Leeds nostalgia: '˜Americans were so keen, they rushed into war'

Dateline: August 20, 1918: The headlines which ran in the YEP 100 years ago today varied from national and international news to local and parochial.

Monday, 20th August 2018, 8:57 am
Updated Monday, 20th August 2018, 9:40 am

Then there were stories which had feet in two of those camps, being as it was an interview with the French-born soldier who served with American troops in Marne but who lived in Leeds.

He was Adjt Joseph Seller, of Grange Avenue, Chapeltown, who before joining the French Army two-and-a-half years earlier, was chef of Powolny’s Restaurant.

He fought with the French infantry at Verdun, where he was slightly wounded. He also spoke English and German, a fact which led to his appointment as interpreter at the American HQ.

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He was posted to Chateur-Thierry on July 21 and watched as the ensuing battle unfolded, at one point allowing Allied troops to take 15 miles in one day.

He said: “I shall never forget the way in which, regardless of all danger, the Americans hurried into the fray. They were taken to the front in motor lorries and when they got out of the lorries, some of them were so eager to follow the retreating Germans that, without stopped to line up in the usual way, they rushed forward… You cannot say anything too good about their infantry or artillery. The gunners were so keen that they never gave the guns time to cool. ‘We have got plenty of guns’, they said.” Other related experiences involved him finding letters written by German troops as they fled the field - some bore harrowing tales of family members back home, mothers mourning their dead sons and wives their lost husbands. Others told tales of harsh conditions in Germany, with 100s dying in some hospitals on the same day.

Adjutant Seller was awarded the Croix de Guerre for his efforts.