AUGUSTA — Men wearing green uniforms from World War I stood behind a line of tables inside the entrance to the Maine State Cultural Building where more uniforms and other equipment were displayed Sunday.

A water-cooled Vickers machine gun with the name “Jane” printed on top was mounted on a tripod closer to the middle of the tall ceilinged anteroom.

These were all part of a living history display by World War I re-enactors for the centennial of Armistice Day, the precursor of Veterans Day, on Nov. 11, 1918, which marked the end of World War 1.

The entryway to the Maine State Archives was fitted with chairs, a wreath and a series of exhibits also themed for World War I. Speakers the Maine National Guard were scheduled for early afternoon.

The Armistice Day Centennial Celebration, hosted by The Maine State Museum, Maine State Library and the Maine State Archives, was billed as “a chance to look back on Mainers’ contributions from the war zone to the home front and to acknowledge the debt we owe to our veterans.”

A member of the 103rd Regiment Living History re-enactors, Tucker Goodwin of Boothbay Harbor showed visitors a book listing the names and ranks of all those from Maine who were killed in action in World War I. The book, “Maine, A History, Vol. 1,” was organized by hometown.

Mathew Shannon of Lewiston, a member of the National Guard, brought his wife and three children to see the exhibit.

He was impressed with the condition of the uniforms. “They’re in wonderful shape, great condition and the gentlemen doing the explaining are extremely knowledgeable,” he said.

His son Isaac, 13, commented on just how much equipment the backpacks could hold. “They had tent stakes, a tent, jacket, food and all the supplies they needed for shaving,” he said. “I thought they would only be able to fit in their jackets.”

Leah, 8, and Kaitlyn, 10, said they learned that some soldiers did not have proper equipment like helmet or ammunition, and relied on items resembling baseball bats for fighting.

The tables held music written for and in the era, including 1918 sheet music by George L. Boyden, “If I’m Not at the Roll-Call (Kiss Mother Goodbye for Me).” The cover pictured soldiers in trenches.

Another re-enactor, Tom Backus of Warren, said the group acquires items at antique shows, via eBay and from donations by families. “Every which way we can we’ve gotten it short of stealing,” he said.

He said he’s been interested in history as a hobby all his life and he joined the regiment of re-enactors five years ago. His father, David Backus of Waldoboro joined a year ago after seeing the group at the Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington Railway Museum in Alna.

David Backus, who works as a salesman for Hammond Lumber in the Damariscotta store, noted that unlike artifacts from the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, those from World War I can be found or purchased relatively easily.

In an adjacent room, archivist Sam Howes, who works for the Maine State Archives, explained a display that illustrated the more than 1 million people from various nations who died in World War I. It listed the names of those killed in 1918 and official deaths 1919-1922, including 87,873 U.S. soldiers.

Howes said he did some archival digging on one of his relatives, Eldred Ellis Green, of Turner, a shoemaker who enlisted at 19. He had been in the National Guard Coast Artillery Corps and then transferred to the 103rd Field Artillery. He served at Verdun other battles. “He was actually gassed during one of them,” Howes said. Green was discharged on April 29, 1918 and returned to Maine. “He lived in a one-room shack and died at Togus in 1985,” Howes said.

Other displays showed applications Mainers filed seeking to get replacements of their discharge papers that had been lost for one reason or another.

Mary Ellen Barnes (Stacy) kept correcting the application certificate to say “she” rather than “he.” Barnes, of Albion, was 21 and a graduate nurse when she enrolled in the military Dec. 15, 1917. She served at Base Hospital 59, located in Issoudun, France, and was discharged May 7, 1919.

Otis Carroll Lawry of Fairfield had been a professional baseball player when he enlisted from Fairfield, Maine. He played in 1916 and 1917 for the Philadelphia Athletics; his nickname was “Rabbit.” He enlisted in September 1918 and was discharged in December 1918, a month after the end of “The Great War.”

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

filed under:

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.