Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Guest Post: Foreshadowing in France

Guest Post: Foreshadowing in France

By: Joseph Soderborg - September 01, 2010

Benjamin Franklin Hulme (1890-1970), the fourth child of nine, was raised on a farm in rural Bloomington, Idaho. He was a 27-year-old school teacher in 1917 when he left his ranch and his aging, dependent mother to cross the Atlantic. Only the unknown and the spectre of total war on the battlefields of Northern France awaited him. In order to “make the world safe for democracy” he had joined the 162nd Infantry Regiment of the First Army Corps and taken the oath of a soldier.

While little is known about his army experience (he served as a cook), much more is known about his first visit to France. Three years earlier he had landed on the continent to preach Mormonism in the newly re-established French Mission. He was assigned to Lille, about ten kilometers from the Belgian frontier. He was only in France two months when fighting erupted across Europe but his missionary journal offers some notable foreshadowing of the coming conflict. Although he finished his mission in England, he witnessed the start of the war first-hand in France.

Just two and a half weeks before Germany declared war and invaded neutral Belgium, Elder Hulme detailed the events in Lille and the mood on Bastille Day. What he wrote was personal and interesting to him but left us a powerful example of dramatic irony on the eve of the Great War.

July 14, 1914

Today was the French national holiday. We were too early for the milk for breakfast so we ate bread and butter, the others had cocoa. The German [who is learning English] was up again ready to go to the fete. We went to the park where the soldiers drill and saw a grand review of hundreds of soldiers furnished by Lille, both infantry and cavalry. Also the fire department was on exhibition. … In France all able-bodied men between 20 & 23 inclusive years of age are compelled to serve in the army. Their pay consists of their food and clothing, a little tobacco and one cent a day I am told. Of course there are many more than 23 years old serving as officers with salaries probably. This army of men working for nothing helps clear up the mystery of so many barefooted children as we see in some of the districts. We also saw a children’s parade which was so long that it got tiresome before all had passed. There were thousands of people in the streets one had to almost follow the masses in some places …

During the afternoon we visited an example of French sport: a rat killing contest for dogs. The four rats were placed in a net wire case and a dog placed in to kill them. He was timed and four more rats were killed by the second dog which was also timed etc. The dog that killed the rats the quickest won the prize. This sight was in a pretty crummy district and the sun was so hot that we soon got tired. We next watched a game played with little balls on a field at Boulevard Des E. Cole [Écoles] five men on each side. This soon got tiresome as we didn’t understand the game. … On every corner and often several between were coffee or drinking houses filled sometimes with a family having a reunion sometimes with miscellaneous crowds of all ages singing, playing, eating and drinking and having a gay time.

On the grand place, an open place in the heart of the city containing about 10 or 12 acres, there were thousands of people listening to the band concert while around the edge were some of the most classy cafes almost surrounding the place, jammed from the back end to two or three rods into the open air with many people when all at once, about 9:30, the mass began moving toward a certain street down which could be seen at a distance of about one mile the fireworks. They far exceeded anything I had ever before seen of the class. Sky rockets, lightening flashes, fire fountains, fire wheels, red flame effects etc. for about one ½ hours. We watched these working our way nearer all the while… The firing was on crossroads and a mile in either of these directions the street was packed with people. Many also looking from windows and porches on the sides.

July 15

What an awful rain we had today beginning during the night and lasting until nearly noon without a stop.

July 17

Tracted longer today to make up for the holiday. Holidays spoil missionary work.

Private Hulme served 14 months in the sanitary medical corps; survived the war and cheered President Woodrow Wilson’s visit to Paris. Through the greatest war the world had seen Private Hulme remained safe and sane, away from the battle front. “I had carried a rifle for nearly two years, but did not fire it once — even in target practice, and I had been nearer the enemy lines as a missionary than a soldier”. After having his life interrupted twice and spending a total 44 months overseas serving God and his country, he was ready to move on. Three weeks after his discharge he entered domestic life. “I returned home and persuaded Leah Krogue to marry me before something else happened.”


Top: B.F. Hulme is standing on the left, with two Army buddies in Nice, 1918

Middle: B.F. Hulme’s Seventy’s Ordination Certificate dated 1914

Bottom: B.F. Hulme with the U.S. Army in France, standing, second from left



  1. fascinating account, and perspective.

    Comment by Dan — September 1, 2010 @ 7:39 am

  2. Interesting.

    I’m all for ridding the world of rats, but it seems a bit distasteful to make sport of it.

