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Veterinary Hospital No 11 Headquarters at Gièvres France during WW1

Staff of Veterinary Hospital No. 11. Left to right, first row: Lt. W. R. Leighty; Lt. M. E. J. Evans; Capt. E. Ferron; Lt. H. A. McCormick; Major John A. Summerville; Capt. C. M. Cline; Lt. D. Davidson; Lt. P. L. Ellis; Lt. R. W. Cates.

Rear row: Lt. P. H. Burnett; Lt. D. M. Greene; Lt. J. M. Lloyd; Lt. J. L. Moseley; Lt. J. E. Shuler; Lt. F. Low; Chaplain Hayes Farish; Lt. J. M. Shaw. Gievres, Indre et Loire, France, January 17, 1919.


A.E.F., A.P.O 713

In writing the History of the 11th Veterinary Hospital we are using a few dates as possible, merely giving the beginning, the progress and conclusion briefly with dates sufficient to leave a record that will be intelligible to those into whose hands it may perchance fall in the future. Many minor details that would be of local interest to this particular Hospital are left out, and we are confining ourselves to the larger and more important facts and experiences that inevitably come to an organization of this kind. When we think of the important part played by the Veterinary Hospitals and Remounts in the A.E.F. we can hardly help digressing and giving treatise on the importance of institutions of this kind rather than a record of the actual events which differentiate between history and opinion. To give a detailed history would require more space than could be given to any one unit of any one branch of the A.E.F. service, hence we shall include only the data that will be of material interest and value in compiling of the complete history of the Veterinary Hospitals of the A.E.F..

The 11th Veterinary Hospital’s beatitude, or heavenly happiness, has been “work without ceasing” since the day of its organization. Although her experiences, many of them, have been pleasant and agreeable, yet the most pleasant has been interspersed with hardships and trials, that at times insurmountable. At one time the strength of Command comprised only 123 men and 3 Officers who had to do the work of 300 men and 6 Officers. This crisis came just at the time the first horses were being sent from the front for treatment. The stables, barracks, etc., were not yet completed, in fact the greater part of the Hospital site was yet un-cleared. The entire Command was doing fatigue work, which consisted of digging pipelines, cutting trees. Grubbing stumps and scotch broom, building stables, fences, etc. Practically the entire work of building and getting the Hospital in shape to receive animals was done by the Veterinary Hospital men.

The first shipment of horses arrived the 20th of August, 1918, which consisted of 152 unclassified animals with every imaginable ailment from having a shoulder severed by shrapnel to starvation and mange. From that time to the present date (January 31, 1919) a steady stream of sick horses have been admitted to the 11th Hospital. At one time the Hospital had under treatment 3500 animals. Weather conditions have been very much against the rapid healing of wounds and the curing of Influenza cases. The sandy soil with exceedingly rainy weather rendered it well nigh impossible to take care of the sick animals in the small space allotted for corrals, etc. Much difficulty was experienced at first with sand colic owing to the fact that the animals had to eat off the ground. But as time went on, after a period of 83 days, three troops of the 6th Cavalry, two companies of the Engineer Service Battalion, and the 15th Veterinary Hospital came to our assistance. The Cavalry exercised the animals; the Engineer companies relieved us of most of the fatigue duty and the 15th Veterinary Hospital assisted in the otherwise caring for the sick animals. At the present time (January 31, 1919) the Hospital is in splendid shape with a most excellent system worked out for each department, under the supervision of a Commissioned or non-commissioned Officer. This is largely due to the untiring efforts of Major Summerville who is an excellent Veterinarian and does not only know the working principles of a Veterinary Hospital, but has almost unlimited energy and has expended it wisely and freely in his daily work as Commanding Officer of the Unit since the day of its organization July 5th 1918 at Camp Lee Virginia. He is honored and respected by his men.

It is this continued progress that constitutes the charm of the 11th Veterinary Hospital’s history; because one sees in it the unusual or the exception to the rule. It is not that the 11th Veterinary Hospital has led all similar organizations in the A.E.F., but that she has often been found in the advanced guard. If hard work, persistent effort and clean character count for much, she will stand in the front ranks on real merit. For those principles of character which go to make up real manhood it is yet to be seen in three hundred men of the A.E.F. who will bear a closer inspection than those cowboys and horsemen who hail from more than fifteen different states in the west and middle west. For instance the official U.S., A.E.F. Medical record shows a negative Venereal report from the date of the organization to the present date (July 5, 1918 – January 31, 1919) while other organizations under the same medical Officers show 11.44 men per thousand.

