The RAF Airman Who Wasn’t

The grave marker for John Henry Dorman

Several years ago, an airman called John Henry Dorman was accepted for commemoration by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Dorman had been killed in an accident on 21 June 1918 while training at No. 14 Training Depot Station, at RAF Lake Down near Amesbury. The conclusion was that he was Royal Air Force, one of the many Americans who had earlier joined the Royal Flying Corps or Royal Air Force. When I first added his name to the project, I carried out some cursory research and was left with some doubts about this conclusion. Prompted recently to dig further, I am now left with the verdict that he was not Royal Air Force but was, indeed always had been, a member of the Aviation Section of the United States Army Signal Corps serving with 155th Aero Squadron. Continue reading

Cadet Clifford Norman Murray

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

Cadet Clifford Norman Murray

Clifford Norman Murray was born on 6 July 1897 at Pensnett, Staffordshire (now in the West Midlands), the eldest of the three children of Thomas and Ada Murray.[1] Sailing onboard the RMS Franconia from Liverpool, the family emigrated to the United States on 5 June 1913, and settled in Swissvale, east of Pittsburgh. When he left school, Murray went to work with the Union Switch and Signal Company. In 1917 the family moved to Cleveland, Ohio, although they kept a house in Swissvale.

On 12 October 1917, Clifford Murray enlisted for service with the Royal Flying Corps (152452, Cadet) and in December after ground training in Toronto he went to Fort Worth, Texas with No. 81 Canadian Training Squadron. A little under two months later, on 14 February 1918 when flying about two miles south-east of Field No. 2 his aircraft, a Curtis JN4 serial C.736, went into a spinning nose-dive. Cadet Murray died due to a fractured skull in the inevitable crash. His body was returned to Swissvale. After a military funeral—in which his casket was draped with the flags of both nations and honours were provided by the United Spanish War Veterans—he was buried in the nearby Monongahela Cemetery. His grave is in Section 3, Lot 90, which is in the west-centre of the cemetery. When his mother died in 1929 she was buried alongside him; his father is also buried in the cemetery.

The grave of Clifford Norman Murray

Cadet Clifford Norman Murray is commemorated on page 591 of the Canadian First World War Book of Remembrance; that page is displayed on 21 December. He is also commemorated in Dudley on the Higher Elementary School war memorial.[2]

His nephew (his brother’s son), Clifford Norman Murray, served with the United States Air Force.

Acknowledgement:
Chris Dubbs and Dale Pysher for their efforts to visit and photograph the grave.
Dr Peter Wardle for permission to use the photograph of Dudley Higher Elementary School war memorial.


1. (Back) Thomas Murray (30 January 1876-5 June 1960) married Ada Fereday (19 September 1877-4 May 1929): Archie Vernon (26 October 1904-28 October 1965), Doreen Malvena Ada (later Poxon) (31 August 1909-17 January 1999).
2. (Back) The school was later named the Sir Gilbert Claughton School and when it closed in 1990 the buildings became the Claughton Centre. The building is now derelict and the memorial has been removed for safekeeping.

Captain Joseph Joel Hammond

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

Joe Hammond and ‘Britannia’, a Bleriot XI-2 in New Zealand, January 1914

Joe Hammond was a pioneering aviator. Amongst his ‘firsts’ were: first New Zealander to gain a Royal Aero Club certificate (no. 32), pilot of the first aircraft to fly in Western Australia, and the first cross-country flight in Australia. At the time of his death he had reputedly accumulated (although unverified) about 6,000 flying hours.

Joseph Joel ‘Joe’ Hammond was born on 19 July 1886 at Feilding in the Manawatu district on North Island, New Zealand.[1] He attended Campbell Street School in Palmerston North and St Patrick’s College, Wellington. Prior to the start of his flying career, Hammond travelled and worked intermittently in Australia, Alaska, the United States, and Europe. While in Seaford in East Sussex, Hammond met Ethelwyn Wilkinson, the daughter of a well-to-do local builder, and they were married on 19 November 1909.[2] Shortly afterwards in France Hammond began to learn to fly and qualified for Aero Club de France Certificate No. 258[3] in a Sánchez Besa biplane on 4 October 1910. He qualified for Royal Aero Club Certificate No. 32 on 22 November 1910, flying a Bristol Boxkite on Salisbury Plain. Continue reading

Cadet William Joseph King

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 Wiliam Joseph King

William Joseph King was born in late 1892/early 1893 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Little is known about his family or his early life. On 4 January 1916, he married Josephine Freeman at the Borough Hall in Brooklyn, New York. His wife was a professional singer, who performed under the name ‘Dolly Grey’.[1] King worked as a car salesman in New York, while his wife pursued her stage career in the United States and in South America.

