Cadet James Austin Byrnes

Cadet James Byrnes was an American, living in New York, who enlisted in 1918 for service with the Royal Air Force. He was killed in a flying accident in Canada in June 1918.

The grave of Cadet James Byrnes
The grave of Cadet James Byrnes

James Austin Byrnes was born in Chicago, Illinois on 6 October 1893, the second of the six children of Robert and Margaret Byrnes.[1] His parents were English-born of Irish ancestry; they emigrated to the United States in 1889 and settled in Chicago. Early in the new century, the family moved to New York, where they lived on Eagle Avenue. His father was a machinery inspector for the railroad; James became a railroad linesman and worked for the Interborough Rapid Transit Company—the operator of the New York subway. Continue reading

Private Patrick Bradley

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

The grave of Private Patrick Bradley
The grave of Private Patrick Bradley

Patrick Bradley was an Irishman, who enlisted in early 1918 but fell ill soon afterwards and was discharged. He was born at Cushybraken near Kilrea in County Antrim, Ireland on 15 January 1893[1] the son of Charles and Mary Bradley.[2] His father was a farmer, who died before the turn of the century.

His mother emigrated to the United States around 1904, with his older brother James, and settled in New York. Patrick remained in Cushybraken with his widowed maternal grandmother and his mother’s family. After he left school, he worked as a farm labourer. James returned to Ireland in 1909 and in January 1910 he sailed back to New York from Londonderry on the SS Furnessia with his brother Patrick. Both sons lived with their mother and Patrick found work in service. At the time of his enlistment he was a footman for Mrs Sterling Postley, who lived in a sumptuous apartment at 830 Park Avenue.[3] Continue reading

Leading Seaman Sam Gordon Wills

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

Editor’s Note: Leading Seaman Wills was incorrectly commemorated by the CWGC as ‘Leading Seaman Gordon Willis’ His online record now reflects his correct name and his gravestone will be replaced.

Leading Seaman Gordon Wills
Leading Seaman Gordon Wills

Sam Gordon Wills was born on 5 March 1887, the second of the six children of Francis and Harriet Wills, at South Town, Kenton, near Dawlish in Devon, where his father was a farm labourer.[1] By 1901 he was working as a yard boy for a family in Dawlish.

He enlisted into the Royal Navy at Devonport on 18 April 1906 and was numbered SS/1368—during his service he was known as ‘Gordon’.[2] After a short period of training ashore, he joined the crew of the battleship HMS Vengeance in the Channel Fleet. His second ship was another pre-dreadnought battleship, HMS Caesar, from June 1908 to May 1909, and he then joined the dreadnought HMS Temeraire. He was transferred to the Royal Naval Reserve on 29 April 1911. Continue reading

Fireman Low On

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

Editors update, March 2016: For many years the CWGC recorded this seaman’s name as ‘Ou Loo’, believed to be the consequence of a series of transcription errors. That error has now been adjusted and he is correctly commemorated as ‘ Low On’. His gravestone will be replaced.[1]

The grave of Fireman Low On
The grave of Fireman Low On

Fireman Low On is one of the few casualties buried in the United States who died as a result of enemy action.

He was born in the mid-1880s in Guangdong province in southern China. There is no record of his early life or when he became a mariner but he signed on for service with SS Diomed in Hong Kong on 14 March 1918. Continue reading

Stoker 1st Class Alfred Weeden

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

The grave of Stoker Alfred Weeden
The grave of Stoker Alfred Weeden

Although recorded as being on the crew of HMS Leviathan, in fact, Stoker Weeden died in an accident in New York while serving in HMS Charybdis, which was undergoing conversion to a passenger and cargo carrier.

Alfred Weeden was born at Farnham in Surrey on 25 December 1884,[1] one of the twelve children of George and Mary Weeden.[2] When he left school he became a bricklayer’s labourer before he enlisted into the Royal Navy on 2 July 1906.[3]

After a period of training ashore and afloat at Portsmouth, Stoker Weeden joined the armoured cruiser HMS Drake. He remained in Drake, other than for periods of training ashore, until July 1909, when he was posted to various training establishments on the south coast. He transferred to the Royal Fleet Reserve on 2 July 1911. Continue reading

Able Seaman Patrick McDonagh

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

The older gravestone for Able Seaman Patrick McDonagh
The older gravestone for Able Seaman Patrick McDonagh

Patrick McDonagh (Padhraig MacConnachadh[1]) was born on 16 March 1895 in Claddagh, a fishing village on the western outskirts of Galway in Ireland. He was the fourth of the nine children of Thomas and Kate McDonagh, who lived at Rope Walk in the centre of the village.[2] His father was a stone mason but Patrick became a fisherman, like the majority of men in the village.

Claddagh in the early 20thC
Claddagh in the early 20thC

He enrolled in the Royal Naval Reserve on 20 June 1913 and was allocated the number 5050A. Between August and November he underwent training at Portsmouth and in the gunnery training ships HMS Duncan and HMS Albemarle, and in the Home Fleet in the battleship HMS Bulwark. In the period before the war he returned to Galway, initially fishing as a crewman on the trawler Star of the Sea, before joining the liner SS Merion for a crossing to Philadelphia, and then the White Star liner SS Suevic for a journey to Australia between March and July 1914. Continue reading

Leading Seaman Sydney Stephen Milliner

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

The grave of Leading Seaman Sydney Milliner
The grave of Leading Seaman Sydney Milliner

Sydney Stephen Milliner was born on 8 December 1873 at Sittingbourne in Kent, the son of Richard and Louisa Milliner. The couple had two daughters and three sons before Louisa died on 8 December 1879.[1] By then the family had moved to Sandwich. The younger children were brought up by their aunt Rosa, a widow who brought three children of her own into the family, and later had two more children with Richard.[2]

Milliner, who worked as a labourer, enrolled in Royal Naval Reserve on 1 June 1895; he was allocated the number 1708A.[3] Early in 1897, he married Matilda Foster Dray in Ramsgate and later that year their daughter, Jessie Florence, was born.[4] By the turn of the century the marriage had ended—his wife and daughter were living with his wife’s future husband, and Sydney Milliner was working for the North Eastern Railway on a dredger at Tyne Dock; he lived in South Shields. Continue reading