    A minor note on the military unit that Brother Hulme belonged to: the 162nd Infantry was part of the 41st Infantry Division. It’s typical to refer to regiment and division, since assignment to Corps or to Army (the next two larger organizational units) is more fluid than the assignment of regiments to divisions. And, soldiers wear a shoulder patch indicating their division, but not the Corps or Army to which the division belongs.

    The Wikipedia entry for the 41st Infantry Division says that it was designated a reserve division after its arrival in France, and so did not enter the line as a whole. Some of the regiments within the Division were in fact detached to other divisions and participated in the Meuse-Argonne offensive, and the battles of St. Mihiel and Chateau-Thierry, among others. But the 162 Infantry is not mentioned among those involved in those battles.

    Being in reserve for the year they spent in France until the Armistice may not have won its members any glory (desperate or otherwise), but it did significantly improve their chances of survival.

    Comment by Mark B. — September 1, 2010 @ 8:54 am

  3. This is fascinating! Where did you find Elder Hulme’s journal and photographs? My husband served his mission in Northern France in the Lille area. He will enjoy reading this. I loved the quote:

    “I had carried a rifle for nearly two years, but did not fire it once — even in target practice, and I had been nearer the enemy lines as a missionary than a soldier”.

    It seems to me that Elder Hulme was protected and blessed through the War, precisely because of his missionary service to the Lord!

    Comment by Mormon Soprano — September 1, 2010 @ 8:57 am

  4. That may be, Mormon Soprano. The difficulty with drawing that conclusion is that it doesn’t help in explaining the loss of good men, ex-missionaries among them, who met a different fate in that war or others.

    My father had a good friend in the 66th Infantry Division in World War II, an active and practicing Latter-day Saint, who died when the troopship carrying him and 2000 of his fellow-soldiers was torpedoed. Why wasn’t he also protected and blessed through that war? And why did my father happen to be on a different ship that day? Was his volunteering for different duty that day–prompted, he said, by his desire to get out of some heavy work–really the Lord reaching out and protecting him?

    Comment by Mark B. — September 1, 2010 @ 9:06 am

  5. I have to brag on Joseph just a little. He has a fascinating project in the works about certain Latter-day Saints in Europe at the outbreak of World War I, and he’s been ferreting out sources that probably wouldn’t have occurred to me or many other researchers, in multiple archives. When he publishes that larger study we’ll all sit up and take notice. It’s representative of how he thinks that he could read this description of a holiday celebration and see in it the explosions, the masses of refugeeing humanity, even the rats in the muddy trenches that will replace the light-hearted celebrations in this very spot so very soon.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — September 1, 2010 @ 9:08 am

  6. I enjoyed all the interesting details here. Comments like, “Holidays spoil missionary work” and the description of the crowd and the games being played. I was also fascinated at what Mormon Soprano hinted at; that Hulme’s experiences put him so close to danger, and yet, his existence was relatively calm. The juxtaposition of war and civil society is very interesting.

    Thanks for sharing this and giving us a view of history surrounding the Great War.

    Comment by David Y. — September 1, 2010 @ 9:29 am

  7. Special Thanks to Lucile Smart and John and Paul Hulme, niece and sons of Benjamin Franklin Hulme, for the photos and some specific details.

    Comment by J Soderborg — September 1, 2010 @ 10:29 am

  8. Mark B.
    Thanks for the style note on the designation of military units. I have to admit I used the abreviated designation merely because of the way it sounded

    Comment by J Soderborg — September 1, 2010 @ 10:41 am

  9. Bastille Day, 1914. What an interesting description.

    I love those beautifully engraved old certificates. Hulme was ordained by B.H. Roberts and the certificate was signed by Seymour Young and J. Golden Kimball. I guess the church was much smaller in those days, to have the ordination done and signed by three members of the Presidency of the Seventy.

    Comment by Researcher — September 1, 2010 @ 11:46 am

  10. My own Grandfather was a soldier (briefly) in the Canadian army during the war. He enlisted without the permission of his father. His father somehow convinced the army that he was desperately needed on the farm so they released him after only about a week. So his father’s intervention certainly saved him from possible harm. However, it is sometimes harder to pinpoint divine intervention. I think a good source would be the soldier involved (if he recorded anything). To my knowlege Hulme didn’t record any thing he considered divine intervention. But he does hint at it in his comment about never firing his rifle.
    My guess is that he considered it a great blessing. After all, “its a terrible thing to kill a man”.

    Comment by J Soderborg — September 1, 2010 @ 2:25 pm

  11. Researcher, Thanks for the comment I wasn’t sure if anyone would catch that. It’s pretty small.
    Members of the 12 and, occasionally, members of the First Presidency set apart missionaries. I saw several examples in the missionary register so It must have been fairly common.

