Wayne’s Company B, part 2 – Anthony J. Drexel Biddle

Company drills were routine for Wayne’s own “Company B”, the organization of which in the early days of World War I was described in last week’s column. Tuesday evenings of each week were devoted to squad drills and Thursday evenings to Company drills. Both were held on the Radnor School Field–offivers and privates alike took this military practice very seriously with the result that the company soon presented a fine appearance.

Eventually the group took up the study and practice of guard duty, in which members were required to memorize the twelve general orders for sentinels as weel as special orders for the sentinel at the posts of the guard. According to Captain Margerum, who has kept such a splendid record of his groups, “this feature of the evening to hear the several posts call out the hour and ‘all is well’ lent a glamour to the situation which few will forget.”

As drills were continued, membership steadily increased, in spite of the fact that many members were going into active service from time to time. Permanent squads were formed with corporals training their respective squads for competitive drill. Captain A. J. Drexel Biddle, U. S. M. C., who had just returned from the European battle front, reviewed a parade of Company B held on the old Biddle estate in Lansdowne. From there the Company procedded to the grounds of the St. Davids Golf Club with music and colors, for drill in extended order.

Aside from the manual of arms and the various maneuvers of company, platoon and squad, members of the Company were rigidly drilled in the matter of military deportment.

Chairman of the Recruiting Committee was A. M. Ware, who was very active in furnishing and placing notices throughout the township. His son, Albert A. Ware, was detailed to drill the awkward squads after he enlisted and went into Camp. According to one historian the Sergeant “was so efficient that he continued in this capacity until he came to the conclusion that his military training in Company B had been something of a detriment, as it kept him from seeing more active duty”.

When Captain Orme informed Company B in January, 1918, that he must resign because of a change of residence to New York, the Company gave him a farewell dinner at the Men’s Club. They also presented him with an inscribed sabre as a token of their esteem. From this time until May, 1918, the Company was under the command of the first lieutenant. At that time an election was held with all military formality, resulting in the unanimous choice of W. L. Margerum for Captain, Norman J. Coudert for first lieutenant and Herbert Plimpton for second lieutenant. On this same date, W. L. Margerum was commissioned a captain in the Philadelphia Military Training Corps.

Only a short time after leaving Wayne, Captain Orme died in New York of influenza. When he was buried from his residence in Wayne, Company B, by special permission of the health authorities, acted as a guard of honor at his home and at the Valley Forge Memorial Cemetery where he was buried. As a mark of respect, the officers of the company wore the usual mourning on the sword hilts for thirty days.

In July, 1918, Corporal Edward W. Maxwell resigned, as he was leaving for England. Supply Sergeant F. F. Adams also left Wayne about this time, while Private Edward Carey Gardner joined the marines.

Special occasions are worthy of notice of any review of Company B’s existence in Wayne. On Memorial Day, 1918, the Company marched to a point off Old Church road for field practice in attack and defense. On that same day, by invitation of Jarvis A. Wood, the company participated in a memorial service in the Central Baptist Church for Lieutenant William Bateman, Lieutenant Pennington Way and Corporal Norman Hallman, the latter a former member of Company B. The Rev. W. A. Patton also invited the Company to the memorial services held in the Wayne Presbyterian Church for Sergeant Wallace C. Dickson, who died in France.

At the Fourth of July celebration on the school field in that same year, Company B made their appearance when in addition to the manual of arms, company and platoon drills, they were deployed as skirmishers with blank cartridges. They gave an exhibition of this feature of the drill regulations. On the evening of the following day, by invitation of Major William C. Tuttle, the company joined the military rally at Bryn Mawr.

The conversion of the Saturday Club house into a hospital during the influenza epidemic has already been described in this column in the story of that organization. Both trained and volunteer nurses and other workers were on constant duty in the sickrooms and in the kitchen. Most of these were women. However, when strong arms were needed for handling delirious patients, a call to the men of Company B went out. In spite of the public dread of the disease the response was prompt.

Among organizations which were formed to operate on a more widespread basis during the days of World War I were a Committee of Public Safety for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the “American Protective League” for the whole country. The former was a Home Defense police force for the various counties of the State as created by Act of Assembly in July, 1917. Charles Wheeler, who was vice-director, appointed T. Truxtun Hare and W. L. Margerum as aides. Lieutenant Coudert was also a member of this organization. Captain Hare commanded Company B of this organization embracing Radnor Township. This Committee of Public Safety was not demobilized until April, 1921.

The American Protective League was organized with the approval of the United States Department of Justice, Bureau of Investigation, under whose direction it operated. In this organization W. L. Margerum was appointed lieutenant in April, 1918.

Several days after Armistice Day the Peace Jubilee was celebrated in Wayne by a rousing parade in which various local organizations participated. Headed by a detachment of Marines from the Philadelphia Navy Yard, Company B paraded with two bands of music, members of the Red Cross in Uniform, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts and the fire company, all forming a column worthy of the occasion. Company B. paraded three platoons, with the first Sergeant in charge of the third platoon.

Soon comrades returning from overseas and from camps in this country were home. Among them was Captain Fallon, who had received a special decoration from the French Government because of his services in the Air Force. And of course there were many others.

By February, 1919, rifles of Company B were returned to the P. M. T. C. or delivered on order to other organizations. Among the latter were forty rifles turned over to St. Luke’s School, and sixty to Radnor High School.

Sergeant Edgar L. Hunt was mustered out of Company B. And soon the days of the Company’s activities were a thing of the past, to linger on only in the memories of those who had participated in its work, and those who had stood by admiringly as they saw what had been accomplished in such a short time.

(The End)