Some American friends of mine took me over their hospital for French soldiers at Neuilly. It was most beautifully equipped from top to bottom, and I was especially interested in the dental department where they fitted men with false jaws, etc. Every comfort was provided, and some of the patients were lying out on balconies under large umbrellas, smiling happily at all who passed. I sighed when I thought of the makeshifts we had la bas at Lamarck.
I also went to a sort of review held in the Bois of an Ambulance Volant (ambulance unit to accompany a Battalion), given and driven by Americans. They also had a field operating theatre. These drivers were all voluntary workers, and were Yale and Harvard men who had come over to see what the “show” was really like. Some of them later joined the French Army, and one the famous “Foreign Legion,” and others went back to the U.S.A. to make shells.
It was very interesting to hear about the “Foreign Legion.” In peace time most of the people who join it are either fleeing from justice, or they have no more interest in life and don’t care what becomes of them. It is composed of dare-devils of all nationalities, and the discipline is of the severest. They are therefore among the most fearless fighters in the world, and always put in a tight place on the French front. There is one man at the enlisting depot who is a wonderful being, and can size up a new recruit at a glance. He is known as “Le Sphinx.” You must give him your real name and reason for joining the Legion, and in exchange he gives you a number by which henceforth you are known. He knows the secrets of all the Legion, and they are never divulged to a living soul; he never forgets, nor do they ever pass his lips. One of the most cherished souvenirs I have is a plain brass button with the inscription “Legion Etrangere” printed round it in raised letters.
As early as June, 1915, the French were showing what relics they had brought back from the battlefields. No better place than the “Invalides,” with Napoleon’s tomb towering above, could have been chosen for their display. Part of the courtyard was taken up by captured guns, and in two separate corners a “Taube,” and a German scout machine, with black crosses on their wings, were tethered like captured birds. There the widows, leading their little sons by the hand, came dry-eyed to show young France what their fathers had died in capturing for the glory of La Patrie.