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

Leading Seaman Sam Gordon Wills

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

Editor’s Note: Leading Seaman Wills was incorrectly commemorated by the CWGC as ‘Leading Seaman Gordon Willis’ His online record now reflects his correct name and his gravestone will be replaced.

Leading Seaman Gordon Wills
Leading Seaman Gordon Wills

Sam Gordon Wills was born on 5 March 1887, the second of the six children of Francis and Harriet Wills, at South Town, Kenton, near Dawlish in Devon, where his father was a farm labourer.[1] By 1901 he was working as a yard boy for a family in Dawlish.

He enlisted into the Royal Navy at Devonport on 18 April 1906 and was numbered SS/1368—during his service he was known as ‘Gordon’.[2] After a short period of training ashore, he joined the crew of the battleship HMS Vengeance in the Channel Fleet. His second ship was another pre-dreadnought battleship, HMS Caesar, from June 1908 to May 1909, and he then joined the dreadnought HMS Temeraire. He was transferred to the Royal Naval Reserve on 29 April 1911. Continue reading

Stoker 1st Class Alfred Weeden

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 Stoker Alfred Weeden
The grave of Stoker Alfred Weeden

Although recorded as being on the crew of HMS Leviathan, in fact, Stoker Weeden died in an accident in New York while serving in HMS Charybdis, which was undergoing conversion to a passenger and cargo carrier.

Alfred Weeden was born at Farnham in Surrey on 25 December 1884,[1] one of the twelve children of George and Mary Weeden.[2] When he left school he became a bricklayer’s labourer before he enlisted into the Royal Navy on 2 July 1906.[3]

After a period of training ashore and afloat at Portsmouth, Stoker Weeden joined the armoured cruiser HMS Drake. He remained in Drake, other than for periods of training ashore, until July 1909, when he was posted to various training establishments on the south coast. He transferred to the Royal Fleet Reserve on 2 July 1911. Continue reading

Able Seaman Patrick McDonagh

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 older gravestone for Able Seaman Patrick McDonagh
The older gravestone for Able Seaman Patrick McDonagh

Patrick McDonagh (Padhraig MacConnachadh[1]) was born on 16 March 1895 in Claddagh, a fishing village on the western outskirts of Galway in Ireland. He was the fourth of the nine children of Thomas and Kate McDonagh, who lived at Rope Walk in the centre of the village.[2] His father was a stone mason but Patrick became a fisherman, like the majority of men in the village.

Claddagh in the early 20thC
Claddagh in the early 20thC

He enrolled in the Royal Naval Reserve on 20 June 1913 and was allocated the number 5050A. Between August and November he underwent training at Portsmouth and in the gunnery training ships HMS Duncan and HMS Albemarle, and in the Home Fleet in the battleship HMS Bulwark. In the period before the war he returned to Galway, initially fishing as a crewman on the trawler Star of the Sea, before joining the liner SS Merion for a crossing to Philadelphia, and then the White Star liner SS Suevic for a journey to Australia between March and July 1914. Continue reading

Private Joseph Henry Wosikowski

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

SS Kermoor, commissioned as the USS Kermoor
SS Kermoor, commissioned as the USS Kermoor

Joseph Wosikowski was born on 10 June 1887 at St Marys, Southampton, the second son of Frank and Sarah Wosikowski.[1] His father was a Polish immigrant from Altjahn in West Prussia,[2] and his mother was from County Down in Ireland. His father and his elder brother were sausage skin dressers and his sister worked as a domestic servant. Joseph trained as a butcher with his father before enlisting into Royal Marine Light Infantry on 27 July 1905. Continue reading

Leading Seaman Peter Beatty

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

Editor’s Note: Some details about Leading Seaman Beatty were incorrectly recorded by the CWGC. His online record now reflects his correct date of death, service and ship and his gravestone will be replaced.

The war memorial at Chester Cathedral
The war memorial at Chester Cathedral

When the war memorial was unveiled at Chester Cathedral on 24 May 1922, two mothers played a central role in the ceremony—Mrs Lydia Sheriff Roberts had lost three sons in the war and Mrs Mary Beatty had lost four.[1]

Continue reading