Memories of World War I – by Robinson Shepard (my grandpa): Where he talks about hearing on the wireless the Carpathia pick up survivors of the Titanic

This is the cover page and page one of the typewritten sheets that I received from my uncle:


Born: August 23, 1896 in Bangor, Maine (his mother’s home)

Enlisted in the Signal Corps, May 10, 1917

Landed in Cardiff, Wales on July 31st having left by Troop Train on July 8th or 9th for trip overseas.

Arrived at the front lines near the end of August.

Armistice, then stayed at Saizerais detailed to YMCA until March 2, 1919.

Attended Besancon University from March 5 to June 25.

Return: On July 9 left France and arrived in Hoboken July 17th, discharged at Mitchell Field July 23 and finally home July 24, 1919.

Written from memory and with the help of diaries kept while in the service and at Besancon, in March 1975 while recuperating from a heart attack on February 1, 1975.

The diaries have, of course, day by day detail of the YMCA period and also of the college months.

I don’t remember when I first became interested in science, particularly physics. However, four classmates of Franklin High School 1914, built “wireless sets.” (Henry Prescott, Maurice Gilchrist, Harry Atkins and I.) Father had a lumber lot and he had a tall straight tree brought home (106 Prospect Street), and placed back of the house, like this:



1 house

and all of us boys, working together, made an “umbrella” antenna, wires like the ribs of an umbrella supposed to receive from all directions. Worked good – got SL1 (Sayville, Long Island), NAD (Charlestown Navy Yard), hte station on top of Filene’s (first station in Boston), official time from NAA (Arlington, Virginia). My greatest thrill was in 1912, listening to messages from the Carpathia picking up survivors from the Titanic.


Since the physics teacher in high school didn’t even mention “electricity” (a most important part of physics), I went to Andover for a year so I could get into Harvard. At Harvard during the freshman year, I joined the Wireless Club (4-25-16). The “Manager” of the club was a boy named Dallin, son of  the sculptor Cyrus Dallin who made the statue “Appeal to the Great Spirit.”

Newt Monk and I, on the same shift, logged stations all over the world: FL, The Eiffel Tower; YN, Lyons, France; Australia, etc. Many funny things (incidents) like the amateur who was very slow on the code got another to slow down and told him he was in Brookline, Massachusetts where it was bitterly cold and a lot of snow. The other said he was in Los Angeles, his window was open and the aroma of roses was coming in! We looked up the call letters and “Los Angeles” was just around the corner from “Brookline”!


My greatest “thrill” here was when the Tufts College station kept calling until most others were off the air, then said “Do you want to hear some music?” Everyone jumped on his key and said:

— .– — / . / … / (“Yes”)


Then we heard a very tinny Yankee Doodle. It sounded wonderful, the first time any of us had heard anything but dots and dashes.

So I took mostly sciences and when a recruiter named Russell came around several of us enlisted in The Signal Corps, May 10, 1917.  War had been declared April 6, 1917. The recruiter said we would be in the 26th, Yankee, Division and train at Ashbury Park, NJ, but we got to the 76th (draftees) division and trained at Camp Devens, Mass.


In World War I, there was considerable feeling between the enlistees and the draftees. When we landed in Fort Devens, we were the only enlisted outfit in the division. We whitewashed some stones in front of Company A, mostly from Harvard, and B from Dartmouth and C (general), but A was the “Wireless” Company barracks. We made the signal flags (insignia) and the words 301st Radio Volunteers. It is the first time I remember the word “Radio” being used.

[That’s enough for today! :-)]