February 1916- ‘American gifts and American givers’

February, 1916

Ambulance 1/2

Secteur 63

Perhaps you don’t believe it, but I write and write as if my life depended on it, and if the censor or the sea swallows my letters I really can’t help it. I’ve acknowledged everything up to date so far as I know, except the lamp and the handkerchief-case, to their respective donors, and I’ll try to slip a few lines in this unless the unforeseen happens- it usually does these days. After a frozen silence the cannon booms and booms, the munition trains are redoubled along our lines, all autos available have been ordered to the front, they’ve telegraphed for “lit d’urgence,” and it appears that the Boche are trying desperately to take Tahure. My cottons and compresses are all prepared, so if I’m inundated I’ll have material to work with…(Ten minutes later.) Excuse me for stopping, but a steam of “galons” has just passed through the salle to take cultures from our throats, beginning with the infirmiere. A quite unexpected, undesired and unexplained diversion, which obliged us to chant Ah in many keys. Probably there’s a case of diphtheria somewhere – happily shorn now of its terrors- or perhaps the profession got tired and wanted to do something. Certainly unless the victims of the early attacks are shipped straight into the interior, which is possible, with a view to reserving the Ambulanes de l’avant for the big shock later, we shall have all we can do in a few days. That is, if the Ambulance is still here. We never know from one hour to the next what we are going to do. All of which may be interesting enough, but it leaves me with an embarrassment as regards my cases. No less than six have been signales from Paris, and until we have an idea approximately definite (if such a thing be possible in war-time) I don’t want to bring them here. Those cases may contain material which I want to control personally; if I brought them here and we pulled up stakes, it would be a terrific nuisance and expense to transport them elsewhere; and I couldn’t make the Ambulance responsible by making a wholesale gift even if I wanted to, for the supplies are all inventoried and loaded on wagons (we are not automobilized) _ according to weight, and not one pound is supposed to be added or subtracted on the march. By the way, I think I didn’t tell you, but this is one of the original ambulances that made the retreat all the way from Belgium. It is thrillingly awful to hear B. tell about the highways crowded with starving, dying women and children, the days when, after walking 70 kil, he spent the entire night dressing the wounded, and the two whole months when they knew absolutely nothing of what was going on, or why those terrible forced marches, except through one stray journal that said “Les Francais reculent.” O, we don’t admire the French half enough!

Just now, as I told you, I have only six grand blesses: the rest on the wounded side are other troubles, and on the other side that odious speciality that has nothing to do in kind with the war, and nothing whatever with an infirmiere. But the poor things have to be cared for by somebody, and since this is the one surgical ward left, the others being now converted into medical –grip, bronchitis, rheumatism, etc – these, being semi-surgical, are given to me. There are not many nurses who wouldn’t raise serious objections, as the entire spirit of the thing is different, and I don’t understand anything about it. But having entered this business for better or for worse, and being an enlisted soldier, I simply do as I’m told without asking questions.

Later. I’ve just read this over and it looks as if I were unable to hold to my subject –American gifts and American givers. Please encourage both to the utmost, and don’t be discouraged because, pro tem, I’m indefinite. It is a magnificent work, and you’ll see later better than now how it tells. Do you suppose, later, that some more of those magnificent gloves could be forthcoming? – sizes seven and a half and eight. The syringes are wonderful, but the thing always needed, any time, anywhere, is thermometers. Those you sent are a little small, perhaps, since we don’t take temperatures by mouth, and it’s a shame three were broken.

But nothing American has been such a success as the marsh-mallows! (Peppermints and biscuits next.) I toast them one at a time on a fork, and you should see my nestlings open their mouths! The box isn’t empty yet. We’ll have another orgy this afternoon, when the dressings are finished, and that will console us for the weather. Great Guns, how it pours! A perfect equinox. This morning there were puddles all over and they’re busy stopping the roof. The salle however, is very cheerful, and now we have lots of plants – the palm, cineraria, a mimosa, and a cluster of yellow jonquils. I took a walk Sunday, my second since September, and found a plant in tight bud by a stream. I uprooted it with a little earth, and planted it in a glass jar. Now the buds are all out – a golden joy.

No copyright found- see below.

