This Month in History – Bellamy Sails to France

On May 8, 1918, Second Lieutenant Hargrove Bellamy boarded the George Washington in Hoboken, New Jersey and set sail for France. After more than a year of military service, Bellamy was finally on his way to the Western Front and to battlefield service. Lieutenant Bellamy was one of the approximately two million U.S. men who served overseas with the American Expeditionary Forces during the Great War.

In April 1917, when the U.S. entered the First World War, Wilmington native Hargrove Bellamy was a football playing fraternity member in his sophomore year at UNC Chapel Hill. But he quickly he left college and voluntarily joined Cavalry Unit, Troop C, of the North Carolina National Guard. The company was officially organized on April 29, 1917. Bellamy joined as a private. Company C was hoping that they would be sent off for training quickly, but it was not to be. Instead, it took five months for the company to leave Wilmington. On September 1, the Wilmington Morning Star reported the Company was leaving town. As it did so, it acknowledged that “The boys have received the news with delight and are champing their bits with impatience and are anxious to get away where they can do some real soldiering. Heretofore the troop’s only military experience has been in the daily drill and in charging the lunch counter at meal time.”

It’s not clear exactly when the company left for Camp Sevier, but by December, Hargrove Bellamy was a member of the machine gun contingent of the 119th infantry and was promoted to the rank of Second Lieutenant. During his time at camp, Lieutenant Bellamy courted Sarah Lyell Erwin, and the pair married in Durham on April 19, 1918. Less than a month later, Bellamy sailed for France. He was a part of the Advanced Detachment of the 30th division. After Hargrove set sail, Sarah Bellamy went back to Durham to live with her parents.

Hargrove Bellamy fought in France and was wounded at the Battle of Bellicourt on September 29, 1918. According to a later account of his actions in the battle, Bellamy “…took command of the assaulting wave and led it against the enemy position, knowing it to be strongly entrenched. In the face of intense enemy artillery, machine-gun, rifle and grenade fire, he continued the advance, reached the machine-gun positions, strong points and trenches, and captured them in hand-to-hand combat.” As Bellamy himself recalled, “…in crossing the Hindenburg Line I was wounded twice and some several hours later was picked up by the Germans and placed in a hospital.”

After the battle, no official word was heard about Bellamy’s whereabouts for six weeks. In early November, unofficial reports began to circulate that Lieutenant Bellamy was missing and had been taken prisoner. There also were rumors that he’d lost an arm while escaping from the Germans. In early November, the Wilmington Morning Star reported that Mr. Robert R. Bellamy had been trying to get information about his son from the War Department with the help of North Carolina’s senators. About a week later, on November 11, 1918, the paper reported that Hargrove’s dad had gone to Washington to try to find out if his “reported wounding, capture and escape” were, in fact, true. Perhaps because of Mr. Bellamy’s visit, on November 12, official word came down that Bellamy was in an officer’s prisoner camp at Karlsruhe Germany.”

Even after the official report that he was imprisoned, Bellamy’s family was still worried about him, and there was additional confusion about his whereabouts at the end of November. On November 27, 1918 a Durham newspaper reported that a special Red Cross messenger was sent to search for Bellamy. While the prisoners at Karlsruhe were released “some days ago…nothing has been heard of Lieutenant Bellamy.” Finally, on November 29, 1918, a High Point newspaper reported that Mr. and Mrs. Bellamy had received word “through the International Red Cross in Switzerland, direct from their son, Lieutenant Hargrove Bellamy.”

Bellamy remained in service overseas after the armistice for a number of months. He sailed home from France on March 17, 1919, on board the same ship as his fellow Wilmingtonian, Captain Paul L. Cantwell. Bellamy was met by his father and his wife Sarah in Charleston, S.C. in late March of 1919. The Wilmington Morning Star declared “It is a pleasure for Lieutenant Bellamy’s friends to know that, while very severely wounded, he is now fully convalescent and is looking remarkably well.”

Lieutenant Hargrove Bellamy later received the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions in battle.

View Bellamy’s service uniforms here.

Previous Columns

March: World TB Day
February: David Walker is Honored with a Marker
Two Brothers Honored on One Memorial Stone
Holiday Gifts
A nurse comes home from war
Wartime football takes the bases by storm
Circus Day
Motorboat Racing
Celebrating Independence Day at the Beach
Wilmington Turns 200, June 21, 1939
Laura Grace Cox graduates from Tileston
Saint Marks Turns 100, April 1969
March: Troops Return Home, March 29, 1919
February: Black History Month turns 40
January: Fort Johnston and Fort Caswell are seized, January 8, 1861

Lieutenant Hargrove Bellamy’s helmet
CFM 1994.089.0003
Gift of Robert Bellamy
814 Market Street • Wilmington, NC 28401 • Phone 910-798-4370 • Fax 910-798-4382