2016 Project Roundup

Amongst the aims of the project are a check of the accuracy of the details displayed on the headstones and the online commemorations by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The Commission has been very supportive of the project and it is appropriate to highlight the successes thus far.

Of the five cases submitted, four were actioned without question and one remains in adjudication—a brief description of the corrected error appears at the beginning of each story, which may be found at the links below.

Leading Seaman Sam Gordon Wills

Fireman Low On

Private Bert Lancelot Brennen

Leading Seaman Peter Beatty

The case still being reviewed is that of Private Harry Ross, whose real name is believed to be Fooksman.

In addition, Southampton City Council has acknowledged the error on the city’s war memorial in relation to Private Joseph Henry Wosikowski. Disappointingly, the error was not corrected due to a shortage of money. It is hoped that a series of additions and amendments to the memorial will be made before Remembrance Day 2018.

Next month we will submit a series of new cases, most comprising minor errors, and we hope that 2017 will see equal success, including some new commemorations.

Cadet Wilfred Cecil Alcock

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

The grave of Wilfred Cecil Alcock
The grave of Wilfred Cecil Alcock

The weekend of 24 November 1917 saw a series of accidents at the training airfields that made up Camp Taliaferro near Fort Worth in Texas. The newspapers of the day carried lured stories of multiple fatalities and mortally wounded aviators (see the gallery for an example) but the truth is somewhat simpler to recount. On Saturday 24 November Cadet Wilfred Alcock crashed into the undercarriage of another Curtis JN4 flying in formation and was killed instantly. The other pilot, Royal Flying Corps Cadet James Harold Thompson, crash landed and was injured but recovered. Another crash involving Cadet Eric Biddle was not the fatal event that the newspapers reported, and neither was that of Cadet Brailey Gish, although they were injured. A second fatality occurred on Monday 26 November when newly commissioned Second Lieutenant Frank Park Mathews fell in his aircraft from 2,500 feet. Only Alcock was British; Thompson was born in Canada but lived in the United States and Biddle, Gish and Mathews were Americans, the latter two being pilots of the Aviation Section, United States Army Signal Corps.[1] Continue reading

Lance Corporal Laurent Gilbert Narcisse Stuart

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

The grave of Lance Corporal Laurent Stuart
The grave of Lance Corporal Laurent Stuart

Laurent Stuart, and his twin brother Leonel, were born on 22 March 1895[1] at L’Ange-Gardien, Rouville, in southern Quebec, the son of Théode and Odile Stuart.[2] The family emigrated to the United States in 1906 and settled in Manchester, New Hampshire. His father owned a grocery store and most of the children worked for one of Manchester’s shoe manufacturers.

Laurent Stuart travelled to Canada and enlisted on 29 September 1914. He joined the 12th Battalion (22793, Private) and sailed for England two days later, on the SS Scotian, arriving on 14 October.[3] The Battalion was broken up to provide reinforcement drafts. The path to France taken by Private Stuart is not yet known in detail but at some time he was attached to 1st Divisional Cyclist Company, which later became part of the Canadian Corps Cyclist Battalion. Continue reading

Gunner John Francis Hughes

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

The grave of Gunner John Francis Hughes and his parents
The grave of Gunner John Francis Hughes and his parents

Sources vary in their detail about the early life of John Francis Hughes but it is probable that he was born in 1884 or 1885 in Cornwall, Ontario.[1] His father, Barney, was from Fort Covington, New York and his mother, Ellen, was Canadian.[2] His parent had married in Cornwall, Ontario in 1882 and Hughes and three of his siblings were born there. The family travelled to the United States in 1895 and settled in Manchester, New Hampshire.

When Hughes left school, he went to work as an ostler, like his father, and in Manchester on 13 January 1906 he married Catherine Elizabeth Coates.[3] The marriage did not last and the couple had no children; his wife died on 12 January 1912. By the time war broke out Hughes was working as a fireman. Continue reading