Volume: Vol. 98, Ser. 5, Vol. 32, Pt. 2

Subject: Theology; Methodist Church

Publisher: New York, N.Y. : Phillips & Hunt

Language: English

Call number: 31833017365757

Digitizing sponsor: Internet Archive

Book contributor: Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center

Collection: allen_county; americana

Notes: No copyright page found. This is a digital copy of a photocopied book.

Full catalog record: MARCXML

 

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February 6, 1916- Notes from the Orderlies

February 6, 1916

The enclosed notes have just been handed me both written by Karbiche, who, being the only one of the two who can write, did the honours for Grandpere. (Orderlies). You may not be able to read them – it is almost too much for me- but the fact is they were both terribly excited over the socks. I believe I told you both the poor fellows have their wives in the invaded district. Karbiche has, if it is still alive, a little child whom he has never seen. If they are difficult to manage sometimes, and call for all the tact I can muster, it is not surprising, and I am really much attached to them. Karbiche is not immaculate, and I am trying to change his point of view on this head.  I’ll admit it’s a bit difficult, seeing that the only waistcoat he has he took off a dead man at the beginning of the campaign. I am going out to buy him one to-day. One would like to do things like that all the time, but everything is cruelly expensive here, and the actual professional needs are so many that one doesn’t allow oneself too many indulgences on the side….

Yesterday I sent you “Paris Qui Chante” which contains a song and picture of Botrel, the Bard of Brittany, who has done such heroic work singing in hospitals and trenches. He is the author of the popular “Rosalie” –patriotic song. To-day as I was looking over the paper with a patient (imagine having time for that!). I came across this article. So our gallant Botrel is wounded! What a century ago it seems since I used to meet him in the cheery little streets of Pont with his velvet hat set jauntily atilt on his handsome head, whistling one of his airs, and smiling at all those watching young Pontaises whom he made swear, every year at Pardon time, never to abandon their costume! An utterly romantic figure, but without the least touch of poseur. How adorably he sang duets with his wife that day in a sunny glade of the Bois d’Armour; and the night of the Fete everybody in the village came down to hear their poet sing. He sang, and paced up and down the deck of an old barge stranded there on the flats and known as M. Botrel’s Atelier, where he often worked and talked when he came down from his cottage on the hill; and how one would catch his stalwart figure in silhouette against the warm, round moon, and now a stray firework from across the stream would light it up weirdly, and ever the splendid notes rose and fell as if some inspired corsair were encouraging his crew….

Ah me! What a long loop in space I’ve taken and how far from the present. But no Botrel or anybody else could be so impressive as my No. 18, who sang me a patriotic verse last night, beating time with his poor thin hand. It is he who was once the “skeleton’ and whom everybody gave up; but food and massage and constant vigilance have done their work, and he’s saved for his wife and children.

No copyright found- see below.

Volume: Vol. 98, Ser. 5, Vol. 32, Pt. 2

Subject: Theology; Methodist Church

Publisher: New York, N.Y. : Phillips & Hunt

Language: English

Call number: 31833017365757

Digitizing sponsor: Internet Archive

Book contributor: Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center

Collection: allen_county; americana

Notes: No copyright page found. This is a digital copy of a photocopied book.

Full catalog record: MARCXML

 

 

February 5, 1916- ” Ye gods and little fishes”

February 5, 1916

If by striking while the iron is hot I could forge you an adequate image of the surprise and wonder and delight that possessed me when I opened my long-awaited Christmas box an hour ago! The vaguemestre had it carried to my salle d’isolement (fortunately empty pro.tem.) and so I could gloat alone and undisturbed while my children were digesting their breakfast. What a fairy-box and how delightfully packed! – so well, in fact, that it made me think of poor Gracieuse in the forest when he tried to put back the contents of the magic coffer! The bell rang in the midst of my investigations: of course it would have been a heinous crime to leave any package lying about, and I had all the difficulty in the world to get them back where they came from. Such riches!…

How did you know the slippers I bought at the Galerus Lafayette were a constant thorn in my flesh? They are ugly and don’t keep me a bit warm. Yours are simply royal, and when I put my toes into them at night I shall forget the chilblains that are annoying enough from time to time, and imagine I have a fire and a carpet and all the other superfluities that you civilians indulge in. I didn’t have any gloves, or at least any that counted, for my white woollen ones are soiled and holey, and it is difficult to find any more. Now, instead of hiding my hands in the pockets of my cape, I shall wear them outside to show the gauntlets!