It is an established fact that the 11th Veterinary Hospital has made a most marvelous record and therefore reflects favorably upon the men who compose it, the Commanding Officer and his staff who manage it and Chief Veterinarian, Colonel Merchant of Tours, under whose guidance it is operated.

The Compiler

Veterinary Hospital No 11 is located about 60 kilometers northwest of the geographic centre of France, 300 feet above sea level, in an east suburb of the small town of Gievres, Department of Loir-et-Cher, on the main highway running east and west between Tours and Bourges. This highway forms the northern boundary of the Hospital. The main line of the (P & O) Paris and Orleans Railway from Vierzon to Tours passes about one half mile distant from and parallel with this highway. A small farm is situated between the southern boundary of the Hospital site and the Canal du Berry that runs practically parallel with the river Cher, which is a southern tributary of the Loire.

Historically it is of interest to note that this immediate site was occupied several hundred years before the birth of Christ by the ancient Celts or Gauls who migrated, it is supposed, from central Asia and advanced westward to the very shores of the Atlantic. The date of this migration is not known, but it was long before that of the Germanic Tribes who subsequently settled between the Vistula and the Rhine. From 1600 B.C. to 50B.C. the Gauls occupied, fought and scrambled for supremacy in the territory bounded by the Atlantic ocean and the Mediterranean sea, the Pyrenees and Alps mountains, and the river Rhine. Julius Ceasar spent 8 years of hard fighting (using ten legions) before subduing the barbarians. This victory put Gaul under the rule of the Roman Empire. Twenty- three years later (28 B.C.) Augustus Ceasar began to Romanize Gaul; established numerous Roman Colonies in what is now modern France; gave Latin names to the Gaulic cities and according to tradition furnished by aristocratic residents of Gievres, he established a Roman City where Chabris and Gievres now stand of 20,000 population and named it “Cabris”, and had their city cemetery on the site now occupied by the 11th Veterinary Hospital. That this site has in some previous period been a Roman burying ground is evidenced by numerous Roman relics, pieces of pottery, coins, etc., having been unearthed here since and prior to the establishment of the Hospital. Gievres and Chabris are located in the Chateau district of France and many of the oldest and most aristocratic families still live there.

The site of the 11th Veterinary Hospital comprises about fifty acres, in the shape of a rectangle, the long side of which is about three times that of the short side, parallel with and adjacent to the south side of the public highway running east and west from Tours to Bourges. There are no buildings on the north side of the road except two “Y” huts and a few tents occupied by some Officers and a Cavalry troop. A comparatively young, thick, stubby growth of old field pine extends along the north side of the public highway, which furnishes a wind brake for barracks, corrals and stables. Remount Depot No 22 is located about one half mile east of the Hospital on the same road. On both sides of the highway is heavy growth of slender old pine, fifty or sixty feet tall, interspersed on the left side by an undergrowth of oak, and on the other side with scotch broom. This together with telegraph lines on both sides of the straight, spacious, macadam highway, make a most picturesque perspective. All the Hospital buildings are located on the southern slope of an inclined alluvial plane, the apex of which is determined by the public road at its northernmost edge. There is a considerable slope southward from the highway to the canal, thereby affording excellent drainage for stable, corrals and barracks. The soil is alluvium, composed principally of a fine loose sand which makes an unstable footing both summer and winter. In dry weather the sand gets exceedingly loose on the top, to a depth of three or four inches, this makes it disagreeable and hard to travel over and in winter the fine sand makes kind of slush, owing to the abundance of rainfall, and therefore necessitates a deal of dragging, draining, plowing, rolling and other methods of policing to keep the corrals, stables, yards and avenues in respectable shape. Looking southward down the main avenue of the Hospital proper, the view is very picturesque. The twenty stables first built are arranges in the form of a Maltese cross while the 20 stables that were built last are to the right of the first ones and are arranged inwards that somewhat correspond to and resemble city blocks. They are all painted steam gray. In the distant one can behold a most beautiful wooded alluvial plane, covered with green grass, the Canal du Berry and the river Cher running through it. The graceful curves of the canal are distinctly outlined by a species of poplar, tall and slender, planted equidistant apart on either side of the canal by some previous generation. These trees are burdened with the sacred mistletoe which was considered by the Druids or nature worshipers, an emblem of immortality and as having great medicinal value. The local inhabitants even now consider it most sacred and use it for decorating on the first of each New Year.

