Bartus Baggott, my mother’s uncle, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, in 1893. He studied medicine at the University of Maryland, graduating in 1916. When the United States entered the war in April 1917, Bartus joined the Army Medical Corps as a Lieutenant. He received military training in Georgia and was introduced to the business of battlefield medicine at the Army Medical School in Washington DC. This probably included learning about poison gas, transport of the sick and wounded, and care for conditions like trench fever and trench foot.
By the time the ‘Yanks’ were ready to go ‘over there’, the European powers had been fighting for nearly three years, and medical professionals were in short supply. Bartus was one of some 1600 medical officers who were assigned to take over and staff British front hospitals in the summer of 1917. In July he arrived in London for a period familiarising himself with British medical procedures. Between August 1917 and the end of the war he served in France at 32 Stationary Hospital at Wimereux (see photo left, courtesy of IWM) and 12 Stationary Hospital at St Pol. He was also attached to the 1/2 London Field Ambulance – not a motor vehicle but a front line mobile medical unit. Army medical staff were not safe behind the lines; each medical officer was required to do a rotation at a Casualty Clearing Station near the front, and some were fully engaged on the battlefield, treating casualties in the trenches and in dugouts. Bartus saw action at Cambrai in the winter of 1917 and on the Somme in the spring and summer of 1918. In the First World War, 65 American medical officers died of wounds and a further 102 of accidents and disease. But Bartus survived. He was recommended by the Chief Surgeon for a British War Medal and ended his tour of duty as a Captain, stationed in Angers until May 1919.
Bartus returned to Baltimore to make a career as a GP in private practice. When he died in 1966, one of the things he left behind was an unusual kind of war diary. In a copy of the American edition of Storm of Steel, the classic war memoir by the German writer Ernst Jünger, Bartus had pencilled notes in which he commented on the places and events from his own perspective on the other side of the lines.
Bartus Baggott, b. Baltimore, USA, 1893, d. Baltimore, USA, 1966, Captain, US Army Medical Corps, is the relative of Eve Rosenhaft, Professor of German Historical Studies, CLAS.