What a pity French deceptions about propriety forbid my accepting an invitation of the captain of the St John’s Ambulance (stationed here temporarily) to motor to Rheims! They would add such distinction to the expedition!   Apropos, what do you think of that? He’s a charming captain and his cars have brought us many wounded. I nursed one of his chauffeurs who had a sharp attack, and out of gratitude, I suppose, he asked me to come to tea in the chateau where they lodged. I explained to him that we weren’t in either of our countries, and that it would never do in the world. Moreover, I never had the time to go anywhere. Later, however- it was during those days when I had almost nothing to do except clean shelves and get ready “to receive” – he asked me to go motoring toward the front through the devastated district. That appealed powerfully – not surprising, is it, when you think I hadn’t had two hours off duty since the 24th of last September? I asked the Medecin-Chef if I might go. He was evidently very sorry to refuse me, but he explained that there had been so many “histories” connected with officers and nurses that it would never do for the honour of the army, etc, etc. Ye gods and little fishes – what it is not to be Anglo- Saxon!

But peppermints and biscuits and marshmallows are more interesting. The first have been gleefully sampled, and we shall have a marshmallow roast this evening for the children….

The handkerchief case is a superlative bit of daintiness. My blesses scented its vague delicious perfume when I was unpacking, and were very curious. So I gave each one a sniff and a glimpse, and they decided they had never seen anything so pretty, and that I ought to wear that perfume all the time. The electric lamp is the last thing in practical luxury. When one thinks of “the lady with the lamp” however, one is almost ashamed to have such an elegant indulgence.

You see this is an important day, and America has decidedly scored. Such wonderful things couldn’t come from anywhere else.

No copyright found- see below.

Volume: Vol. 98, Ser. 5, Vol. 32, Pt. 2

Subject: Theology; Methodist Church

Publisher: New York, N.Y. : Phillips & Hunt

Language: English

Call number: 31833017365757

Digitizing sponsor: Internet Archive

Book contributor: Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center

Collection: allen_county; americana

Notes: No copyright page found. This is a digital copy of a photocopied book

Full catalog record: MARCXML

 

February 1st, 1916- “When spring attack begins”

February 1st, 1916

I foresee miserable conditions when the spring attack begins. There will be inevitably at times a lack of everything. If you knew the moral support I derive from the thought of those boxes that are already on the road! As I told you, I simply couldn’t go on doing with nothing as before in a place and season when conditions generally warranted otherwise, and the most exasperating part of it is that the people here don’t seem to understand the lacks. “It is war,” and that covers all irregularities, faults of management, and all the rest of it. Not for the first time that misplaced philosophy has caused dire results. But this does not prevent me from always loving and appreciating more the French people – their spirit, their sweetness, their dignity, which, though not the Anglo-Saxon variety, is none the less determined.

And since we’re on the psychological side, and as you asked it, I have had one revelation since I have been here of the nobility of the priesthood. It was the aumonier we had at the time of the September attack and he stayed until November, when he applied to be sent to the trenches. At that time there were deaths repeatedly, night and day, but no surgeon or nurse in the Ambulance worked liked M. le Cure. He knew every blesse in the Ambulance; he went constantly from bed to bed with a kindly word for each, so that his presence in the salle, instead of bringing an ominous savour of extreme unction, was always a bright event for nurses and patients alike. His experience was so wide that he knew better than anyone when the end was approaching, and one never had to summon him – he was always there. Night after night he never went to bed, and when the drive was at its height for over a week he was never off duty, snatching a few minutes’ sleep on the floor beside the patient. I used to give him often sandwiches and little cakes for his night-watches, and he received them humbly and gratefully, reminding me of St Francis. He has probably been killed by an obus or overwork by this time, and has merited a “large place” in Paradise. Since his departure, with the exception of the silver-haired Cure of Vitry who saved the town at the moment of invasion, and who occasionally pays a fleeting patriarchal visit, a priest rarely darkens our door.

