Private Bert Lancelot Brennen

This essay is about the single First World War casualty commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in Oregon.

Editor’s Note: Private Brennen was incorrectly commemorated by the CWGC as having died on 12 December 1918. His online record now reflects his correct date of death and his gravestone will be replaced.

The grave marker for Private Bert Lancelot Brennen
The grave marker for Private Bert Lancelot Brennen

Private Bert Brennen was an American of Irish descent—he hailed from Detroit, Michigan, where he was born on 24 March 1882. Little is known of his parents, wider family or his early life but by the time he enlisted in 1918 he was working as a motor mechanic in Barons, Alberta.[1] While living in Barons, he became engaged to Helena W. Comstock, a California-born chiropractor.[2]

Bert Brennen was not conscripted—he enlisted into the Canadian Expeditionary Force at Calgary, Alberta on 23 May 1918. He joined the 1st Depot Battalion, Alberta Regiment and was allocated the number 3207145. He had recently suffered from pneumonia and he was placed in medical category ‘C3’—defined as being fit only for sedentary duties at home. Continue reading

The U.S. World War I Centennial Commission

I am very pleased to announce that the project has been endorsed by:

WW1_logo_v2The project will advance the aims of the Commission[1] through:

Education: Informing national and local audiences about the participation of the United States and Americans in the First World War outwith the AEF.

Commemoration: Achieving recognition of the service and sacrifice of Americans, who may otherwise be forgotten because they were not serving with the AEF.

Memorials: Identifying and cataloguing memorials to American casualties, including CWGC and private grave markers, that may otherwise not be recognized.


1. (Back) ‘The Commission is responsible for planning, developing, and executing programs, projects, and activities to commemorate the centennial of World War One; encouraging private organizations and State and local governments to organize and participate in activities commemorating the centennial of World War I; facilitating and coordinating activities throughout the United States relating to the centennial of World War One; serving as a clearinghouse for the collection and dissemination of information about events and plans for the centennial of World War One; and developing recommendations for Congress and the President for commemorating the centennial of World War One.’

Private Harry Fooksman

This is part of a series of essays about the First World War casualties commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in Maryland. This account is incomplete, however, due to the process to digitise Canadian service records—it will be updated when his service record becomes available.

Editors note: Private Fooksman is commemorated as  by the CWGC as ‘Private Harry Ross’, the name under which he served.

97th Battalion (American Legion) Cap Badge
97th Battalion (American Legion) Cap Badge

Harry Ross is something of an enigma—the name under which he served, and by which he is commemorated by the CWGC, is an alias.  He was born Harry Fooksman, the only son of a Russian Jewish family, both sides of which had emigrated to the United States in the late-1880s. Continue reading

Private Francis George Thomas

This is part of a series of essays about the First World War casualties commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in Louisiana.

Greenwood Cemetery, New Orleans
Greenwood Cemetery, New Orleans

Frank Thomas was born in 1891 at Wells Street,[1] off Gray’s Inn Road, London the eldest of the two surviving children of Francis and Emma Thomas. His father was a printer’s compositor, a trade that Frank was to be follow. His father died in the early part of 1900 and by 1911 his mother was working as a cook in a factory—Frank was living with her and was a printer’s apprentice.[2]

After the outbreak of war, he enlisted into the British Army on 9 September 1914 at Holborn for service with 7th (Service) Battalion, The Northamptonshire Regiment.[3] He joined his new battalion at Shoreham-by-Sea in Sussex and was allocated the regimental number 14178. Private Thomas did not serve there for long—he was discovered to have flat feet and was discharged on 27 October.

Not satisfied with his first experience of military service he enlisted again, this time at Islington, and joined The London Regiment. Continue reading

Private Joseph Henry Wosikowski

This is part of a series of essays about the First World War casualties commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in Louisiana.

SS Kermoor, commissioned as the USS Kermoor
SS Kermoor, commissioned as the USS Kermoor

Joseph Wosikowski was born on 10 June 1887 at St Marys, Southampton, the second son of Frank and Sarah Wosikowski.[1] His father was a Polish immigrant from Altjahn in West Prussia,[2] and his mother was from County Down in Ireland. His father and his elder brother were sausage skin dressers and his sister worked as a domestic servant. Joseph trained as a butcher with his father before enlisting into Royal Marine Light Infantry on 27 July 1905. Continue reading

Engineer Sub-Lieutenant John Gemmell

This essay is about the single First World War casualty commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in Hawaii.

The grave of Engineer Sub-Lieutenant John Gemmell
The grave of Engineer Sub-Lieutenant John Gemmell

Engineer Sub-Lieutenant John Gemmell is the most westerly of the First World War casualties commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in the United States. He died of pneumonia in Hawaii and is buried in O’ahu Cemetery. Continue reading