Private William Bradley

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

The grave of Private William Bradley
The grave of Private William Bradley

William Bradley was born on 30 August 1891 in Bingley, Yorkshire, where his mother worked in a mill. He and his mother emigrated to the United States on 28 July 1904; they landed in Boston and settled initially in Lawrence, Massachusetts. In October 1904 his mother married Henry Morville Holmes, who had also emigrated from Bingley, and sometime in the next few years the family moved to Providence, Rhode Island.[1] Willie Bradley became a chauffeur and on 27 March 1915 he married Margaret Anne Farrell; the couple had two children—a son, William, and a daughter, Margaret; their daughter died as an infant.[2]

Bradley enlisted on 19 July 1918 in Providence and soon afterwards joined the Canadian Army Service Corps Depot at Ottawa, Ontario, where he was allocated the regimental number 2688553. On 2 September 1918 he was posted for service with the Canadian Siberian Expeditionary Force. This force—a small brigade—had been authorized in August 1918 for service in North Russia in support of the White Russian, anti-Bolshevik forces. The movement of the troop trains carrying the men of the Force westward would be a significant factor in the spread of influenza throughout Canada.[3]

In late September 1918, Private Bradley began his journey to Russia but on 1 October influenza broke out on the troop train carrying him and men of the Siberian Expeditionary Force through British Columbia to New Westminster. The train was quarantined at Port Coquitlam and nearby, in an attempt to contain the disease, a hospital—swiftly named Coquitlam Military Isolation Hospital—was established in ‘Aggie Hall’. Alongside the Agricultural Hall a tented camp was erected in the park grounds to quarantine the troops. Private Bradley was admitted to the hospital on the day it opened, 3 October, suffering from influenza. He developed pneumonia and died at 11.00am on 12 October 1918. His was the second of 34 deaths here in the autumn of 1918.[4]

Private Bradley was buried in Mountain View Cemetery, Vancouver at 2.00pm on 15 October. Subsequently, his remains were returned to Rhode Island and reinterred in Pocasset Cemetery, Cranston on 5 April 1919. His grave—Plat 7, Group L, Grave 3139—is in the most northerly section of the cemetery alongside North Main Avenue in a section where the majority of graves are marked only by small stone markers with a grave number. At his grave is a flag holder inscribed ‘British Canadian Great War Veterans’. This social and commemorative organisation was formed in 1920 by men from North Providence who had served with the British armed forces or in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Bradley’s mother and step-father are also buried in this cemetery.

The Canadian Book of Remembrance showing the entry for Private William Bradley
The Canadian Book of Remembrance showing the entry for Private William Bradley

Private Bradley is commemorated on on page 373 of the Canadian First World War Book of Remembrance; that page is displayed on 14 August. He is also commemorated on the North Providence War Memorial. He was not entitled to any war medals; the memorial plaque and scroll were sent to his widow and his mother received the Memorial Cross.

1. (Back) Fanny Bradley (12 January 1872-17 June 1952), married Henry Morville Holmes (22 July 1856-18 May 1928) on 29 October 1904, in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Holmes, a widower (his wife, Alice née Clark, died in 1902), had emigrated to the United States on 19 October 1904; he was a weaving loom fixer and also from Bingley.
2. (Back) Margaret Anne Bradley (née  Farrell) (1883-13 July 1937): William F. (3 February 1916-8 May 1983); and Margaret L. (11 May 1917-23 November 1918). A third child, a daughter, was stillborn on 28 May 1918. Margaret Anne Farrell also had a daughter prior to her marriage, Mary (1910-5 March 1938).
3. (Back) For more detail on this see: Humphries, M O. (2005). The Horror at Home: The Canadian Military and the “Great” Influenza Pandemic of 1918. Journal of the Canadian Historical Association/Revue de la Société historique du Canada. Volume 16, No 1, 2005, pp 235-260.
4. (Back) Of these, 33 were military personnel and one was a nurse working in the hospital. The hospital closed on 13 November 1918. See Coquitlam History.

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