    Comment by J Soderborg — September 1, 2010 @ 2:34 pm

  12. I loved that Pte. Hulme’s wanted to convince his girlfriend to marry him “before something else happened”!

    Comment by Alison — September 1, 2010 @ 4:02 pm

  13. Apologies for the extraneous apostrophe and s in my previous posting.

    Comment by Alison — September 1, 2010 @ 4:03 pm

  14. I suspect that the setting apart of missionaries by stake presidents is a relatively recent (meaning perhaps the past 40 or 50 years) development, and that they all would have been set apart by general authorities before then.

    Bishops were set apart by general authorities as late as 1965–when my father was ordained by Howard W. Hunter. I wasn’t there, and I suspect that none of my siblings was there either–which makes me think that he might have gone up to Salt Lake City for the ordination and setting apart.

    Comment by Mark B. — September 1, 2010 @ 4:32 pm

  15. Alison, Apparently he sent her a letter right before he came home to start the courtship.
    He was several years older than her and the first time they met he saved her from being carried away on a runnaway horse.

    Comment by J. Soderborg — September 1, 2010 @ 6:08 pm

  16. Way to go Joe- Your article is the jam in the jelly roll, or cossaint. It is freaky- the correlation between the events going on at Bastille Day and how they mimic future war events. Were any rats harmed while researching this article?

    Comment by A2jojo — September 1, 2010 @ 8:12 pm

  17. Thanks, A2jojo.
    No rats harmed in this post but on the front lines of the great war, dogs were frequently used in the war effort. Soldiers profited from their keen ears and sense smell to gain advance notice of incoming shells or approaching gas cloud. Dogs, particularly terriers, also hunted rats which became such a nuisance in the trenches. Maybe the dogs competing on Bastille day went to the front.

    Comment by J. Soderborg — September 1, 2010 @ 11:45 pm

  18. Interesting piece. I wrote a small booklet on the adventures of my G-Grandfather who was drafted in WWI to be a lumberjack. His troopship was torpedoed by Germans in the strait between Ireland and Scotland.

    It was fun to research, but I know virtually nothing of what his unit did in France when they eventually arrived.

    Comment by Clark — September 2, 2010 @ 11:16 am

  19. Any idea what unit he was in, Clark?

    When I was looking up some things about the 162nd Infantry–the regiment that Bro. Hulme belonged to–I learned that part of the 41st Division (of which the 162nd was a part) was on a ship that was torpedoed. Here’s a line from the Wikipedia entry:

    “Men of the 41st were aboard the SS Tuscania when it was torpedoed by a German U-boat and sunk off the coast of Northern Ireland.”

    Comment by Mark B. — September 2, 2010 @ 1:04 pm

  20. The only info I have is that he was in the “20th Engineers, Company E, part of the so-called Forestry Battalion.”

    And yes, the ship he was on was the Tuscania. If it’s of interest to readers, I could put together a short article on his experience during the sinking and submit it to Ardis for consideration.

    Comment by Clark — September 2, 2010 @ 1:18 pm

  21. His name was Samuel Whitney “Whit” Pincock, born north of Rexburg, Idaho in 1887. The fact that there were two Idaho boys, both older, both Mormon on the same ship makes me want to connect dots that probably aren’t there. There were, after all nearly 2,000 men aboard.

    Comment by Clark — September 2, 2010 @ 1:22 pm

  22. I can’t speak for Ardis, but it sounds interesting.

    A few notes:

    Bro. Hulme may not have been on the Tuscania–if there were 2,000 soldiers on it, there were about 8,000 other members of the 41st division on other vessels.

    A Google search of “20th Engineers” found all sorts of things that you may have seen already–but might fill in your story of your great-grandfather. It appears that the 20th Engineers was not actually attached to a division–oftentimes specialized units like it are not.

    Comment by Mark B. — September 2, 2010 @ 2:07 pm

  23. I hear the masses chanting: “Send it in, Clark, send it in!”

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — September 2, 2010 @ 2:11 pm

  24. Yes, that would be great, Clark. Did he remain in the field of forestry after he left the service? That link from Mark is great, and from a quick look at Google Books, it looks like he may have rubbed elbows with some notable figures in the development of the field of forestry.

    Comment by Researcher — September 2, 2010 @ 2:37 pm

  25. So, Clark, it looks as if your great-grandfather spent the war lumbering in France. Which is a big step up from my grandfather, who spent the war “shoveling #&%* in Tacoma.”

