August 4, 1918 – My grandfather the gladiator

On this day 100 years ago, the 301st Engineers gathered in the nearby town of Drevant for some games and recreation in an ancient Roman amphitheater.

On Sunday, August 4, the entire regiment assembled at the old Roman amphitheater in Drevant where Caesar’s soldiers were wont to applaud the Roman gladiators some few centuries ago.  The walls of the ancient Coliseum re-echoed with the shouts of approval of the various contests, but never the excitement more intense than when the ‘Sampsons’ lined up for good old tug-of-war.

The strain of ‘The Missouri Waltz’ have died away and Company ‘A’ has taken its stand at one end of the rope; Company ‘B’ grasps the hemp at the other side of the stake.  Each company holding its own; a second later and ‘B’ gives way just the shadow of an inch but it gains a footing once again, and this time ‘A’ gives, and campaign hats go sailing through the air; the onlookers can hold their seats no longer; shouts of encouragement fill the arena as the rival teams sway back and forth; at length the battle is lost and won, and Company ‘A’ carries away the ribbon after a series of terrific lunges that literally take their opponents off their feet.”

Previous to our occupancy of the old amphitheater, it had never been used as long as the oldest inhabitant could remember, but had been carefully preserved by the townspeople as a relic of the past.  In view of this fact permission to use it was interpreted as strong evidence of a hearty welcome to the regiment.  Not alone was this relic sacred to the native, but sacred to us for the happy moments afforded therein.  The performance ended with the singing of our National Anthem and the French ‘Marseillaise,’ at the conclusion of which short services were held by the Chaplain.  Falling in on the stacks, arms were taken and the men marched off to Regimental Parade.  The sun was just sinking behind the hills as billets were sought, after a day well spent.”

–  The Three Hundred and First Engineers – A History 1917-1920

Modern photo of the Roman amphitheater at Drevant, France

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