No copyright found- see below.

Volume: Vol. 98, Ser. 5, Vol. 32, Pt. 2

Subject: Theology; Methodist Church

Publisher: New York, N.Y. : Phillips & Hunt

Language: English

Call number: 31833017365757

Digitizing sponsor: Internet Archive

Book contributor: Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center

Collection: allen_county; americana

Notes: No copyright page found. This is a digital copy of a photocopied book.

Full catalog record: MARCXML

‘A leg – No.19’ – December 1915, “Letters from an American girl at the French Battle Front”

The Methodist Review – July 1916

Letters from an American girl at the French Battle Front

Dec 8th, 1915

Among the countless incidents I might tell you there is one I think you will find especially interesting. It is a leg – No.19, the oldest inhabitant. He was in the salle before I arrived, and the only one of the thirty three whom I had never dressed. It was not because he was more serious, because I had much graver cases, but the doctors in the Salle d’Operation were interested in his particular fracture – both tibia and peroneal – and he kept on going day by day. (Poor fellow, how many changes of comrades he has had!). Occasionally, when I had time, I went with him for his pansement – of course I always go for operations – but I never could see that he made any improvement, and one day they put him in plaster. From that day the calf began to swell until you would have thought he had elephantiasis, and a little over a week ago the surgeon told him he would have to amputate the following morning. I shall never forget the look in the poor fellow’s face – to suffer so long and for nothing!   Besides he is thirty-six, and at that age one’s nerve is less buoyant. I asked the surgeon if nothing could be done. He replied that it was retention of pus, and that would produce a general infection. Quite obviously it was a fearful leg, but the wound itself was bright red and perfectly healthy and foot and thigh absolutely normal. Remembering my face last winter, it seemed more like a nest of abscesses, which do often come when fragments of bone have not been removed.

Before I realized it I was asking for twenty-four hours’ grace to try a special treatment. It was granted. The treatment was simple enough. Hot lavages of eau iodee and huge hot envelopments of eau borignee every three hours. I used litres of eau borignee, to the despair of the pharmacien, and I know everyone thought I was “touched”, for I already had so much more than I could do and this was no mean supplement. At the end of the twenty-four hours when the surgeon made his rounds – “In fact, that is curious; that is no worse”, and he gave me another twenty-four hours more. By that time those dear little abscesses had begun to run. “That is doing well, Mlle. Continue.” The next- “Continue,” and the next – “My old man” – to the poor fellow – you are in luck. Mlle. has succeeded; you will keep your leg.”

I hardly dared believe it, but it has been confirmed by the Medecin-Chef, so it seems sure. Now another difficulty arises. You see it’s my leg! How to arrange we don’t quite know. We discuss the matter every day!

Of course, now I see why I had an abscess last winter, and that grievance against Fate in cancelled. But oh, imagine the blind leading the blind like that! Do you remember Tissot’s picture? It is awful enough, but I could change the setting and make it worse. Speaking of pictures, I believe I never thanked you for ‘Physics” (Puvis de Chavannes). It rejoices me daily. It symbolizes my situation exactly; hooded, blinded, clinging to the wire of Destiny, impelled by a cosmic force, and overhead the glistening hope of France Victorieuse of 1916.

You asked about young Americans and the rescue of the wounded. I cannot imagine anything grander or more needed, and if I were in a Formation Auxiliaire I should say, “Come,” and I should find places for them, too. But, alas! I’m not. I’m only a poor soldier. (“In military life one must never try to understand” – old adage.) It is easier for a camel to go through the needle’s eye than for a foreigner to get into this sacred circus-ring of a French military system. How I ever managed to squeeze in under the flap of a tent is more than I know. Probably because I didn’t try very hard, but only seized my chance when it came. However, say to any aspirant, with my salute, that if he does not aspire to the blue, gray and crimson, there are plenty of lambs to snatch from the slaughter, and plenty of independent formations ready to receive him.

January 21st, 1916

My No 19 has long since left with his leg for a sunnier clime.