    When he entered the Army, he was asked if he’d had experience working with draft animals. He had, so the army sent him to Camp (now Fort) Lewis, Washington, where he spent the rest of his army service. Since he was a buck private, my hunch is he probably spent a lot of time mucking out stables.

    Comment by Mark B. — September 2, 2010 @ 3:07 pm

  26. Thanks for the info and links. I’ll send Ardis something via email…

    Comment by Clark — September 2, 2010 @ 4:14 pm

  27. Clark, Sounds like an interesting story. Send it in. Have you by chance been to the National Archives to research him? I would think they would have buckets of stuff on his unit and him.

    Comment by J Soderborg — September 2, 2010 @ 5:30 pm

  28. I suspect that the setting apart of missionaries by stake presidents is a relatively recent (meaning perhaps the past 40 or 50 years) development, and that they all would have been set apart by general authorities before then.

    Bishops were set apart by general authorities as late as 1965–when my father was ordained by Howard W. Hunter.

    I looked up the dates: 1970 for the setting apart of missionaries and 1975 for the ordination of bishops.

    Comment by Justin — September 3, 2010 @ 8:09 am

  29. Thanks Justin. It’s nice that there’s someone who knows where to look that stuff up.

    Comment by Mark B. — September 3, 2010 @ 9:16 am

  30. I love this stuff and all your comments!

    Comment by Carol — September 3, 2010 @ 5:50 pm

  31. Not sure if they would have known each other, but my great-grandfather served in France during WWI as well. Here are some photos I’ve collected:

    Comment by Tod Robbins — September 3, 2010 @ 5:57 pm

  32. His name was William Jennings Nelson (1897-1958):

    Comment by Tod Robbins — September 3, 2010 @ 5:58 pm

  33. Ok, Joseph, I jumped the gun major-like on this one. Nelson wasn’t there the same time, and he was in Oullins & Lyon. Enjoy the photos nonetheless! /bows head in shame/

    Comment by Tod Robbins — September 3, 2010 @ 6:21 pm

  34. Apparently my links are broken. Try this one, if you’re interested: William Jennings Nelson (1897-1958)

    Comment by Tod Robbins — September 3, 2010 @ 6:30 pm

  35. Tod, LDS soldiers in World War I is a topic we keep going back to around here — several posts about B.H. Roberts as a chaplain, and a sketch of Jens Leslie Stevenson, and this post, for instance. No need to bow — a lot of us, including me, are very interested. Those are a couple of great looking photos. Thanks.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — September 3, 2010 @ 7:16 pm

  36. Tod,
    Thanks for the links. Have been able to get any army records relating to his service in WWI?
    My Grandfather’s service of about a week in the Canadian Army (see no. 10 above) generated more than ten pages of reports, forms, etc.

    Also, Is there any chance William Jennings Nelson was named after William Jennings Bryan, the three time presidential candidate and Wilson’s Sec. of state when the war began?

    Comment by J soderborg — September 4, 2010 @ 11:46 am

  37. @Joseph

    I’m actually having a really rough time finding any sources through my searches (I don’t have full access to Ancestry at home anyhow). And about William Jennings Bryan, It’d never crossed my mind before. Interesting…

    Any ideas on finding documents?

    PS: On the back of one of those postcards is the stamped name:

    S. T. Coombs
    2nd Lieut. T. C. USA.

    Any idea how to track down info on this officer?

    Comment by Tod Robbins — September 5, 2010 @ 12:01 am

  38. Tod, T. C. is probably tank commander. Was W. J. Nelson in the tank corps?

    Comment by J. Soderborg — September 5, 2010 @ 2:02 am

  39. I don’t know those details. Do the National Archives (USA) have digitized WWI records yet?

    Comment by Tod Robbins — September 5, 2010 @ 2:41 pm

  40. PS: Joseph we can continue our correspondence over email so as not to bore everyone else: todd . d . robbins at gmail


    Comment by Tod Robbins — September 5, 2010 @ 2:42 pm

  41. I thought this article on France was interesting. Is he one of your relatives?

    Comment by jean — September 6, 2010 @ 4:04 pm

  42. jean, I’ll answer for Joseph so I can say some things he will be too modest to say.

    No, Hulme is no relation to Joe. But a while back Joe came up with a fascinating, previously unstudied historical question that is going to make for some fascinating reading when he publishes it. Since then, he has been methodically and tenaciously working through every record he can locate for every person he can identify who was in the right time and place to have played a role in his topic. While doing that, he read Hulme’s diary and recognized the kind of brief story that makes for a great blog post, and he offered it to Keepa.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — September 6, 2010 @ 5:29 pm

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