On this Sunday when we sailed into the Southampton harbor is was warm and quiet. A laid back day and our view was of families enjoying sail boating and parks and relishing that last day of rest before returning to the work schedule on Monday.
But ninety-seven years ago when my uncle, Sgt. John Guess, Jr. was in this harbor it was a total different view. The water teemed with activity as ships waited outside in the channel to get in to the Southampton docks and on the ferries that waited for nightfall to take their soldiers across the channel and to finally step on French soil.
“On the morning of July 18, 1918 we woke with five U.S. destroyers surrounding our ship the Olympic as we made our way on this last leg of the trip. By evening and under soft light of the moon we could make out Land’s End on the port side as the ship worked its way through the ships graveyard. Morning found us at the entrance to Southampton where we waited silently for the rise in tide that would take us up the channel and to the piers.
Oddly we were arriving at the exactly same point that the historic Mayflower left from for her voyage to America. Across the channel were boats filled with other members of the ninety-first division already making their way across the English Channel to France.
We would remain onboard ship for one more day before disembarking the following morning for the ferryboats that would make the night run across the English Channel. Each ferry had us packed in like sardines for the trip that lasted from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. The weather turned bitterly cold and windy and was quite miserable as we made our way to our French destination, the city of Le Havre. “