—————————————————————————————————— 

 THE METHODIST REVIEW

(BIMONTHLY)

VOLUME XCVIII. — FIFTH SERIES, VOLUME XXXII

WILLIAM V. KELLEY, L.H.D., Editor

THE METHODIST BOOK CONCERN

New York: 150 Fifth Avenue Cincinnati: 420 Plum Street, Boston Pittsburgh Detroit Chicago Kansas City San Francisco

 No copyright found- see below.

Volume: Vol. 98, Ser. 5, Vol. 32, Pt. 2

Subject: Theology; Methodist Church

Publisher: New York, N.Y. : Phillips & Hunt

Language: English

Call number: 31833017365757

Digitizing sponsor: Internet Archive

Book contributor: Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center

Collection: allen_county; americana

Notes: No copyright page found. This is a digital copy of a photocopied book.

Full catalog record: MARCXML

New letters discovered

Mademoiselle Miss Continued- update 18th December 2014

Readers who followed all the postings on ‘Mademoiselle Miss Continued” will have noted that my final entry on 3 March 2014 read:

“…..no further letters were published by Norman…..”

I am delighted to report that I was wrong. With the help of a member of Norman’s family several new letters have been found which happily will be added below.

These letters mostly represent the later period of Norman’s service during 1918 and may have been written to Rev. W. Kelley, an old family friend who was editor of ‘The Methodist Review’, which is were the majority of these letters were published. Rev Kelley wrote one of the reviews for ‘Mademoiselle Miss’ which appeared on the front sleeve of the book in 1916. Like the letters already published these new additions convey the dedication, hard work and spirit of a remarkable women.

For ease of reading I will add the new letters in date order as new entries.

It is planned to publish a book of all the letters contained within ‘Mademoiselle Miss Continued’ during 2015.

Atlanta’s Heroine

Although no further letters were published from Norman there is one final newspaper article written early in 1919 which acknowledged with pride the contribution a local ‘Atlanta’ girl had made to American war efforts in France during WW1.

 

ATLANTA’S HEROINE

 Miss Norman Derr

Atlanta’s heroine, who has won the Croix de Guerre for serving as a nurse under fire.

When the heroes of the war come home and the women heroines come too, there will be an Atlanta woman who will wear upon the white folds of a Red Cross nurse’s uniform, the insignia of the “Croix de Guerre” the honour France confers upon men or women who perform deeds of valor under fire.

Miss Norman Derr is the Atlanta woman who wears the Croix de Guerre.  She is three times recommended for the honor, having three times done heroic work in saving her patients and in removing the wounded under fire.

She is a tall thin young woman who holds her head high, and carries herself with a spring in her step which expresses the courage of her spirit.  She was an artist by profession and was in Europe studying art when war was declared in 1914.  She at once went from the studio to the hospital where she took the necessary training which qualified her for nursing service in the French military hospitals.  She secured an appointment to one of the first front-line hospitals and her experience began at once.

After two years hard work she returned to Atlanta for a necessary rest, then carrying the honour of a commission as a lieutenant in the French army, this honor, as well as a protection to her when her work carried her from one hospital to another, or to emergency centers.

She returned to France before her vocation was over, and at once went into hospitals which carried her to the section where air raids were daily occurrences over military hospitals.  Few women have had more frequent experiences which required more courage, bravery and hard work.

The accomplishment of Miss Derr became an achievement when she was recognized by the war department of France and decorated with the Croix de Guerre.

During the first part of the war Miss Derr’s letters written to a relative at home were published in book form under the nom de plume of ‘Mlle. Miss” a name given her by the French soldiers.  These books have been sold for the benefit of the American Red Cross.

February 9, 1919

After the war ends

Although no more of Normans’ letters appear to have been printed in American newspapers after November 1918 there were more features written about her in the press.

The brief notice below demonstrates that although the war had ended Norman had not given up her task of helping French citizens and was still involved in attempting to alleviate suffering caused by the war.

For French Refugees

Atlantans who wish to contribute to the gift money to be sent to Miss Norman Derr (Mlle. Miss), Atlanta Red Cross nurse in France, to provide some Christmas cheer for the refugees in the section in which Miss Derr is engaged, are reminded that the money must be cable to Miss Derr by December 18.  Only money can be sent and it may be addressed to Mrs. C. B Wilmer, 700 Piedmont Avenue.

