The Journey of the First Flag
San Francisco Civic Auditorium
Thousands pack the Auditorium for the leave-taking ceremony organized by the Friends of France along with the recently-formed American League of California. Four Star Spangled Banners were presented to the Berkeley and Stanford students, the gift of the American League. Read more.
Mount Shasta route into Oregon
The journey begins via Sacramento, Dunsmuir, Montague & Ashland, arriving in Portland (OR).
Through the remainder of Montana and, that night, North Dakota and on into Minnesota
After travelling though Minneapolis (MN), then on through Wisconsin Kimber arrives in Chicago (IL). The next day he takes a tour of the P L Armour meat packing plant. That night he boards a train for Detroit (MI) via Indiana.
Visits Ford motor-works in Detroit (MI). Then boards train for New York City, via Canada & Niagara Falls into NY state.
Kimber arrives in New York where he prepares to set out with the First Flag across the Atlantic for the Western Front. He needs to wait until the 14th when his ship will be ready to set sail.
Avenue of the Allies
5th Avenue, New York
Kimber bears the First Flag down the crowded 5th Avenue in NYC at the head of an American Field Service parade, accompanied by volunteers from the University of California, Berkeley.
SS St Louis reaches Irish waters
With the increased threat of enemy submarines, the crew and passengers prepare for the worst, with lifeboats readied. He writes that ‘many people sat up all night and few took off their clothes’.
Liverpool and Merseyside, England
Kimber describes his first sight of England, comparing the residential right bank of the Mersey with the hustle and bustle of the docks and derricks on the opposite side.
On board train
Kimber takes train from Liverpool to London via Rugby, fascinated by his view of English towns and countryside through the train window.
Kimber arrives in London where he stays until the next day. His description of the city is sombre.
‘I went down to Charing Cross Station and saw some wounded arrive. There was quite a crowd and they were cheered heartily. Then [when] an ambulance brought out the badly wounded the crowds no longer made noise for fear of disturbing the men, but quietly waved, and the game soldiers smiled and made feeble efforts to wave back.’
Travelling by train and then troopship, ‘convoyed across the channel by destroyers and aeroplanes’, Kimber arrives in Paris. His first stop is the American Field Service HQ in 21 rue Raynouard.
Tréveray, Northern France
Colonel Collon of the 55e French Infantry Division ceremoniously passes the first officially sanctioned US flag, transported with such care by Kimber, to the 1st Stanford Unit in a field above Tréveray in northern France. Read more
Champagne Sector in France, East of Reims
Kimber witnesses the aftermath of the ‘Battle of the Hills’, part of the Nivelle Offensive, now held by the 55e. We went thru a demolished village on the way. Enclosed is a picture of the ruined church….All along the road were little piles of French shells…We wandered around what were the first French line trenches on the 14th of April. They are awfully desolate looking places. I would rather do anything than live in them….Little groups of men and horses are constantly passing us, either going to the front or returning. All the French seem so tired and even the horses reflect the weariness. When the poilu asks how long we think the war will last, we all say only a short time, for if we tell him the truth about it, he seems absolutely broken in spirit.