Always an Engineer

Conflict: World War I

Port at St. Nazaire, France, 1919

Port at St. Nazaire, France, 1919

Captain Billings Wilson of the 8th Army Corps was an engineer in France during WWI. His troops were in charge of improving the water supply in Saint-Nazaire and building a refrigerated terminal to store meat and dairy. Then he “was placed in charge of organizing a department of Engineering Supplies to handle all construction tools, materials and equipment for work in the Base.”

It was at this time that Wilson put in a request to be part of the combatant troops, but to his dismay it was denied because he was needed more in his current position. Wilson did receive a chance to train for combat later. “Six days before the Armistice of November 11th I received orders transferring me to the First Corps School, Gondrecourt, for preliminary training preparatory for duty with ‘combatant troops.’” Wilson’s opportunity was short-lived, though. He got halfway through the course when he was transferred to another troop of engineers.

Report by Billings Wilson of engineering in France in WWI

Report by Billings Wilson of engineering in France in WWI

Although Wilson enjoyed his work with engineers, he never had the privilege serving in combat. “My chief regret, after a years service in France is that I never was able to get to the front and participate in some actual fighting. My greatest pride is that I was privileged to share in the remarkable work…at the hands of the army engineers, from a fourth rate port into one of the leading seaports in the country.”

Find more accounts in the WWI Officer Experience Reports—AEF.