Atlanta Constitution, December 15 1918; 

Not only was Norman awarded the Croix de Guerre in 1918 but in 1919 she was also decorated with the Medal of Gratitude from the People of France.  The citation was published in April 1919 in the ‘Official Journal of the French Republic’ and is shown below.

2 April 1919

Journel Officiel de la Republique Francais

2nd class argent

Miss Derr (Norman) de nationalite americaine, infirmier benevole, excellente infirmier d’un devonement aupres de ses malades au-dessus de tout eloge.  A rendu les plus precieux services depuis le debut de la guerre dans nombre de formations sanitaires dont quelques-unes exposees au bombardment.

La medaille de la reconnaissance Francais

Per decret du President de la Republique

 A translation of the above text:
Miss Derr, an American National, an excellent voluntary nurse who displayed a devotion to the injured deserving of the highest praise. She rendered the most valuable service from the commencement of the war in numerous medical facilities of which many were often exposed to bombardment.
A Medal of Gratitude from the People of France.
By decree of the President of the Republique

Last days of War

Below is the final letter written by Norman in September 1918 which was eventually published just after the Armistice of November 11, 1918.

Norman Derr, of Atlanta, Writes Thrilling Letter of Last Days of War

Miss Norman Derr, of Atlanta, who was among the first American women who volunteered her services for France, who has been decorated with the Croix de Guerre for bravery under fire, who has the rank of lieutenant in the French army and who is still in service as a nurse in a French hospital, has written a number of letters relative to her experiences.

During the great German drive the French hospital unit with which Miss Derr is serving, was stationed near the front.  It was compelled to make a hurried retreat, and in a recent letter she tells of her experiences during that trying time.

“Ambulance 12/1 – September 9,1918

Another stage in this memorable Odyssey is accomplished, and we have come to anchor in the mutilated park of a ruined chateau beside the Marne, filled with all the shocking and pathetic debris of battle, yet still lovely, for the roses and dahlias still blow bravely in the ruined parterres.  The first sight that arrests one on arriving under the shattered thirteenth century towers is the grave of a Boche, with his camouflaged and blood stained helmet propped against a crude unpainted cross, and near is a torn rose bush with one perfect snowy bloom.

“As I look out through my broken window into the lopped and lovely park, where autumn winds shriek and strain the limp, dead limbs, I think of that other chateau which I reached in the time of roses a little over a year ago, and all the far-off radiance of the summer when our hearts were so full of the hope of going forward.

 Going Forward

“Now, we really are going forward, but across what a wreck of vain illusions. With kaleidoscopic vividness all the scenes of this strange year flash before me.  I see the bombardment of that lovely chateau in the sunset, and the wounded, roughly wrenched out of their fracture beds, being hurried away over a hill at Rheims.  Finally, that lurid midnight of the 27th of last May, when suddenly without other warning than explosions increasingly near, the hospital was flooded with the wounded, shreds of flesh and blood, such as I have never seen; and at the same time came and was executed the distressing order to evacuate them all, regardless of their condition, and the personnel with them. I pleaded with the chief medical officer, as I have never pleaded before, to leave the badly wounded and me with them, but he was peremptory, so there was nothing for me to do but to climb into the last auto with the few belongings I had had time to get together, and a heart as heavy as though I was responsible for the whole retreat and could have prevented it by remaining.

“O’h! the hideousness of that retreat.  It seemed as if the very dawn shrieked “shame” at us through the tongues of the “obus” shrilling overhead. Oh, that unutterable journey to Epernay, delayed by the advance of fresh troops rushing to the combat!  O’h, that still more unutterable week in that vast shambles on the edge of the town, where hundreds died on the ground outside the ‘baraques’ utterly unable to cope with the overwhelming inrush of suffering humanity.  Hideous, yes, unspeakably so; yet, do you know, in looking back I don’t see so vividly the anguish of those lonely dying nor the ghastly fosse in the court where over 100 unidentified bodies were put, as I do the triumphant spirit of those Englishmen who had been brought there to die, and knew it, and made no sign.  I never felt quite so useful in my life, for I did everything from carrying stretchers to taking down name and home address.  A pretty unsatisfactory job when one had, perhaps, to stop one’s writing to stop a haemorrhage , or even perform a rite sadder still, but when one thought of the families in England it was well worth while….