The eastern part of the Hospital is occupied by the barracks, mess halls, bath house, Officers’ quarters, barber shop and Infirmary. Next in order are the ware-houses, dipping vat, gas chamber, water tank and two corrals. In the centre are Headquarters buildings, dispensary, supply room, four dressing stations, operating room, blacksmith shop and forty stables accommodating fifty animals each. The west end is equally divided into three corrals with 290 feet mangers and large watering troughs in each.

Veterinary Hospital No 11 was organized as per War Department Table of Organization, item Q 432, July 5th 1918 at Camp Lee, Virginia, with 300 enlisted men and four Commissioned Officers, all second Lieutenants and graduate, experienced Veterinarians as follows:
John A. Summerville
Hugh A. McCormick
Frederick Low
Elmer B. Campbell

John A. Summerville was in Command of the Unit. Immediately after organizing, the Unit moved from barracks to field tents where it remained for twenty days drilling strenuously and taking long hikes preparatory to embarkation. On July 9th, 2nd Lieutenant Summerville was promoted to 1st Lieutenant, and by July 25th some other changes had taken place in the staff. Second Lieutenant William R. Leighty and Robert V. Cates, and 1st Lieutenant John M. Shaw and James V. Miles, a Medical detachment of eleven men and one Doctor had been added to the organization. These and all the original Officers were retained for over-seas duty except 2nd Lieutenant Campbell and 1st Lieutenant Miles. Lieutenant Campbell was transferred and Lieutenant Miles left in the Hospital. On the evening of the 25th of July the entire Command hiked across the country about nine miles to City Point, Virginia and boarded two small vessels on the James river, the Pocahontas and Smithfield, and landed at New Port News Virginia just about sunrise on the morning of the 26th. About 12 o’clock p.m. the full command boarded the Susquehanna and embarked for Brest, France. The entire trip was uneventful. The smooth sea and pleasant weather added much to the pleasure of the voyage. In the afternoon August 6th, 1918 about 2 o’clock, land was visible on the distant horizon.

In a short while the light houses making the entrance of the English Channel were in view and about 6 o’clock the Susquehanna anchored in the harbor of Brest and on the morning of August 7th the 11th Veterinary Hospital Unit set foot for the first time on French soil with its full strength of Command in good health, happy and in the best of spirits. In less time than two hours the Unit had reached the large rest camp located in the suburbs of Brest just beyond the old historical Pontananzen Barracks where four days were spent in tents surrounded with mud and water. This time was taken up digging drainage ditches and general policing. On August 10th the greatest change took place since the date of the Organization when the Unit was split in half, 153 men, 1st Lieutenant Summerville. 2nd Lieutenant. McCormick and Low, with the original Medical detachment, were ordered to Gievres, France, the original destination planned for the whole Command. 1st Lieut. Shaw commanding the former and 1st Lieutenant Summerville the latter. On the morning of Aug. 11th the two parts of the original Unit marched to the Brest railway station and occupied different sections of the train as far as Tours. Then what was to be the nucleus of the 11th Veterinary Hospital proceeded over the (P & O ) Paris and Orleans railway to Gievres, while the other part of the Unit continued their journey to Sougy where they spent only seven days and was then ordered to La Courtine to take charge of 600 emaciated animals that were being cared for temporarily by an Artillery troop. The Gievres half of the Unit arrived at their destination about 6 o’clock p.m. on August 12th and marched down the public highway to the site now occupied by Remount Squadron No 22. It is from this date that the real history of the 11th Veterinary Hospital began.

