Thursday, June 19, 2014

Daniel Floyd Taylor --World War One Through His Eyes By Pat Kinsella Herdeg, Evelyn Taylor and CB Taylor Kinsella

Floyd Taylor

At the end of June, it will have been one hundred years since World War One started, in that June 28th is the date Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo. In April of 1917, America joined the fight. One year later, in May 1918, the U.S. passed the Selective Service Act, which allowed our government to raise an army to fight via conscription. By the summer of 1918, America was sending 10,000 fresh soldiers to France every day. One of those soldiers was Daniel Floyd Taylor, twin to Lloyd. 

The Selective Service Act divided men into four categories. Aunt CB explains: “Daddy was married and he was a telegrapher in railroad so was exempt.” Although exempt, Lloyd’s category as being in an enterprise essential to the war effort meant he could be called up if needed. As we know, the war was essentially over by the time Floyd made it to France, so there was never a need for expanded call ups.

Aunt CB continues with Floyd and Goldie’s story: “Floyd was married and Aunt Goldie was expecting. Thus when he (Floyd) went into the army Goldie came to live with Mom and Daddy (Lloyd and Ethel) at Oakfield and Rexford was born there. He was born Feb 26, 1919, Ruth was born Jan 9th 1918, and Arnon was born Dec 26, 1919 so they had a houseful!”

Floyd married Aunt Goldie on April 4th, 1918, and was inducted into the army on July 5th, 1918 in Batavia. He was in the 420th Telegraph Battalion, Signal Corps (or ‘420 Tel Bn Sig C’ as noted on his military papers).

Floyd Taylor

The United States Army is divided among several different specialties, the men from each specialty trained for a particular kind of work. Infantrymen are trained to fight on the ground, artillerymen are responsible for the big guns, armor refers to the men who fight in tanks, and the Air Service was the name for the group of soldiers who fought in the air during World War I. One of the oldest of these groups of soldiers was the members of the U.S. Army Signal Corps. Since the birth of our Nation, it was these men that were responsible for insuring that messages between all units got through. 

But, let’s let Floyd tell his story:

From Floyd’s Journal:
11-3-18—On the Eve of Departure for France (Floyd begins by remembering the start of his military service)

Enlisted for the U.S. Service as an auto mechanic on July 15th. Was sent to the Rochester Mechanic’s Institute. Was transferred as an electrician. Left Rochester September 15th going to Little Silver, N.J. to the camp known as Camp Vail Signal Corps Head Quarters. While there was transferred to cooks quarters. Was further transferred to Headquarters as officer’s cook.

Left Camp Vail on the 18th October for Camp Merritt. This was the first time that I had the soldier’s pack on my back and it was Jonah to carry. Helped to cook during the thirty-six hours there. Left there Saturday about two o’clock…there was five miles for us and with hills to climb. Never to be forgotten march. The poor boys who became exhausted dropping out and being picked up by ambulances. The last mile, carried the Adjutant’s pack. The steep descent to the river. What trying moments.

Sunday about eleven o’clock we went on board the Orduna of the Cunard Line, setting out on voyage on the 20th of October. Such sea sickness. Sick once. Had very little duty. Wonderful voyage with singing and sports on deck every day. Saw no submarines. While crossing ocean, fourteen transports accompanied us. Our convoy a battleship and cruiser. Thirty-six hours out, a convoy of about a dozen submarine chasers met us. Battleship and cruiser returned to N.Y. How we hated to see it go. Happily, we reached Liverpool on the 31st of October (Halloween).

We greeted port with loud Hurrahs. Quaint architecture of buildings being what we noticed first. Walked through streets to (train) station. People greeting us with loud exclamations, children asking for pennies.

Went on train. Reached Camp Codford on the morning of November 1st. Went into barracks. Boards for beds (Hard). This was a rest camp, and what a good time we had. Went for walk every day. England very picturesque. Everything green. Thatched roofs on buildings. New Zealanders and Australians soldiers here for rest after having been wounded. Walked to German prisoner’s camp.

Started about five o’clock for the train station. Five thousand boys leaving the camp and ten thousand more coming in. On reaching destination, Southhampton, we all were lined up shoulder to shoulder, front to front. Here we remained all day. Many troops came in during the day and lined up beside us, English included.

On one large boat they were loading horses and mules. They load out 15,000 every nine days. Splendid animals mostly shipped from America. Our eats for the day was Bully Beef and bread (Ed.--Bully beef or corned beef in tins was the main meal in the trenches also. Men were advised to pierce the tin before fully opening it. If the can hissed, the beef had ‘gone off’ and should not be eaten. Also, according to one website, the men were all given the same amount of rations, with enlisted men served before officers, but horses before any men at all.)