Josephine King aka ‘Dolly Grey’, 1917

King enlisted into the Royal Flying Corps as a cadet in Toronto on 24 September 1917. After his ground training at No.4 School of Military Aeronautics at the University of Toronto, he travelled to Texas where he learned to fly. Continue reading

Second Lieutenant Arnold Whittier Hill

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

Arnold Whittier Hill

Arnold Whittier Hill was born in Malden, Massachusetts on 13 June 1897, the only son and eldest child of Arthur and Josephine Hill.[1] He attended school in Malden, where he demonstrated an early interest in flying.

He volunteered in Boston for service with the Royal Flying Corps and enlisted in Toronto on 4 January 1918. After attendance at No. 4 School of Military Aeronautics at the University of Toronto, he travelled to Texas where he learned to fly. Transferred to the Royal Air Force upon its formation on 1 April 1918, he was commissioned on 27 June. Hill was selected for training as an instructor and posted to the School of Special Flying at Armour Heights in Toronto. On 13 July 1918, he was flying Curtis JN4, registration C374, at Leaside Aerodrome, in southern Toronto, when he stalled in a turn and his aircraft fell from 800 feet. He was killed on impact and the aircraft was engulfed in flames. Continue reading

Second Lieutenant Ralph Michael Cummings

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

Ralph Michael Cummings

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.[1] 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. Continue reading

Second Lieutenant George Albert Ruffridge

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

The grave of Albert Ruffridge

George Albert Ruffridge (known as Albert) was born on 21 December 1892 in Cleveland, Ohio. He was the second of the two sons of George and Hattie Ruffridge who moved with the family to Montclair, New Jersey sometime in the first decade of the new century.[1]

Second Lieutenant Albert Ruffridge

Like his father, Ruffridge worked as a salesman before he enlisted in Toronto on 21 November 1917 into the Royal Flying Corps for training as a pilot (152810 Cadet). After completing his initial training in Toronto and Texas, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant on 6 April 1918, five days after the formation of the Royal Air Force, and joined No. 80 Canadian Training Squadron at Camp Bordon to complete his gunnery training. Continue reading

Second Lieutenant Evanda Berkeley Garnett

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

Second Lieutenant Evanda Berkeley Garnett
Second Lieutenant Evanda Berkeley Garnett

Not all of the casualties buried in the United States were repatriated in the period immediately after the First World War. Second Lieutenant Evanda Berkeley Garnett was killed in an air crash in Lincolnshire on 27 January 1918. Over 40 years later, on 16 September 1959, his sister Caroline called at the United States Embassy in London in order to arrange for the disinterment of his ashes and their return from Lincolnshire to Rhode Island. She believed, incorrectly, that the remains of the other airman killed in the crash had been repatriated previously and stated that it was the family’s intention to bring Evanda Garnett home too. His ashes were duly exhumed and sent to the United States where they were reinterred in the family plot in Island Cemetery, Newport.[1] Continue reading

Cadet James Austin Byrnes

Cadet James Byrnes was an American, living in New York, who enlisted in 1918 for service with the Royal Air Force. He was killed in a flying accident in Canada in June 1918.

The grave of Cadet James Byrnes
The grave of Cadet James Byrnes

James Austin Byrnes was born in Chicago, Illinois on 6 October 1893, the second of the six children of Robert and Margaret Byrnes.[1] His parents were English-born of Irish ancestry; they emigrated to the United States in 1889 and settled in Chicago. Early in the new century, the family moved to New York, where they lived on Eagle Avenue. His father was a machinery inspector for the railroad; James became a railroad linesman and worked for the Interborough Rapid Transit Company—the operator of the New York subway. Continue reading

Cadet Samuel Walter Arnheim

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

When deeds of valor are done on the battlefield
we do not look to see whether a man is Jew, Protestant or Catholic…’‘ [1]

Major General John F. O’Ryan[2]

The Arnheim-Zorkowski Mausoleum in Beth Olam Cemetery
The Arnheim-Zorkowski Mausoleum in Beth Olam Cemetery
Marks Arnheim
Marks Arnheim

Samuel Walter Arnheim was born in New York on 21 April 1889 into a wealthy Jewish family, the only son and youngest of the three children of Marks and Fannie Arnheim.[3] His father was born in Berlin and had arrived in the United States as a child. He travelled the United States and the West as a young man before returning to New York, where he established a tailoring business in 1877 in ‘Little Germany’ in the Bowery. He became a US citizen in 1881. The business flourished and in 1892 he moved to a large building on the corner of Broadway and Ninth Street; it became one of the most prominent tailors in the city and during the war, in addition to high quality men’s suits, made uniforms for Army and Navy officers. Samuel’s mother, from Connecticut, also had a German father. Continue reading