Do you know where the Doughboys went?

Our Facebook friend Peter Anderson writes this:

Hi, I am researching troops who crossed from Folkestone to Boulogne in WW1. I know several American units made this trip. If anyone can supply me with the names of Units with the dates of their crossing to France by this route, and or the names of soldiers place the date of their crossing this stage of the journey to the Western Front I would be grateful.

The Us Troops who travelled on this part of the journey vary often arrived at Liverpool and continued onto Folkestone by train. They would have arrived at the Central Station in Folkestone and marched along Cheriton Road to the Leas. From here they would have had a brief break at No3 rest Camp and proceeded down what is now the Road of Remembrance towards the Harbour and the ships waiting to take them to France.

A memorial to all the soldiers that made this journey is planned for the Leas in Folkestone.


Can any of you offer information about U.S. troops that headed to France via Folkestone?

Americans on a troopship headed to France — National Archives


6 thoughts on “Do you know where the Doughboys went?

  1. Interesting question. As Len S. has indicated, there are very detailed records in the US National Archives. However, I suspect it would be a major research job to sort through them. With the major units, it would not be too much of a problem since most have unit (division, regiment) histories in which transiting England, parading in London, waiting in a rest camp, etc… is described. However, tracking down all the small units – engineers, hospital and medical units, ordinance corps, etc… — that trickled in from May 1917 through to early 1919 might be real hassle. Indeed, it may be overkill for what you want. From a practical perspective, perhaps a more general recognition that Americans did pass through England in 1917-1918, a good number of which did not live to make the return trip. My two cents.


    • Just catching up on all the posts in this topic. Tracking down all the units would and is a hassle. and strictly speaking is over kill. Main Units shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Lots of people can name a unit that traveled from Folkestone to France. The total number of American soldiers and the majority of the Units is the main aim of the inquiry. Living in Folkestone the National Archives in Washington are sadly a wee bit off the beaten track. Does anyone know of another US Division that passed through Folkestone?


    American Expeditionary Forces: General Headquarters Armies, Army Corps Services of Supply
    Separate Forces Volume 1:

    (p. 11): May 26 [1917], Gen Pershing assumes command; announces staff of 31 officers. May 27, Gen Pershing receives instructions defining his authority and mission. May 28, staff assembles at Governor’s Island, NY, and sails at 5 PM for England on SS “Baltic” – 40 regular army officers, 17 reserve officers, 2 marine corps officers, 67 enlisted men, 36 field clerks, 20 civilian clerks,3 interpreters, 3 correspondents.

    June 7, hq arrives Liverpool; temporarily established Savoy Hotel, London. June 13, hq moves
    London, England, June 7,1917 via Folkestone and Boulogne (Pas-de-Calais) to Paris;

    Apparently, Pershing and his staff went first. The 78th Division also followed him via Folkestone on the SS Northland, leaving there June 5, 1918 and arriving in Calais June 8th. (OOB, V2, p. 310).


  3. Thanks for your help it is much appreciated. If anyone is visiting Folkestone please get in touch there are still a great deal of WW1 sights to see in Folkestone and I would be delighted to show them to you.


    • Some more information about Folkestone and the First World War:

      What is clear is that the most important event for Folkestone on around August 20th 1914 was the arrival of the first Belgian Refugees. This is an event which, if in some way recreated, would have international interest and be not at all jingoistic. It is of course the eternal horror of war, when it is the refugees – women, children and the old – who are the innocent victims. Probably the most troops left from Folkestone, thought these were leave men coming and going as well as drafts but this did not start in earnest until March 1915. The other interesting story is the cosmopolitanisation for a short period of an upper class seaside resort, and the movement of the mail though the port which is mentioned at the end. And of course finally the air raid in 1917, again a first for Folkestone with civilians killed.

      If the arch is opened on August 4th 2014 or around that time it will simply mark the outbreak of the war, as no troops, except perhaps some staff officers, left from Folkestone at that time.

