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