The Flower of Allied Manhood

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While the poem, penned and illustrated by Sergeant William E. Shiflet, of Co. C. 18th Regiment of the 1st Infantry Brigade,. appears to be original, he drew on well-established imagery of the Great War.

While the poem, penned and illustrated by Sergeant William E. Shiflet, of company C, 18th Regiment, 1st Infantry, appears to be original, he drew on well-established imagery of the Great War.



The phrase ‘flower of manhood’ is scattered throughout print culture of the nineteenth-century, but it became particularly associated with the fallen men of the Great War when the poppy was adopted an emblem of remembrance, due to the popularity of McCree’s poem which Alma A. Clarke pasted into her album.
In Shiflet’s illustration, however, the poppy becomes not only a memento mori, but also a celebration of the entente between Britain, France, and the United States, as the petals feature the iconography of each nation’s flag.

Shiflet's title “the Flower of the Allies” seems to be more original, although the exact phrase "moving the Flower of the allies into the Aisne sector" in a May 29, 1918 newspaper account reflects the circulation of the “flower” trope in all forms of wartime writing.

Similarly, the line “neath the battle fields of France” also reflects a common image of the Great War. One solder wrote home “men never gave their lives in a nobler cause nor in all the World is there a fairer place to rest than ‘neath the battlefields of France.”

Canadian Poet Edythe Morahan de Lauzon offered a more pacifist interpretation, “NEATH the battlefields of France, Sleep a mighty throng; And o'er their resting place the birds Carol many a song,” while a popular song lamented “beneath the battle fields of France a boy lies sleeping."

 

One page of Alma Clarke's scrapbook seems to function as her own memorial for the fallen soldier who lay buried in France. Alongside the image of In Flanders Fields, Clarke annotated the names and locations of three Pennsylvania soldiers' graves and pasted an photograph of a grave site and a clipping of Taps.
The author of the poem, William Edmond Shiflet (b. 1887) was among the first soldiers of AEF to land in France, fighting in the Luneville trenches in the fall of 1917. January 1918 found him in the trenches of Lorraine. Despite an extended period on the western front, Shiflet emerged with “just a tiny scratch .. not enough to call a wound.”

Shiflet was not so lucky in his next encounter with “Fritz.” Prior to the battle of Cantigny, on May 4, he was gassed for five and a half hours. Blinded for over two weeks, he was hospitalized in Troazie, and released just in time to fight at Soissons on July 17.

“Part of that time there were no officers with my company and I had to take command. Then I would get another officer, for a while, and s-s-st bang – in command again.”

On July 18 Shiflet was "touched on the leg with a machine gun bullet but not enough to go back to a hospital." However, on on July 21 he “came too close to a high explosive shell, and after trying to aviate for a few yards or so,… came to earth with a jar.” That final injury was sufficient to send Shiflet “to this hospital in Newilley … I owe my recovery to the Almighty Dr. Crossan, and a Red Cross nurse, Miss Elizabeth Deeble.”
In November of 1918, while in American Red Cross Military Hospital no. 1, Shiflet wrote a lengthy account of his wartime experiences to his father, which was subsequently published in his hometown newspaper, The Watervliet Record.

His poetic streak is still evident “Many a better man than I had ‘paid in full’ I had no right to expect less." Although Shiflet longed to return home, “I would give a lot to be back with my little woman and enjoy life. I have seen enough of death in its worst form” while convalescing, he assisted his physician, Dr. Crossan, with dressing the wounded “out of my line of duty … but it’s all for Uncle Sam.” Dr. Crossan appears in a photograph of the medical staff Clarke included in her album, although if she was friendly with any particularly physician she left no record of that.

Shiflet appears no where else in Clarke's albums, but his favorite nurse, Elizabeth Deeble, is included in a photograph of the auxiliary nurses in the scrapbook, her presence annotated by Clarke who at least knew her by name.



William E. Shiflet returned home and married Myrtle. He died in May 1950, having lived long enough to register for, but not serve in, the second world war.
Like Clarke, Elizabeth Deeble’s life seems to have been radically altered by her wartime experiences. She and her aviator fiancé had postponed their marriage in order to serve in France (the Red Cross would not accept female relatives of servicemen until very late in the war) Deeble never married. Perhaps her fiancé was killed in action. She kept in touch with William Shiflet, at least for a few years after the war. The Watervliet Record of November 17, 1922 reports that "William Shiflet .. was remember by his former nurse Elizabeth Deeble ... who sent him several pairs of knit socks, a sweeter, and a muffler."

According to her alma mater, Andover Academy, she became a war correspondent during the Spanish Civil War.

Letters she received while serving in France are held at the Chevy Chase Historical Society . Some of her papers seem to be in the Historical Society of Washington, D.C.
References
(if link is provided in text to source, then it is not cited here)
Cover and page 1 AlmaClarke_BMC_001r English WWI Scrapbook, Alma A. Clarke Papers, 1914-1946, Special Collections Department, Bryn Mawr College Library.

Page 2 detail of AlmaClarke_BMC_050r English WWI Scrapbook, Alma A. Clarke Papers, 1914-1946, Special Collections Department, Bryn Mawr College Library.

Page 4 detail of AlmaClarke_BMC_050r English WWI Scrapbook, Alma A. Clarke Papers, 1914-1946, Special Collections Department, Bryn Mawr College Library.

Page 5 all quotes from Shiflet are taken from Letter to Frank E. Shiflet, November 24, 1918, The Watervliet Record January 17,1919, np.

Page 6 AlmaClarke_BMC_026v English WWI Scrapbook, Alma A. Clarke Papers, 1914-1946, Special Collections Department, Bryn Mawr College Library.

Page 7 AlmaClarke_BMC_039vr English WWI Scrapbook, Alma A. Clarke Papers, 1914-1946, Special Collections Department, Bryn Mawr College Library.

Page 8. Photograph of Elizabeth Deeble, Passport Application April 17, 1919, ancestry.com
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