      In Folkestone During the War by John Carlile actually grumbles about this “…In the first months of the war Folkestone seemed to be overlooked for military purposes.” (Carlile,187.) and later “The port of Folkestone was opened for transport of troops about the end of March 1915 when the authorities discovered that it was very much the quicker route…” (Carlile, 195)

      Edwin Pratt in British Railways and the Great War confirms this “It was, however, not until about March, 1915 that Folkestone entered upon the really great part which, from a military point of view, she was to take in the prosecution of the war. Down to that time the port of Southampton, from which the first Expeditionary force was dispatched in August 1914, with such complete and remarkable success, had dealt with the bulk of the reinforcements that followed. It was now thought better, for various reasons, to adopt the shorter route, via Folkestone, for troops sent to the Western Front and arrangements were made under which Folkestone specialised in the conveyance of personnel – drafts and reinforcements in one direction and leave-men in both” (Pratt, 1098)

      The Folkestone Borough Council Meeting Minutes of 4 December 1918 record the Mayor as stating that 8.612.323 passengers went through Folkestone Harbour during the period of the war. These would be embarking and landing, as many were leave men, but it is not easy to say how many were landings and how many embarkations. Both Pratt and Carlile record different total figures – Carlile several different totals. The figures for Southampton, the other main port for the embarkation of military personnel, are recorded as follows; 4,848,683 embarkations and 2,288,114 landings.

      Leave-men had come into and, presumably, left from Folkestone earlier but up until November 1914 only a few hundred each day. From that time special leave trains were put on between Victoria Station and Folkestone, to begin with three or four a day in both directions, rising later to sometimes 12 each day in each direction.

      Again it is not possible to say how many troops marched up or down the Road of Remembrance. Those leave men arriving from France would catch the train straight to Victoria and thence to their home towns or villages. While those men who had arrived by that train from Victoria would presumably get straight on the waiting ferry with others from the rest camps. The rest camps were used for drafts and leave men who could not catch the boats because of bad weather or mines. There is little doubt that many troops from Shorncliffe reached the harbour by marching along Lower Sandgate Road, while No 1 rest camp was at the bottom of the Road of Remembrance in Marine Parade I think it probable that because those actually marching down the Road of Remembrance were so visible it has become a belief that all went that way

      Whether or not the first wounded were landed in this country came to Folkestone seems to be in some doubt::

      Michael George in Dover and Folkestone During the Great War quotes this from “a late August edition” of the Folkestone Herald – “The first British Wounded to be brought back to this country from the front were landed at Folkestone Harbour from Boulogne on Thursday..” (George, 17). According to the Remembrance Line website, this was 30 wounded who arrived on the afternoon of August 27th However Edwin Pratt says “The first convoy of war invalids to reach this country from overseas arrived at Southampton docks on August 24th, 1914 (Pratt 197).

      Pratt says “…between October 12th and October 18th the number of wounded received at Dover was about 1,500… Dover was… soon declared “full up” and unable… to deal with anymore wounded for the time being. Further boats were accordingly sent to Folkestone. Another expedient adopted was that of sending on further boatloads of wounded to Southampton” (Pratt, 214) and then “… On January 2nd 1915 the first of a long succession of ambulance trains was despatched from the Marine Station at Dover, which became… the principal landing point for military wounded sent home from the western front.” (Pratt, 215)

      The figures are:

      From January 2nd 1915 to February 28th, 1919, 1,260,506 sick and wounded were landed at Dover.

      Between August 24th, 1914 and December 31st, 1918 1,234,248 sick and wounded taken into Southampton (Pratt, 221)

      While some wounded remained in Folkestone, Dover and Southampton it was obviously impossible for these towns to cope with the huge numbers so they were sent on in special ambulance trains to at least 195 stations throughout the country. Pratt says “Town vied with town and village with village in their eagerness to have the honour of tending those who had suffered in the conflict.. and, in result, practically every town in Great Britain had a hospital of some kind, great or small, in which the sick and wounded were received.”

      With regards to war material and horses, through Folkestone went 349 Horses, 3690 Vehicles, 373 Motor cycles and 1,145,160 tons of freight. This should be set against that from Southampton of 799,287 horses and mules, 7,484 guns and limbers and over 150,000 vehicles of all sorts. Supplies out of Southampton amounted to 2,680,536 tons, including food, hay, straw, timber and ammunition. From New Haven and Littlehampton went 6,805,810 tons of stores and ammunition and finally from the specially constructed port of Richborough, between January 1917 and December 1918, 1,282,656 tons of war material was sent Calais and Dunkirk..

      What was unique to Folkestone was the movement of mail – 14,050.461 bags consisting of letters and parcels sent out to and letters came back from the western front.


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