Stoker 1st Class Henry John Gardner Miller

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 Henry John Gardner Miller
The grave of Stoker Henry John Gardner Miller

Henry John Gardner ‘Harry’ Miller was born on 27 May 1891 at Southsea in Hampshire, the son of George and Louisa Miller—he was one of 14 children.[1] His father worked as a shipwright and Harry worked as a milkman in Portsmouth. In 1912, he married Harriet Freeman.[2]

He enlisted into the Royal Navy at Portsmouth on 10 May 1916 and was allocated the number PO/K/33007. His training lasted until 30 August and he joined the crew of HMS Leviathan, then alongside at Greenock in Scotland. He was promoted to Stoker 1st Class on 19 April 1917. Continue reading

Private William Richard Eveleigh

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 William Richard Eveleigh
The grave of Private William Richard Eveleigh

William Richard Eveleigh was born on 29 June 1881 at Dartington near Totnes in Devon, the sixth of the ten children of John and Harriet Eveleigh.[1] The family moved to Rattery in 1892. His father and brothers were farm labourers and that is how William Eveleigh was employed until he enlisted into the Royal Marine Light Infantry at Totnes on 28 August 1899. He was allocated the number 9932.

The badge of the Royal Marine Light Infantry
The badge of the Royal Marine Light Infantry

After his recruit training at the Depot at Deal, he finished his training as a ship’s gunner at Plymouth and joined the cruiser HMS Niobe on 10 December 1900—she acted as an escort for troopships at the latter stages of the South African War but he joined the ship too late to receive the Queen’s South Africa Medal. After a period ashore at Devonport he then served almost continually with the Fleet, interspersed with brief periods ashore. Continue reading

HMS Alsatian

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

Trimmer Walter John Joseph Bowles, Mercantile Marine Reserve
Trimmer Percy Samuel Tomas Hyett, Mercantile Marine Reserve
(and Trimmer Leslie James Thornton, Mercantile Marine Reserve)

HMS Alsatian
HMS Alsatian

Two teenage sailors of the Mercantile Marine Reserve—Trimmers Bowles and Hyett—died while HMS Alsatian was alongside in New York during the influenza epidemic in October 1918. A third teenage sailor, Trimmer Thornton, had died as the ship was approaching the United States; he was buried at sea and, for completeness, his story is included here. This story is linked with that of the men of HMS Andes. Continue reading

HMS Andes

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

Able Seaman Thomas Drinkwater, Royal Navy
Leading Seaman William Stephen Charles Henry Fenton, Royal Navy
Scullion William Bertram Parr, Mercantile Marine Reserve
(and Private Reginald Francis Farley, Royal Marine Light Infantry)

HMS Andes
HMS Andes

In October 1918 two armed merchant cruisers—HMS Andes and HMS Alsatian—came alongside within days of each other and tied up at Pier 95 on the Hudson River near 55th Street. One crewman from HMS Alsatian had died as she approached the United States and a Marine in HMS Andes would die as she left United States waters. While the ships were in New York, five other crewmen died. All were victims of influenza. Continue reading

Leading Seaman William Charles John Geeves

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 William Charles John Geeves
The grave of Leading Seaman William Charles John Geeves

Leading Seaman Geeves survived 3½ years as a gunner on defensively armed merchant ships, including the sinking of the cargo streamer SS Betty by U-61, only to succumb to influenza in New York.

William Charles John Geeves was born in London on 3 December 1889 the second son and second of the seven children of Charles and Eliza Geeves.[1] The family lived at New Beckton, Woolwich, where his father, who was born in Kingstown (now Dún Laoghaire) in Ireland, worked as a dock labourer. William Geeves became a merchant seaman.

On 15 April 1915, William Geeves enrolled in the Royal Naval Reserve and was allocated the number 8052A. After a period of training at HMS Pembroke in Chatham he joined SS Tuskar, a small, defensively armed cargo ship, on 19 May. Continue reading

A Stranger in a Strange Land ‘

That old phrase describes the seaman who dies in New York, who lies alone in the hospital, or sometimes in the Institute. He turns to us when the end is near, confident that to us he is not a stranger, that what is left when he no longer can worry or arrange, will be reverently cared for.’[1]

Seamen's Church Institute Plot, The Evergreens Cemetery, BrooklynThe Seamen’s Church Institute plot in the Evergreens Cemetery, Brooklyn, has the second largest number of First World War CWGC graves in a single plot in the United States—the largest, with 10 men of the Royal Flying Corps and one from the Royal Air Force, being in Greenwood Memorial Park, Fort Worth, Texas.[2]

There are nine CWGC burials in the plot:

Trimmer Walter John Joseph Bowles, Mercantile Marine Reserve
Able Seaman Thomas Drinkwater, Royal Navy
Private William Richard Eveleigh, Royal Marine Light Infantry
Leading Seaman William Charles John Geeves, Royal Naval Reserve
Trimmer Percy Samuel Tomas Hyett, Mercantile Marine Reserve
Able Seaman Patrick McDonagh, Royal Naval Reserve
Stoker 1st Class Henry John Gardner Miller, Royal Navy
Scullion William Bertram Parr, Mercantile Marine Reserve
Stoker 1st Class Alfred Weeden, Royal Navy

The history of ministries serving the needs of merchant sailors on the eastern seaboard of the United States began in Boston in the period after the war of 1812 with the founding of the Boston Society for the Religious and Moral Improvement of Seamen. Similar ministries were founded in New York—the Marine Bible Society in 1817, and the New York Port Society in 1818. Continue reading