About 5:30 embarked on boat Narragansett for Havre, France. Were packed in like so many cattle. Unslung packs and slept that night on bare floors (stuffy and horrible). Our first real taste of troop life. Too high seas prevented us from going. I got up and made coffee, about 100 gallons. Boys were served hard tack, cheese (Ahh, hard tack—also known as ‘worm castles’ or ‘molar breakers’ by the men of WW 1-- has been around for a very long time as war and sailing rations.  It is a simple biscuit made out of flour and water. During the Civil War, hard tack left over from the Mexican War of 1848 was given to lucky Northern soldiers. The G. H. Bent Company in Milton, Massachusetts, an original purveyor of hardtack provisions to the Union Army, still bakes the hardtack cracker for Union re-enactors.)

 Boats only cross the Channel at night. About 4:30 we set off for France. About 11:00, there came a crash. All jumped out of their sleep on to their feet in an instant. We believe we had been struck. In this case we did striking as it turned out, we struck a small boat sending it to the bottom. It was reported two soldiers jumped overboard before they could be stopped. Things quieted down and we soon docked.  

We disembarked upon French soil about 7:00. It was raining and turned to rain all day long. We marched through Havre, where we were welcomed with shouts and once in a while an American flag. Walked about five miles mostly up hill. Everyone exhausted when Camp La Havre reached. What a sight greeted our eyes. Mud, and mud. Stone roads. Tents with board bottoms. Some of bottoms covered with water. Twelve men in a tent.

At noon, 1500 men were fed at field kitchens. All stood in line in the rain. Reported that we leave today for an American camp at Bordeaux.
Here ends Floyd’s journal. But, since we know he was part of the 420th Telegraph Battalion, Signal Corps, we can still follow his progess…

The Signal Corps Replacement Depot was established on September 10, 1918 in the area of the First Depot Division, St. Aignan (Noyers) France. The Depot functioned from September 10, 1918 until March 1, 1919 under the charge of Col Carl F. Hartmann. It was used as a reservoir for Signal Corp replacements for combat divisions.

The Depot moved to Cour Cheverny (southeast of Blois which is southwest of Paris) and was functional by October 7th, so Floyd would have come here. On a railroad connecting with the main line of The Paris and Orleans Railroad, this main line was used by the American Expeditionary Forces between the base ports and the front.

The area occupied was on a high plateau, in the heart of La Touraine, which is known as the ‘Heart of France’. The location abounded in picturesque scenery and historic chateaux. 

This replacement depot shuttled men out of the front and new recruits into their positions. The maximum strength of this Depot was reached December 12th 1918 with 292 officers and 4,780 enlisted men. Imagine Uncle Floyd trying to keep all of these men fed!  At various times, they had several Field Signal Battalions, Telegraph Battalions, Depot Battalions and even a meteorological detachment and pigeon detachment( Annual Report of the United States Signal Corps 1919).

Floyd arrived back in the United States on March 24th, 1919. He was honorably discharged April 4th, 1919.

Brothers Lloyd, Leon and Floyd

In an interesting side story of ‘what if’, Adin Baker and Floyd Taylor might have crossed paths in England, but for the Spanish Influenza. Blog readers remember Adin Baker’s World War One time—he came home early with the Spanish Flu (
Adin Baker was in England in October of 1918. Floyd arrived on Halloween. If Adin had not left early, would they have met at Camp Codford? With Lloyd already married to Adin’s sister, they would have remembered each other from the wedding. 

Daniel Floyd, Thank you for your Service!


Pat Herdeg said...

More on the pigeons of World War One: “During World War I, messages were sometimes transmitted by wire (telegraph of field phone), but two-way radio communications had not yet become available. Sometimes a unit was ordered to attack over a broad and often difficult terrain, making it impossible to string the wire necessary for communications. In these situations, a field commander often carried with him several carrier pigeons.

Pigeons served many purposes during the war, racing through the skies with airplanes, or even being fitted with cameras to take pictures of enemy positions. But one of the most important roles they served it was as messengers. An important message could be written on a piece of paper, then that paper neatly folded and secured in a small canister attached to a pigeon's leg. Once the pigeon was released, it would try to fly to its home back behind the lines, where the message would be read and transmitted to the proper military planners.”(

Dad’s older brother, Dick, raced pigeons. I never thought about military service by pigeons!

Sue Kinsella said...

When I read the part about the pigeon detachment, I wondered who got to be general of the pigeons!

Anonymous said...

First of all I must mention the lilacs that show on the first part of this blog! Pat’s favorite Flower! They bloomed at the same time she was in the hospital during her college years. Her HS friend knew this and had her mother arrange for her a lovely vase full and brought to her room! (And you know that lilacs are very difficult to arrange and transport!).
Now to Uncle Floyd—Always a funny story! It was lucky that my Mom (Ethel) and Aunt Goldie really got along well together. When the depression came along, 1929 or 1930, they once again joined both Lloyd and Floyd’s families. When the chips were down, the twins stuck together!

By Aunt CB

Jack K. said...

Looking at that single picture of Uncle Foyd in uniform, I think he looks just like Uncle

Julie (Lochner) Riber said...

It never occurred to me that there was a difference in battalions in WWI and WWII between Infantry and Artillery. I always imagined they did about the same thing. Not so! Interesting account, Pat, of Uncle Floyd.