At this time there were no barracks or stables erected either at the remount or the site now occupied bt the 11th Veterinary Hospital. The entire Command was immediately detailed to clear sites and put up barracks, stables, fences, etc., on the Remount site. The Veterinary men nailed on the first pieces of corrugated iron on the first S tables built at the Remount Depot. Two barracks and an Officers’ quarters were built by the Hospital force during the first few days. Until this was done all the Command occupied pup tents and large field tents pitched in a freshly cleared old field. On August 16th Lieutenant Low with 30 men left for Prez-sous-Lafauche, Depot Haute Marne, where they remained until September 25th. During this time the remainder of the Command, 123 men and three Officers, were left to do the work allotted to 305 men and seven Officers. The task of getting the Hospital ready to receive horses by August 20th was really a big one, for as yet no stables, or corrals were completed; the pipe lines were not even dug, the entire site was practically covered with bushes and scotch broom, but in four days time, August 20th, the Hospital was in shape to receive its first lot of horses which consisted of 152 unclassified animals. Although this emergency was met successfully there was yet a greater one to be mastered, for by August 31st there would be for treatment 1035 animals, which was 35 animals more than the Hospital was designed for to care for when completed. These were really the trying days of the Hospital’s existence for both Officers and the enlisted men, but the men could depend upon to meet the emergency for they were experienced horsemen and cowboys of the pioneer families of the West, who had not only learned to master and care for horses but were familiar with the subsequent hardships. They therefore mastered the task with apparent ease, each man doing more than two men’s work. On August 20th, 2nd Lieutenant M.E. J. Evans was added to the Command. And on the 26th of August Lieutenant Summerville received intelligence of the fact that on the 26th of July the very day on which we embarked, he had been promoted to Captain. Then on September 4th following, 2nd Lieutenant C.M. Cline reported for duty. Following these changes, on Sept. 23rd, the Veterinary Hospital began acting independently of the Remount Depot. Up until this time the Veterinary personnel had been carried on the Remount reports. Four days after the Hospital began acting independently of the Remount Lieutenant Cline was promoted to Captain and has been an efficient factor in the Hospital personnel as having charge of all the minor details from mess Officer to reviewing the entire technique of the workings of the Hospital. He has been second in rank from the date of his promotion to the present (January 31, 1919). By this time Lieutenant Low had returned from Prez-sous-Lafauche with his 30 men, and on Oct. 1st the Hospital had a reunion when Lieutenant Shaw returned from La Courtine with all of his 152 men except Private Arthur D. Peterson who died of Pneumonia August 22nd. (This was the first death in the Unit since its organization. The second and last one was on Oct. 11th when Cook Roy Pollard died at Camp Hospital No 43 Gievres with Influenza and pneumonia.)

At this time the Hospital had under treatment 1500 animals, and immediately an order to double the original capacity of 1000 animals was received so the task of building 20 more stables, exactly like those first built (108’ x 24’) covered with corrugated iron) confronted the Unit. This was the third and last crisis in the History of the Hospital and lasted the entire month of October. Every man was again called upon to do his best, for with the Hospital doubled and only the original Command to do the work, it meant again one man would have to be called upon to do two men’s work. Men and Officers alike were proud of the already established record of mastering difficulties that seemed insurmountable in the two previous crisis, so every man fell in line and “delivered the goods”. Each man however was looking forward to the dawn of a better day which began on the 3rd of November when Veterinary Hospital No 14 with a Command of 309 men reported for duty, but on Nov. 10th, pursuant to the orders they left for Lux, Cote D’Or. Meanwhile on November 7th three troops of the 6th Cavalry, “A”, “B” and “D” with a total Command of 247 men reported for duty. Then on November 13th 52 men from First Depot Veterinary Replacement Unit No 3, St. Aignan, -Noyers, were assigned permanently to the Hospital. Simultaneously with the arrival of this detachment Captain Summerville was promoted to Major. Twelve days later on November 25th Veterinary Hospital No 15, pursuant to orders, with a Command of 308 men, five Officers and a Medical detachment reported for permanent duty with the 11th Hospital. From the date of the arrival of the 15th Veterinary Hospital the work has been done with a degree of satisfaction and ease. The high tension previously experienced for lack of men was thus relieved, notwithstanding the fact that the Hospital cared for more than its normal capacity all the while, and on December 15th had on hand 3211 animals, which was 1211 more than it was supposed to take care of.