 On the Marne

“Here (Dormans on the Marne) it is literally like camping out on the battlefield. The little prosperous town that used to perch so coquettishly beside its winding river, is nothing but a pile of ruins, with ways dug through to  permit the passage of troops.  And here in the Chateau park, ploughed up with shell holes, ‘obus’ exploded and unexplored, still cling in the trees and among their roots the melted motors, and nearby the casques of their carbonized occupants as they fell.  Trenches for the living and trenches for the dead are everywhere.  Traces of the conflict are fresh as if it had happened but  yesterday, and as one climbs the hill to the once lovely birch wood that crowns it, the fight seems to have grown ever fiercer.  I am no ghoulish collector of gruesome souvenirs, and wouldn’t think of sending a cartridge shell in a letter, even if I could, but I think the enclosed print of general Foch, found in a trench from which the enemy had been driven, will have a special meaning for you. It has weathered, intact, the battle and the storm, and found thus in an enemy trench has all the force of an oration on “Hope Among the Ruins”.

“In fact, everything about here breathes the same note, even to the little groups of civilians looking for cherished fragments on the site of their destroyed houses, and the gay fanfares of the regiments in their cantonments. So be of good courage, we will all be home soon.”

The Atlanta Constitution: November 17, 1918 with permission of Proquest Historical Newspapers Atlanta Constitution (1868 -1945)

 

Croix de Guerre For Atlanta Girl

No more letters were published from Norman until late 1918.  However the next newspaper articles in September 1918 about Norman proudly declared her being awarded the Croix de Guerre for her work under fire.

Norman’s family are able to confirm she was actually nominated 7 times for the Croix de Guerre and was awarded the medal around July/August 1918 although there is no exact date given on the citation. It is believed her bravery was rewarded after the second battle of the Marne which took place near Reims July 1918 although her hospital at Bouleuse was evacuated  and destroyed in June 1918 due to a large German offensive.

 

Croix de Guerre For Atlanta Girl For Work Under Fire

Miss Norman Derr Decorated by French Government for Bravery While Tending Wounded

Miss Norman Derr, of Atlanta, has been decorated by the French government with the Croix de Guerre for “bravery displayed under fire while caring for the wounded”, is the message which has come from her father, Dr E Z Derr, of East Lake, Decatur, GA.  She is the sister of Dr John S Derr, now in France serving with the Emory Unit.

Miss Derr was in Europe studying art when the war began in 1914.  She left the studios for a nurse training school, and as soon as she qualified she was assigned to duty in a French military hospital.  From the beginning she displayed efficiency and bravery, and when home on furlough two years ago she had been given the rank of lieutenant in the French army.

She has had a book published under the caption, “Mlle Miss”, which has been sold, the book a compilation of her letters written to relatives in Boston and published to be sold in relief in the French hospitals.

While in Atlanta Miss Derr delivered a series of talks on the work to be done in the war hospitals, and she was the inspiration of the initiative work then done by Atlanta women in war relief.

Occasional messages have been received from her, but the last letters indicated constant care and duties in a hospital very near the front line trenches, where she had many thrilling experiences.

The new decoration of this Georgia girl will be a source of great inspiration to those who are contemplating enrolment in the United States nurses’ reserve.

The Atlanta Constitution: 28 September 1918 with permission of ProQuest Historical Newspapers Atlanta Constitution (1868 -1945) 

Below is a English translation of the original citation signed by General Petain which Norman’s family have been kind enough to share.

Cite de l’ordre de regiment-  (after April 1917)

After approval by General Commandent in Chief of the expeditionary American forces in France , the General Commandent and Chief of the French army of North and of North East cite to the Order of Regiment

Miss Norman Derr

Infirmary Voluntary American

 “Of a courage beyond expectation particularly with disregard of her own danger and above all her care of the wounded during a violent bombing attack of the hospital centre by plane. Throughout the Medical Unit since the very beginning of the War she has earned the admiration and respect of all the medical core and the wounded”.

Grand Operation General

Petain.