This is part of a series of essays about the First World War casualties commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in Massachusetts.
Second Lieutenant Ralph Michael Cummings was typical of the young men who volunteered to fly with the Royal Flying Corps, only to be killed during training.
He was born on 15 December 1894 at Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, the eldest son of Michael and Minnie Cummings. The family emigrated to Massachusetts in 1895, where a second son was born. Ralph Cummings became a naturalised citizen of the United States in 1913. Prior to his enlistment, he lived in West Bridgewater and work as a salesman for R. H. Stearns & Co.
Cummings enlisted into the Royal Flying Corps in Toronto on 25 July 1917 as a flying cadet, and was allocated the number 614998. Following his first phase of training, he was commissioned into the Royal Flying Corps as a Second Lieutenant on probation on 1 January 1918.
At some stage in his training, Cummings had travelled to Texas to fly and by the turn of the year he was attached to the School of Aerial Gunnery. On 15 January, he was involved in an accident in a Curtis JN4, the cause of which was not determined by the subsequent board of inquiry. Also in the aircraft was Napoleon G. Ouellette, a soldier serving with the Air Service, United States Army. Ouellette was only slightly injured but Cummings was seriously injured and he died the next day. His remains were sent home and he was buried in Saint Michael’s Cemetery, Avon. His parents and brother are also buried there. His grave is in the eastern part of the cemetery in Lot 128 marked with a Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone; a large family marker is nearby.
Second Lieutenant Cummings is commemorated on page 585 of the Canadian First World War Book of Remembrance; that page is displayed on 18 December. He is also commemorated on the Royal Flying Corps & Royal Air Force memorial in Greenwood Cemetery, Fort Worth; in the Brockton Honor Roll; and on the war memorial at West Bridgewater Town Hall.
TNA. PRO. (1914-1922). Service Record: 2/Lieutenant Ralph Michael Cummings, Royal Flying Corps (General List). WO 339/137042.
1. (Back) Michael John Cummings (19 December 1865-1937) married Minnie A. Landers (c1870-1913) in 1892: Arthur M. (26 May 1899-1934).
2. (Back) Napoleon George Ouellette (10 January 1896-5 November 1961) later served as a Private First Class in France with 28th Aero Squadron.
3. (Back) Brockton World War Victory Association. (1919). Brockton’s Honor Roll of Her Sons Who Made the Supreme Sacrifice in the World War. Brockton: The Association. p 101. The Honor Roll was produced for the first memorial service on 26 May 1919.