On October 8th Lieutenant Low with 50 men evacuated the first lot of 400 animals to Veterinary Hospital No 9 at St. Nazaire, for the next four months there was an Officer and from 50 to 75 men on the road with horses continuously. About the 17th of December the 532nd Engineer Services Battalion (colored) with 243 enlisted men and four officers reported for duty. This relieved the Hospital men of considerable fatigue duty that they had heretofore been obliged to do. More efficient drainage systems were worked out and altogether the 11th Hospital had for the first time plenty of men to do the work that had been done by the faithful few heretofore.

Pursuant to G.H. Q. order Chaplain Hayes Farish was added to the 11th Veterinary Hospital’s personnel. Prior to this date no Chaplain was available for this post.

On January 1st, 2nd Lieutenant Evans who had been sent to Spain on Oct. 10th by the A.E.F. Purchasing Board to buy horses, returned and with him came 2nd Lieut. J.M. Lloyd who had also been in Spain on a similar mission but was not formerly of the 11th Hospital. Lieutenant Lloyd reported for duty and was assigned to the 11th Hospital Unit.

The following table shows the changes in strength of Command from August 12th 1918 to January 31st 1919. And the number of animals at the Hospital the 1st and the middle of each month:

For the first 83 days, or nearly half the time since date of organization, the daily average of Command has been 200 men, while the daily average of animals treated during the same period was about 1500.

The daily average for 164 days was 1402 animals. To date a total of 10,302 animals have been received. Death from all causes 1411. For 83 days the daily average of horses cared for by each man, whether he worked in the office, cooked or dug post holes was 7.5 which is more than twice the number allotted by the Government in the organization of Veterinary Hospitals. In the treatment of animals of this hospital, every disease common to horses and mules have been found except Azonturia. Mange, however has been first and Influenza a second.

In the large operating room there were two “Simplicity Equine” Operating tables of the No 3 model. These have been in constant use and many difficult and delicate operations have been successfully made during the five months operation of the Hospital.

The animals for treatment are brought direct to the Hospital from the cars about 1.5 Miles distance on the P. & O Railway by means of long lead lines, with 100 animals to each line. The animals are carried to a large corral and then classified.

Each animal is sent to an isolation ward, clipped closely, then sent to the large 5000 gallon dipping vat where they are baptized in a solution of lime and sulphur prepared especially for the treatment of mange. Much credit is due Lieut. William R. Leighty for the working out of a formula and a system of handling the dipping vat that has proved a great success. The animals are dipped three times per week for about four weeks at which time most of the cases are cured.

The surgical cases are operated on and sent to one of the four large dressing stations. Here each animal is cared for daily by an efficient Farrier who is under a Commissioned or non-commissioned Officer. This routine is kept up from day to day until the animals are ready for evacuation. Then a Commissioned Officer in charge of a detail of men take the animals to a Remount or another Veterinary Hospital.

Five and a half months operation of the Veterinary Hospital has demonstrated both its advantages and disadvantages, climatically, topographically and geographically. The close proximity of the U.S. Supply Depot at Gievres, about three miles distant, has greatly aided both in its equipment and its operation, but the lack of motor transportation has worked quite a hardship on the Hospital in having to haul everything in wagons. Some days as much as 275,000 pounds of oats alone has been hauled at our disposal. Until the first horses received for treatment could be sufficiently cured to use, practically all business relations outside the post and inside had to be transacted over the phone or a trip made on foot. The telephone was not installed until the last of October; Remount phone was used prior to this, 1 and a half miles distance.

Notwithstanding the low altitude here as contrasted the high altitude of the western part of the United States (from where most of the 11th Veterinary men came) the Unit as a whole has had most excellent health. Only two deaths have occurred in the Organization. These were during the “Flu’ epidemic. Too, the Medical attention of these two men has been very limited to the fact that for some reason no infirmary was established at this Post until December. Sick call was held about ½ mile distance at the Remount Depot prior to the establishment of the infirmary.

It is remarkable fact that in the handling of 10,302 animals not a serious casualty has happened. The most serious was a slight fracture of a leg from a mule kick.

