Wayne’s Company B, part 1 – Phila. Military Training Corps., Anthony J. Drexel Biddle, Men’s Club of Wayne

In these days of “wars and rumours of wars” it might be interesting to review the history of Wayne’ own “Company B”, organized early in the days of America’s participation in World War I, primarily for the purpose of home defense. Like its neighboring communities, Radnor Township at that time was disturbed by the fear of internal disturbance, since war propaganda in regard to German families was rampant everywhere. And so in June, 1917, only two months after President Wilson’s declaration of war on Germany, a number of residents of Wayne, St. Davids, and other parts of Radnor Township formed Company B, Wayne Infantry, Philadelphia Military training Corps.

Composed originally of those who were beyond the age for active service, the Company soon had among its members many who were later to enter the active service. During its existence of something over a year it had 152 names on its roster. Of these, 42 entered the service, two of whom made the supreme sacrifice, Wallace C. Dickson and Norman B. Hallman.

This Philadelphia Military Training Corps, of which Company B was a part, was originally incorporated in 1916 under the laws of Pennsylvania. Sponsored by Major Anthony J. Drexel Biddle, it had its headquarters on the old Biddle estate in Lansdowne. Upon the outbreak of the war in Europe, Major Biddle delegated Captain Edward W. Macey to organize the Main Line for military drill.

The first company in Wayne was known as “Company A”, and although composed for the most part of excellent material, it did not long survive. It was in 1917 that its successor, Company B, was organized at a meeting of the Men’s Club of Wayne, still under the leadership of Captain Macey. Although its primary purpose was to act as a secondary line of defense in the absence of the regular army and the State Militia, Company B was desirous of giving primary military training to those who should later be called into the service.

The Men’s Club of Wayne immediately voted the use of its clubhouse as headquarters for this new military organization. Captain Milton W. Orme, who had had a long and active career in the Pennsylvania National Guard was the first commanding officer. He remained in this position until he moved to New York City, when he was succeeded by Captain Winfield L. Margerum, another active National Guardsman, who had been first lieutenant under Captain Orme. The former had been captain of Company A, First Regiment Infantry, N.G.P. Norman J. Coudert was second lieutenant under Captain Orme. He had formerly been connected with the Twenty-second Regiment of Infantry of New York State. Later Norman Coudert became first lieutenant under Captain Margerum and Herbert Plimpton became second lieutenant.

Because of his former military experience, T. Griffiths Roberts was selected as first-sergeant, a position he retained by his own choice throughout the existence of the company. According to our historian, “It was a pleasure to see him form the company in front of the Men’s Club, preparatory to turning it over to the commissioned officer in charge.” The other non-commissioned officers appointed at the first roll call in May, 1917, were: Sergeants, Herbert Plimpton, Charles H. Scott, W. L. Fox, Albert A. Ware, Wallace C. Dickson, C. L. S. Tingley, F. P. Radcliffe, W. H. Shuster, Edgar L. Hunt and J. Arthur Standen. Corporals were M. C. Prew, A. N. Elliott, E. W. Maxwell, Richard S. McKinley, Walter Pierson, Jr., J. Donaldson Paxton, W. M. Holloway, George R. Park and Henry H. Ziesing, who later became a first lieutenant of engineers.

Frank T. Adams was appointed supply sergeant, and was succeeded by Lance E. Booth, who remained in that position until the company was mustered out.

At a meeting of the company held on September 28, 1917, a civic organization was effected and by-laws adopted. Officers elected were Captain Orme, president; C. H. Wilson, vice-president; Wallace C. Dickson, secretary-treasurer. F. T. Adams succeeded Mr. Dickson when the latter entered the service.

For those men who did not equip themselves, uniforms, with campaign hats and hat cords, leggings and cartridge belts were provided by public spirited citizens. Among those who were active in creating this fund raised by the Men’s Club were A. M. Ware, William H. McCutcheon and Charles S. Harvey. Among the many liberal donors to the fund were Charles C. Shoemaker, then president of the Men’s Club, H. P. Conner and Walter Pierson, Sr., with his three sons.

Transient as its membership was, the attendance at drills averaged six to eight squads. The company was also always well represented at the weekend reviews of the C.M.T.C. at Major Biddle’s Lansdowne estate. It had grown to the point where 103 rifles were constantly employed, these rifles being furnished by the Philadelphia Military Training Corps.

Although many of the members of Company B were well beyond the years of active campaigning, others joined for the knowledge of the drill and army usages which would help them so greatly after they joined the colors. In Lansdowne they frequently participated in weekend drills, parades and reviews, when they gained experience in regimental and battalion maneuvers.

Routine work was sometimes relieved by the unusual. On one such occasion in May, 1918, Company B participated in the outdoor fete held on the estate of Mrs. Charles A. Munn, at Radnor. This was for the benefit of the overseas hospitals, under the auspices of the Emergency Corps of the American Red Cross. As Company B staged a sham battle using blank cartridges. Red Cross field work was demonstrated. Litter bearers, ambulance dressing stations and hospitals of the Red Cross gave an exhibition of what the work would be under real war conditions. Certain Company members even served as casualties, among them “Private” A. M. Ware, who was placed on a stretcher and carried into a hospital tent after he was “wounded.” Further particulars of his recovery are lacking, however.

(To be continued)

(For all the well authenticated facts in regard to Company B the writer is indebted to one who is thoroughly conversant with them, Captain W. L. Margerum, who wrote a series of articles for The Suburban some years ago.)