Private William Feeley

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 Private William Feeley

William Feeley was born on 20 May 1889 at Bandon in County Cork, Ireland. The use of different dates of birth and the commonality of his name and its variant spellings make it difficult to identify other family members but his enlistment papers indicate that his father lived in Timoleague, County Cork and that his sister, Catherine, lived and worked in Massachusetts.

He enlisted in Quebec on 28 January 1918 giving his date of birth as 20 May 1882 and indicating that he lived and worked in Dorchester, Massachusetts. He joined the 249th Battalion and was allocated the number 1070090. The battalion sailed for England aboard RMS Saxonia, arriving on 4 March, and on its arrival was absorbed into the 15th Reserve Battalion. Feeley served there until posted to France in early June with a reinforcement draft. After a period at the Canadian Base Depot, on 20 July he joined the details of 5th Battalion (Western Cavalry), an infantry battalion in 2nd Infantry Brigade, 1st Canadian Division. The battalion came out of the line in the early hours of 21 July and the following day it was joined in its billets in Arras by the draft of reinforcements, which numbered 100 other ranks.

On 2 September 1918 the Canadian 1st and 4th Divisions and the British 4th Division attacked the Drocourt–Quéant Line east of Arras. During the 5th Battalion’s attack on the first day of the operation, Feeley was in a shell-hole when a shell exploded above him—a shrapnel ball pierced his helmet, causing a serious head-wound. He was one of almost 250 casualties suffered by the battalion that day.[1] Unconscious, he was treated at No. 7 Casualty Clearing Station before being evacuated rearward to No. 3 General Hospital at Le Tréport and where, dangerously ill, he remained for a week. He was then evacuated to hospital in England, which included treatment at the Granville Canadian Special Hospital, Buxton. He recovered well and sailed for Canada on 23 February 1919 but unfit for further service he was discharged on 5 April 1919. Suffering from residual effects of his wound, he undertook out-patient treatment under the control of the Invalided Soldiers Commission.[2]

While still in the care of the Invalided Soldiers Commission, on St. Catherine Street in Montreal on 10 June 1920 he was hit by a street car and seriously injured. He died in the early hours of 11 June in the Royal Victoria Hospital. Initial efforts to identify him proved difficult but within several days his remains were returned to Massachusetts where he was buried in Saint Joseph Cemetery, West Roxbury on 16 June. His grave is in St. Patrick Section ‘A’, Lot 342, where his sister Catherine is also buried; she died in 1929 and her name was not added to the grave marker.

1. (Back) An extensive and detailed after-action report may be found in the battalion’s war diary here.

2. (Back) The Invalided Soldiers Commission was part of the Department of Soldiers’ Civil Re-Establishment. Upon discharge all officers and soldiers passed to the control of the Commission if they required ‘medical treatment on account of their suffering from tuberculosis, epilepsy, paralysis or other diseases likely to be of long duration or incurable, or on account of their being mentally deficient or insane’. See: Department of Soldiers’ Civil Re-Establishment. (May 1918). Report of the Work of the Invalided Soldiers’ Commission. Ottawa: J De L Taché.

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