Sapper Patrick Keane

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 Sapper Patrick Keane

Patrick Keane was born about 1870 at Tarbert, a small town in County Kerry, Ireland alongside the Shannon estuary. He emigrated to the United States around 1888 and settled in New York, where he worked as a boatman and stevedore.

At the Church of the Holy Cross in New York City, on 19 October 1890, Keane married Julia Mulry, who was also an Irish immigrant. The couple had eight children, two of whom died in infancy and another died before Keane enlisted.[1] The family lived in Astoria, near Bowery Bay.

In New York on 24 July 1917, Keane enlisted for service with the Corps of Royal Engineers, and travelled to England. As a boatman and stevedore, he was a natural choice for service with the Inland Waterways and Docks section and he joined that section’s depot at Stonar Camp near Sandwich in Kent and was allocated the number 320507. He was categorised as a ‘stevedore’ with a classification of ‘very superior’. Sapper Keene was sent to France on 8 September 1917. Unfortunately, there is nothing in his record to indicate with which Inland Waterways and Docks unit he served. All soldiers in the Royal Engineers Transportation Branch were renumbered in the spring of 1918 and Keane was allocated the new number WR/507900.

After the war, Thomas Keane returned to the United Kingdom on 10 February 1919. He was discharged ‘being surplus to military requirements’ and travelled back to the United States onboard the SS Mauritania, arriving in New York on 7 April. As a demobilised soldier, he began a period of 28 days paid furlough after the voyage—his discharge was due to take effect from 8 May—but on 18 April, while he was on his way to apply for a job at the docks, Keane fell into the harbour and drowned. He was buried in Second Calvary Cemetery, Woodside, New York. His grave, in Section 14, Row 21M, Grave 15, is in the southern part of the cemetery and is marked by a large family memorial, erected by his wife.

For his war service Sapper Keane was awarded the British War Medal 1914-20 and Victory Medal.

His son Bryan served in the United States Navy during the First World War as a Fireman 1st Class on the former 74-gun, ship of the line, USS Granite State in the Hudson River. His son, James, served during the Second World War from November 1942 to June 1943 in the United States Army.


1. (Back) Julia Mulry Keane (1867-4 October 1944): Anna M. (July 1891-2 June 1953); John Gerald (May 1893-4 January 1915); Bryan Thomas (28 January 1895-21 June 1943) Anthony Patrick (10 June 1897-16 November 1983); Mary ‘Massie’ (September 1899-after 1940); and James Joseph (20 March 1903-2 December 1947).

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