Private John Burke

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

he badge of The Connaught Rangers

John Burke was born in Killaloe, County Clare, Ireland around 1889. Little is known of his early life other than that he emigrated to the United States sometime before the war.

In October 1914, Burke returned to the United Kingdom onboard the SS Baltic on 27 November and in January 1915 enlisted into The Connaught Rangers, probably joining the 4th (Extra Reserve) Battalion at Queenstown (now Cobh), where he was allocated the regimental number 5332 (he may have been a Special Reservist formerly). In April 1915, he was posted to France, where he landed on 2 May, and joined the 1st Battalion in 7th (Ferozepore) Brigade, 3rd (Lahore) Division in the Indian Corps.

The Battalion had been in Ferozepore, India from 1910 until it sailed as part of the Indian Corps in August 1914, landing at Marseilles at the end of September. It had absorbed the survivors of the badly mauled 2nd Battalion in December 1914 and by the time Burke joined it was in the line at Neuve Chapelle.

In December 1915 the Battalion moved with 3rd (Lahore) Division to Mesopotamia. It arrived at Basra on 10 January 1916 and spent the rest of the war in this region. In April 1918, after the fall of Baghdad, the Battalion sailed with the Division for Egypt for service in the campaign in Palestine, where it finished the war. Burkes role in all of this is unknown. Having returned to the United Kingdom, in early 1919, Burke was discharged to the Class Z Reserve on 7 May and sailed for the United States onboard the SS Carmania from Liverpool, arriving back in New York on 27 August 1919. On his arrival, he went to live with his sister, Josephine, in New York.

Sometime thereafter, Burke fell ill with tuberculosis and was admitted to the Pawling Sanatorium at Troy, New York. He died there on 31 May 1920; his remains were returned to his sister and he was buried in First Calvary Cemetery, Woodside in Section 51, Row 38, Grave 5, which is in the westernmost part of the cemetery.

The grave of Private John Burke

For his war service, he was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20 and Victory Medal.

Billy Gonzalez for the photograph of Burke’s grave.

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