Two Y.M.C.A. huts have been erected and all are in charge of competent secretaries, reading and writing material, sales and occasional evening lectures add much to the pleasure and comfort of the men. What is known as wet canteen service with hot chocolate and coffee has been established, with two women Y.M.C.A. WORKERS IN CHARGE. One of the “Y’ huts is especially designed for theatrical performances, having a stage, piano and curtains. Some of the best talent of France and America have entertained the men of this Post. Baseball, football, basketball and other athletic sports, including bronco riding have been encouraged. Quite often the boys hold riding exhibitions in the corrals that are equal to the average “wild west” show. Corporal Jack Ray of the 11th Hospital is claimed to be the champion fancy rope thrower of the world. He recently gave exhibitions in Paris and is now touring France with the A.E.F., Y.M.C.A. Entertainment Commission. The A.E.F. Educational work has also been started at this post in charge of Chaplain Hayes Farish who was assigned to this Post December 31st 1918 by G.H.Q. order. Classes in French, English, Mathematics and the Sciences have been organized with much response on the part of the 11th and 15th Veterinary Troops particularly. Some of the classes have an enrollment of 45 students.

At this time, January 31st the Hospital is being conducted along the usual lines keeping in view the fact that it is rumored that it will soon be turned over to the French and the Organizations here returned to the United States and discharged.

John E. Allen
Pvt. Veterinary Hospital No 11

Posted by Eugene Beals

NOTE: I would like to thank Eugene Beals for the above write-up and History of Veterinary Hospital No 11, It is a very nice write-up and history of Veterinary Hospital No 11 and 15.

Eugene Grandfather: Thomas Beals red dot

Horseshoer Jesse "Thomas" Beals
Enlisted: June 26, 1918- Basket Station, McLean County, KY.
Unit: Veterinary Hosp. No.15
Overseas Duty: October 28, 1918 - July 13, 1919
Discharged: July 23, 1919 - Camp Zachary Taylor, Louisville, KY.

Thomas Beals initially served in the 159th Depot Brigade, a replacement training unit at Camp Zachary Taylor prior to transferring to Vet. Hosp. 15.

Veterinary Hospital No. 15 was organized August 17, 1918 at Camp Lee, Va. The organization broke camp & marched to City Point, Va on October 27. They moved on to Norfolk, VA & embarked for Europe aboard the U.S.S. Antigone. They arrived at Pontanezen Barracks, Brest, France on November 9, 1918. The unit left the barracks on November 16,1918 and arrived at Gievres, Loir et Chere on November 17, 1918. They were attached to Veterinary Hosp. 11. Their histories are similar.
Eugene Beals


Veterinary hospital, Gievres, Loire et Cher, France, December 2-6, 1918. Notice the building marked "Operating Room" on the left center of picture and the "Ward No. 7" to its right. All the wards were numbered.

Veterinary hospital, Gievres, Loire et Cher, France, December 2-6, 1918. In this picture the operating room is to the right center in the picture and the "Dressing Station" is to the left center. Open wards in the background.

Veterinary hospital taken from water tower in center of camp. Gievres, Indre et Loire, France, January 17, 1919.

Headquarters Veterinary Hospital No 11 buildings: operating room, stables, wards. Gievres, Indre et Loire, France, January 17, 1919.

Veterinary Hospital No. 11, headquarters buildings, operating room, operating ward, stables, dressing station, disinfecting tanks on carts, and blacksmith shops. Gievres, Indre et Loire, France, January 17, 1919.

Mange dipping vat station, feed troughs, and corrals. Gievres, Indre et Loire, France, January 17, 1919.

Feed troughs, corrals and what could be first aid station and barracks. Veterinary Hospital No. 11, Gievres, Indre et Loire, France, January 17, 1919.

Harness shop, sattlers and sattler’s vices at work building and repairing leather items. Sign reads: “NO LOAFING”. Veterinary Hospital No. 11, Gievres, Indre et Loire, France, January 17, 1919.

Generating room for dipping bath Veterinary Hospital No. 11, Gievres, Indre et Loire, France, January 15, 1919.

Cavalry troops exercising horses, Medical Department. Veterinary Hospital No. 11, Gievres, Indre et Loire, France, January 15, 1919.

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